Collingwood interim coach Robert Harvey has announced two further debutants for the Pies ahead of their Friday night clash against Port Adelaide.
After fading out in the final term to fall short of Carlton on Sunday, Harvey has turned to crafty small forward Jack Ginnivan and Irish utility Anton Tohill, blooding the Magpies’ eighth and ninth debutants for their 2021 campaign.
“Jack (Ginnivan) is a Bendigo boy and a great country kid,” Harvey said at his Wednesday press conference.
“He’s worked really hard on his game for this opportunity and has earned it through his work rate in the VFL in the last few weeks,”
Ginnivan’s debut comes off a stunning recent run for Collingwood’s VFL side, snagging 11 majors in the past three games as a bubbly forward pocket. Often seen with a big grin on his face as he crumbs contests and curls home goals, his maiden 2021 season in the VFL has seen him average over two goals per game.
“He’s a small forward with a natural ability to kick goals and puts himself in the right place at the right time,” Harvey said.
But the more emotional announcement came for Anton Tohill, whose journey from County Derry in Ireland has finally culminated in an AFL debut. In videos shared by Collingwood at their main training session, Tohill’s inauguration into the black and white jumper was met with jubilation from his teammates, and tears from Tohill himself.
“There’s great respect around the playing group for him and it was a great moment to see not only his reaction but also how his teammates feel for him,” Harvey said.
“He’s a 200-centimetre supreme athlete with the ability to run and jump. He’s worked hard on aerial craft and can play up forward as well as down back.”
Despite his versatility, Harvey flagged Tohill as a defender for the Pies on Friday night, as they’ll look to combat the three-headed tall forward combination of Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall, and Mitch Georgiades that Port Adelaide will throw at them. Tohill’s inclusion comes as another vital tall defender sits on the precipice of being declared fit to play.
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Jeremy Howe’s influence on Collingwood’s defensive structure is well known. His intercept marking capabilities have been desperately missed by a Magpie side struggling to hold down strong offensive line-ups. But his long-awaited return should come in round 20, with Harvey giving him the green light for next week if there are no interruptions to his recovery.
“Jeremy’s (Howe) training well and is keen to get out there,” he said. “He feels like he’s at 100 percent and is ready to go for us. He’s on track for next week.”
Having led for the majority of Sunday’s clash with Carlton, only to slip in the last quarter and falter when it mattered, Harvey was frank when asked where the Pies went wrong.
“Last week our entries inside 50 were just not good enough in the first half – we want to work on that going forward,” he said. “The last 40 minutes of the game we got overrun with contest and pressure.”
“Our ability to move the ball through the back two-thirds was pretty good, and we just want to capitalise on those opportunities going forward.”
2021 may not have gone to plan for Collingwood, but nine debutants so far in the season strongly show their investment in their youth. If they can keep uncorking solid players, they may end the year with plenty of optimism going forward.
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