Collingwood will blood its seventh debutant on Saturday afternoon in Trent Bianco, but it has come at the cost of two key players.
Bianco, a lifelong Magpies fan, will play his first senior against Geelong, but Taylor Adams and Beau McCreery will miss after the duo were among the side’s best last week.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley called Bianco’s debut a “great story”, with the former Oakleigh Chargers captain fulfilling his childhood dream of running out in black and white.
“He’s been a young Collingwood supporter and has grown up with Collingwood in his blood,” Buckley said.
“He’s been a mascot and ran out on the MCG before with the team, this will be a little bit different for him. He’s a very good ball-winner and ball-user, he’s just a very smart footballer. He can go left to right and understands the game really well.
“He’s probably in a little bit earlier this time around, we would have liked him to get another one or two games in the VFL. But circumstances aren’t always in your control and Trent wasn’t passing it up.”
But Taylor Adams will not be out there with him.
After making an early return from his knee injury last week, Adams will miss Saturday’s game against Geelong due to knee soreness.
This injury is not as severe as the first one, with Buckley saying the vice-captain was “50/50” earlier in the week.
“Tay (Adams) was declared fit to play last week and played really well. He had a player fall across his knee in a very similar action to the one that injured it.
“He was unable to get up this week. We know that it’s not anywhere near the severity of the initial incident, so we’ll have to wait and see how he goes. He was trying to get up for this week, it was 50/50 a couple of days ago, but he didn’t get there in the end.”
First-year small-forward Beau McCreery is also out for one or two weeks with a calf strain.
McCreery has been one of the highlights for Collingwood this season and has ranked first in tackles Inside 50 per game, with Buckley admitting that McCreery is a real loss.
“He’s brought some real energy for us in front of the ball, he’s consistently hit the scoreboard which has been great to see. I suppose it’s his implied pressure and actual pressure that has been really important for us.
“There’s probably not one player that has his attributes that we can bring in to cover it, so we need to be able to share the load as a forward group, to bring the sort of pressure that he’s made his trademark in a very short space of time.”
Veteran Levi Greenwood is still experiencing some concussion symptoms and is only cleared to do skills work with no physical conduct.
MORE AFL NEWS
Collingwood has impressed with its endeavour and effort at times this year, but its skills and decision-making have let it down.
Buckley revealed that the team implemented an extra skills-based training session, due to the mounting losses and the number of young players playing in the senior side.
“Our basics in the game, our ball handling, at ground level sometimes sticking tackles, have been something that has held us back from turning our good energy and competitiveness into wins.
“We decided to change up our schedule about a month ago. We’ve put an extra session into our week, which probably gives us an extra 45 to 60 minutes of ball-handling and skills work. We believe that’s starting to come through now.
“There’s a price to pay with that because you might be putting a little bit of an extra load into your players, but I think that’s a price we needed to pay in the short term.”
The usual marquee match-up of Collingwood versus Geelong will have a different feel this weekend, with no crowds allowed in Victoria due to lockdown.
But Buckley said this week’s build-up has not been as challenging, due to the experiences gained from last year.
“We had a main session yesterday, it was good that we were able to get all the boys out on the park. But we were in smaller groups inside, so we haven’t had that all in group discussion, outside of that Zoom on Wednesday night.
“The crowd itself is something that the boys are used to. It’s something that we are all too familiar with to be honest, given that most of last season was played in that paradigm.
“The fact that we’ve been there before probably takes a bit of the unknown away.”
Subscribe to our newsletter!