Pressing for recall: Collingwood wingman Ben Reid is regaining confidence in his body. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoFollow the Age Sport on Twitter
Collingwood has a problem. But it’s a nice problem to have. With a small injury list and the team in good form, how are they going to accommodate returning senior players Ben Reid, Levi Greenwood and Jarryd Blair, as well as star ruckman Brodie Grundy?
Looking further ahead, how can the likes of prized top-10 draftees Matthew Scharenberg, Darcy Moore and Nathan Freeman break into the side? Right now, Collingwood’s healthy stocks are the envy of the league.
Football manager Neil Balme said it was a problem that would look after itself. “I think at the start of the year there was a lot of uncertainty as to who was even in our best 22,” he said.
“The best teams do have difficulty deciding who their 22 is [and] that’s what we’re aiming for … Some blokes will be unhappy that they don’t get a game, but it’s far better to be leaving out blokes that want to play than putting in blokes that are not quite right.
Balme was confident that Reid – who’s now managed three games in the reserves without hurting himself, after barely playing a game in 18 months – would force his way back into the side as soon as his body was ready.
“He’s a pretty good player, so if he’s fit and ready to play and we’re confident about his resilience, I reckon he’ll find himself getting a game,” he said.
Perhaps the bigger question is, where will he play? Collingwood’s key back positions have been ably filled by Nathan Brown, having a career-best year, and Jack Frost.
But the former All-Australian centre half-back was initially recruited as a forward, and has shown he can play there. He kicked 25 goals in the second half of 2013 and was a more than just a foil for Travis Cloke. Before the injuries set in, he was set to continue in that role in 2014.
“He’s capable of playing either end,” Balme said. “It’ll be a matter of revisiting it when he is genuinely ready and deciding what to do.”
Collingwood has had a lot of luck so far this year. It’s They’ve had a favourable draw that’s seen them chalk up eight wins and three losses to the half-way point of the season. Seven of those wins have been against teams occupying the bottom seven places on the ladder. The other was against an improving but injury-hit Greater Western Sydney.
They were identically placed this time last year, but a catastrophic run of injuries saw them finish outside the eight. That’s not a problem now. They have only half a dozen players on their injury list, and only one of those – premiership player Brent Macaffer – remains more than a few weeks away from resuming.
Inside midfielder Greenwood, who has yet to debut for Collingwood since fracturing his ankle in the NAB Challenge, played three quarters in his first game at VFL level last weekend.
Balme indicated that Greenwood would most likely need more match time before being considered for senior selection, but at the same time, he wasn’t recruited from North Melbourne to play VFL.
“It’ll probably be a little while before he’s absolutely primed to play. He hasn’t actually played a game for the club as yet, but we assume he’s going to be what we thought he’d be when we traded for him,” Balme said.
As for the younger players all champing at the bit, they may have to wait for Collingwood’s fortunes to take a turn for the worse – with the club about to be tested by Fremantle, Hawthorn, Port and West Coast – before they can grasp their own opportunities.
“I think it’s a very healthy position … If you look at it as a longer-term thing, who is our best 22 in the longer term, that will be determined by how well they do.
“So there’s a lot of scope for people to improve and to tell their stories … We think we’re in a position that most clubs would be aspiring to than concerned about.” The Age SportThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.