The key to black and white success?
We all know what this season means to the Collingwood Football Club and its supporters. From premiers in 2010 to missing three finals series’ from 2014-2016, the Magpies will expect nothing less than a finals berth in 2017.
These high expectations are similar to those of 2016 and the year before that, but in both of those campaigns the Pies were heavily hit with injuries to key personnel. That is something which cannot be used as an excuse, however, as the downfall of team success lies in the depth of a list, which Collingwood now possess.
It is intriguing to even suggest that their depth runs far this season given the departures of Dane Swan, Alan Toovey, Nathan Brown, Jack Frost, Marley Williams, Jonathon Marsh and Travis Cloke, but they have just as many players returning from long stints on the sidelines.
Of the seven aforementioned players, five of them have been key contributors to the Pies’ backline for many years. This is the question mark everyone has on this club, whether they have he ability to cover the loss of five defenders.
Collingwood’s midfield is as good as anyone’s in the competition and the bulk of players that can run through there is vast. There’s a great mix of grunt, class and skill and it’s an area of the game oppositions teams will need to nullify.
The forward line is also looking a difficult one to match up on despite the loss of Cloke. The Western Bulldogs showed last year that you can win a flag without many key targets up forward, you just have to have the right attitude.
This, however, is not suggesting the Pies don’t have a key forward, since they have potentially the best young forward in the game in Darcy Moore. Enter Chris Mayne, a tackling machine and a probable 30-plus goal-kicker. Did we mention Jamie Elliot and Alex Fasolo?
The talent in the front two thirds of the field is accomplished, but as touched on before that is not the problem.
You could go through Collingwood’s list and point out an amount of players (in double figures, actually) who could run through the backline, that is no trouble, but one, many of these players haven’t played a cluster of games together, and two, there is going to be a heavy reliance on Ben Reid.
Reid, 27, has been a gift to Collingwood’s defensive six since 2010 and has the tag of being amongst the best defenders in the game.
With a succession of soft-tissue injuries, people fear the worst for Reid and one more hiccup could mean the end is near. His versatility is one of the club’s most potent weapons.
The 2011 All-Australian may be seen as the most important player from the outside, but internally there is a forgotten back up who could potentially become the most important player on the list for the future.
After 20 games with the Gold Coast Suns, a 23-year-old by the name of Henry Schade found himself off the Suns’ list at the end of 2016, only to be picked up by the Pies with the number 24 selection in the Rookie Draft.
For Collingwood, this is an absolute steal considering the type of player Schade can develop into. He has impressed in all of his senior matches, combining with Steven May to take on the game’s most powerful forwards.
With a lack of depth in the ‘key defender’ section, Schade fits the bill perfectly for Collingwood. A 197cm young defender doesn’t pop up for sale too frequently, and this is a guy who, in the future, could lead the Pies to its next flag.
The quantity of games Schade will receive in 2017 is quite unknown, but he will be first in line if an unwanted injury arises.
Schade does need to be nominated onto the senior list given he is a rookie, but this doesn’t erase the potential the Pies’ recruiting chief Derek Hine saw in November last year.
“There were no promises made. I was just hopeful that it would happen, and they were just getting to know me and my background, and how I would play my game,” Schade said.
“It was a tough month or two leading up to the rookie draft at the Suns, feeling a bit out of place.”
Collingwood’s belief in Schade gave the youngster a “second wind of motivation” with the 23-year-old currently learning the defensive structures for 2017 with backline coach Robert Harvey.
Collingwood’s defence is its biggest worry for 2017, but with many a player to come in and play a significant role, is it really that bad?