It seems as though Collingwood have been re-building and cleaning out and changing things for nearly five years now, but they just haven’t been adventurous enough with their trading efforts, and it’s cost them dearly, and now, this is their last chance to get it right.
Since Collingwood’s 2010 Premiership, they have leaked defensive experience and elite ball use off the full back and half back line. Their Premiership defence consisted of four players no longer with the club in; former captain Nick Maxwell, Harry O’Brien, Heath Shaw and Alan Toovey. As well as two players struggling for fitness in recent years, Ben Reid and Nathan Brown. They were also able to call up the help of the retired Leigh Brown and now West Coast midfielder Sharrod Wellingham.
Now, in 2016, they are relying on the inexperienced duo of Tom Langdon and Jonathan Marsh to settle the defence in the absence of experienced duo Nathan Brown and Ben Reid, who have both had a horror run with injuries. Along with contributions from Jackson Ramsey and Jeremy Howe who are inexperienced and out of position respectively.
Of course, the run of injuries experienced by Brown and Reid is unfortunate, but due to the elongated time of injury, Collingwood should have been trading in for experienced key defenders.
Although the Pies have drafted and traded well in this area, it’s still been problematic for Nathan Buckley and co. Driven by the strong leadership of Scott Pendlebury and the performances of Steele Sidebottom and Adam Treloar, have taken the pressure of the captain, but it’s still not yet enough. James Aish and Levi Greenwood were below expectations, Jarryd Blair didn’t provide enough assistance when he was moved through the middle, nor did Travis Varcoe or Adam Oxley.
It exposed a severe lack of depth and left the likes of Pendlebury, Sidebottom and Treloar with a job too big to tackle on their own. With the likes of Tim Broomhead and Matthew Scharenberg showing glimpses of their immense talent in their injury riddled careers, Collingwood can hold out hope that it will get better, but injuries do tend to trump hope.
Arguably the most ‘together’ Collingwood are is in the forward 50. Clearly looking to build a forward line around young starlet Darcy Moore, he is being admirably supported by the likes of Alex Fasolo, Mason Cox and Jesse White, but as is with any forward line, it can always be better.
Either down to the poor performances of the midfield group, or a lack of cohesion for the existing forward set up, things didn’t fire, but it’s certainly worth continuing with. Especially with the circus of Travis Cloke no longer an issue.
So, in an ideal world, if Collingwood are to fix their issues in one fell swoop this off season, who do they target?
Ricky Henderson, the off-contract versatile tall from Adelaide would be fantastic addition to the Collingwood set up. Able to play both ends of the park, as well as on the wing, Henderson would provide a tall target in attack, a strong body in defence and a quick ‘link’ between attack and defence if on the wing.
Blessed with fantastic ball skills and the ability to find space, a very similar player to Jeremy Howe, he is a little more defensively minded and can perform a role should a key defender go down with an injury. Coming off contract, it wouldn’t cost the Pies anything and with the addition of his former coach Brenton Sanderson to the coaching staff, it would seem a perfect fit.
As Henderson aids the issue of depth for Collingwood, signing the out of contract Nick Dal Santo would aid their issue of a stale midfield. Dal Santo is a silky skilled, fast mover with an inate ability to find the right decision more often than not.
At the age of 31, he won’t be a long term solution, but he will certainly improve the standard of the current midfield group and would take some of the pressure off the likes of Pendlebury and Sidebottom. He would also certainly aid the development of the crop of young stars that Collingwood have on their hands. To be able to get him for nothing is a steal, to not take a chance, would be idiotic.
The last player who Collingwood should seriously look at is Sam Reid. Brother of Premiership defender Ben, Sam has had his own injury issues as of late and has seen his career at Sydney stagnate. However, what his more recent game time with the Swans did show was that he is flexible. With the arrival of Kurt Tippet and Buddy Franklin, Reid was usurped from his usual forward position, and forced into being a role player.
His size and athleticism showed that he could excel in this role, as either a key defender or forward. The addition of Reid to Collingwood would provide another experienced head who could play in defence to aid Langdon and Marsh, or move forward and help take pressure of Moore and White. Getting the deal done could be an issue as Reid is still contracted to the Swans past 2017, but it is certainly something worth exploring.
All three add depth and experience to the Pies list, versatility across each line and improve the standard of ball skills. If Collingwood were to acquire these three players, it would go along way to ensuring they don’t slip further down the ladder as they have been over the last five years.