Darcy Moore is the cavalry and Jeremy Howe will be the general for Collingwood’s young defence in their AFL clash against West Coast.
The Eagles have loaded up their attack for Sunday’s match at the MCG, recalling Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling and Mark LeCras.
By contrast, the Magpies defence has lost key defender Lynden Dunn for the season with a knee reconstruction and Ben Reid also is injured.
Moore will return from a hamstring injury for his first game since round eight and only his fifth of the season.
He will play on either Darling or Kennedy in a crucial match-up.
Howe has missed only one game this season and has finished in the top five of the club best-and-fairest voting for the past two years after joining from Melbourne.
Best known for his freakish big marks, Howe’s more important role is the backline leader and he has earned huge respect at Collingwood.
He was prominent again in the frenetic final term of last Sunday’s grinding win over Essendon.
“Howey has been really important for those guys (defenders) – he gives them confidence and his direction and experience really helps,” assistant coach Brenton Sanderson said.
Indeed, the story of Collingwood’s grinding win over the Bombers last week was their on-field leadership.
Captain Scott Pendlebury was outstanding with his clearance work in the last term, lifting his team when it looked as if Essendon might be about to break them.
It was Collingwood’s seventh-straight win and they are second on the ladder, one above the Eagles.
The Magpies have played five debutants this season and all finish their first games in awe of what Pendlebury does.
“He’s one of those guys who epitomises what a captain is required to do,” Sanderson said.
“You just watch him go to another level, the way he can marshal the troops.
“All the players after their first game comment on how great Pendles’ direction is out on the field.”
While Kennedy, Darling and LeCras are big returns for West Coast, Collingwood have regained classy veteran Travis Varcoe as well as Moore.
West Coast haven’t beaten Collingwood at the MCG since 1995 – a statistic that coach Adam Simpson said is insignificant.
But probably more telling for the Eagles is the only two wins in their past eight MCG games have been against lowly Collingwood.
That eight-game run started with the disastrous 2015 grand final loss to Hawthorn.
A win over a rival top-four contender at the grand final venue would be a massive boost to West Coast’s 2018 credentials.
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