St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt has praised the Magpies for their shrewd recruiting since their infamous 2020 “fire sale” trade period, saying those players have brought “tremendous value”.
Collingwood has stunned the footy world by jumping from 17th last year to the top two this year. The Pies managed just six wins in a tough 2021 season that saw coach Nathan Buckley depart before Craig McRae was hired as the man to turn the club’s fortunes around.
And while Garry Lyon praised McRae’s ability to get a “buy in” from his players, Riewoldt says it’s just as impressive what the club has done since the infamous trade period that saw three big names depart.
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Adam Treloar was offloaded – with the Pies still paying $1.5m of his deal to play for the Western Bulldogs – along with Rising Star winner Jaidyn Stephenson (North Melbourne) and wingman Tom Phillips (Hawthorn).
Collingwood has turned to “unheralded” players to bolster its line up, with players like Ash Johnsonwho was a goalkicking hero against the Demons, as well as a rookie pick-up Jack Ginnivan now at home in the AFL.
“Game style is part of (the improvement) … the other part is the actual personnel change,” Riewoldt said On the Couch.
“We know there was the publicized fall out with the salary cap stuff and the players they lost (in 2020), but they’ve got tremendous value from the players they’ve gone out and recruited in the last few years.
“When you’ve got players who have come in from unheralded backgrounds … guys that have come in that are desperate that haven’t been a guaranteed walk-up start the whole way through from junior football, then you get players more inclined to buy what you’re selling as a coach.
“One player who has come in and just looks at the level straight away is Ash Johnson.
“He’s a ripping looking athlete.”
Both Johnson and Josh Carmichael have arrived at the club through the mid-season draft in the past two seasons.
“How can you put a price on this? He’s playing under 18s, then he’s not playing any elite level until SANFL (in 2020) and then he’s at Collingwood,” Lyon praised of Johnson.
“In the five games prior to him debuting, he kicked thee goals. He’s played VFL footy … they’re watching him, that’s not the form line that says ‘I’m going to elevate you’. But they know the kid.
“This is another coaching arc – they look at him and play him in the seniors.”
Ginnivan arrived at the club through the rookie draft, while Beau McCreery, Oliver Henry and Nick Daicos have arrived through the draft.
“They just bought whatever Craig McRae has put down on the table. That’s a great skill as a coach in a short amount of time,” Lyon said.
“I’m selling attacking to you and they’ve bought it. They’ve bought it since day one.”
Since the start of 2021, Collingwood has handed debuts to 12 players – an equal-high with 13th-placed Hawthorn, 14th-placed Essendon and 15th-placed Adelaide.