Looking over the squads for each year from 2010 to 2019 it became immediately apparent why the decade was not as successful as it could have been – key position players. Whilst there are small and mid sized players who missed out – Dayne Beams, Tarkyn Lockyer, Jack Crisp, there was not a lot of competition for the key forward and defensive posts. Some players have been listed on promise while others have been picked for only one standout year, or in the case of Simon Prestigiacomo, one year. Other good players have missed out on balance as I have tried to put everyone in the position where they played most in what should be a realistic team.
Backs – Heath Shaw, Simon Prestigiacomo, Nick Maxwell
This would have been the 2010 Grand Final backline had Presti not stood aside for a young Nathan Brown. Despite this, Prestigiacomo is clearly the best full back for this period. Heath Shaw at his best provided so much drive, the defensive forward was invented to combat him. What Maxwell lacked in skill he had up for in work and heart. A good reader of the ball and student of the game
Half Backs – Ben Johnson, Ben Reid, Jeremy Howe
Physically Ben Johnson was cut from the same cloth as Dane Swan, low to the ground and strong. When Champion Data started measuring metres gained as a stat it was because of Ben Johnson. Ben Reid was at his best in 2010 and 2011 before injury took hold. He won a premiership at 21 and was All-Australian centre half back in 2011. Howe is arguably the best mark in the competition currently. Reads the ball and intercepts regularly.
Centre – Dale Thomas, Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom.
Dale Thomas is a premiership player and All Australian – scintillating on his day. Pendlebury is in the middle OK? – he does what he likes. Sidebottom has played recently as a wingman and while it’s not his best role it’s hard to fit all the mids in. Even Nathan Buckley has this issue with Sidebottom.
Half Fowards – Jaidyn Stephenson, Travis Cloke, Dane Swan
Stephenson gets on work to date, despite his ten week suspension. There is enough there to think he will figure prominently in the next decade for Collingwood and his so far small body of very good work gets him in. Travis Cloke led the AFL for contested marks for three years and still holds the record for the most in a season. A long kick who should always have be given the ball on the edge of his range. Dane Swan sits on the other flank only because of midfield congestion and because he was a better forward than any of the other mids. He rotates through the middle.
Forwards – Alan Didak, Jordan DeGoey, Jamie Elliot
That’s three exceptional talents all in one line. Whether there would be room for them, and Stephenson, all in the same time is contentious. All are or were very strong over head but equally as dangerous at ground level. One out – all three are very hard to beat.
Followers – Brodie Grundy, Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams
Darren Jolly had a short look in but with Grundy as the best ruckman in the AFL currently and close to that for three years now, he is the outstanding ruckman of the decade. Treloar and Adams have both shown to be good midfielders, leading toward elite but maybe just short. Adams is earmarked as the next captain to follow Pendlebury – although we all hope Pendles never retires.
Interchange – Darcy Moore, Tyson Goldsack, Tom Phillips, Leon Davis
Moore is interesting here. Has played only 71 inury riddled games and afte only two seasons in the backline looks the next permanent centre half back on form. Reid gets the nod after an AA guernsey in 2011. The roles would be reversed were the sides picked now with Reid as the backup ruck and swingman. Tyson Goldsack is a favourite – reliable flexible. He just has to be there. Phillips has been picked largely on promise but stands out as the best pure wingman of the decade for Collingwood behind Thomas. A fast mover with an enormous will to run and a damaging left boot. Leon Davis is a dual All-Australian picked once as a forward and once a backman. Electric forward who retired too early after showing his side as a serious backman in 2011.
Notable mentions – Brody Mihocek, Jack Crisp, Dayne Beams, Tarkyn Lockyer, Brent McAffer.
Mihocek is in the discussion for a key foward post after less than two years. His work is good and developing but it shows where Collingwood has been in this space. Jack Crisp gets the final berth after moving from Brisbane in 2015 and playing every game. Crisp gives run off half back, goes through the middle and loves the odd long bomb. McAffer is the best tagger for this period but doesn’t make it into the last 22 and Dayne Beams misses purely on the strength of the current midfield. I tried hard to get Lockyer in there – a favourite and a heart and soul player like Goldsack
So there you have it. As mentioned, the competition for talls was not serious. While the talls there are good, there were not significant omissions to be made. At the other end, the only thing this forward line is missing is a full forward, an Alistair Lynch, to Jonathan Brown or Tom Lynch to Jack Riewoldt. Someone who would truly allow Cloke to push high and still provide something akin to Clokes marking ability closer to goal, but hopefully a better kick at goal. To think that Collingwood could not muster a full forward of even medium repute but still feature prominently at both ends of the decade shows how close but how far away they were from creating something of dynasty – albeit a bookmarked one.
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