Collingwood have received some momentous news in the lead-up to the AFL finals, with club officials revealing young gun Nick Daicos could return from injury earlier than expected. The 20-year-old - who was favourite to win the Brownlow Medal before suffering a fracture in his knee-cap in the round 21 loss to Hawthorn - is now off crutches and recovering ahead of schedule, according to the club.
Daicos was expected to be ruled out for six weeks, with a return for the dynamic young midfielder not likely to come until the preliminary final weekend. However, the massive development around the second year star's injury recovery means Collingwood are hopeful of getting him back on the field earlier in the finals series.
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The Magpies close out their regular season against 10th-placed Essendon on Friday night, with a likely qualifying final against Melbourne in week one of the finals. The club is optimistic Daicos will be able to play a major role in their tilt at the premiership and have indicated they will give an updated timeline on his return in "coming weeks".
Collingwood provide several positive injury updates
"Nick Daicos is off crutches ahead of schedule in his knee injury rehab," Magpies high performance boss Jarrod Wade said on Tuesday. "The young midfielder has started bike, gym, and pool-based exercises and is expected to start running in the next fortnight."
The injury-hit Pies have also been boosted by news they are set to regain star midfielder Jordan De Goey (glute) and small forward Bobby Hill (hamstring) for Friday night's clash with Essendon. The pair, along with captain Darcy Moore and Daicos, sat out the 24-point defeat to the Brisbane Lions that marked ladder-leading Collingwood's third defeat in four games.
Moore is making "strong progress" after hurting his hamstring in the round-22 win over Geelong. "(Moore) is back to around 80-85 per cent running speed and could participate in match simulation in the bye week before finals," Wade added. Moore is on track to be available for selection for the first week of finals."
The news will be welcome relief to a Collingwood side that finds itself in the midst of a form slump and needing to defy history in order to win the premiership. Collingwood would have to become the first team in 10 years to have lost two or more of their final regular season matches, and gone on to win the grand final.
Their form over the last six weeks also makes for ugly reading, with the Magpies ranked second-last for inside 50s and ground balls, third-last for points against from clearances and are among the competition's bottom four clubs for points against and opposition scores per inside 50. Curiously, 16 of the past 18 premiership winners have been among the top-six sides for scores from their front half - with Collingwood ranked a lowly 12th in that category.
AFL legends concerned by Collingwood form slump
AFL greats Garry Lyon and Jonathan Brown said going off the current numbers, it's hard to imagine the Pies winning the premiership. “We talk about hitting this time of year having settled everything – the bottom line is they are far from settled,” Lyon said on Fox Footy's On the Couch.
“This is a big switch that needs flicking... and a flicked switch hasn’t happened too often in recent times. They were so good early in the piece... but those questions are real. They are going to have to defy history to get to where they want to go.”
Brown said unless something changed, Collingwood's premiership hopes looked grim. “You can’t win a premiership with those numbers historically,” Brown said.
“I don’t think any team’s won a premiership like that. They’ve tipped over. Their three best players weren’t playing on the weekend (in skipper Darcy Moore, Nick Daicos and Jordan de Goey)... but it’s more than that. You can’t turn it on and off like a tap.”
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