Collingwood coach Craig McRae has revealed he's not ruling out Nick Daicos returning for the Magpies' qualifying final in two weeks' time. Collingwood clinched their first minor premiership since 2011 on Friday night after thrashing Essendon by 70 points - 16.5 (101) to 3.13 (31).
The Pies came through the match unscathed, with forward Jamie Elliott subbed off in a precautionary measure after receiving a corked glute. With a week off ahead of the finals, captain Darcy Moore (hamstring) and forward Beau McCreery (suspension) will both return in the first week of the playoffs.
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While Daicos wasn't expected to be available until deep into September, things have changed dramatically in recent days. The young superstar suffered a leg injury three weeks ago, with the initial return to play timetable putting him a chance to play if the Pies make the preliminary final.
But it was reported this week that Daicos is "ahead of schedule" in his recovery, and McRae revealed on Friday night that he might even be a chance to play in the first week of the finals. "Definitely is a word that we don't want to use because we want to put ceilings on things," McRae responded to a question about Daicos' health. "At this stage, I'd say he's he's up against it, but he's progressing well."
Collingwood's high performance boss Jarrod Wade said on Tuesday: "Nick Daicos is off crutches ahead of schedule in his knee injury rehab. The young midfielder has started bike, gym, and pool-based exercises and is expected to start running in the next fortnight."
Wade said Moore is making "strong progress" after hurting his hamstring in round 22 against 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 said. "Moore is on track to be available for selection for the first week of finals."
— Perri Winkle (@PerriW2345) August 25, 2023
Darcy Moore and Nick Daicos watching on and absolutely itching to get out there and play.
Won’t be long now. 🙏🏻#GoPies 🖤🤍
— Stel (@StellaMelbs) August 25, 2023
Collingwood selection headaches after Jack Ginnivan return
McRae will have a number of selection headaches for the start of the finals, with crafty forward Jack Ginnivan making the most of his recall to the AFL side. After kicking 40 goals last season, Ginnivan was slow to get going this year after being banned for two games for using illicit drugs at a pub in Torquay in January.
The 20-year-old was sent down to VFL and languished for an extended period, but booted three goals against the Bombers on Friday night in his best performance of the season. "I strongly believe it came down to his training standards," McRae said of Ginnivan.
"There was a real shift. At VFL, he wasn't playing above the level, but then he got busy with his training. For a month there he was our best trainer."
Despite losing three of their four games heading into the clash with Essendon, Collingwood will still be the team to beat in September after securing a home qualifying final - likely against 2021 premiers Melbourne. "I feel like the hunger within our group has been questionable, and tonight I wouldn't thought you could question that that part of our game," McRae said. "We've won 18 games in this tough 24-round competition... it's a marathon, the bumps and bruises, the losses and the resilience to get up and go again."
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