FLEXIBLE Collingwood big man Jordan Roughead looms as the centerpiece in the Magpies’ selection puzzle for its home preliminary final.
The Magpies earned a week off after their 10-point win over Geelong in the qualifying final on Friday night and will host a preliminary final against the winner of the sudden death semi-final between Brisbane and Greater Western Sydney.
The Pies copped two significant injuries against the Cats – another hamstring problem for game-breaking forward/midfielder Jordan De Goey and a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament rupture to veteran backman Levi Greenwood.
De Goey and Greenwood will be two big outs for the Pies. Picture: Getty Images
Defender James Aish appears the favourite to replace Greenwood despite the fact he won’t have played for seven weeks since suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery.
Much intrigue surrounds the second inclusion, and it could depend upon where Roughead is deployed, given he spent the bulk of the season at full-back before being swung forward to fill the void left by the injured Mason Cox, only to return to defence against the Cats.
Among the contenders for a preliminary final berth are veteran speedster Travis Varcoe and backman Matt Scharenberg, both of whom were dropped for the qualifying final, while injury-prone swingman Ben Reid could also come into calculations if Roughead remains back.
Defender Jeremy Howe, a member of the Pies’ leadership group, said it was too difficult to forecast team changes given the Woods’ opponent was still to be determined but he expected much agonising at the selection table.
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“I know it’s going to be a hard decision. ‘Roughy’ has a big impact whether it’s forward (or) back, so it’s a good problem to have,” Howe told reporters after a light skills session on Tuesday.
The high-flying defender, one of the best players afield against Geelong, was thankful to have a week to recover from “a pretty physical game”.
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The 2018 runner-up enjoyed a light skills session on Tuesday morning and plans to have a big session on Friday before having the weekend off.
Howe said there hasn’t been any talk in the inner sanctum about gaining redemption for their loss to West Coast in last year’s Grand Final, seeing the road ahead as “another opportunity” as they tried to keep the focus as “narrow” as possible.
Howe celebrates his goal against the Cats. Picture: Getty Images
“We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves. We’ve got plenty of footy to go,” Howe said.
However, he said last year’s finals campaign had reinforced the old adage, “Near enough’s not good enough.”
“We don’t really talk about last year a lot but we just feel like our footy stacks up and we just need to play it more consistently. And I feel like our last five weeks have been pretty positive,” Howe said, alluding to the Pies’ five successive wins.
“We’re confident (that) what we do works. Clearly we were unfortunate last year to miss out by a kick but, in saying that, we’re still as driven and as hungry as ever. We’ve got ourselves in a good position at the moment but we’re going to have to play better to keep getting it done.”