Collingwood coach Craig McRae's major admission over Nick Daicos

With barely 20 AFL matches under his belt, Nick Daicos has already emerged as a potential Brownlow Medal fancy.

Nick Daicos sings the Collingwood team song with teammate Bobby Hill.
Nick Daicos has been likened to a two-year-old racehorse by coach Craig McRae, who admits he is reluctant to rest the emerging star. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Collingwood coach Craig McRae says second-year AFL superstar Nick Daicos will likely be managed throughout the 2023 season, with the 20-year-old playing through niggling injuries. Daicos has been tabbed as an early contender for the Brownlow Medal after his sensational start to the season, highlighted by him winning the Anzac Day medal in the Magpies' win over Essendon in April.

Daicos' form both in his rookie season last year and across the first six rounds this year have left some observers already pondering his status among the greats of the game, but McRae is determined to get the most out of him as possible but said he would be reluctant to rest him. The Magpies beat the Crows last week by a point in a memorable last-gasp effort, but it left Daicos pulling up sore.

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He was restricted to light duties at Collingwood training this week, with McRae telling reporters it was important for Collingwood to properly manage his training burden in order to get the most out of the young gun without exposing him to injury risk. Asked if he would rest Daicos this week, McRae cheekily turned the question back on the reporter asking it.

"Would you rest him?" McRae answered. “He was a little bit sore going into the (Adelaide) game and then we looked after it postgame.

“People forget he’s a young body. He’s only in his second year. He hasn’t played much footy prior to last year and we’re going to look after his body, so we did.

“I liken (young players) to horses – two-year-old horses don’t race too often, some do and then they need a break, recover and go again, so we’re gonna have to do that during the week. It’s nothing major, nothing that we can’t manage, just a bit of time to recover."

While Daicos will line up against Sydney on Sunday, he'll be joined by two major veteran additions to the side - midfielder Scott Pendlebury and key forward Mason Cox. Pendlebury has been out of action since an unfortunate eye injury picked up during the Anzac Day game, while Cox makes his season debut after five weeks out with a spleen injury.

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Cox will lead the ruck against Sydney duo Peter Ladhams and Hayden McLean at the MCG on Sunday with Darcy Cameron (knee), Aiden Begg (back), Nathan Kreuger (ribs) and Dan McStay (finger) all out of action. The American big man's return will mean Billy Frampton returns to the back-line - where Swans superstar Lance Franklin lies in wait - while also allowing Ash Johnson to spend more time focused on forward-line duties.

"It's good to have someone tall back in the team but also it allows some other things to fall into place," McRae told reporters on Friday. "We've had some moving parts of our team, everyone sees that, but hopefully now we get some stability in that part of our game.

"Billy Frampton's been enormous for us and he's been able to hold down that (ruck) position for a number of weeks now. But there's a cost elsewhere to our game and it will be nice to have that one little chess piece back in position."

Mason Cox will return for Collingwood in round 8 after recovering from a spleen injury. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Mason Cox will return for Collingwood in round 8 after recovering from a spleen injury. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Cox completed his only full-contact training load since sustaining his injury as Collingwood were put through a relatively light session at the AIA Centre on Friday. McRae is adamant the American-born 211cm target, who has played 96 AFL games to date, is fit to play.

"That was the concern, has he done enough work, but I back in our high performance team," McRae said. "He's up for selection and we'll go for it.

"I wanted him to show us that he is ready (on Friday) because he hasn't done any physical contact until today but I think he made a statement."

With AAP

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