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Eagles prepare for misfiring Magpies
Jack Darling. Picture: AFL Media.

They’re meant to be Collingwood’s biggest AFL weapons up forward, but out-of-form duo Travis Cloke and Chris Dawes are fast becoming the Magpies’ weak link.

Cloke’s unresolved contract saga seems to have taken a huge toll on his form this year, with the 25-year-old booting just 16 goals from his past eight matches.

That return would have been even leaner if not for his six-goal haul against struggling newcomers Greater Western Sydney in round 18.

Dawes has also endured a forgettable 2012 campaign, with the hulking 24-year-old managing just 14.20 from 19 games.

Collingwood were the most potent team in the competition last year, averaging 117.8 points a game during the home-and-away season.

In their premiership year of 2010, the Magpies ranked second with an average return of 106.8.

But this year - with Cloke and Dawes misfiring - Collingwood have slipped to equal ninth in the league with an average points return of 98.1.

Despite this, Collingwood sit just percentage adrift of second spot and can guarantee themselves a top-four berth with victory over West Coast in Saturday night’s blockbuster at Patersons Stadium.

Magpies coach Nathan Buckley was quick to defend Cloke and Dawes in the wake of last week’s shock loss to North Melbourne.

And Eagles coach John Worsfold definitely isn’t buying into the theory that Dawes and Cloke have lost their mojo.

“They’re good players,” Worsfold said.

“I wouldn’t think (they’re vulnerable), no.”

Collingwood forward Alex Fasolo felt Dawes and Cloke had been unfairly targeted for criticism, saying it was up to the rest of the team to give them better service.

“It’s unlucky for big, tall forwards if their team’s playing a bit ordinary or they’re not getting the right delivery,” Fasolo said.

“They’re handling the criticism well.

“We’re not worried, as long as they start hitting their straps come September.”

West Coast need to beat both the Magpies and Hawthorn to guarantee a top-four berth, while Collingwood must rely on other results to go their way if they are to snare second spot.

The Magpies have been bolstered by the return of star midfielder Dane Swan from his club-imposed suspension, but the loss of No.1 ruckman Darren Jolly to soreness has thrust Cameron Wood into a daunting battle against powerful Eagles duo Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui.

West Coast welcome back spearhead Josh Kennedy, who hasn’t played an AFL match since injuring his ankle in round five.

West Australian Fasolo grew up idolising the Eagles, and says it will be surreal taking on his former heroes in Perth.

“I was a big Ben Cousins fan. I thought he was the man,” said Fasolo, who signed a two-year contract extension with Collingwood earlier this week.

“I loved Dean Cox and I was a big fan of Beau Waters. Now I’m playing against them, so it’s a bit strange.”