Pie ready for Dockers shadow
Pie ready for Dockers shadow

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley says acting captain Scott Pendlebury is ready to be tagged by Fremantle best and fairest Ryan Crowley and has been practising playing as a forward in a bid to make close-checking opponents uncomfortable.

After a breakout 2012, Crowley has overcome a summer inter- rupted by injury and is enjoying another superb season.

He has successfully limited the influence of Luke Shuey, Ryan Griffen, Brent Stanton, Sam Mitchell, Brett Deledio and Gary Ablett in the first six matches, with their average output against him being just 21 possessions per game.

Ablett is the only player in that group to kick a goal on Crowley.

Pendlebury has booted seven goals from his six matches this year and pushed forward to kick two goals last Friday night, exposing his height advantage over St Kilda tagger Clint Jones.

Crowley is only one centimetre shorter than Pendlebury, but Buckley said his decorated midfielder would look at several ways to counter the Docker's tagging expertise.

"He's a pretty cagey footballer," Buckley said. "He knows where he feels he can get his opponent if he's being sat on.

"I think he felt, really off his own bat, like he was getting into dangerous positions on Jones going forward and was able to do so. He's six-foot two, he's a strong player.

"One of the things we've discussed over the last 18 months is developing his aerial ability and using his height. I think you've already seen that come to the fore earlier this year. It's something he'll continue to tip into.

"Crowley's a very strong-bodied, good aerial player as well.

"That's probably why he's so good at what he does.

"He can win his ball on the ground and prevent his opponent from winning it on the ground and in the air as well. He's a good runner, has a good tank, so the challenges keep coming at AFL level. There's no easy contest."

Both teams have made encouraging 4-2 starts to the season despite being well below full strength.

The Dockers are currently missing Aaron Sandilands, Matthew Pavlich, Nat Fyfe and Kepler Bradley, while Stephen Hill has to pass a fitness test on his injured quad.

Collingwood head west without captain Nick Maxwell, Dayne Beams, Clinton Young and Alan Toovey, with a decision regarding the immediate fate of star on-baller Luke Ball set for discussion at match committee.

Ball has played two VFL games since overcoming a knee reconstruction, but Buckley questioned whether that was enough despite strong form in the VFL.

If Ball doesn't play in Perth, he will be idle for the weekend due to the State-game bye involving WA and Victoria.

"He's been sensational," Buckley said. "He's a very professional player, a great role model for our young players. We really held him back to give him the best opportunity when he came back.

"He's come back in fantastic nick. We'll sit down with the medicos as we do every week and see where our players are at.

"But we need to be absolutely sure that he's had enough match-day conditioning to be right to go."

"He's a pretty cagey footballer. He knows where he can get his opponent if he's being sat on."" *Nathan Buckley *talking about *Scott Pendlebury *

The West Australian

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