Coach Nathan Buckley has described scrutiny on Collingwood’s losing start to the AFL season as premature and disproportionate.
The Magpies headed to Sydney on Thursday for Friday’s pressure-filled clash with last year’s grand finalists Sydney, also at 0-2.
Buckley is likely to benefit from the inclusion of Levi Greenwood, who has returned from a hip injury ahead of schedule and travelled in a 23-man player group.
It’s hard to deny anxiety around Buckley’s tenure after three seasons without finals and the prospect of a 0-3 start.
But the 2003 Brownlow Medallist said pressure wasn’t affecting him.
“The focus on us at the moment is both premature and disproportionate. There are eight other sides that are 0-2,” Buckley said.
“It’s really early. We feel like we’ll get better as we go on.
“There’s probably four or five players that if fit and healthy would have been in our side in the first couple of rounds.
“We just haven’t taken advantage or been able to finish off our largely positive work to get the results in the last couple of weeks.
“We’re not looking any further than Friday and we’re going to get that right.”
Captain Scott Pendlebury felt the need to defend his coach this week, saying Magpie players should feel responsible for their winless start and Buckley was coaching as well as ever in his six seasons at the helm.
Buckley said that didn’t tell the full picture,
“I think both Pendles and (Adam Treloar) have thrown themselves on the grenade a little bit,” he said.
“It’s a partnership. The coaches have a role to play. The players have a role to play.
“Those two boys will be at the front line (against Sydney) and I’m pretty sure they’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
Greenwood was a surprise face at Melbourne Airport, given he was expected to miss at least a month of football after hip surgery just over a fortnight ago.
Buckley hailed his “first class” recovery.
“He’s just like a fresh player that can come in. He’s been exceptional,” he said.
“We think he can add a bit of grunt to us through the midfield.”
Classy pair Jamie Elliott and Daniel Wells are also edging closer to senior football.
Buckley said Wells was eyeing a VFL run next week, while Elliott will play for the reserves on Saturday .
“He’s played 31 per cent of a JLT game in the last 18 months,” Buckley said of Elliott, “we were tempted to bring him in but he’s still working his way into footy and the demands.”
“We’re looking forward to getting those potential match-winners into the mix.
“They add a bit of speed and class to our squad and we’re looking forward to injecting that.”