COLLINGWOOD coach Nathan Buckley says Andrew Krakouer’s return to the AFL this Saturday night will give his side a “massive fillip’.
The Pies will be fighting to stay in the top four when they take on Essendon at the MCG after having lost their past two matches.
Buckley said Krakouer’s return from a knee reconstruction he underwent six months ago was remarkable.
“It’s a fantastic story,” Buckley said this morning. “Krak’s application to his recovery has been excellent and he has been through a fairly rollercoaster football career. Very public, the ups and downs of him coming in the best part of 10 years ago to where he is at this point.
“His form in the VFL has been excellent and really, despite anything that has happened during the year, he has just demanded selection. It’s a great position to be in as a match committee because there’s a bloke there through his own merits and performance needs to play. And he should come in confident from what he has been able to do.
“This club, this group, as every team has, has been through a fair few ups and downs through the course of the year and you’ve got to celebrate your mini-wins and successes. And seeing Krak back is a massive fillip for the boys.”
Krakouer served 16 months in prison for assault before his release in late 2009. He had a breakout year last season, playing 23 of 25 games for the Pies and kicking 35 goals, including three in the grand final. He also won the AFL Mark of the Year award.
But in February this year the club announced it had given Krakouer at least a month off, reportedly to deal with some personal issues.
He returned two weeks later to play in a VFL practice match, where he hurt his knee and afterwards had a full reconstruction.
“It’s a huge story,” Buckley said. “Even for him to come back and do what he did last year after his personal trials, it’s just any absolute credit to him with the adversity that he has faced and his ability to handle that, not perfectly.
“You’re not human if you can just handle it without emotion, without feeling, and just plough on. He has had his ups and downs and it has probably been more documented than a normal person should have to endure or handle.
“But that’s the strength of a football environment. We believe we’ve given fantastic support to Krak since he walked in the doors of the footy club at the beginning of last year and we’ve had fantastic service from him in return. And we’re really excited what the next period of time is for him and us.”
Buckley said Krakouer would most likely return to the forward line with time in the midfield.
Midfielder Sharrod Wellingham is in doubt to play after he left training early this morning. He didn’t try to handle the ball during the session, wearing bandages on his left hand after he split webbing.
Buckley said it was too early to rule Wellingham out. “It’s still mid-week and he has plenty of time to get over it.
“Clearly, ball handling is very important and he has stitches in at the moment and he’ll carry them into the game and it’s something he’s going to have to get used to.”
Buckley said captain Nick Maxwell and ruckman Darren Jolly were likely to play, having recovered from respective hip and elbow injuries.
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