FIRST-ROUND draft pick Jaidyn Stephenson and former Sydney rookie Sam Murray will debut for Collingwood against Hawthorn at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday night, but gun forward Jamie Elliott won’t feature at any level this weekend as he continues to build his fitness base.
“Jaidyn’s had a really strong pre-season, really hit the ground running for us, shown us a lot of strengths coming into the program, we think he has earned his opportunity,” said Buckley.
Taken with pick six at last year’s National Draft, Stephenson is a dashing half-forward who is strong overhead and capable of kicking big bags of goals. His 28-possession, five-goal effort against South Australia in the under-18 Championships was a highlights.
Originally recruited by Sydney with pick 66 at the 2015 rookie draft, the clash against the Hawks will be Murray’s first at AFL level.
“He’s got really strong dash off the half-back line, we think he can add something to us,” Buckley said of Murray.
Elliott – who has endured an interrupted pre-season after undergoing ankle surgery in November – needs to get more miles into his legs before taking part in any form of match practice.
However, Buckley dismissed suggestions that the 25-year-old had suffered a setback.
“He’s gradually built up,” said Buckley.
“The surgery he (Elliott) had in the off-season was unfortunate with his ankle not coming good over the break and then having to go in late last year. It was a significant surgery that needed to take place.”
“He’s missed a fair bit of load, so we just need to make sure we build him back gradually to take away the risk of soft tissue (problems).”
“You’re unlikely to see him in the first couple of weeks of the season.”
Veteran midfielder Daniel Wells and small forward Alex Fasolo will line up in Friday’s VFL practice match against Box Hill, but emerging star Jordan De Goey (hamstring) and midfield stopper Levi Greenwood (knee) are a few weeks off ramping up their training.
De Goey has started running after returning to the club on Monday following his four-week, club-imposed suspension for his drink driving incident in February.
Buckley said the club was pleased with the manner in which De Goey, 22, had conducted himself over the past month.
“We didn’t kick him to the curb,” Buckley said.
“He’s back in the fold and suitably chastened and the leaders were satisfied with the way that he attacked that month.”
“With his hammy he’s another one or two away from playing matches.”
“He’s not in full training yet. That will be a wait and see…(but) he’s back in and we will get him fit as soon as we can.”
Greenwood, meanwhile, isn’t expected to be considered for senior selection until round four or five as he continues his recovery from knee surgery in December.