Coach Nathan Buckley wants the AFL sceptics to hold fire on Daniel Wells, saying the star midfielder is exactly what Collingwood need.
The Magpies confirmed on Tuesday that Wells is unavailable for round one, an obvious call given his quiet pre-season and history of lower-leg injuries.
Recruited from North Melbourne as a free agent, 32-year-old Wells has struggled with calf niggles since joining the Magpies and played no part in their pre-season matches.
The critics are lining up, particularly given the Magpies signed Wells on a three-year deal.
“We haven’t played a game yet, so can we just take a breath?,” Buckley said before the Magpies confirmed Wells’ unavailability for round one.
“Everyone likes to talk about three years … we’ll get there.
“Would we have liked him to be a little bit more forward in his preparation? Yeah, absolutely. Would he? Yeah, absolutely he would.
“But we’ll get there, we’ll get there.”
Collingwood are blessed with midfield depth and Buckley said Wells would add a key ingredient.
“He was the best front-half kick in the competition last year in his 19 games,” Buckley said.
“Even with (Scott) Pendlebury as the second-best, we were one of the worst inside-50 connectors in the competition last year.
“Some of that’s in front of the ball and some of that’s at the ball.
“But we’ve made some shifts around that and part of that is bringing in Daniel Wells – I reckon when he plays, we’re going to be better.”
Key defenders Henry Schade and Lynden Dunn and forwards Chris Mayne and Will Hoskin-Elliott are other Pies recruits with AFL experience.
Schade and Hoskin-Elliott impressed during the pre-season and Buckley said Dunn had been “first-class”.
There were concerns about Mayne’s pre-season but he showed strong signs last weekend in their Moe pre-season win over Richmond.
“Chris has taken a little bit of time to settle in but showed us on the weekend more of a glimpse of what he’s going to provide,” Buckley said.