Collingwood will be boosted by the return of big man Mason Cox for the final stretch of the regular season after the ruck-forward recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Pies’ loss to West Coast. The big man is a key member of this team and his presence is critical for Collingwood’s hopes in the finals, not to mention a number of important games between now and the start of the finals. The club are preparing to take on a Kangaroos side containing Majak Daw, playing up front in recent weeks alongside Coleman Medal leader Ben Brown.

While Collingwood’s 35-point defeat to West Coast didn’t come down solely to Cox’s absence, the defeat showed just why the big man has become such an integral part of how the team play. The Eagles were able to intercept the Magpies forward entries seemingly at will, dominating the marking contests across the ground. It also highlighted the significant improvements Cox has made since breaking into the senior side following his move to Australia from the U.S. in 2015. Still learning his trade, Cox has wasted little time in establishing himself as one of the league’s most exciting ruck-forwards.

Currently sitting third in the AFL ladder, the Magpies have worked wonders to get themselves into the position they find themselves in after going 4-4 in the opening eight games of the season. Since round eight, Collingwood have been on an absolute tear, winning seven games in a row before their defeat to West Coast, now priced as short as 7/1 with the latest Aussie Rules betting to reach the final this season. Based on their recent form, the Pies certainly shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to the finals, and not many teams will be desperate to be drawn against them.

Another player on course to make a return to action is gun midfielder Adam Treloar, who is working his way back to full fitness following a rare double-hamstring injury. Treloar has been listed as still being seven or eight weeks away from being able to get back on the field, but the 25-year-old has made it clear he is desperate to return before that timescale. The question will be whether or not Nathan Buckley will want to risk Treloar re-injuring himself if he’s rushed back too early.

With the likes of Richmond, Sydney and Port Adelaide still to come, Collingwood know they can’t afford to lose their focus if they’re going to secure a top-four finish. Having put themselves in such a strong position over the past few months, it would be a real shame for the club to drop off now, and Buckley will be well aware of the need to stay on top of his team during an important few weeks. With Cox fully fit and Treloar at least on the road to recovery,  you’d have to consider Collingwood as one of the favourites to reach the final. From there, who knows. That eight-year wait for a premiership could be coming to an end.