Can Collingwood win a premiership with their young list in the next five years? Part One: Defence

Collingwood, a proud side in the heart of Melbourne. Fifteen premierships, a massive fan-base and probably the richest side in the AFL. You could even argue they are the biggest sporting club in Australia. Recently, there has been major change at the Pies. The older statesmen of the club have gone from their glory years of 2009-2011 and the side is re-building. The wealth of experience who have left the club has been enormous. You consider losing players such as Heath Shaw, Darren Jolly, Heritier Lumumba, Dale Thomas, Dayne Beams, Alan Didak and Nick Maxwell, that equals over 1,300 games of AFL football which includes the loss of Leigh Brown, Chris Tarrant, Andrew Krakouer and Sharrod Wellingham which would bolster the number to almost 2,000. Can’t forget losing Mick Malthouse who was replaced by a rookie coach and former captain Nathan Buckley. Collingwood only has three players of 200 games on their list and 12 players who have won Grand Finals (including Clinton Young and Travis Varcoe). Amongst this young breed, Collingwood have four top 10 draft picks and numerous other first-rounders. Other players who have gone under the radar in the draft have turned out to be some of our major ball-players of the past few years. The question is now, can this young Collingwood side who keep seeming to tease us with their potential, find themselves holding the Holy Grail come the final day in September in the next five years? We unpack this topic by looking at their defence, midfield, forward line and coaches in depth over the next few days and come to the final conclusion whether they can achieve this feat.


Collingwood’s defence has gone under serious change over the past few seasons. Losing Chris Tarrant, Nick Maxwell and Heath Shaw has left a big gap in the experience this defence possesses. The back six has gone under serious scrutiny under Buckley as they have been exposed numerous times by the elite sides. However, they have shown that their new look back six can become a serious wall in the coming seasons. Nathan Brown, a premiership defender who has been cruelled by knee and shoulder injuries over the past few seasons has shown he can be a real force on the best forwards in the league. He is one of the more under-rated defenders in the AFL and doesn’t get the same recognition as an Alex Rance, Tom McDonald or Brian Lake does. The other key defender by the name of Jack Frost has shown he can take the second forward of other AFL sides and do a decent job. He has played 40 games in succession in only his third year and is still on Collingwood’s rookie list. Frost is making that position his own and is slowly starting to become one of the better defenders on the Magpies’ list.

Collingwood’s other small defenders have shown just as much potential and they include Tom Langdon and Marley Williams. These two players have been some of Collingwood’s most consistent players in 2015 and are rapidly improving into two fantastic defenders who play different roles. Langdon with his composure and beautiful kicking has proven to be a major asset along with his ability to take the third-key forward, mid-sized forward (such as Luke Breust or Tory Dickson) and even the quick creative forwards. Williams usually is taking the smaller forwards and his pace and courage is highly rated amongst the Magpies faithful. His drive off half-back is his biggest asset and has proven to be a real weapon when Collingwood go into attack. The elder of the smaller defenders is Alan Toovey who played in Collingwood’s premiership success. Toovey is a similar player to Langdon except has a bit more pace and is a good loose-man to have in defense. This year, he has declined a little and his form has suffered. He is 28 and has played almost 150 games and his experience is vital in the young Pies defence. Other defenders such as Tyson Goldsack have proven to be able to play either end of the ground and his versatility is looked at in high regard by the Magpies staff. He is getting older but he is showing no signs of slowing down if it is in defence or in attack.

The younger brigade of Collingwood’s defence is probably the most exciting. Jackson Ramsay, Matt Scharenberg, Johnathon Marsh and Brayden Maynard are showing signs of youngsters becoming real statesmen in an already packed Magpies defence. Ramsay, who has played seven games and has been cruelled by injuries this season has shown he can play a very similar role to Langdon as a mid-sized defender. His first five games of 2015 were very promising. Scharenberg, who went pick #6 in the 2013 draft has also been cruelled by injuries, but after two games has shown extreme poise and is looking like a real weapon for the Pies as he plays his game very similarly to that of his captain Scott Pendlebury. Johnathon Marsh who made his debut this past week has proven to be another player with a lot of potential. Can play either end and showed that he can even drive out of defence with his big frame in glimpses against the Blues. His seize also proves that he can play as a key defender and will be applying serious pressure to Brown and Frost over the coming seasons. Maynard has played Collingwood’s last six and has improved every week. From a shaky first five games, he has shown his growth through playing his best game yet against Carlton, capping it off with a nice goal from the boundary. Another player with a nice kick and size can drive off half-back and will get better with more experience. Lastly, a player with a lot of pressure is Ben Sinclair. Coming to 24 years of age, he has been cruelled by injuries since his debut in 2011 as a small forward. In 2013, Collingwood moved him down back and proved to be a dangerous player with his mercurial pace. He has struggled to get fit over the past two seasons and finally made his return against the Blues after missing four months. It is make or break time for him and he needs to manage to get his body right so he can keep his spot on the Magpies list.

A few others who have also proven to play a defensive role include Adam Oxley and Travis Varcoe. Oxley, who has proven to be a real revelation for Collingwood this season played the first 16 games of the season before pulling out because of fatigue. His ability to mark, run and kick the ball has been a fantastic possession of his and his BOG performance on Queen’s Birthday was his real highlight. Expect big things of Oxley and he is one of the most interesting of our young prospects to where he will be situated on the ground. Varcoe, who came from the Cats comes with a wealth of experience and being a part of two Geelong premierships. He has been one of our best recruits in 2015 and his run on the wing and his ability to help the defence has been greatly appreciated. He is coming to a stage where he needs to keep up his form in order to get the Pies to success in the coming years. The other enigma is suspended [now de-listed – Ed] Lachlan Keeffe. His drug scandal which has marred his 2015 season has seen him suspended til 2017 and the Magpies have committed to re-drafting him when he is cleared. At his best he was in the Magpies best 22 and his ability to play both ends is greatly warranted. His athletic ability for a big guy has been his greatest strength and once returning will provide serious competition for Brown, Frost and Marsh. Outcasts Tony Armstrong and Clinton Young will most likely be delisted at season’s end and their contributions are surplus to requirements.


Collingwood’s defense is undoubtedly stocked up with immense talent. The talent in its key position players such as Brown, Frost and Marsh looks promising but the mid-sized defender category looks stocked full of talent as the Magpies look to march towards their next flag. With the youth of Collingwood looking very bright hopefully they can manage to keep hold of as many of these players as possible and look to blood these young guns through the ranks in the coming seasons. By the time 2020 comes around, Goldsack, Brown and Toovey would have probably retired being 32 by then or would be on their last legs. Keeffe would be 30 but probably still on the Pies list competing with Frost and Marsh. The young defenders such as Langdon, Williams, Scharenberg, Ramsay and Maynard would have matured along with Marsh and Frost. Add in some potential new arrivals through the draft and trade period and Collingwood have a strong side for 2020 down back. Things look bright for the Magpies.

Back 6 – 2015 (full strength)

B: Toovey Brown Goldsack

HB: Williams Frost Langdon

Back 6 – 2020

B: Langdon Frost Williams

HB: Scharenberg Marsh Maynard/Ramsay



About Nicholas D'Urbano

17 years of age. Passionate Pies fan. Very opinionated. Aspiring writer


  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Excellent article Nicholas.
    Despite our recent hiccups there is plenty to look forward to. We have missed Goldsack’s versatility in the last month. I also reckon Sinclair gave us some good run against Carlton. Needs to start hitting targets more often though. I’m wondering if Darcy Moore might be a better Centre Half Back with his leap and running ability. Would you play Reid back or forward with Cloke? Can Witts and Grundy function together?

  2. Hii Phillip,
    In my opinion Moore would be good up forward but his ability to play either end is a major asset for our young side. Reid is best suited up forward. I think he should be there to help Cloke and is a weapon with his ability to take a pack mark and kick some goals is needed for our side at this moment in time. He could play back if need be. Grundy and Witts is an iffy one but I will cover it more in my next article!

    Thank you!

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    As a non pies supporter I felt before the season of Vic sides only the Hawks and Pies were capable of winning a flag in the next 5 yrs the dogs must now be added to that list.Scharenburg if his body holds up having seen him as a junior will be elite,Freeman is important likewise trading and drafting.The sub goes next year so of course,Grundy and Witts can both play and will be a very good combination

  4. Dave Nadel says

    Good observations and predictions, Nicholas, although I suspect by 2020 Scharenberg will be a midfielder and Marsh will be competing with Maynard and Ramsay for the flanker’s positions while either Darcy Moore or a player yet to be recruited serves as Centre Half Back. It could have been Keeffe, who as you say was capable of being in Collingwood’s best 22. But I think that the two years that he is going to miss will significantly hamper his development. Which is a shame. He could have been a great Pies footballer but one little error of judgement has probably destroyed his career.

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