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Clarke's Christmas in Oz

Andrew Lowther  January 20, 2013 7:01 PM

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Marty Clarke battles against the Bombers on ANZAC Day

I just need the confidence to take the game on a bit more
IRISH Magpie Marty Clarke spent Christmas in Australia rather than returning home following the disappointment of missing Collingwood's 2012 finals campaign.

The 25-year-old played 17 games in his comeback season before being dumped from the team after round 21, and told the club's website that the pain of watching the finals from the stands spurred his decision to stay in Australia.

He joined his local gym, played five-a-side soccer and worked on a running program in a bid to address areas of his game he felt needed improvement.

"With the way I finished last season, I didn’t play any games from round 21 and missed the most important part of the season, so I stayed back and focused on things to work on over here," Clarke told collingwoodfc.com.au on Sunday.

Clarke returned to the Pies after missing the 2010 and 2011 seasons following his decision to return home to Ireland at the end of 2009.

His numbers point towards a solid return season.

Clarke played important roles off half-back, as well as some run-with jobs, averaging 16 possessions a game.

His shutdown job on Essendon midfielder Brent Stanton in the round five ANZAC Day clash was probably his best game for the season.

Stanton had been prolific in the rounds leading up to the clash, including a 36-possession haul against Carlton the week before. On ANZAC Day, he managed just 13 - including just two kicks to half-time - unable to break Clarke's determined tag.

Clarke played every game until he was dropped for the club's round 14 clash against Fremantle.

He dominated in the VFL that week, gathering 31 disposals and kicking two goals in an effort which saw him recalled to the senior team in round 15.

He played rounds 16, 18, 20 and 21 before finally losing his spot.

"I was in the 25 most weeks but missed out playing in the last month or five weeks," Clarke said.

"When you see the boys playing big finals you want to be a part of it but I couldn’t force my way in.

"It leaves me very hungry for this year but certainly on reflection I wouldn’t have been overly happy with last year. I guess it started well but I wasn’t able to build on that."

Clarke has since enjoyed a solid training camp with the Pies in Utah and says he is confident about the season ahead.

"Just the more hours you put in on the track and the more game time you play, the more confident you feel about the other things," he said.

"I definitely am at a more advanced stage and people will tell you that last year was a bonus year. Coming back from two years, you mightn’t have expected to play any games, but I certainly got the 17 or so games and a few in the VFL, maybe three or four there, so all that game time stood me in good stead."

Collingwood's  football and coaching strategist Rodney Eade told AFL.com.au in November the Pies were content with Clarke's season.

"Marty, just towards the end started to lose his form, and missed out on the finals but he played 17 games and in many ways, it was a positive year," Eade said.

Clarke told the website he feels the club is more settled as it moves into a second season under Nathan Buckley.

And, along with Collingwood's coaching staff, Clarke has identified further areas of his game to develop.

"The more games I play and with every training session, it’s the game awareness," he said.

"Other things just like using my skills to more advantage as well. Taking the game on a bit more. I know I can but I just need the confidence to take the game on a bit more.

"It’s just probably general awareness around stoppages and stuff like that, but you pick up and improve more as I did from round one until my last game. Everything else comes around from that."