Mick v Bucks: a new chapter
The fierce rivalry between Mick Malthouse and Nathan Buckley is set to grow as their teams meet in a must-win clash on Friday night
At 34 Ben Hudson is still playing an important role for Collingwood
COLLINGWOOD will enter Friday night's blockbuster with a new ruck-forward set-up as Ben Hudson and Jarrod Witts play senior football together for the first time.
Hudson, 34, was recruited to teach the youngsters but has been called on to played five games while Witts, 20, with just three games experience, has not yet had the impact he will have in the future.
In the next month both will have to step up in a manner few outside Collingwood may have anticipated at the end of last season.
Darren Jolly, 31, is out injured and Brodie Grundy, 19, is developing after missing much of the start of the season with a back injury.
Forward Quinten Lynch is missing for the first time in 2013 after succumbing to a back injury.
And Collingwood can't look to Cameron Wood from time to time and hope as it once used to.
On Tuesday, Magpies coach Nathan Buckley did not seem too perturbed by the shifting ruck set-up taking the field from week to week.
He pointed out that the Magpie midfield of this era has not often enjoyed a dominant ruckman at stoppages.
Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury have become adept at working with whatever tall was taking the hit-outs. And it's meant Collingwood has always fared reasonably in measurement of hit-outs to advantage.
"I don't think the ruck is somewhere we're falling down at the moment,” Buckley said.
Of course, ruckwork is not all about statistics.
It can be about presence, something Jolly has always had and Hudson works hard to exert.
Buckley is showing faith in those at his disposal.
"Huddo's [Ben Hudson] a fierce competitor. He's a veteran. He knows what it takes to play hard, competitive footy and I thought he was pretty good for us last week," Buckley said. "Wittsy [Jarrod Witts] is growing into his body. He's a big unit and it's going to take a number of years before he's where he can get to."
Whether Witts plays Lynch's role up forward or whether, as Buckley joked, he creates the "Ben Reid role" for the night, the performances of the big men will have a huge bearing on the Magpies' flagging premiership chances and shows how desperate Collingwood is for a mid-20s ruckman to fill the obvious gap for next season.
For Buckley, his energy goes into creating the right plan for this combination to play a role in beating Carlton.
"We haven't had continuity there [in the ruck], no, but I think it's an opportunity for us to see who's best suited for us come the end of the year," Buckley said.