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Elliott talks to be Magpies' most challenging

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Magpie Jamie Elliott - AFL,Collingwood Magpies,Jamie Elliott,Contracts
Magpie Jamie Elliott

COLLINGWOOD has a lot on its list management plate this year, but its impending talks with Jamie Elliott shape as its most challenging. 

Mercurial forward/midfielder Jordan De Goey and tall Darcy Moore, who shapes as the most important part of the Pies' spine over the next decade, loom as Collingwood's two highest priority re-signings. 

Along with Hawthorn and Richmond, the Magpies are also firmly in the hunt for this year's most prized free agent, Gold Coast co-captain Tom Lynch. 

Collingwood's other out-of-contract players include former top-10 draft picks Matthew Scharenberg and James Aish, who have both shown enough this season to suggest they can deliver after injury-prone starts to their careers, and free agents Alex Fasolo, Josh Thomas, Tyson Goldsack and Jarryd Blair. 

But for all the work that lies ahead of Ned Guy and his list management team, the Elliott talks shape as the most delicate they'll face this year. 

On one hand, the 178cm forward is one of the Magpies' most talented and important players.   

He has led Collingwood's goalkicking in the two most recent seasons he has played (2015 and 2017) and finished second in 2013 and 2014.

A spectacular overhead mark, dangerous at ground level and a dead-eye in front of goal, Elliott is one of the Magpies' genuine match-winners. 

 

He also does not turn 26 until August, so should have his best football ahead of him. 

But – and it's a significant but – the Magpies have to ask themselves whether Elliott's body will allow him to live up to his talent.

The forward has endured a horror run over the past two and a half years, missing the entire 2016 season with a debilitating back injury that required surgery.

He made a delayed start to last season because of an ankle injury but bounced back to play 17 games and finish equal ninth in Collingwood's best and fairest award.

However, he then required ankle surgery that disrupted his 2018 pre-season, while two subsequent hamstring injuries have limited him to just two VFL games so far this year. 

Elliott's latest injury occurred 10 days ago in the VFL, just 15 minutes into his comeback game after more than a month on the sidelines. It prompted the Magpies to send him to Canberra this week to meet with an Australian Institute of Sport physiotherapist in an attempt to get to the bottom of his hamstring problems.

Collingwood football manager Geoff Walsh told Fairfax Media on Wednesday he did not expect Elliott to play before the club's round 13 bye and said the club might not know for another two weeks when he would be ready to resume.

The Magpies and Elliott are content not to rush things for the moment, with negotiations yet to begin on a new deal. Both sides just want to see Elliott return to the field and work his way back into form.

Eventually, however, the Pies will have to determine Elliott's market worth.

They will do so with a salary cap that is widely believed to be among the competition's tightest. 

They will do so knowing rivals including St Kilda and North Melbourne are circling De Goey and offering up to $800,000 a season.  

They will do so knowing Moore is in Sydney's crosshairs and, as a rare key-position talent, could attract offers in the same ballpark as De Goey. 

And they will do so knowing that just to get into the conversation for Lynch, they will have to stump up a long-term offer worth well in excess of $1 million a season.

Elliott signed his existing three-year deal after making a strong start to 2015, a contract understood to be worth, on average, about $500,000 a season.

At his best, Elliott is worth every cent and, after last year's 20 per cent spike in clubs' total player payments, probably more.

But will he get on the park often enough, and be at this best often enough, to justify that sort of money?  

That's the most vexed list management question Collingwood has to answer by the end of the year.