Nick Daicos (left) and Finlay Macrae in action during a Collingwood intra-club match on February 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

FORMER first-round pick Fin Macrae has made a statement at Collingwood’s intra-club on Wednesday night, while Norm Smith Medallist Bobby Hill booted four goals in a brilliant display at the AIA Centre.

Macrae has been starved of opportunities across Craig McRae’s first two seasons at the Magpies, managing only one appearance last year and two in 2022, after playing nine in his debut season in 2021.

But with Taylor Adams moving to Sydney during last October’s trade period, Macrae put his hand up for that spot on Wednesday by inflicting damage at stoppage with punishing clearances, strong tackles and damaging disposals.

The 21-year-old has made significant inroads across the pre-season and laid a marker on Wednesday ahead of Collingwood’s practice matches against North Melbourne and Richmond.  

Finlay Macrae is tackled during a Collingwood training session on December 4, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Months after that famous best on ground performance against Brisbane in the Grand Final, Hill tore the game apart at times with high marks, assists and polished finishing, dropping another clue that he hasn’t rested on his laurels across the summer.

Jordan De Goey was dominant across the 3 x 30-minute game, linking up with Macrae to lead ‘Team Ballarat’ to victory against ‘Team Bendigo’ in the ‘Goldfields Cup’.

Beau McCreery played as a permanent midfielder and had moments after transitioning into that role across the pre-season after making his name as a pressure forward.

With Dan McStay set to miss most, if not all, of 2024 after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament at the start of December, Ash Johnson, Reef McInnes and Nathan Kreuger have all been fighting for that spot.

While McInnes has produced a standout pre-season on the track, Johnson staked his claim for the spot against Greater Western Sydney on March 9 by kicking a few goals and taking more than a handful of grabs, some inside 50 and others between the arcs in a strong showing.

Kreuger also hit the scoreboard with a couple of goals to provide a timely reminder that he can step up again at AFL level after enduring a nightmare injury run across his first two seasons at the Magpies.

After holding on to his spot in Collingwood’s best 23 late in September to become a premiership player after starting the Grand Final as the sub, Pat Lipinski looked almost back to his best on Wednesday as he looks to reclaim a more prominent role in McRae’s plans in 2024, following a season where he was forced to recover from two shoulder reconstructions.

Footscray VFL captain Lachie Sullivan has waited a long time for an AFL opportunity and is another step closer after he backed up strong recent match simulation performances with an eye-catching display.

The 26-year-old played alongside De Goey and Macrae in the white team and found plenty of the ball, looking more than comfortable against a midfield that contained Nick Daicos, Scott Pendlebury, Tom Mitchell and Jack Crisp at different times.

Collingwood has three spots available on the rookie list ahead of next Monday’s pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP) deadline and is expected to make a decision within the next 48 hours.

Josh Eyre had produced the most eye-catching pre-season until suffering a serious hamstring injury at training last week. The former Essendon swingman might still secure the spot, but the other five triallists played on Wednesday, including Collingwood VFL captain Campbell Hustwaite, former St Kilda midfielder Jack Bytel, ex-Port Adelaide ruckman Brynn Teakle and VAFA star Sam Sofronidis.

Sofronidis produced composed moments playing down back alongside Collingwood captain Darcy Moore and untried key defender Charlie Dean.

Sam Sofronidis in action for Collegians. Picture: VAFA

With Nathan Murphy stepping away from playing in the immediate future, Dean looms as an option down back for the Magpies, while Sofronidis will come under serious consideration to provide extra depth in defence after handling the step up from Collegians over the pre-season.

Collingwood has made one change to its four-man leadership group for 2024 with gun small defender Isaac Quaynor replacing Adams. Moore has been appointed captain again, while Jeremy Howe and Brayden Maynard have both retained the vice-captaincy.