Charlie Dean in action during the Magpies' intraclub on February 5, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

COLLINGWOOD key defender Charlie Dean will make his long-awaited debut in Saturday night's Opening Round clash against Greater Western Sydney, 834 days after being plucked out of the VFL. 

The 2021 Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medallist was on track to play at the start of the Craig McRae era in 2022 before suffering the first of two serious foot injuries that limited him to just two games in his first season at the club. 

Dean then missed almost all of 2023 after re-fracturing his right foot in February last year, opening the door for Oleg Markov to be signed during the pre-season supplemental selection period. 

The 22-year-old played one game in the VFL last September, but after banking a full pre-season and performing strongly in limited game time against Richmond last Wednesday night, Dean will slot into a backline that is without Nathan Murphy and Jeremy Howe to start their premiership defence.

The Williamstown product was told of the decision at the end of training on Thursday and appears set to have won a battle with Billy Frampton for a spot to start the season, following an impressive summer on the track. 

"I think he would have played round one way back (in 2022)," Collingwood coach Craig McRae said of Dean.

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"The young lad's worked really hard."

John Noble was the hard luck story of last year's finals campaign, missing all three finals, including the Grand Final, after being dropped on the eve of September following 83 consecutive appearances.

But after banking an impressive pre-season and starring in the match simulation against North Melbourne and AAMI Community Series fixture against Richmond last Tuesday night, Noble has earned a recall the hard way over the summer. 

"He's now fitter and stronger, he's put on about four or five kilos," McRae said.

"We need guys like Johnny to get us back to where we want to be."


Six-time All-Australian Scott Pendlebury is expected to face Adam Kingsley's side after missing the game at Ikon Park due to a knock to his knee. 

The 36-year-old trained on Thursday but still needed to be ticked off by medical staff post-training to be cleared to play. 

Former first-round pick Fin Macrae is pushing for a spot in the 23 after biding his time in the VFL across McRae's first two seasons in charge. 

With Taylor Adams moving to Sydney during the trade period, the 22-year-old has impressed across the pre-season but McRae stopped short of guaranteeing his spot on Thursday morning.

Ash Johnson appears well placed to take Dan McStay's spot first-up following an intriguing battle with Reef McInnes across the pre-season.

Collingwood has lost its past three games against Greater Western Sydney at Giants Stadium, but defeated the expansion side by one-point in last year's preliminary final at the MCG.