Jeremy Howe in action during a match simulation session at Collingwood on February 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

COLLINGWOOD is set to be boosted by the return of veteran defender Jeremy Howe for Friday night's round one clash with Sydney at the MCG, while former first-round pick Fin Macrae is in the frame to be rewarded after a strong summer. 

Howe missed the Opening Round loss to Greater Western Sydney due to a calf injury that ruled him out of the AAMI Community Series game against Richmond. 

But after completing Wednesday's main training session at the AIA Centre, the premiership backman only needs to pull up well from training to book his place against the Swans.

>> Win a $70K Toyota in AFL Fantasy! Sign up NOW

"We are confident he got through. It looks like we're going to select him. We will see how he pulls up, then select him," Collingwood coach Craig McRae told reporters on Wednesday.


Macrae, who turned 22 on Wednesday, was considered very unlucky to be overlooked in Opening Round following an impressive pre-season where the midfielder looks to have taken the next step. 

McRae fields more questions about Macrae than almost any player at the club during his weekly press conferences, despite the Victorian playing only three times across the past two seasons. 

>> Win $25,000 in the official AFL Tipping comp! Sign up NOW

But after a disappointing Opening Round performance against Greater Western Sydney at Engie Stadium, McRae said it will be difficult not to select Macrae for the first time since the final home and away game of 2023.

"I wouldn't have thought he needs to do much more at all. It is going to be hard to leave him out this week. We have some decisions to make at match committee," McRae said.

"I like saying things out loud so people can hear it; that holds me to account. 

"We are going to play Fin Macrae very shortly, whether that's this week or next, he will be playing. That puts pressure on me to pick him, doesn't it? 

"I’ve had this conversation with Fin: we need to get him in the team. I think it's going to be hard to leave him out (this Friday night)."

Finlay Macrae in action during the AAMI Community Series match between Collingwood and Richmond at Ikon Park on February 27, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Pat Lipinski's pre-season form and return to full fitness after two shoulder reconstructions has tightened the squeeze on midfield spots at the Magpies, but Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell, who finished fourth in the Copeland Trophy in his first season at the club, was subbed out early in the third quarter last Saturday night after a quiet first half. 

After making his long-awaited debut against the Giants last Saturday night, Charlie Dean is expected to retain his spot against John Longmire's side. 

Charlie Dean in action during the match between Greater Western Sydney and Collingwood at Engie Stadium on March 9, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

With Nathan Murphy sidelined due to ongoing concussion-related issues, Dean was picked ahead of tall utility Billy Frampton and finished with nine disposals and five spoils in the 32-point loss at Engie Stadium

Frampton trained as a forward on Wednesday and could return to the senior side at that end of the ground as the Pies search for the best mix without Dan McStay.

"I think Bill is going to be really important to us in a number of areas, whether it's ruck or forward or back. He is another one that will come up at match committee (on Wednesday afternoon). Do we need his balance this week?," he said.

Billy Frampton is tackled by Brayden Maynard during Collingwood's training session at AIA Centre on February 7, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

A week after facing the side he departed last October, Sydney recruit Brodie Grundy will come up against the club where he became a two-time All-Australian and two-time Copeland Trophy winner at this Friday night. 

McRae said Collingwood must be wary of Grundy's ability at stoppage but is confident Darcy Cameron is well placed to combat the South Australian after finishing with 30 hitouts, 20 disposals and two goals in a strong first-up showing against Kieren Briggs.

"He [Grundy] is an important player. Funny enough, last year on King's Birthday he was fired up to play against us and now he is just wearing different colours," he said.

"He is an elite player of the competition; we've always known that; we've never said he's not. He is so important to clearances. What did he have nine last week? He gives them a different dynamic. 

"Darcy Cameron had one of his better games for a long time. It is going to be a great contest."