COLLINGWOOD'S giant American recruit Mason Cox will benefit from his first taste of competitive football against Carlton on Sunday, coach Nathan Buckley says.
Cox, a 211cm former Oklahoma State college basketballer, rucked alone in the seven-point defeat in Bendigo after youngster Brodie Grundy was subbed at half-time.
Grundy, 20, copped a knee to the side in a marking contest in the second quarter, heading straight for the bench to apply ice to the area.
Buckley played down the injury, saying the Pies had always planned to rest Grundy in the second half.
"He copped a knock but he was coming off at half-time," Buckley said, describing the location of the injury as "that side region ... somewhere between the shoulder and the knee".
Grundy's exit opened the door for Cox to shoulder the ruck duties against the Blues' Robert Warnock and co.
Cox has exceeded the Magpies' expectations since making the jump to footy via an American combine for college athletes in early 2014. He had 14 hit-outs and one disposal and did not look out of place in his first official game of football, played one day after his 24th birthday.
"He didn't disappoint. They were his fifth and sixth quarters of footy," Buckley said.
"He will enjoy that experience and he will benefit from it. He has really only played for four quarters in an intra-club and he has come in and played in a NAB (Challenge) two.
"It was a fair birthday for him. It has been a steep learning curve and he will keep learning, but he is showing signs.
"We would've loved him to take a pluck today and to feel that, but it is a long journey. From where he has started he has come a fair way along and his attitude is going to give him the chance to get the best out of himself."
Buckley said the Pies would likely be boosted by the returns of Steele Sidebottom, Taylor Adams, Jamie Elliott, Jack Frost and Jesse White for the club's final NAB Challenge meeting against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium next Saturday night.
The Magpies coach also said Ben Reid and Jarrod Witts did everything asked of them in a VFL practice match against Geelong on Saturday, with the pair to be assessed in the lead-up to the game against the Dogs.