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Pie 'cherry ripe' for round one despite limited match practice

Pie's silver lining, Buddy in doubt, milestone men Nat Edwards and Matt Thompson with the latest news

COLLINGWOOD defender Jeremy Howe has only played a half of competitive football this pre-season, but insists he is "cherry ripe" to face Geelong in their round one clash at the MCG on Friday night.

The high-flying Howe has endured an interrupted pre-season after post-season shoulder surgery that grounded him until January, followed by further surgery to what he quipped might be "the worst corked thigh in history".

Howe's right thigh issues sidelined him for the final four rounds of last season before he returned for the Magpies' march to the Grand Final, and further complications in January prevented him from running for two-and-a-half weeks until mid-February.

The 28-year-old said he had completed a solid workload and believed his brief appearance in the second half of the Pies' final JLT Community Series game against Carlton at Morwell was all he needed to be ready for the Cats.

"I'm right to go," Howe told AFL.com.au on Monday.

"I had a good block (of training) for probably a fortnight leading in. But I'm on top of all the injuries now. The thigh's all good.

"I had a bit of a run around (against Carlton) and got the rust out. I had a good session (last) Friday and I'll go again on Wednesday and be cherry ripe for Friday.

"Ideally you'd play both JLT games, but I don't feel that it's absolutely necessary to do that to prepare myself for round one. I'm going into the game knowing that I've done a body of work that will hold me in good stead."

Howe also drew confidence from his effort to play in the Pies' season-opener last year on limited preparation after overcoming an eight-week calf injury.

His latest thigh issue, which flared after copping some friendly fire from fellow defender Darcy Moore at training, required two operations in just 10 days – the first to seal a damaged artery that hadn't healed since he suffered the original injury last July, while the second procedure was to again drain blood from the area.

Howe described the setback as "a blessing in disguise" because in the process the artery problem was found and fixed.

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"If I copped another knock in the finals last year or sometime this season, I would've been out again, so getting hit in pre-season was probably the best thing for it because I could get it right for the start of the season."

Another positive for Howe has been an injury-free Moore and former Bulldogs big man Jordan Roughead holding down the key defensive posts. It means he and Tom Langdon won't necessarily be required to play on taller opponents, as they were in the latter half of last season.

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"It probably allows myself and 'Langers' to play more of our natural role, instead of playing big. But there are times when we'll still have to play big. You need flexibility and I believe we have that," he said.

"We got stretched a bit in all three games against (premier) West Coast because they had (Josh) Kennedy, (Jack) Darling and (resting ruckmen Nathan) Vardy or (Scott) Lycett as well. Hopefully we've got the personnel to cover that now."

 

That pre-season jaunt at Morwell had also been important for Howe to play in the same backline as Roughead and Moore for the first time.

"I'll be better for the run," he said.

On Monday the Magpies completed a light session that was most notable for a collision between Langdon and exciting youngster Jaidyn Stephenson.

During a competitive drill, the pair clashed knees – Stephenson's right and Langdon's left – leaving both sore and hobbling. However they shared a laugh over the incident and quickly shook it off.

Both players have been under injury clouds but are expected to face the Cats. Stephenson had a groin issue while Langdon suffered delayed concussion against Carlton.

Meanwhile, injured pair Will Hoskin-Elliott (knee) and Ben Reid (quad) completed some running in their bids for early-season returns.