THE LOGISTICS of Steele Sidebottom's return to Victoria this week might be unknown, but Nathan Buckley's message to his Collingwood side in regard to his impending absence certainly isn't.
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"Share the load" will remain the theme at the Magpies this week, as the club prepares to lose its star midfielder for the remainder of the home-and-away season due to COVID-19 protocols that will delay his return to the team.
Sidebottom will leave Queensland later this week to be with his partner for the birth of their child, with the important Collingwood onballer departing with 23 disposals and a goal in Monday night's comfortable 30-point victory over North Melbourne.
Collingwood wouldn't disclose when or how Sidebottom would journey back to Victoria, but Buckley said his message to the team would remain the same as the club readies for a crucial period where it will hope to solidify its finals chances.
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"He won't be walking home," Buckley laughed.
"He'll get himself back. He's 95 per cent pumped to get back and be with his partner and to go through the next couple of weeks. He's five per cent bummed that he's missing what is the next couple of weeks of our campaign.
"We believe we've been a club that shares the load and steps up to cover for each other as much as we possibly can. We still believe that it's our way forward. It's not about who, it's about how. We need to improve our how.
"We saw elements of it tonight and we want to continue that. But we've got stiff opposition to come in Carlton in six days' time. We're looking forward to that challenge.
"That will be without Steele, but we'll have 22 fit blokes ready to go. Hopefully, Steele can find his way back and return for the tail-end of the campaign."
North Melbourne stuck with Collingwood for much of the first half on Monday night, but fell away after the main break and ultimately succumbed to its fourth straight defeat.
However, there were positives, with coach Rhyce Shaw revealing he used a brave moment from first-year forward Jack Mahony to help inspire his young Kangaroos side at the half-time interval.
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Mahony hurt his shoulder in the first quarter following a strong tackle from experienced Pies midfielder Levi Greenwood, but returned with heavy strapping in the second term to win an important groundball against star onballer Taylor Adams.
The contest resulted in a Bailey Scott goal, with Shaw saying it provided a benchmark for his teammates to follow.
"We actually showed it at half-time," Shaw said.
"That was a great effort by him. He probably wouldn't have had to deal with something like that at this level. The way he did it, it was fantastic.
"I don't expect anything less from the kid, that's just what he's about. It was a great effort.
"There were some really positive signs from us across the board from a number of our players. But, in the end, we just didn't make the most of our chances and Collingwood did. Essentially, that was the ball game."