COLLINGWOOD coach Nathan Buckley has explained the tactical reasons behind Brodie Grundy's extended stints on the bench on Saturday night, revealing that a dual approach with Darcy Cameron was implemented to help quell the influence of All-Australian opponent Nic Naitanui.
Grundy played just 63 percent game time during the Pies' remarkable one-point elimination final victory over the Eagles, while Cameron played 46 percent game time, with the latter taking a series of important centre-bounces against Naitanui throughout a thrilling contest at Optus Stadium.
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Grundy, a fellow two-time All-Australian, watched on from the bench as Cameron went against Naitanui in the ruck with just 77 seconds on the clock as Collingwood held firm to a narrow one-point lead.
The absence of Grundy from the game's most crucial moment raised eyebrows. But Buckley brushed aside suggestions of a fitness issue and backed the efforts of Cameron, who was playing just his ninth AFL game for the club.
"We wanted Darcy and Brodie to share the load," Buckley said.
"We wanted to keep Mason (Cox) forward as much as possible. We also thought that Nic would be a handful and he proved to be that.
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"But we thought that Darcy and his contest in the ruck was good. He's a natural ruckman. We've played him forward a few times, but he's a natural ruckman and he's a very good ruckman. In field play, he was able to get down the line and help us aerially.
"We just thought the balance was right to share the load among those two boys and try to keep the heat on a player who is an All-Australian ruckman this year for a reason."
Buckley also downplayed whether Grundy was disappointed to not be involved in such a pivotal moment in the do-or-die final, saying his star two-time best and fairest winner understood his role on the night.
"Brodie is a team man," Buckley said.
"He's prepared to do whatever it takes for the team to come together and perform.
"He's always had high expectations of himself and elite performers will often set high bars for themselves. Sometimes that can be debilitating, but for Brodie he just thrives on it.
"Whatever's happened to this point is irrelevant. These are the opportunities that the great players get up for. Brodie is more than ready to contribute to his capacity and we ask to be really strong in a team effort."
As for queries surrounding Grundy's fitness following a 12-disposal game where his influence was limited, Buckley said there would be no doubts over his availability ahead of next week's semi-final.
"I've heard that (suggestion of an injury), but no … Brodie is fully fit and he has been all year," Buckley said.
"He's cherry ripe to attack next week and whatever is beyond that."
Collingwood's brave victory advances the club to a semi-final clash against Geelong at the Gabba next Saturday night, with Buckley saying the team has more gears to move through during this year's finals series.
"(Tonight) is validation for us," Buckley said.
"It's nothing that we're surprised by. We've always had great belief in ourselves. It really hasn't been reciprocated. I suppose you can only be judged on your performances, but we know that we're capable of that type of performance – and better.
"We were really focused on a strong performance, so to be able to hold our nerve and play it out right until the end was clearly important in the result."