FROM the first year of Jordan De Goey's career to his most recent campaign in 2020, the Collingwood star has spent less and less time as a midfielder every season. But that is about to change.

De Goey has always wanted to be a midfielder who can play forward, rather than the other way around. There has been two major complications to that, however.

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One has been in his own control: he didn't have the engine to play through the midfield regularly as much as he would have liked, with injury niggles along the way inhibiting that progress.

The second has been out of his hands. For all of his six seasons at the Pies, his club hasn't needed him to play in the midfield. It has been an on-ball unit of envy to most sides in the competition.

De Goey's value to coach Nathan Buckley, largely, has been as a powerful, explosive forward who played deep, worked his opponents over and under the ball, and broke games open, with patches in the middle. Plans are different heading into 2021, which starts for the Magpies on Friday night against the Western Bulldogs.

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The recently turned 25-year-old put his mind to a midfield move as soon as he returned from the club's Queensland hub at the end of last year. He spent most of his off-season break at a farm out of metropolitan Melbourne, working with a personal trainer and boxing coach to lift his aerobic base.

Jordan De Goey has been looking good on the track. Picture: AFL Photos

By the time he returned to Collingwood for the start of pre-season, even casual observers could tell the difference in De Goey's leaner shape.

Two minor injury setbacks halted his form line – first an abdomen issue then an ankle tweak that saw him miss the Pies' practice game against Geelong – but coach Nathan Buckley said his match-winner will head into the year in strong shape, having been the Pies' best in their AAMI Community Series game against Richmond with 27 touches, two goals and five clearances.

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"He's trained really well. He did a lot of work post-hub before we came back to pre-season. The last couple of months last year he clearly got fit and strong and decided that he was going to turn up in great nick, and he did," Buckley told AFL.com.au.

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"It was from the moment the footballs came out, he's been one of the best three or four on the track and when we've got to match practice drills and even handball drills, any competitive work, he's been up and about.

"He's had a few little [things] with the ankle and abdominal complaint and what they've actually served to be is really good taper periods for him, so you've got to find the positives out of it. He's in really good nick."

In an injury-hit 2020 campaign, De Goey played nearly 80 per cent of his time as a forward for the Pies. His 20.3 per cent as a midfielder was the lowest percentage of any season of his career according to statistics from Champion Data, down from 22.3 per cent in 2019 and 29.9 per cent in the Pies' Grand Final year of 2018.

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In his first season as a Pie in 2015, coming into the side as a No.5 NAB AFL Draft pick, De Goey played 42 per cent of his game time as a midfielder and 56 as a forward. Since then his midfield contribution has been halved.

But expect a different De Goey in 2021 in a different-looking Magpies. With Adam Treloar (now at the Western Bulldogs) exiting the Pies' engine room, and new Hawk Tom Phillips vacating a wing, the midfield group has had a reshuffle. De Goey is prepped for the step up.

"You've got to build as the season progresses, but he's forward of where he's been for the last couple of years," Buckley said ahead of the season.

"We're playing him through the midfield in match practice and he goes forward when he feels like he can, and I think we should expect that he's going to be a 50-50 split.

"He wants to be a midfielder, he hadn't really done the work to give himself the best chance at it, but this year I don't think we can dispute that he's done that work. We should see the fruits of that."

Jordan De Goey time in position

Year

Midfield %

Forward %

2015

41.9%

56.1%

2016

41.3%

56.8%

2017

39.3%

59.5%

2018

29.9%

70.1%

2019

22.3%

77.7%

2020

20.3%

79.7%