HAVING left his injury worries behind, Collingwood defender Ben Reid believes his best football is still ahead of him.

Two years ago, at the age of 21, Reid was considered the best centre-half back in the game, becoming a first-time All-Australian in 2011.

Reid's ability to hold his own in one-on-one contests belied someone of his age. His knack of understanding the flight path of the ball also allowed him to take intercept marks in front of his opponents.

Having previously spent the early stages of his career as a forward, Reid has since carved his niche in a settled Collingwood defence.

His move back was designed to take his football forward. And he has certainly done so since.

But a groin injury that he carried in to the Magpies' 2011 Grand Final loss - sustained in the qualifying final three weeks previous - flowed on to an injury-riddled 2012 season.

The continuity in Reid's football was severely affected as he battled a quadricep injury that sidelined him for five games last season. Not to mention the shoulder complaint he suffered in Thailand during the 2012 off-season.

"It was frustrating more than anything not to be out there helping my teammates out," Reid told AFL.com.au during the week.

Reid, now 23, knew if he was to return to the lofty heights he had set in 2011 he needed to improve his strength and fitness, so he set about working diligently with the conditioning staff over the pre-season.

"I just put my head down and said, 'I've got to get on top of this'. There were a few things the club and I did in house to try to get over it, which was great, and at the moment it's working," Reid said.

He had a minor hiccup in the NAB Cup after injuring his knee against West Coast, but after missing the club's final practice match against Geelong, he returned for the Pies' round one against North Melbourne.

Then, after a solid first half against the Kangaroos, he was seeing stars as Lindsay Thomas careened into him. Thomas was looked at by the Match Review Panel for the hit, but was eventually cleared.

"You are expecting the contact (in that situation)," Reid said when asked about the head clash.

"He (Thomas) sort of caught me blindsided, that happens in football and it will happen every week from here to the end of the season. It was just unfortunate where the contact was as it did more damage on that occasion."

Reid played a valuable role in the Pies' hard-fought 17-point win over Carlton in round two.

He said it was pleasing to see teammates such as Jamie Elliott and Sam Dwyer making an instant impact against the Blues.

Due to these performances, the depth of Collingwood's 2013 squad is similar to that of the club's 2010 flag winning team, according to Reid.

"It's definitely healthy. If you've got blokes pushing for spots on the ground, then you know everytime you go out there you've got to put your best foot forward, otherwise you could be out of the team before you know it," Reid said.

The Pies defender now turns his attention to manning up on one of the most dangerous forwards in the game, Hawk star Lance Franklin, on Sunday.

Hawthorn defeated Collingwood three times last season, including in the qualifying final. Reid said it was crucial for the Pies to "try to play the game on our terms as much as possible" this time around.

Captain Nick Maxwell's leadership and ability to peel off from his opponent will be a notable loss for the Magpies against the Hawks.

Maxwell's fractured wrist is expected to sideline him for up to two months and, although his absence will be felt, it may give Reid a chance to take more responsibility in the Magpies' back six.

It's an area of his game that he has had a specific focus on.

"I want to try to take my leadership to a new level. I'm working to do that around the club and I want to make that better out on the ground with my voice, as well."

Above all else, Reid hopes the hard work he has put in under the guidance of defensive coach Ben Hart pays off, as he enters the next phase in his football career.

"I hope so. I'm still only young, only 23, so I'd like to think I've still got a few good years ahead of me," Reid said.

"I'm just going to keep working at my game and hope the results will come."

Ben Guthrie is a reporter for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter- @AFL_BenGuthrie