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Wakelin not finished yet

By Leonard Siragusa 12/06/2008 09:00:36 PM Comments (0)

A tribute dinner to Collingwood champion Nathan Buckley prompted Shane Wakelin to reflect on his own AFL mortality as he prepared for his 150th game for the club, against Carlton on Sunday.

Despite finishing third in the Magpies' best and fairest in 2005, Wakelin admitted he was almost axed from the club at the start of the 2006 season.

But he said his passion to play the game and commitment to prepare the best he could persuaded coach Mick Malthouse to keep him in the backline.

"It was probably only 18 months ago that Mick tried to push me out the door," said Wakelin, 33, who also played 94 games for St Kilda before he joined Collingwood in 2000.

"He gave me some reasonably strong hints and I was totally understanding of that.

"I come off third in the best and fairest in the previous year, and I said, `Well maybe this is it'.

"And I was realistic about it, but I never gave up my dream of representing the club and playing more finals series and having that ultimate goal of playing in a premiership.

"It's one thing to have that opportunity but it's another thing to take it."

Malthouse had the choice to go with younger players over Wakelin as a key defender given the older man's problems with an Achilles problem.

But Malthouse said in the end, Wakelin's work ethic and dedication to the cause won him over.

"I said to him at this stage I'm going to lean towards these two kids and as it turned out I was a bit disillusioned by the end of the year with those two blokes.

"They went, Wakes stayed another year and as a consequence played over half the games," Malthouse said.

"I was never going to ask this bloke to come back if i didn't think he had the hunger because that's the waste of time of all-time.

"Wakes' passion was always there just like Scott Burns and both players said I want to be there if you want me there. So it's an easy choice."

Malthouse said Wakelin's ability to get the best out himself was one of the reasons why he kept coaching and even indicated he would not be surprised if Wakelin reached 250 games for the Magpies.

Wakelin said his body was holding up and enjoyed the thrill of playing on the big stage in front of a packed crowd at the MCG, like he can expect on Sunday.

He said the Magpies were desperate to hit back at the Blues after being beaten by 23 points in round four.

"We've got a lot to prove this weekend, we have an enormous amount of respect for the Carlton Football Club and in particular the way they've gone about their footy in the last two months," he said.

"We're strongly disappointed with our efforts on the last occasion.

"We've got a lot of individuals within our group who have really matured over the last month and Sunday's an ideal testing ground to show how far we've come over the last month."

Buckley, who retired last season, will be driven around the ground before Sunday's game so fans can show their appreciation.

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