Fight for 'Pies spots healthy: Malthouse - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Fight for 'Pies spots healthy: Malthouse

By Adam Cooper 09/07/2009 07:26:55 PM Comments (0)

Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse expects internal pressure to strengthen the Magpies' push towards the AFL finals, which starts with Friday night's blockbuster against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.

Malthouse is encouraged by the way his side has met every challenge over the past six weeks, although he said the Pies would have to rise higher to beat the speedy, skilful Bulldogs, who have won their past five games.

One game separates the Bulldogs (third) and Collingwood (fourth), and the round 15-clash will give both sides an indication of how they fare against heavyweights, as both clubs have tough runs to September.

Malthouse was confident there was room for improvement within Collingwood, as the players currently out of the side could impose pressure on the incumbents to keep their spots.

Aside from veteran forward Anthony Rocca (Achilles), Collingwood have virtually a full quota to select from, which is a far cry from before their winning streak, when they sorely missed injured stars.

"There's four or five players here that I have no doubt when they're fit they'll come into the side, when they're fit and seasoned," Malthouse said on Thursday.

"They need to get back and play at VFL level and put their hand up and they will make our side even more competitive because they will put pressure on players in the side or they'll take the place of players in the side.

"That's the natural condition you want in a football club, to have competition.

"If we all went around with the bare 22 and thought nothing of it then you can be a little bit comfortable, and I don't think that's the time that you need to be comfortable, at round 15 going into a highly important match and then (big) matches (to come)."

Utility Ben Johnson is one of the players Malthouse was referring to, as he replaced Nathan Brown for his first game since breaking a leg in round three, and should get a job on one of the Bulldogs' small forwards.

Irishman Marty Clarke is another expected to return in coming weeks.

Malthouse said the Bulldogs' improvement over the past two seasons had come from their combination of skill and the physical maturing of their younger players.

He stressed Collingwood needed to be at their best to reverse the trend against the Doggies, who have won five of the past six games between the sides.

"We've been building and we've been challenged and I think we've met that challenge pretty well," he said.

"If we let them play at their best and we don't acknowledge that, then we'll be on the receiving end.

"If we can play at our best and they play at their best it will be an interesting game."

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