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Maxwell Magpies' on-field coach: O'Brien

By Sam Lienert 06/09/2011 06:08:34 PM Comments (0)

Collingwood's Harry O'Brien has tagged captain Nick Maxwell the Magpies' on-field coach and therefore the AFL club's most important player.

Fellow Collingwood stars Scott Pendlebury and Alan Didak have also enthusiastically backed Maxwell and running defenders Heath Shaw and Leon Davis to all return in Saturday's qualifying final against West Coast.

Coach Mick Malthouse on Monday expressed uncertainty about whether to simultaneously recall the three experienced backmen after forced absences of various durations.

But their team-mates are in little doubt that the trio can give the Magpies a huge boost against the Eagles at the MCG.

"In my opinion, Maxy's the most important player in our team," O'Brien told reporters on Tuesday.

"Contrary to what a lot of external opinions are, they question whether or not he's in our best 22.

"For me playing alongside him, he's our most important player, it's like having a coach on the field."

O'Brien said having Maxwell alongside him in defence was the equivalent of having a direct line to Malthouse.

"His knowledge of the game plan and way that the coaching panel want us to play is by far the best out of any player in the team."

O'Brien said Shaw's eight-game gambling suspension had proved a bonus in one sense, as it had allowed former forward Davis to emerge as "probably the best run-and-carry player in our team, if not the competition".

He said the duo's dash from defence would be important in combating the Eagles' dangerous tall attack.

"It's certainly a theme for us this week, to be bold and to play courageous sort of football," O'Brien said of the Magpies' defence.

"Not so much courageous in terms of ... running back with the flight, but to have courage to take risks and really back our running ability."

Didak, who will play his 200th game on Saturday, said he did not view it as a risk to have Maxwell return from a thumb fracture, Shaw from his ban and Davis from a hamstring injury on the same day.

"The players that are going to come into the side are quality players," he said.

"We've got probably two of the best running backs in the competition and a fantastic leader.

"You can't really replace those guys."

Vice-captain Pendlebury was of a similar view, saying the leadership of Maxwell and Shaw in particular would be welcomed.

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