‘You never know when an opportunity comes’: The Replacements stepping up for injury-ravaged Pies


Fraser (who says he is one of a cooperative of coaches) has to manage Fin Macrae, who was touted in the pre-season as ready to nail down a permanent AFL spot, but has not yet.

Wil Parker.

Wil Parker.Credit: AFL Photos

He has to manage with care Ed Allan, the Magpies’ first pick in the 2022 draft who had to wait and watch players from further down the draft order, two from supplemental lists, and Category B rookie Wil Parker all slipped in for senior games before he did. When Allan was drafted, Parker was a cricketer.

Fraser said the key was regular and honest conversations. “Everyone’s journey is different,” he said. “Some players get an opportunity before others, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more ready. Sometimes (such as in an injury crisis), they’re not quite ready, but they get a taste and they can come back to VFL and apply those learnings and be better for it as well.

“We want to make sure that when their time comes, they’re well-prepared for AFL footy. It’s unique to each individual as to where they’re at in their own development. The strength of our coaching group is that we treat each player individually.”

Fraser said it was not simply performances at VFL level that determined if and when a player was promoted. Training mattered. So did attitude. McRae made his name as a development coach, so he is right across this.

Sometimes, a footballer simply has to wait. Fraser says Harvey Harrison, taken at No.52 in the 2021 draft, was one. “I felt Harvey’s been ready for a little while,” he said. “But because our high forwards have been so strong, he’s had to bide his time for a little bit.”

Fraser said Harrison grasped quicker than some others the work ethic needed to survive in AFL footy, and now would benefit from it.

Harry DeMattia.

Harry DeMattia.Credit: Getty Images

Still in reserve for the Magpies are their first two picks from last year’s draft, Harry DeMattia and Tew Jiath. “They’re two guys who’ll have bright futures at the club, but their journeys will be different to Harry’s (Harrison) and Joey’s (Joe Richards), and Lachie Sullivan’s,” Fraser said.

Stand by for yet another Collingwood media department social media clip of the moment another player learns of his first selection. They’ve happened almost weekly lately.

For the VFL coach, there is less glamorous work also at the other end of the list. As players are picked or held in reserve for the senior team, vacancies open up in the VFL team, to be filled by supp players from the suburbs and the bush.

On this long weekend, the AFL Magpies play on Monday, which means it was the last team picked, which makes for uncertainty back down the line for the VFL team, who played at Casey Fields on Sunday, and the junior clubs who provide top-up players and who mostly played on Saturday. It’s standard footy club business, but a headache nonetheless.

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“We want to win, and we want to put the best side out there,” Fraser said, “But we don’t want to stuff football clubs around. You want to be respectful of them. It can be a challenge.”

For Monday’s King’s Birthday blockbuster, Johnson and Parker were dropped from the Pies side that lost by three goals to the Bulldogs, while Jacob van Rooyen, Jack Billings, Bailey Laurie, and Blake Howes were named for the Demons in place of Lachie Hunter (calf), and the trio of Adam Tomlinson, Taj Woewodin, and Shane McAdam, who were all dropped.

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