Pies plug leaky defence

Written By Unknown on Kamis, 17 Januari 2013 | 14.43

Scott Pendlebury and Dane Swan get a little rough at a Collingwood training session at Gosh's Paddock. Picture: Nicole Garmston. Source: Herald Sun

COLLINGWOOD wants to stop the bleeding in the back half which undermined its premiership ambitions last season.

After revolutionising the game with its famed "press" tactics in 2010-11, the Pies pressure weakened last season, prompting a thorough review of the team's defensive operations over summer.

According to Champion Data, Collingwood was ranked No.1 for time the ball spent inside forward-50m in 2010 and 2011, but slid to 11th last year, when they were beaten by premier Sydney in the preliminary final.

While the early-season return of key backman Lachlan Keeffe from a knee reconstruction will help defend the back-50m, the Pies have also zeroed in on how they protect the ball up the ground.

Coach Nathan Buckley said yesterday the Pies wanted to put the brakes on the opposition's scoring in 2013.

"We had heavy scores against, especially against good opponents, which we've clearly identified in our review," Buckley said.

"We allowed too many scores per percentage of inside 50s and we allowed too many inside 50s, so it's definitely a focus of ours.

"We need to be able to slow the opposition ball movement down a bit better than we did in 2012.

"Good defensive sides are generally good transition sides - sides that can be aggressive on both sides of the ball.

"We are practicing that and we'll get a chance to practice that in real time in the NAB Cup and early in the season."

Nick Maxwell, who is critical to the defensive setup with the aerial support he provides teammates, is again set to lead the Pies this year.

Summer Barometer: Pies' training and injury latest

Buckley said although the leadership process was still incomplete, Maxwell had his vote.

"Personally, I've got no reason why Maxy wouldn't be (captain)," Buckley said.

Dale Thomas has removed the moon boot from his recovering ankle, but won't train with the main squad for another three weeks.

First-choice ruckman Darren Jolly is continuing an impressive pre-season but Buckley lauded the impact new tall recruits Ben Hudson and Quinten Lynch had had some arriving at Lexus Centre.

"Ben Hudson has been fantastic, he brings a bit of mongrel into the way that our big fellas go about it," he said.

"I think already that's starting to rub off on our younger talls and we're looking forward to that continuing."

Lynch lost his place in the Eagles' side last season but is set to play a key role in attack for the Pies, as a ruck-forward replacement for new Demon Chris Dawes.

Buckley said Lynch's work ethic had been so strong he needed to be "held back" over summer.

"He's been great, he's a work horse and he's everything we thought we were recruiting," Buckley said.

"You need to put a leash on him.

"If you said we've got 20 x 400m and we're only going to give you 15 seconds break in between, he would put his foot on the line and put his head down and get ready to run. There's no questions."

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