Collingwood Football Club Total Landscaping

In one specific way at least, Adam Treloar is the closest facsimile there is right now to Chris Judd.

Treloar's trademark, like Judd's, is the sudden explosive acceleration into space and towards goal, at some point in the burst transitioning from exploratory to single-minded.

There's not a lot of art in Treloar's acceleration like there was Judd’s, who moved like a gazelle. Treloar is more a less God-like Cristiano Ronaldo, with the rapid patter of feet creating space between him and everyone else. The finish has never looked particularly smooth or deft, which kills the moment a bit, but the burst is exquisite.

Collingwood has let that burst go elsewhere. Their salary cap sheet must have been a special mess of creeping numbers. Seemingly, something had to give, because All-Australian calibre players typically aren't let go for so little.

Mostly because his kicking is so uninspiring, and also because he scoffed at Richmond on the eve of the Tigers becoming a juggernaut, Treloar has become a little divisive. To some, he's dismissed as merely an accumulator, having finished top-two in disposals per game the past two years, and within the top-ten each of his five years at Collingwood.

And it is true that his kicking is not very damaging, aside from to the eye. But there's little that's empty about Treloar's numbers. The possessions are not cheap - they're contested and earned. He's tough inside and relentless outside. His spread and pace from the contest is elite - when Collingwood come in waves, it's often with Treloar central to the movement.

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The Collingwood midfield has always seemed tamer and much less of a problem with Treloar absent. As brilliant as they are, Scott Pendlebury and Taylor Adams do not have Treloar's zip or quick-twitch power.

The Pies lose even more pace with Jaidyn Stephenson leaving for North Melbourne. Stephenson was a ghost this season, peaking at intermittently useful. But he's 21-years old, and was so threatening across 2018 and 2019, with his speed, skill and goal sense a constant point of unease for defences.

But this saga is mostly about Treloar, who now makes the Bulldogs' midfield one of the truly premier in the game. Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Josh Dunkley, Lachie Hunter, Bailey Smith, Tom Liberatore and Treloar is a group that stacks up with any in the game - perhaps it stands above any in the game. The gap between the Bulldogs and the top echelon contenders is now much more blurred. 

Richmond, West Coast, Geelong, Brisbane and Port Adelaide are not going anywhere - and none appear set to be obviously weaker in 2021 than they were in 2020. The Bulldogs rise, the Saints should not be any worse, there's upside in the Demons and Blues, and the Giants still have too much elite talent to be discarded.

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Seven rounds into 2020, Collingwood were premiership favourites. It all slowly unravelled, the season much more a sigh than a disaster. Heading into Nathan Buckley's tenth year as coach, his team is still littered with talent - and still plays with enormous grit. Making the second week of finals after missing Treloar, Jeremy Howe, Steele Sidebottom and Jordan De Goey for so much of the season was an achievement, though at the time, given how they were placed back in round 7, it didn't feel particularly inspiring.

This mini-exodus – with Tom Phillips also gone, a handy player and depth piece but exceedingly replaceable – pushes Collingwood closer to Treloar’s new team in terms of tiers of contenders, with the gap between the Magpies and last year’s top four growing some.

The status quo was likely not going to be enough for Collingwood to vault them to Richmond’s level, and now their list has gone backwards. The defence is set, but the midfield lacks an element of speed and force, while the forward line is a jigsaw puzzle of big, but ill-fitting pieces.

More reasonable health – mainly fuller years for Howe, Sidebottom and De Goey – and more growth for promising young talents like Josh Daicos and Isaac Quaynor should mean that Collingwood don’t fall too far back from last season, if at all. 

But Treloar was supposed to be a big part of that rebound in the health section, and Stephenson similarly so in the promising young talent section. 

Without either, the margin for error is thinner, and the depth further tested. The fanbase’s patience will also be tested, with this strange, uneasy trade period adding some more ingredients for a potential catastrophe.

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Jay Croucher

Based in Denver, Colorado, Jay splits time between worshiping Nikola Jokic and waking up at 3am to hazily watch AFL games. He has been writing about AFL, NBA and other US sports since 2014, and has suckered himself into thinking Port Adelaide was the real deal each year since.

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