Pies have injury worries down back

As debate continues about the form of Collingwood's primary forward, Travis Cloke, the club is eager to learn about the availability of two key-position players from the other end of the ground.

A consultation with a specialist on Monday could confirm if Nathan Brown has suffered, as suspected, a  repeat of a shoulder injury that could require season-ending surgery. It likely will be later in the week before the club can predict whether second-year defender Jack Frost will be fit to face St Kilda on Friday night after being concussed on Saturday.

The injury to Brown will provide a vacancy that Lachie Keeffe is favoured to fill against the Saints.

Influential Collingwood leaders Scott Pendlebury and Nick Maxwell have defended Cloke's contribution after the power forward's muted start to the season continued at the weekend.

In Cloke's nine matches this year he has scored more than one goal only twice: four against North Melbourne in round five and two against Carlton in round seven. The Magpies nevertheless have won six matches, with Pendlebury, Dayne Beams, Dane Swan and Steele Sidebottom collectively contributing 36 goals from midfield.

As pundits Tony Shaw and Stan Alves differed on what the Magpies should do to bring Cloke out of his slump - Shaw said a VFL stint should be considered, while Alves was adamant that would be futile - captain Pendlebury noted Collingwood had won the premiership in 2010 with Cloke kicking 38 goals at an average of 1.6 a match, compared to an average of 1.1 this season.

"If he kicks 30, 35, and everyone [around him] kicks 20-plus it's pretty handy," Pendlebury told Channel Seven's AFL Game Day.

Previous captain Maxwell argued the Magpies had become too predictable in attacking through Cloke. He said the 27-year-old was contributing selflessly by dragging a defender, and sometimes two, with him as he led to create space for other Magpies up forward.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley told Triple M he thought there was a "disproportionate amount of focus" on Cloke's form, just as there had been with Swan after the midfielder's subdued start to the season.

Shaw, the club's 1990 premiership captain, speculated that if swingman Ben Reid was not injured Collingwood may have contemplated dropping Cloke. He said the Magpies "cannot keep going to the well" in expecting Cloke's form inevitably would improve.

Shaw speculated Cloke could benefit from a VFL stint, or if that was off-limits that a temporary move to defence "has got to come into the equation".

"He doesn't look like touching it - that's the problem. It's not just not kicking goals, it's not getting the ball in your hands, not marking well, and his recovery [is worse than it normally is]," Shaw said on 3AW.

Alves, a former Melbourne and North Melbourne champion and St Kilda coach, said he considered the root of Cloke's form problems to be a lack of confidence.

"I don't think this is one where you send him back to the twos. He's not going to achieve anything back there, in my mind. He could go back there and kick 15 goals and it won't make any difference. It's got to happen at this [senior] level," Alves said on ABC radio.

Instead of a VFL stint, Alves proposed Cloke be assigned a basic level of tasks in upcoming matches, such as clattering into packs a certain number of times.

"Sometimes you've got to give people little wins to get big wins," he said.

The story Pies have injury worries down back first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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