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Magpies boosted by duo's VFL return
By Greg Buckle
17:26 AEST Wed Aug 1 2012

Nathan Buckley's focus and attention to detail brought a new level of professionalism to the game during his emergence as a player two decades ago.

Now in his first year as Collingwood AFL coach, Buckley and the club's medical staff have helped guide Andrew Krakouer and Brent Macaffer to recovery from knee reconstructions within six months.

Buckley confirmed on Wednesday both players would resume in the VFL this weekend, although he refused to discuss their chances of rapid promotion to the senior side.

A big cheer went up at Collingwood's training session as the pair's comebacks were announced to the senior squad.

Exciting small forward Krakouer kicked a career-high 35 goals in 2011 and won mark of the year. Macaffer was a premiership player in 2010 but battled injuries last season.

"The environment of a footy club is very challenging," Buckley told reporters.

"But when you get two guys like 'Krak' and 'Caff' who have gone through what they've gone through and they've pushed through to the other side ... their teammates, their coaches and everyone around the footy club are enormously proud of what they've been able to achieve.

"They've ticked every box and it's a real fillip for the club to see those two have the chance to pull the guernsey on and run around this weekend.

"Those two boys and a couple of other of our long-termers have shown the way with their dedication and discipline and it inspires the rest of their teammates."

Buckley says it has become the norm that an anterior-cruciate ligament injury will end a player's season.

"These guys had their injuries in pre-season and they've been able to focus on their recovery," Buckley said.

"They've pushed themselves with the aim of getting back and they've been able to achieve it.

"Those two boys in particular have shown great resilience."

Collingwood are set to regain Dale Thomas, Harry O'Brien, Steele Sidebottom and Darren Jolly, who were all rested from last week's game over bottom side Greater Western Sydney.

Midfielder Sharrod Wellingham returns from a three-game suspension.

"For all intents and purposes, we'll have our best team on paper this weekend but we know how that doesn't really equate to good performance," Buckley said.

Collingwood host St Kilda at the MCG on Saturday night as Buckley takes on the Scott Watters-coached Saints for the first time. Both men were assistant coaches at Collingwood in 2011.

"The exposure we've given to our young players, to be in fourth spot at the moment and lose just the four games throughout the year, we've had to have been doing some things pretty well," Buckley said.

"But we still think that there's quantum leaps in improvement for us and we've got to find it this week."

Premiership wingman Ben Johnson (shoulder surgery) is aiming for a VFL return in the next few weeks while Alan Didak (groin) is likely to play VFL this weekend.