Collingwood star Nick Daicos has admitted he feared a much worse outcome after being ruled out for up to six weeks with a hairline fracture in his right knee, which has come as a major blow to the Magpies' premiership aspirations. The 20-year-old is hoping to recover for in time for the AFL finals, with three rounds of the home and away season yet to play.
Daicos will also benefit from the one week break between the AFL regular season and the first week of the finals, a timeframe that could prove crucial. Regarded by many as the Brownlow Medal frontrunner through 21 rounds, Daicos believes he had some bone bruising heading into last weekend's clash with Hawthorn.
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The Hawks sprung a major upset on the Pies with Daicos registering just five disposals through the third quarter, when he was subbed out after the collision which caused the fracture. He'd dealt with a heavy tag from Finn Maginness as the 16th-placed Hawks defied their position on the ladder to stun the premiership fancies by 32 points.
While still a devastating turn of events, the news from the surgeon was better than expected for Daicos, who feared his knee had been "smashed to smithereens". Collingwood are now hopeful the young gub can return for the second or third week of finals.
"I'm pretty disappointed, obviously," Daicos told reporters on Monday. "I met with the surgeon (and) don't need surgery, which is a huge positive.
"I'm pretty focused now to start my recovery as soon as possible. I felt something in my knee a little bit when I went on the ground and it was pretty sore and then in the third quarter on the impact of the Hawthorn player I straight away knew that something wasn't right.
"I was hoping it was just a corky but obviously it was something worse."
Making matters worse for Collingwood is another injury to defender Nathan Murphy as well as a difficult run home. They'll host Geelong at the MCG this weekend, with matches against Brisbane and Essendon to close out the season.
David King fears Daicos injury could derail Pies' premiership hopes
The combination of Daicos' injury and a second straight loss has left AFL great David King raising a red flag regarding their premiership hopes, after Carlton pulled off a 17-point upset against Collingwood in the prior round. Despite declaring he'd been "1A on the Collingwood bus and Nick Daicos bus", King said the two upsets had potentially exposed something about Collingwood.
King said the Magpies had lost their "No.1 trump card" as a result of the Daicos injury, adding that he had his doubts about their ability to win without him. He compared the Daicos absence to West Coast losing Nic Naitanui in their 2018 premiership year, and Geelong losing Tom Stewart in 2021.
“We saw the Eagles in 2018 go on and win it without Nic Nat, which was the ultimate blow at that stage of the year. We saw Tom Stewart go down in 2021 and they just couldn’t get there in the end," King told Fox Footy's First Crack.
“This guy is so important to everything Collingwood do. They’ve won games even though they’ve been a little clunky with system on the back of talent.
"He’s their No. 1 disposal player, he’s their No. 1 score involvement player, he’s bankable. Yep he got tagged on the weekend and got shut-out of the game, but it’s become the biggest talking point in footy: Can you stop Nick Daicos?
“Logic says to me they’ll fight hard to finish top. If they can somehow find that and things open up for them and they don’t have to leave the MCG that’d be great.
"(But) I really can’t see them winning it from here now. Maybe it’s too much of a correction back to where everyone else was three weeks ago, but this is the most savage of blows.
"Craig McRae would be sitting at home thinking: ‘We’ve lost Nathan Murphy as well for three weeks that makes it tougher, we’ve got to make so much change at a point where you just want to be on the runway … they’ve got no chance of being on the runway. They’ve lost two critical players.”
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