Magpies eager for AFL Anzac Day clash

·3-min read

Collingwood defender Jordan Roughead insists the significance of playing on Anzac Day is lost on no player after COVID-19 put a line through the 2020 AFL blockbuster.

This time last year, the AFL season was paused due to COVID-19, with a lone bugler playing the Last Post inside an empty MCG.

But the Magpies on Sunday will renew their rivalry with Essendon at the MCG in front of a crowd of up to 85,000.

Roughead, a 2016 Western Bulldogs premiership player, still gets goosebumps when recalling the Anzac Day game in 2019.

"At the Dogs, you're obviously aware that Anzac Day is very significant but it wasn't something that I was ever particularly disappointed not to play in," Roughead, who moved to Collingwood in the 2018 trade period, told AAP.

"I think for the rest of my time, not just while I'm playing footy, but even when I finish I'll be jealous of the guys who did get to run out there.

"The 2019 game was really unique because it's one of the few times I've really been aware of how special it was to be playing out there.

"There was a moment out there in the last quarter when (former Essendon player) Joe Daniher kicked a goal and I almost had an out of body experience where the crowd was going bananas.

"I just had this real moment of appreciation for the game and for that moment and to be able to be involved in it."

Despite the absence of stars Jordan De Goey and Jeremy Howe, Collingwood will carry more big-game experience than the young Bombers, both sides slumping with 1-4 records.

Roughead does not expect that to be a factor and Essendon coach Ben Rutten has told his players "not to shy away" from the occasion.

"They're pretty good at managing themselves but that's all part of it," Rutten said.

"We want them to be able to play and perform on these occasions. For some of our guys doing it in their fourth or fifth games it's pretty exciting."

Collingwood have been forced into making five changes after last week's loss to West Coast, as well as axing Brayden Sier.

Chris Mayne and Levi Greenwood join De Hoey and Howe on the sidelines, while Nathan Murphy will play his third AFL game 974 days after his second.

Jay Rantall will debut in the biggest home-and-away game of the season after being taken by the Magpies in the 2019 draft.

"(Rantall) spent a lot of time with myself and my wife up in the hub last year and got to know each other quite well," Roughead said.

"A Warrnambool boy, or God's country as he calls it. He reckons if you spend time in the water you're going to have a 10 per cent better career."

Collingwood players were temporarily forced into isolation due to Perth's COVID-19 lockdown but all players have returned negative coronavirus test results.