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Pies might call on AFLW debutants in final

Collingwood coach Steve Symonds concedes he will likely be forced to select COVID-19 top-up players to make their AFLW debuts in the rescheduled qualifying final against Brisbane.

The two sides will do battle at the Gabba on Sunday after their scheduled meeting last weekend was postponed.

The decision was made after it became clear the Magpies would be unable select the minimum required 16 regular squad members, with many sidelined under AFL health and safety protocols.

As a result, the remainder of the finals series was pushed back a week in yet another major disruption for the women’s competition caused by the pandemic.

Collingwood plan to fly to Brisbane on Saturday night but the exact make-up of the travelling squad is still to be determined as players gradually emerge from isolation.

There are also fitness concerns over some players who were unable to train, or had their schedules severely affected, during their time away from the club.

But Symonds said none of his players have been ruled out as yet and is hopeful he will have the majority of his senior squad available for a training session on Friday night.

The Magpies believe they are as prepared as they can be for calling up top-up players, with their AFLW and VFLW squads closely aligned.

“Most players will be able to come straight in and fit in, hopefully,” Symonds said.

“But it’s going to be a pretty daunting experience for train-on player who has never played at AFLW level to come in for a final as their first game.

“It would be an interesting factor.

“They’re all unknowns at the moment, we’re still no clearer, but as we get our players out (of isolation) hopefully they’re in good shape and we get through.”

Symonds confirmed Collingwood staff members had also been affected by the COVID-19 wave and others have shuffled their duties accordingly.

Those not directly affected have gone into what the coach termed a “soft bubble” in an attempt to avoid infection ahead of the Brisbane clash.

The Lions are looking for back-to-back premierships and present a huge challenge on their home deck.

“We won’t be able to play our best team but we know the players that we take up there will give their all and they’ll play with heart and spirit,” Symonds said.

“We have no doubt we’ll be competitive and be able to fight it out against them.”

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