Collingwood confirm John Noble to make AFL return after premiership heartbreak as Charlie Dean handed debut

Collingwood coach Craig McRae has confirmed John Noble will make his return to the senior team this weekend, seven months after losing his place in the side on the eve of the finals, while Charlie Dean will also make his AFL debut.

Noble had played 83 consecutive games for Collingwood, including all 23 games of the 2023 home-and-away season, before being sensationally axed from the side ahead of their qualifying final against Melbourne in September last year.

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The perfect Pies were too good to tinker with thereafter, the only change to the team being the injured Taylor Adams making way for superstar Nick Daicos, who was returning from a knee issue.

It meant Noble was the primary hard-luck story of the grand final, along with Adams, both missing out on a premiership medallion as they watched their teammates win an epic decider from the stands.

John Noble missed out on the 2023 premiership. Credit: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

But the 26-year-old Noble will get the chance for redemption when the Pies travel to Sydney for their Opening Round clash against GWS on Saturday.

“He’s now fitter and stronger, he’s put on about four or five kilos,” McRae said of Noble.

“We need guys like Johnny to get us back to where we want to be.”

The Pies have also handed a long-awaited debut to injury-plagued VFL product Dean, 834 days after he was drafted.

Dean was drafted out of the state league and looked set to graduate to the top level at the beginning of McRae’s tenure as coach in 2022, but was struck down by two serious foot injuries.

”I think he would have played Round 1 way back (in 2022),” McRae said of Dean.

“The young lad’s worked really hard.”

He was restricted to just two reserves games in his first season and then missed all of 2023 after re-fracturing his right foot last February.

His injury opened the door for the Cinderella-esque story of Oleg Markov, whose rise from the AFL scrapheap to a member of the premiership backline was one of the stories of the 2023 grand final.

Dean returned for a single VFL game last September, after which he banked an entire, uninterrupted pre-season to build towards Thursday’s triumphant call-up.

The 23-year-old key defender will slot into a Nathan Murphy and Jeremy Howe-sized hole in the reigning premiers’ defence.

He won selection ahead of utility Billy Frampton, who played a defensive forward role on Brisbane captain Harris Andrews in last year’s grand final.

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