Banned Pies young gun impresses in return

Jaidyn Stephenson has made a successful return from a gambling ban in the VFL for Collingwood.
Jaidyn Stephenson has made a successful return from a gambling ban in the VFL for Collingwood.

Jaidyn Stephenson has put his hand up for selection in Collingwood's first AFL finals team with a strong showing in his controversial VFL return from a 10-match gambling ban.

Stephenson gathered 16 possessions and kicked a goal in an eye-catching first half against the Box Hill Hawks at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday before slowing up in the second half to finish with 20 disposals.

"I think I'm well prepared," Stephenson told the AFL's website after the 19-point loss.

"Obviously the (AFL) team's going really well so it'll be hard to get back in but if I do, I think I'm ready.

"It's great running around ... it's a bit harder than just running laps."

The 20-year-old was cleared to gain the valuable match practice in the VFL after the AFL ruled his ban ended on Friday night when the Magpies defeated Essendon at the MCG.

It had been expected he would not be able to return until the Pies' first final after he was slapped with a suspension in June for gambling on games he was involved in.

But in what coach Nathan Buckley labelled "a small win", a quirk of the league's floating fixture for round 23 saw his AFL ban end with a VFL match to be played the next day.

Daniel Wells also returned to the field for the first time since he suffered a knee injury in his only AFL game of the season in round 10, the veteran gathering 18 possessions.

Braydon Sier, who was fined by the club for playing a local basketball game while recovering from a calf injury, had eight touches before he left the game with a concussion.

Josh Daicos was Collingwood's best player with 36 possessions in what was the club's last game of the VFL season.

The match ended on a sour note for the Pies, with skipper Alex Woodward, who has undergone four knee reconstructions, consoled by players from both teams as he left the ground with what appeared to be a serious knee injury.

Australian Associated Press