In a match billed to be a one-sided contest, Geelong and Collingwood met at the MCG under lights on a Friday night with very different expectations. Collingwood’s season was over after eight losses in their past nine games, and a complete humiliating effort against Richmond last week, which saw the Pies go down by 15 goals. Geelong had no fared much better, drawing with the lowly St Kilda. But the Cats’ season was still alive, being six points behind Adelaide, needing to defeat Collingwood, hope the Crows lose against the Eagles on Sunday and then the teams faced off next week for a finals position.
Only the ultimate Pies optimist gave them any chance in this clash based on their performances of late, ones that looked like the side had hit the wall and season’s end could not come soon enough. The Pies’ task was made harder when Travis Cloke was late withdrawal, replaced by whipping boy Jesse White.
Yet by quarter time, Collingwood led by 36 points. Even more surprisingly for Pies fans was the accuracy at which the Pies had delivered. A week after kicking 3.10 in a half against Richmond, Collingwood had 7.1 at quarter time and was looking sensational.
Many might have expected Geelong to hit back hard in the second quarter, but Collingwood extended its lead to 50 by half-time. After the main break, Geelong challenged a few times, but Collingwood showed it was up to the task, matching them with each burst and running out 48-point victors in a stunning display of pressure, ball movement and taking their chances, all of which had become stagnant for the Pies in recent weeks.
Collingwood’s first half pressure
Collingwood were criticised last week for throwing in the towel. Coach Nathan Buckley described it as not receiving reward for their efforts. This week, the Pies threw themselves at every contest and were recorded accordingly. As Buckley put this week, the Pies were able to start afresh, with a new looking midfield.
Captain Scott Pendlebury primarily played off half-back and Dane Swan played at full-forward before being subbed off with a leg injury, while younger players like Jack Crisp, Jordan DeGoey and Taylor Adams spent the majority of their minutes in the midfield.
Despite winning the match by 48 and the disposal count by 36, the Pies also won the tackle count by 20. Their pressure was further indicated in the kick-to-handball ratio, with Geelong having 173 kicks and 202 handballs, a ratio of 0.85. Collingwood, on the other hand, had 252 kicks to 159 handballs, a ratio of 1.58.
Relentless tackling pressure by Levi Greenwood (10), Brodie Grundy (seven), Jack Crisp (seven), Jordan DeGoey (seven) and Taylor Adams (five), showed how much the Pies were up for the challenge and were not going to let their season end without a whimper. Geelong on the other hand, with finals on the line just did not managed to get within five goals after quarter time and looked old and slow, with some exceptions such as Daniel Menzel.
Daniel Menzel’s return
Geelong had a horrible night, but from the start, the best possible feel-good story was the return of Daniel Menzel. All that was expected was for him to get through the game. He not only did that, but booted 4.2 and was the Cats’ only dangerous forward.
Menzel also collected 20 disposals, 14 of which were contested, while taking four marks to be Geelong’s best player, seemingly as if he had not missed a beat. While Geelong fans would have been disgusted with the efforts by many of the older players, Menzel’s liveliness around the forward fifty would have brought a smile to their faces. If he can stay fit, he could become one of the best small forwards in the competition.
Backing the youngsters
Collingwood’s leaders played different roles in the win, with Pendlebury and Swan at either end of the field, so it was the youngsters who stood up. Taylor Adams had 36 disposals and 11 marks, Jack Crisp had 31 disposals and 12 clearances, and Jordan De Goey had 25 disposals and 10 clearances. Others such as Brodie Grundy (16 disposals, 27 hit outs and four clearances), Tom Langdon, Marley Williams and Brayden Maynard all had strong performances.
Last week, the Pies direction might have looked a bit shaky, but this week, Collingwood’s young brigade starred, with everyone contributing and even Jonathan Marsh coming on as the sub, earning a free kick late in the game from a chase down tackle. Matthew Scharenberg’s contract continues to be a talking point, but the youngster let his football do the talking, collecting 17 disposals and nine marks in defence.
Greenwood takes another scalp
A week after shutting Richmond captain Trent Cotchin out of the game with 13 disposals, Levi Greenwood took out his Geelong counterpart, Joel Selwood. There had no doubt been a message to not give him an inch and frustrate him at every opportunity. It worked, with the Cats captain putting Greenwood in a headlock and both players friendly jousting at many of the stoppages.
Greenwood won the battle of the hard nuts, collecting 21 disposals and having 10 tackles, while Selwood had just 19 disposals and four clearances, in a match to forget. While Brent Macaffer continues to recover from his injury in the VFL, Collingwood have found another player who can negate the opposition midfielders, which could be handy next year.
Stevie J’s hit on Nathan Brown
Two weeks ago, Cameron Ling condemned Collingwood player Nathan Brown for his high bump on Sydney star Luke Parker. This week, the shoe was on the other foot, with Steve Johnson leaping off the ground and elbowing Brown in the face. But unlike the Parker hit, the ball was out of the contest so Johnson’s intent was clear.
Ling’s immediate reaction? “The contact didn’t look too bad”. It prompted calls on social media to not allow Ling to commentate Geelong games, with the premiership star having a record for not hiding his bias on air. Wayne Carey described the incident “as a silly little one” but conceded he would get weeks based on his bad record.
While the force may not have been high, the intent was there and if Stevie J plays again next week, it will be a week to soon, with the small forward deserving of at least a week on the sidelines for a late, frustrated hit.
A week is a long time in football
It’s the old cliche, but it proved true for Collingwood, with the Pies bouncing back from a 91-point loss to Richmond, to defeat Geelong by 48 points. Last week, coach Nathan Buckley was useless and should be sack, this week, the supporters were back on the bandwagon showing their support. Sometimes, a young team will have inconsistent performances and the Pies have suffered just this.
A few goals the other way mid-season and they could have claimed the scalps of Hawthorn, Fremantle and Sydney among others, which revealed they are not too far off the pace. Collingwood play Essendon in the final match of the season and must come to the clash with the same intensity as they did this week. If they do, they should easily account for the tired Bombers, and record a 50-50 season, with 11 wins from 22 games and potentially finish ninth, if the Crows can defeat the Cats next week.