AFL Round 19: Wood and Woods produce the goods

You can never hold back spring
You can be sure I will never
Stop believing

The world is dreaming, dreaming of spring

You Can Never Hold Back Spring, Tom Waits

Saturday 8 August 2009 was a seriously good day for the Pies, and I am indeed now dreaming of spring.

As I prepared to host a room full of passionate Pies for the Crows game, I reckon I knew a bit about how the Crows were feeling.  Although they were on their home turf, it wouldn’t have felt quite as homely as usual.  The Pies have made Footy Park (aka Lucky You’re With AAMI Stadium) a home away from home with four wins on the trot there, and they’ve enjoyed a 7-6 advantage overall in clashes there with the Crows.

As for me, for interstate games my backside is usually planted firmly on the Fitzroy-domiciled couch of Stork, where we have enjoyed many interstate victories.  My favourite of these was the famous 2002 Qualifying Final upset over Port.  Not only was Buckley out that night, but Stork was in Scotland while we were in his lounge room. We found a way of including him by treating him to a raucous telephone post-match rendition of the song, using his landline of course!

Tonight Stork, my brother Paul, his boys Liam, Jacob and Joel, Haiku Bob and my daughter Holly were in my lounge as Stork’s couch recovered from our overuse in recent years.  Of course I was comfortable in my own surrounds, but it did feel like I should be wearing the away team’s white shorts.  My 24–hour pre-match preparation included making sure the telly was in good nick by watching the Aussies dominate the Poms on Friday night, followed by hiding my liberal supplies of green and herbal teas after being the recipient of much derision from Floreat Picans after Liam included my beverages of choice in last week’s match report.

The Bulldogs’ shock loss earlier in the day made what was already a huge game even huger.  For the Pies a win would put them in outright third.  For the Crows a win would bring them level with the Pies, and in good nick for a top four spot.  It was easy to forget that after round eight both these clubs were 3-5 and had been written off by most pundits.

The Pies made a bright start, with Didak snapping a beauty from a tight angle and Jack converting to give us an early break.  We were clean with the ball and moved the ball quickly from defence.  It was only Dick’s uncharacteristically dodgy kicking that denied us a larger lead.

The Crows are very well coached and quickly adjusted their line-up and their defensive zone.  They strangled us for the rest of the first half, the game becoming an unattractive slog with both sides pushing numbers back and having great difficulty creating scoring opportunities.  Mick was determined to deny the Crows access to the corridor, where they had hurt us so badly in Round 1.  The match became like a giant game of chess, with both sides more focused on stopping the opposition from playing the way they hoped than on their own offensive plans.

The Crows controlled the game for the rest of the first half, having 40 more disposals and 12 more inside 50s for the half, and restricted us to just one further goal.  We were fortunate to be in touch at half-time, with the Crows missing several chances in a forgettable second quarter in which they outscored us 1.6 to 1.2.  In addition to the Crows’ misses we kept in touch by sticking to our dourly defensive game plan and through the good form of Wood, Didak, Heater, Max and Harry.  Big Wood was in career best form as he won hit-outs, took marks at both ends and won plenty of possessions.

At half-time the mood in the lounge room was pensive but optimistic.  The feeling was that we had more room for upside, with lots of our good players having been well contained.  Our midfield ball magnets Swan, Pendles and Leon had been denied space, with Pendles surely recording the highest ever statistic for the number of times tackled.  We had struggled to create run out of defence, and had been predictable going forward, with Travis usually the target of our laboured attempts to circumnavigate the boundary.  We needed other avenues to goal, and needed to move the ball a lot more quickly.   Burton had looked a danger for us and it appeared that we were regularly switching our defensive match-ups, or perhaps the Crows had successfully orchestrated these moves to unsettle our usually settled back half.

The opening minutes of the third quarter were ugly for us, with great forward (I will NOT say frontal) pressure from the Crows resulting in mistakes by Toovey and Heater which cost us goals.  Porplyzia’s goal prompted me to say that the Crows were playing with more Porpoise, but it wasn’t any funnier when I said it than when I have written it !  One of the sage Floreat Picans (I can’t remember which one, we were losing, it was stressful !!) noted that the deficit getting to fifteen points might force us to become more offensive.

Three significant moves occurred early in the third quarter.  Burton left the field injured, Swan went to half-back and Dawes again went forward after a very quiet first half.  The game opened up, with both sides creating more run out of half-back.  Swan won plenty of ball and became a significant factor running off half-back, our back half returned to its usually assured state and we had more contributors in our midfield, with O’Bree and Beams coming into the game.  Dawes and Anthony both worked hard to become effective lead-up targets, and  Wood continued to impress.  We converted our opportunities to kick five straight and lead by a goal at the last break.

Didak goaled in the first minute to give us a handy break.   The Crows kept coming, but we looked more dangerous going forward, with multiple opportunities created on the break and plenty of space for our forwards to run into.  When this week’s inclusions Dawes and Dick both goaled we looked safe, and Didak’s fantastic smother and give-off to The Mop was the icing on a very sweet cake.

As with last week we improved markedly in the second half.  We have now won ten of our last eleven, have-clean sweeped our interstate games and can control our own destiny.  There is still plenty of room for improvement, with The Mop and Medhurst contributing little, Fraser still to return and N. Brown returning with the twos at the weekend.  There are some interesting selection dilemmas ahead, notably with the talls when Fraser is ready to return, and if Rocca can prove fitness and form.  There’s also still a place for Marty Clarke come September.

Seven year-old Joel was in a celebratory mood after the game: “Uncle Stephen, do you have any ice-creams?”  Fortunately I did.  There were no requests for green or herbal teas and we contentedly watched the post-match before flicking over to the cricket, which was also going swimmingly.  All appeared well with the world, and we could join Tom Waits in dreaming of spring.

Votes for the Horsburgh Medal are suspended until the Floreat Pica night of nights.  The Chad Rintoul Medal goes to the bloke who got the three votes.

Cumulative voting after Round 17 :
16 – Pendles
14 – Didak
10 – Swan, Tarkyn
9 – Max, Leon,
8 – Heath
5- Josh
4 – O’Bree, Harry
3 – Jack, Presti
2 – Dick
1 – The Mop, Beams, Medhurst, L Brown, Travis

Trivia question – Five players (who I am aware of, there may be more) who have played for the Pies since 1978 have played VFL/AFL footy at four clubs.  Who are they ? (I’ll post the answer Wednesday).

I look forward to your contributions and to Haiku Bob’s.  Could someone please do the Danny Roach votes ?

Floreat Pica
Steve

Comments

  1. Steve Fahey says:

    Answer to the trivia question (from Floreat Pican Paul “Stork” O’Connell, who indeed did find more than five !)

    Phil Carman – Collingwood, Melbourne, Essendon, North
    Craig Davis – Carlton, North, Collingwood, Sydney
    Allan Davis – StKilda, Melbourne, Essendon, Collingwood
    Geoff Raines – Richmond, Collingwood, Essendon, Brisbane
    Scott Cummings – Essendon, Port, West Coast, Collingwood
    Richard Osborne – Fitzroy, Sydney, Footscray, Collingwood

    And I’ll throw in P Morwood – South (which became Sydney when he was there), StKilda, then back to Sydney, Collingwood

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