AFL Round 3 – Collingwood v Hawthorn: Coutas Saturday, Pies Sunday

I went to two footy games this weekend. The second was played at a much higher standard than the first, but I came away from the first match in a much better mood.

On Saturday, I watched the Queenscliff (Barra) Coutas win a close game at home against the Barwon Heads Seagulls. The Coutas and the Seagulls play in the Bellarine League and both were undefeated at the end of the second round. In a game heavily affected by a strong wind, Queenscliff handled the difficult conditions better than their surf coast opponents. It was an exhilarating win, but I have only supported the Coutas for a little over two years so a win on the Peninsula was not going to compensate me for a loss by the team that I have supported for 63 years.

Collingwood was also going into Round Three undefeated. In the previous two weeks the Pies had defeated two teams that they hadn’t been able to beat last season. Hawthorn would be the third. There were some differences. North beat us once last year and faced us this year without Brent Harvey who is easily their most important player. Carlton beat us twice last year with the unlucky Brett Ratten as coach. This year they are coached by surly Mick, and, judging by the experience of the Eagles and the Pies, it takes teams a couple of years for the players to learn to speak “Malthouse.”

Hawthorn beat us three times last year, most dramatically in the Qualifying Final. This week they met Collingwood without a few of their best 22 players, of whom the most important was Brad Sewell. The Pies however were missing a lot more; Darren Jolly,  Luke Ball, Dayne Beams, Nick Maxwell, Alan Didak, Andrew Krakouer, Lachlan Keeffe. While some of them had been missing since early last season the question had become whether Collingwood were missing too many good players to be competitive against one of last years Grand Finalists?

After a warm sunny morning it began to rain almost as soon as the teams burst through the banners and most of the game was conducted in wet conditions. The radio commentators seemed to think that that would favour Collingwood, but my impression was that it actually was to Hawthorn’s advantage. Collingwood under Buckley bases its game on fast movement of the ball – quick handpasses, long direct kicks. Hawthorn may no longer play the rolling zones but their game is still very much built on possession and that is an easier game to play in the rain than fast ball movement.

The game began as the Carlton game had ended, with Jamie Elliott dominant in front of goals. He kicked three goals and assisted in others, all in the first half. The Pies looked good in the first half. Travis Cloke was the dominant forward, leading well, marking at will and kicking more goals than he missed. Ben Hudson had seamlessly replaced Jolly in the ruck, not only winning the majority of tap outs but also winning possessions around the ground. For the first time since the days of Monkhorst and Manson two decades ago, Collingwood might actually have a reserve ruckman that it can trust to replace an injured senior ruckman.

In the backline Ben Reid was competitive against Buddy Franklin and the smaller defenders were mostly on top of the Hawks’ dangerous little men. If the Pies had kicked straight they may well have reached quarter time with strong lead.

Things started to go wrong in the second quarter. Ben Reid landed badly and seemed to injure his knee. He was off for most of the second quarter. Mature age rookie, Jack Frost, who hadn’t been able to match David Hale was suddenly standing Franklin. Then Tyson Goldsack was put on Franklin. He certainly made more of a fist of it than Frost but he is neither big enough nor brilliant enough to compete with Buddy. By the time a strapped up Reid returned to the field, Franklin was in full flight and no one could have stopped him. Collingwood went to the half-time break leading by a point but they no longer looked in control of the match.

In the third quarter Luke Hodge took over. He wasn’t the only winning Hawks player, but he was the one that the Pies couldn’t stop. Hodge is one of only a handful of AFL players who have the ability to bring out the best in their teammates. Collingwood had no-one on the field capable of stopping him. Luke Ball might have been a chance but he hasn’t kicked a ball in anger for over a season.

In the last quarter it turned into a rout as Collingwood’s defence panicked and totally lacked discipline. It became obvious which player Collingwood was missing most, captain Nick Maxwell, less for his playing skills than for his leadership. Maxwell would have held them together. Hawthorn would probably still have won, all its forwards and midfielders were playing well by the last quarter, but if Maxy had been there the Pies would not have lost by fifty-five points.

If Hawthorn can arrange for Hodge to play like that every week they will be very hard to stop in the finals. Collingwood will improve, particularly when it gets Beams, Ball and Maxwell back, but it needs someone else, probably Heath Shaw, to lead on the backline until Maxy returns. I would enjoy the Coutas winning a third successive premiership in the Bellarine League, but I would enjoy the Pies winning on the last Saturday in September a lot more, and to do that they have to learn how to beat the Hawks.

Hawthorn        2.1       7.5       15.9     22.13 (145)

Collingwood   3.6       7.6       11.9     13.12 (90)

GOALS

Hawthorn : Franklin 4, Roughead 3, Breust 3, Burgoyne 3, Hill 2, Hodge 2, Hale, Birchall, Anderson, Lewis

Collingwood: Cloke 5, Elliott 3, Fasolo, Hudson, Blair, Brown, Lynch

BEST

Hawthorn: Hodge, Sheils, Franklin, Mitchell, Birchall, Gibson

Collingwood : Cloke, Hudson, Lynch, Elliott, Swan, Pendlebury

Umpires: Donion, Stevic, Ryan

Official crowd: 72,254

Our Votes: 3 Hodge (H) 2 Shiels (H) 1 Cloke (C)

Comments

  1. Barwon Heads Seagulls. Superb.

  2. Lord Bogan says:

    Dave, It’s interesting that most Collingwood sides in my lifetime have been perceived to be ‘mud runners’. I also felt that the conditions didn’t suit us because of the emphasis on skill and crisp ball movement. The rain made our half forward line very top heavy. Lynch in particular seemed lost.

    We missed Beams and Ball badly and when are we going to learn to deal with Burgoyne at the clearances? His been killing us in this area for years.

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