AFL Round 3 – Collingwood v Hawthorn (Floreat Pica report): Humbled Pies left pondering as Hawks prevail

 by MJ (on debut) for the Floreat Pica Society

Well, what a poor game for me to make my writing debut. A week is a long time in footy and in the space of 7 days we’ve gone from the euphoric high of the win against Carlton to the disappointment of yet another defeat to Hawthorn. I apologise in advance if this report has a negative feel about it, but it is tough to be optimistic after yesterday’s performance.

I know I’m not the only supporter that has a sense of dread when we play the Hawks. Driving to the game I was confident that we would be in with a shot, with the wet conditions especially helping us.  Sewell was a big out for then, not to mention Suckling and Whitecross being out for the season as well.

Halfway through the first quarter I knew we were really in the game. Hudson was a revelation in the ruck, winning hitouts, winning his own contested possessions, and helping the likes of Swan, Blair and especially Pendles in driving the ball forward. Elliot was a sensation again with a few goals, with Cloke getting on the scoreboard also. Cloke was a monster up forward but missed two set shots in the pocket which should favour the left footer. Despite dominating the inside 50s (17-8) for the term, and having 9 scoring shots to 3, we were only 11 points ahead. The highlight for the term was a chain of handballs taking us from centre wing all the way inside 50 for Elliot to kick a goal on the non-preferred. Outstanding play, especially in the wet conditions.

5 minutes into the second quarter there was silence and disbelief when it looked as though Reid, who had done an outstanding job on Buddy to that point, had seriously injured his knee. As he limped off, there was fear amongst all of us as to what Buddy might do, especially when we saw Goldsack making his way down to full back. With Hudson and the midfield continuing to win tough possessions, we found a way to stretch the lead to 22 points by the 17-minute mark.

The rest of the quarter reminded me somewhat of the 2011 Grand Final. Ahead by 3 or 4 goals halfway through the second term, the opponent on the back foot, and the feeling that you’re just 1 or 2 goals away from really having your foot on their throat. Unfortunately Luke Hodge decided to impose himself on the game at this point. He won clearances in the middle, swept up from contests in defence, and kicked team-lifting goals. The ball was essentially camped in the Hawthorn 50m arc for the remainder of the term, with the Hawks kicking the last three goals. Reid managed to come back on and looked to be moving okay, and we went to halftime leading by just a point.

Whatever Alistair Clarkson said at halftime worked a treat for the Hawks. They kicked 8 goals for the third quarter, to our 4. It was the same old Hawthorn that we have become accustomed to losing to over the last few years:

–       Birchall/Gibson/Guerra launching out of the backline;

–       Mitchell, Lewis, Hodge etc winning clearances;

–       Buddy/Roughy/Hale providing a contest up forward; and

–       A host of quick, explosive players at their feet to crumb goals.

Unfortunately we will most likely be on the highlight reel for a Goal of the Year contender, with the Hawks going from a Guerra kick-in to a Buddy goal in the space of 12 seconds or so.

Some of our better players missed important shots for goal which could have kept the margin much closer in the third quarter. Pendles running into an open goal from 20m – hits the post. Cloke marking in the pocket near the behind post … a shot the players practice 50 times a week as they leave the training track – hits the post. Heath Shaw under some pressure but with a shot at the top of the goalsquare – tries to grubber it through and misses. We had our chances to kick goals against the tide of the Hawks dominance and just didn’t capitalise.

The last quarter was a procession, with another 7 goals for the Hawks. I struggle to understand how a starting midfield combination of Swan, Pendles and Blair/Steele/Daisy can be beaten so often, and it highlighted once again the importance of having a fit Luke Ball. The Hawks ran wild in this quarter, running forward of the ball with confidence that their teammates would win key contests up the field. When this happened, we were powerless to stop their onslaught.

I am generally not one to blame umpires and I do believe that overall, the good/bad decisions work themselves out. All I can say is there will be a game at some point during the year where we get every 50/50 decision going our way. Just to list a few:

1.      A free kick to Hodge when he dives in at the feet of Harry. Somehow, despite the crackdown on this rule, this was a free to Hodge and Harry was reported. Im yet to hear a proper explanation for this.

2.      A free kick in the third quarter to Roughead in a ruck contest. Having seen the replay I still cannot fathom how this was a free, and it came at a point when we had kicked a few goals and were closing the margin. Naturally Roughead went back from 50m and put it straight through the middle.

Against Hawthorn we need to take every opportunity we can, and yesterday we did not do this at all. Key players missed crucial shots. Ben Johnson had an uncontested mark in defensive 50, misjudges the flight, it goes over his head for Anderson to kick a goal in the second quarter. Compare this to Luke Hodge, getting the ball from clearances and bombing it blindly inside 50, only to see it sail through the middle of the big sticks. Not once, but twice. Sometimes it just isn’t your day.

To give up 8 goals in the third quarter and then another 7 goals in the final quarter is just not good enough. It is only round 3 and there is a lot of improvement but it’s clear that we still remain a long way behind the Hawks. In the second half the Hawks kicked a goal from more than 70% of their forward 50m entries – there’s no way we can compete against them with that statistic.

The one hope is that when our injured players return, we can compete with the Hawks for longer than 2 quarters. Maxwell adds structure to the backline, Ball adds toughness to the midfield, Beams some further class, not to mention the likes of Krakeour, Young and a match-fit Daisy.

Some of the key areas I think we need to address are:

–       forwards being more accountable (the number of times the Hawks would sweep out of defensive 50m was ridiculous, Gibson cannot be allowed to roam free and our forwards need to become more dangerous so these Hawks have to think “defend” first); and

–       composure out of the backline (second consecutive week when guys like Russell and Johnson have looked to be out of sorts and blindly kicking the ball at times, only for it to come back with interest).

You will all come to know that I am a massive Pendles fan but I think the stats don’t paint a true picture of his game yesterday. Sometimes he tries to do too much and his errors led to 2 or 3 goals for the Hawks. Yes he is classy, can buy himself time and space, but sometimes you just need to give to the first option. And the bloke he did the fancy celebration with last week, Steele, had to be disappointed with his minimal output.

Votes for this week:

3       Travis Cloke (worked tirelessly, was a pillar of strength)

2       Ben Hudson (revelation in the ruck, could genuinely compete with Jolly based on that form)

1       Dane Swan (33 touches with 10 clearances)

We desperately need to bounce back against an in-form Tigers.

Comments

  1. Lord Bogan says:

    MJ,

    insightful debut report. Our bottom six were ruthlessly exposed by Hawthorn. Blair, Goldsack, Sinclair, Russell, Clarke and Dwyer are not in our best 22. That was very apparent yesterday.

    Bringing in Beams, Ball, Didak, Krakouer, Maxwell and a fit Young would change the complexion of the side. 5 of them are premiership players.

    Proud of Ben Hudson in the ruck. He gave his all.

  2. Tough on Blair, Lord Phil.

    Been good in all three of our games, in my view, and I reckon the inner sanctum have him in well inside our best 22.

  3. Lord Bogan says:

    Nah, MOC. Turns it over under pressure against the top sides. Not a fan.

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