Pies present as apprentices as masters do what they wanna do and be who they wanna be

conviction act of convincing, settled belief

I had a vision the other night. Collingwood was on the podium holding up the Cup.  The only problems were (1) It was Paul Collingwood, and the Poms had beaten the Mike Brearley, I mean Michael Clarke – led Aussies in the Twenty 20 final, and (2) it wasn’t really a Cup, but a really weird looking trophy that would be utterly useless for functional purposes such as being a receptacle for champagne (or Hi-Fibre bread as Dermie famously inserted one year).  I am a fan of the big Cup.

Approaching Friday night’s blockbuster I wanted to see more evidence to test whether the vision could indeed become a reality.  Have we stepped up from being a good second-tier team who need the best to be below-par to being a serious contender ? I was confident that we would acquit ourself well, and indeed win.  Whilst having a huge respect for the Cats, I thought that we were primed and ready.  I had seen Carlton’s speed tear the Cats apart, and make them look decidedly mortal.

A huge and expectant crowd packed the G on a perfect night for footy, cool but still.  The first quarter was like many openings to heavyweight championship bouts, with the sides sizing each other up, and exploring their opponent’s defences with a series of jabs rather than any explosive flurries of blows.  Both teams were more concerned with not conceding an early advantage than opening up their opposition.

It was apparent that the Cats were choking our run and space out of defence, going man-on-man, while we employed a zone defence.  This meant that the Cats racked up uncontested marks and handballs, but not goals.  Bustling Ben Reid and Benny J were very good in the back half, while at the other end Scarlett and Mackie exhibited their usual confidence as they repeatedly took the ball up the ground.  Travis looked our only avenue forward, as he continued his good form. Leon’s lack of form and confidence was again apparent when he hesitated when fifty metres out and in the clear, before chipping to Swanny in a worse position.  The Cats led by a solitary point at the first break.

Beams’ early goal in the second gave us the lead and hope.  It was our only score until late in the quarter, as the Cats turned up the heat and dominated the midfield, with Kelly especially prominent.  Their commitment to use the corridor whenever possible saw them create numerous opportunities and have us under enormous pressure in our back half.  Our defence held up reasonably well, aided by some easy misses by the Cats. We just couldn’t get the ball forward, or score on the rare occasions when we did.

Travis was playing further up the ground than he has in recent weeks, and no-one ahead of him was able to capitalise on his apparent attempts to land a NFL contract with a series of entries into forward 50 with plenty of hang time.  We pushed him deeper halfway through the quarter, but then couldn’t get it down there.  The pressure mounted, and when Heater’s second defensive clanger for the quarter, aided by a fumble from Macaffer, cost us a goal, we were struggling at 4.7 to 2.2 minutes before half-time.  Beams’ brace of goals just before the siren brought us back into the game, and our blokes left the arena at half-time full of pep.  We were flattered by the five-point deficit, kicking 3.0 to their 3.4 for the quarter.  Remarkably, the inside 50s for the first half were exactly the same as the scoreline, 26 -31.

We opened the second half winning clearances and getting the ball quickly forward and were able to exert the forward pressure which has been the foundation of our recent success. Beams’ fourth and Cheesy’s clever steal gave us a handy break in a low-scoring affair.  At 6.2 I was admiring that we had made the most of our chances. We dominated the first half of the quarter, but in a horrible re-run of the St Kilda game, found a myriad of ways to butcher chances, with Leon, The Mop and Benny J the worst offenders .  By the 18-minute mark we had kicked 2.6 to 0.3 and for ten minutes had been a goal away from placing the Cats under real pressure.

The Cats put on a clinic for the remainder of the quarter, moving the ball quickly and precisely, and finally opening up our defence with their characteristically pinpoint passes inside 50.  All of a sudden we couldn’t get our hands on the ball at the stoppages, and a handy lead became a significant deficit by the time the bell went.  The scoreboard list of the goalkickers was telling, as we had no goals from talls, while Mooney, Hawkins and J-Pod were all on the board for the Cats.

Travis was often being double-teamed in the second half, while the Beast was finding out how hard it can be in the big league.

Trailing by four goals and only having kicked six, it was bleedingly obvious that we had to kick the first goal, if not goals of the last quarter. We completely dominated the first dozen minutes of the last quarter, but just couldn’t land a goal.  We missed snaps, we missed set shots (Macaffer twice), we didn’t score from thirty metres (Sidey) we dropped a chest mark in the goal square late in the game (Wellingham).   When we reduced the margin to three goals through a series of points, a goal would have lit up the contest.  Unfortunately against good teams, if you don’t score, they eventually will, and a rare foray forward for them ended in a free kick goal.  GAME OVER !

The time –on period resembled a Premier League match, as the team that’s behind pushes deeper forward and pushes more numbers forward, leaving it exposed on the counterattack.  The Cats scored two late goals on the burst, and the eventual margin, was both flattering to them and the same margin as last Friday night’s clash against the Dockers.

A very disappointing evening and the 0.12 we added from early in the third quarter was a reminder of our goalless second half against the Saints. Indeed in our last four matches against the Cats and Saints we have recorded the very modest scorelines of 6.14, 4.17, 6.11and 7.10.  It’s fine kicking cricket scores against modest opposition, but we don’t score enough or convert enough against the big guns.

Why ?

An excellent question.  Not good enough is one possibility, but probably simplistic. Having a spread of goalkickers is great, but we don’t have a money man, a guy who you can rely on for a mark and a goal when one is needed and who will convert when an opportunity is created (refer J Brown, Brisbane Lions).  During the St Kilda game I commented to Paul and Stork that the guys you want to see with the ball in their hands from a set shot are Medhurst, Jack, Didak, Leon and Beams.  Jack can’t get a game and has lost his once precise goalkicking, Leon can’t get a kick, and Didak didn’t get or create enough opportunities.  Medhurst is important to the forward structure, as he is a midsize who can take contested marks, lead and crumb.  He is also very creative inside 50, has a lot of score assists.

As for goalkicking, I commented in exasperation after Macaffer’s second horrible last-quarter set shot miss that, outside of James “Charlie” Manson and Taz, I can’t remember a bloke who spends a lot of time forward who looks less likely to kick a goal from a set shot.  He has a run-up longer then DK Lillee, does more skips than Nadia Comaneci and appears to have as much conviction as Jana Novotna serving for the 1993 Wimbledon title. PLEASE WORK ON HIS ROUTINE AND SELF-CONFIDENCE BECAUSE HE DOES HAVE SOME TALENT.  JANA WON THE BLOODY THING IN 1998 !!  Ahh, that feels a little better and slightly dulls the early Saturday morning pain of Friday night defeat.

As Paul pointed out last night, we have been kicking a high percentage of goals from turnovers, as is the modern trend, and particularly from streaming forward and getting goalside of our opponents after turnovers.  Indeed we kicked 16 goals from turnovers against Carlton.  You simply get less turnovers against the better sides, and we need to find other avenues. We need to get the ball in quicker and be more prepared to go to even contests with low trajectory kicks that don’t give opposition defenders the chance to peel off their opponents to get to the contest.  The Beast is not the first key forward to be chewed up and spat out by the Cats, but he needs to make a contribution in games when he is not getting it.  In particular he needs to present and demand the ball more, and crash packs the way he has been in recent weeks.

Despite the loss, the sky is not about to fall in (despite the hyperbolical report in The Australian describing us as “fraudulent”).  We have been competitive into the last quarter against both the Saints and Cats, which represents an improvement from last year, and had our chances in both games.  I am pleased that we play the Cats, Saints and Dogs twice each, as we get another opportunity to tweak our game against the cream of the competition. It also gives us a chance to develop greater conviction that we can beat these teams, clearly a bigger issue for us against the Cats and Saints at this stage.

There are plenty of areas for improvement in addition to scoring.  Our likely advantage in the ruck didn’t eventuate, as Blake played very well and Jolly and the midfielders appear to be still adjusting to each other.  Our prime movers are Pendles, who was well held by the impressive Ling, and Swanny who tried hard but was clearly hampered by his right knee.   We were OK in the back half, made a few mistakes under pressure, but were more frugal than in recent weeks, admittedly in a much different style of game. Reid started well on Mooney, but Mooney ended up being a good player, while N Brown did a good job holding J-Pod but gets a Presti-esque number of possessions.  As Paul commented, during the Cats’ run in the third quarter, you would have liked to see Presti’s calm and stabilising influence down there, and I’m very confident that he’ll be back to take on J Brown next week.

We had lots of players down, a couple whose form has implications for their future (Leon and Cheesy) but I’ll leave further comment to Paul Harkin in his Danny Roach votes and to others.

Votes for the Michael Horsburgh Medal are :

3 Benny J – great first half, provided run and drive most of the game

2 Beams – four goals out of six was a significant contribution

1 Ball – no more than solid all night, but was solid all night

The Ray Byrne Medal goes to Benny J

I look forward to Paul Harkin’s Danny Roach Medal votes, to Haiku Bob’s Pieku  and to your contribution.

Floreat Pica

Comments

  1. Steve – good report. As a Cats supporter I was pleased Cloke was getting his kicks high up the ground. I reckon Bomber actually out-coached Mick. The Cats simply forced the Pies wide all night and they eventually lost their nerve, hence their high number of points in the score, and not one Pie tall forward took a grab inside the fifty. Telling stat.

    Having said all that I thought the cats were ordinary in parts as well. Hunt is a worry and Mackie plays very loose. But the 3rd quarter burst was sensational. See you again in round 19.

  2. Steve Fahey says:

    Thanks Dips

    Really enjoyed your report, especially your description of The Bloke.

    Steve

Leave a Comment

*