Pies triumph on a day of firsts

It has been 197 days since I’ve experienced the warm inner glow and sweet sweet taste of a Pies’ victory and it feels as good as I remember it.  As Foreigner sang all those years ago “It feels like the first time, it feels like the very first time.”

Speaking of first times, a Round 1 encounter naturally brings up a lot of firsts.  As well as the obvious first games for their new clubs of big names Ball, Jolly and the Big Bad Boofhead Barry (BBBB), some of the other firsts for this match were :

First scheduling and ticketing debacle of the year – the G sits empty while two Melbourne-based clubs who finished top four last year and with a combined membership of over 80,000 play at the Dome.  It is not a fully ticketed game, but Levels 1 and 2 and Rows A-F of Level 3 are fully pre-sold so members have to be able to get there very early to get in for the remaining seats.  Go figure !

First time in my lifetime that the Dogs have entered the season as flag favourites – expectations are high on this side of town.

First time (I would reasonably guess) that two clubs have clashed three times in nine home and away rounds – remarkably these clubs clashed in rounds 15 and 22 of  2009 and fronted up again in Round 1.  When they meet again in Round 11, it will make four clashes in nineteen home and away rounds.  And all of them at the Dome !!

First time Medallion Club Mick has offered me Medallion Club tickets, nearly a decade after his initial pledge !! –  Good things come to those that wait, but I was unable to take up his generosity as I already had tickets with my usual crew in the front row of Level 3.

I guess I should move on at some stage to what actually happened !

The pre-game signs were very positive for the Pies.  Morris was a big out for the Dogs and Johnson’s inclusion had to be a substantial risk given the very limited preparation he had.  Hearty congratulations to Johnno (aka Simon the Likeable from Get Smart) on his 350th – he is and has been a giant of the game.  My skin was tingling as the sides made their way onto the ground – the long wait was over.

The first quarter was fast and furious and we played in a manner very similar to the first quarter of the Round 15 game last year.  We were precise and clean with our possessions and ferocious in our attack on both the ball and the opponents when they had it.  Our first goal of the season came from a throw-in from which big Jolly got it to Johnno who mongrelled one into The Mop. Ah to have a ruckman at long last !

We kicked 8.2 from 11 shots (yes Leroy Brown popped one out on the full) largely because we had lots of set shots from good positions, 30-40 metres out on reasonable angles, as we used the corridor more often than usual.  Leroy was inspirational at full-forward, a good match-up on Lakewho got Brownlow votes playing on Jack in both games last year.  Good coaching.  Our great forward pressure led by Leroy was the key to our healthy quarter-time lead.  Johnson and Wellingham had plenty of it while Harry and Heater were excellent in the back half, and Didak provided two clinical finishes. BBBB looked dangerous for the Dogs, kicking two and missing one he should have kicked.

The second quarter saw the Dogs regroup after our early goal stretched the margin to 36 points.  Our defensive pressure dropped off and Boyd and Cross knocked up winning the footy in the midfield.  We just couldn’t find a goal, with our nine shots at goal resulting in 2.7 as we had a heap of shots on the run from 50 metres on tight angles.  Jack and Travis were being blanketed and we couldn’t create set shot opportunities.  Pendles had the worst 5 minutes of his career as he fumbled the ball twice and then turned it over in 30 seconds in the one piece of play and then missed an important set shot.  Medders’ brace of goals kept our noses in front at the main break.  Wellingham continued his excellent start, as did Heater and Harry.

A couple of interesting tactical developments emerged in the first half.  The Dogs followed the lead of several other clubs in getting both their ruckmen to many stoppages, especially in their forward 50.  An interesting tactic that resulted in many rucking free kicks, some of which no-one seemed to know which way they would go.  The Dogs were also often able to manufacture a mismatch when they kicked in, often targeting a tall player from the kick-in who was somehow immediately opposed by a medium.

The third quarter was a good one for the Pies mainly through better conversion than the Dogs.  Both sides had periods of dominance, in a quarter that was very even in general play but we managed 4.4 from 16 Inside 50s while the Dogs wasted a few with 2.5 from 21 Inside 50s.  This was the critical period of the game.  Leroy worked hard at both ends and Pendles finally worked his way into the game and set up beautifully.  Swan, who seemed to have a fair amount of bench time in the second quarter, was his usual hardworking self and Heater and Harry repelled the Dogs and created numerous attacks.

Enjoying a twenty-point margin at three-quarter time, many of us were thinking about the Round 15 game last year when our six-goal buffer was reduced to a desperate one-point victory as the Dogs ran all over us.  A Dogs goal in the first minute reduced the margin and heightened our anxieties.  We steadied and then ran away from the Dogs who looked dead on their feet in the sweltering conditions.  Mick is a master rotator and we were full of run with Swan and Pendles getting a stack of it in the midfield, and Heater and Harry racking them up in the back half.  The Dogs lacked forward options when BBBB couldn’t grab it.  Max made multiple desperate spoils and Leon finally got into the game, kicking a couple of beauties. The icing on the cake was the second goal we created from a forward 50 throw in, with Swan capitalising on Jolly’s clever knock.  We tried to milk the clock the last few minutes and looked typically clumsy doing so –a definite area for improvement.

It was time to sing the song and it was nice to give it a good belt after a great start to the season.  I could overlook the two bourbon and cokes that people behind us dropped and splashed all over us and our belongings and consider it a truly excellent day.

In the end we won because we applied fantastic defensive pressure, and because we converted better, partly because we had more set shots, taking 22 marks inside 50 to their 11.  Our defensive pressure was borne out in the running bounces stat which went 21-7 our way.  Their playmakers were often under actual or implied pressure, and Harbrow and Gilbee, while both serviceable, were not allowed to set up from the back.

New chums Jolly and Ball were both solid , but no more than that, and worked hard. Both have big strong bodies, and will improve

I’ll note one more first.  In the stats I’m reading, Travis had the highest disposal efficiency on the ground with 92 %.  That must be a first.  He was quiet but does work hard.  The relief from the Pies supporters around the ground when his last quarter set shot from 50 became a gimme after Minson ran across the mark was palpable.

Votes for the Floreat Pica Society’s prestigious Michael Horsburgh Medal are :

3 Heater –an enormous game and managed to strike a good balance between generating attack, combating his own opponent and peeling off his opponent to help his fellow backs.  Expect more of the 2008 tactics from opposition teams who played a defensive forward on him and tried to drag him from the play.

2 Harry – I love Harry and the way he plays the game, similar to Heater in his multiple dimensions, but can play tall or small.  A dashing display setting up lots of forward forays and being very assured when he had the ball.

1 Swan – good numbers, not as big as he sometimes records, but improved penetration in his kicking and three goals pushed him ahead of a couple of others including Leigh Brown who was outstanding.

The Ian Low Medal goes to Heater  As Peter Landy used to say after the first player scored multiple votes in the Brownlow, “he is the early leader.”

Hopefully the Pies can bring up another first of sorts in next week’s encounter against the lowly Dees.  Last year we played four times at the Dome and lost the next week each time.  Hopefully we can break this trend and put another convincing win on the board.

I look forward to Haiku Bob’s Danny Roach Medal votes, to his first Pieku of the season, and to your contribution.  A reminder that this report will also be posted on the Footy Almanac website at http://footyalmanac.com.au/ .

Floreat Pica

Steve

Comments

  1. Dave Nadel says:

    I had hoped to post a report of the Pies/Dogs game on the Almanac but frankly, between Danni Eid’s wild joyful enthusiasm, David Enticott’s measured satisfaction and Steve Fahey’s excellent analysis, just about everything that needs to be said from a Magpie viewpoint has been said.

    I will only add two comments. Last year, on another website, I wrote that Leroy Brown wasn’t an AFL player. I was wrong! He will never be goal kicking forward but his play on the forward line will allow other smaller forwards to kick many goals. At a conservative estimate, Leroy’s actions on Sunday were responsible for a goal each to Didak, Davis and Medhurst. Leroy is beginning to remind me of Jarrod Molloy at his best – and I loved the way he flew for the flag for Wellingham against BBB Hall!

    Secondly, I thought Harry was inspirational on Saturday. He chose to wear #8 as a tribute to James Clement who had a been a mentor when he first arrived at Collingwood. James was a great footballer but Harry shows a signs of being a better one. This is going to be a very good year for the Black and White!

  2. Hear hear, Dave. I thought we (the Doggies) were deficient in a few areas but the Pies were very very good.

    HOB was brilliant, although I thought we played into his hands at times. But that probably just serves to emphasize what a good footy brain he has.

    Glad the Pies could give you an early birthday present, Dave. Pretty sure you’ll be getting another one from the Demons on the actual day.

  3. Dave – you were right, Leroy Brown is not an AFL player. He’ll play a few good games but he’ll let you down in the big pressure. Put this is a vault and open it again in September and see if I’m right.

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