The Way-Too-Early 2013 Preview: Collingwood

COLLINGWOOD

2012 was the Magpies first season under favourite son Nathan Buckley following the quiet, uneventful, everyone-is-on-the-same-page-and-is-happy-and-content-and-will-not–take-the-Carlton-job transition from Mick Malthouse. If there was one word to describe the year, it would be drama. Malthouse and Eddie Maguire spent much of the early going throwing barbs at one another while a giant magnifying glass hovered over Buckley. When that spat finally relented, the Travis Cloke contract situation, and his simultaneous on field struggles, took over the limelight. In 2012, it was more about what was going on off the field than on it.

On it, Collingwood experienced some pretty significant declines after their rampaging 2011.

Competition Rankings
Collingwood in 2011 Collingwood in 2012
H&A Finishing Spot

1st

4th

Disposals

2nd

5th

Contested Possessions

1st

3rd

Clearances

2nd

tied 6th

Inside 50s

1st

10th

Marks Inside 50

tied 4th

6th

Tackles

3rd

8th

Hitouts

15th

13th

Goals

2nd

tied 9th

Points Against

1st

5th

 

What were the reasons for this? Is Buckley a bad coach? Was Malthouse just a really, really good one? Does the decline even have anything to do with coaching? The Magpies spent much of the year battling the Eagles for the claim of most injury ravaged side. Collingwood lost Luke Ball for the entire season during round 3, with key players like Pendlebury, Johnson, Reid, Tarrant, Thomas and Shaw also missing pockets of games due to injury. Following a titanic 2011, Travis Cloke hit an iceburg in 2012, but kept acting as if he hadn’t.

But despite these issues, and despite the on-field decline, the Pies still secured a top four spot last year. So, is their grip on the top four beginning to unravel, or are they so firmly locked in that not even all the turmoil of 2012 could knock them out?

2012 Key Statistics

Collingwood 2012 Offensive

Average per Game

Competition Rank

Disposals

369.2

5th

Contested Possessions

146.3

3rd

Clearances

38.6

tied 6th

Inside 50s

52.3

10th

Marks Inside 50

12.2

6th

Hitouts

36.2

13th

Goals

13.6

tied 9th

 

Collingwood 2012 Defensive

Average per Game

Competition Rank

Points Against

82.86

5th

Inside 50s Conceded

50.3

10th

Marks Inside 50 Conceded

10.6

tied 8th

Tackles

65

8th

 

Collingwood 2012 Offensive/Defensive Differentials

Total

Competition Rank

Inside 50s Opponent Differential(Total Inside 50s minus Total Inside 50s conceded)

50

11th

Marks Inside 50 Opponent Differential(Total Marks Inside 50 minus Total Marks Inside 50 conceded)

10.6

tied 8th

 


What are they great at?

Despite their top four finish, Collingwood only ranked among the top four in one key statistic, contested possessions. The Pies have two of the very best contested ball winners in the competition in Scott Pendlebury (5th most per game in 2012) and Dane Swan (11th). Not far behind them are pocket rocket Jarryd Blair and breakout star Dayne Beams.

What are they good at?

They may not have been great at many things in 2012, but they were still good at several.

The Magpies were good at getting their hands on the footy, finishing fifth for disposals per game and sixth in clearances. The Pies will be hoping the return of Luke Ball will also result in a return to their phenomenal ball winning ability in 2011.

Collingwood were okay defensively, allowing the 5th least points against per game, but only 10th for inside 50s conceded. Again, they experienced a significant drop in this area of the game, after they had conceded the least points of any side in the competition the season prior.

What do they need to improve?

Collingwood experienced an alarming fall in their inside 50 entries last year, down to 10th after leading the competition in 2011. Unsurprisingly, they suffered a similar drop-off in their average goals per game, down to ninth after being the second most potent side the year before.

What are they bad at?

The only real area Collingwood have struggled in over the past few years is hit-outs. I imagine they are relatively unperturbed by this, given their immense midfield numbers in spite of this weakness. The Pies added experienced and often retired ruckman Ben Hudson to support Darren Jolly. They also have a couple of talented young ruckmen on the list, primarily the monstrously huge Jarrod Witts and recently drafted Brodie Grundy.

POINTS OF INTEREST IN 2013

Travis Cloke

After a superb 2011 season, Cloke’s production reduced across the board last year.

Cloke’s Per Game Averages in 2011 and 2012
Disposals Marks Contested Marks Marks Inside 50 Goals
2011 15.64 7.68 3.8 3.52 2.76
2012 13.2 6.28 2.92 2.84 2.36

Cloke’s very public contract dispute with the Pies was one of the prevailing storylines throughout the season, and it seemed pretty clear that it was affecting his performances. It wasn’t a case of not quite being as good as the season before either. It was like watching a completely different player. Gone was the overpowering force that swallowed the ball whenever it was in his vicinity, replaced by someone who seemed almost timid at times. His drop off didn’t go unnoticed, with newspaper columns and talking heads pointing out the disparity between what he was bringing to the table and he wanted from Collingwood in return.

The Pies and Cloke finally agreed to a monster five year deal at the end of the season. The question now shifts to what version they got. Did they get the game changing 2011 Cloke, or the version we saw in 2012 and years prior? We know which one they paid for, but which one do they actually have?

Return of Luke Ball

Losing Ball in round 3 last year was a serious blow for the Pies. Ball led the team in tackles in 2011, and was one of the leaders in contested possessions and clearances. His return should improve an already very good midfield.

Alan Didak

Few players have experienced such an alarming and sudden drop in production like Didak has over the past few seasons.

Alan Didak Regression
Year Games Disposals Tackles Goals
2010 24 24.6 2.7 41
2011 20 17.8 2.2 9
2012 11 16.5 1 6


The enigmatic magpie has gone from one of the best players in the side to a fringe member of the twenty-two. Injuries have played a significant role, and there are serious questions as to whether his body can hold up over the course of an entire season any more. Without significant improvement, Didak may find his Collingwood career, and indeed his AFL career, coming to a very quick close at years end.

New faces

There was quite a bit of player turnover for Collingwood in the off-season.

Collingwood List Changes
OUT IN
Sharrod Wellingham Quinten Lynch
Chris Dawes Clinton Young
Tom Young Jordan Russell
Cameron Wood Brodie Grundy
Jonathon Ceglar Ben Kennedy
Kirk Ugle Tim Broomhead
Luke Rounds Jackson Ramsay
Simon Buckley Kyle Martin (RL)
Paul Cribbin Sam Dwyer (RL)
Daniel Farmer Adam Oxley (RL)
Shae McNamara Jack Frost (RL)
Trent Stubbs Ben Hudson (RL)
Lachlan Smith Ben Richmond (RL)

RL = Rookie Listed.

Quinten Lynch was clearly brought in to fill the void left by Dawes’ departure as a second key forward option, and, if last year’s output is anything to go on, then he could be considered an upgrade.

2012 Comparison: Dawes and Lynch
Dawes Lynch
Age 24.8 30
Games 23 21
Disposals 12.7 12.5
Marks 4.8 5.4
Total Marks Inside 50 18 28
Avg Marks Inside 50 0.78 1.33
Total Goals 16 33
Avg Goals 0.7 1.6

 

Dawes was no doubt physically hindered at times last year, and this impacts on his numbers. Regardless, Lynch is a solid proposition on a weekly basis, and his presence should prevent statements like “man we miss Chris Dawes”.

Clinton Young is a nice addition. The former Hawk should slot onto one of the wings for the Pies. Young is a very good attackingly minded player, and his speed and raking left boot lend themselves to that mentality. Only Brett Deledio and Patrick Dangerfield sent the ball inside their attacking forward fifty more times a game in 2012.

2012 Comparison: Wellingham and Young

Wellingham

Young

Age

24.6

26.11

Games

20

20

Disposals

19.2

17.95

Contested Possessions

8.3

3.6

Clearances

2.85

1.1

Tackles

4.35

3.2

Inside 50s

3.35

5.4

Goals

13

13

While Wellingham was competent in both an inside and outside role, Young is almost exclusively an outside midfielder. Given the Magpies strength inside, the impact of Wellingham’s departure should be minimal.

 

2012 Comparison: Wood and Hudson

Wood

Hudson

Age

25

33.11

Games

6

18

Disposals

12.183

14.78

Contested Possessions

6.67

10.22

Hit-Outs

22

25.17

Ben “Farnham” Hudson is a significant upgrade over the departed Cameron Wood in the backup ruck department. Collingwood generally went with just the one genuine ruck in 2012, so Hudson won’t make frequent appearances in black and white barring injury to Jolly. As far as safety nets go though, Hudson is a nice one.

Round 2 v Carlton

I’m putting this here because it probably won’t get much press otherwise…

2013 OUTLOOK

If Collingwood play at the same level they did in 2012, then they are the leading candidate amongst last year’s top four finishers to relinquish that spot. West Coast’s crushing injury woes and Geelong’s average start to the season are the only thing that prevented them falling out last year.

The good news for Pies fans is that everything is looking better already. With Ball returning, and the additions of Lynch and Young, the Pies look stronger on paper heading into 2013 than they did in 2012. It’s hard to imagine them having the same torrid luck with injury too, which will obviously help immensely. The key members of the side are effectively the same as the ones featured in their dominant 2011 season, so we know they are more than capable of maintaining their top four hold. Tarrant is gone, but Brown and Reid have shown enough for this not be a concern. Cloke is the biggest enigma. If he returns to his 2011 form than you would feel comfortable locking them in as a top four side. If he struggles as he did last season, then they will be battling it out with a handful of other sides for those coveted places.

About Adam Ritchie

My name is Adam. I started watching football with two fellow parapsychologists in an abandoned firehouse. When we’re not watching footy, we’re running our own pest control business. What do you mean I stole that from Ghostbusters?

Comments

  1. Steve Fahey says:

    An outstanding analysis Adam.

    I would add Krakouer as a factor – interestingly Cloke’s late-season return to form coincided with Krak’s return from the knee reco and I think it was more than coincidence. Krak is a smart forward who both reads the balls off packs beautifully and is very adept at placing the ball to the big bloke’s advantage. He also kicks goals, which some of our small forwards didn’t do last year, with Sinclair and Elliott playing largely defensive forward roles.

    Other than the downturn in form of Cloke (who still ended up with 59 goals), the injury run and the lack of meaningful ruck back-up, the other problem for us last year was transition out of defence, including our kick-ins. The departure of Leon both deprived us of a great decision-maker and skill executor from the kick-out and took away run from the back half. Thsi contributed to the decline in Inside 50s moreso than the decline in clearances. Clearly the additions of Young and to a lesser extent Russell are aimed at addressing this, and in the one practice session I saw, was a key focus in match practice. I also think that Marty Clarke will improve markedly in his second season back, and will need to to get a game. At his best he is a very clever and constructive playmaker.

    Hudson is of course on the rookie list as you note in the ins and outs. Most of us Pies fans will be surprised if he is not upgraded and play a few games during the year.

    I’m bullish about top four, but there is nothing new in that !!

  2. Pies coudn’t win if they started now

  3. Dave Nadel says:

    Steve took the words write out of my computer. An excellent analysis, Adam, hampered by the fact that you didn’t even mention Andrew Krakouer amongst the list of missing players. In fact, after Luke Ball, he was Collingwood’s biggest loss to injury. Krakouer’s accurate disposal of the ball was missed by both Cloke and Dawes.

    As I said on another thread the other cause for optimism amongst Pie fans is that we will never have to see Cameron Wood and Simon Buckley in the first 22 again. It is hard to be a credible top four side when you include players that would struggle to hold their place in a bottom four side.

    On Alan Didak… He has suggested that 2013 will be his last AFL season. While he probably no longer has the fitness to play 100 minutes of intense football he has always been able, on his day, to turn a game in a few minutes. I expect Didak to be regularly used as the sub this year.

  4. “Quinten Lynch was clearly brought in to fill the void left by Dawes’ departure …”

    Er, no. Dawes clearly left because Lynch arrived.

  5. not fussed at all about the flag this year.
    it’s all about rounds 2 & 15.
    and the extra bye on Anzac Day should come in handy too.

    HB.

  6. Laurie Holden says:

    And another point is that playing Dawes Collingwood effectively had 17 palyers on the field as we were giving opposition sides another defender. If putting a table together on Dawes it requires 2 columns – goals for & goals against.

  7. Hey Adam – Great season preview -one that will surely get up the noses of the non-pies who read it as our list has been significantly upgraded this year.
    Keen to see how Keeffe goes this year after showing a lot last year.
    Also looking forward to Buck’s coaching with a year under his belt.
    It’s a long season, we have a challenging draw but we’ve made the most of the recruiting period. Game #2 will be a Krackouer, I hope.
    Fingers crossed for an injury-free, and scandal free season so that our business is always onfield.
    Thanks mate & Go Pies,
    Tim

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