What a bloody relief

This was a game we just had to win. Inexplicably a team with a 20-1 record had dropped the last round of the season by 96 points and now found themselves in a final facing a team with a 17-5 record, only half a game inferior to what got us top spot last year.

Round 24 was a humiliating experience as a supporter. What’s wrong with treating it like any other game? Does a half-baked effort somehow conserve our energy for the finals? And if we were trying to avoid injury that didn’t work as we saw a procession of players making their way down the race casting more uncertainty over our finals campaign. Suddenly we didn’t look so invincible after all.

The most welcome news was the return of Heath Shaw, Leon Davis and to a lesser extent Nick Maxwell. Shaw deserved a suspension but anything more than 4 matches was too long. And although he was back after 8 matches he was rubbed out for 14 matches which was over the top. Further good news I found on the train coming in was the late withdrawal of Kerr which led to me feeling a little more confident about our chances.

I’ve run out of superlatives for Leon Davis this year and he was one of the few blokes going during the first term when our round 24 hangover extended into a scoreless first 18 minutes. Much of the problem was due to our complete impotence in the ruck where Jolly had a horror opening conceding free kicks willy-nilly and twice falling over under minor duress. West Coast’s tall forward line had an ominous look about it and our delivery into the forward line was haphazard at best. A smart goal to Wellingham finally broke the drought but a behind to Pendlebury was our only further score for the term. At least we were only 8 points down. However a panicked handball to no-one out of defence from Pendlebury gifted a goal to Priddis to start the second quarter and the pies needed a lift. The next 7 scoring shots were all black and white including 2 more to Wellingham the second reminiscent of his third quarter goal from GF2. A snap to Leigh Brown and a great snap from the boundary by the previously unsighted Krakouer gave us a big boost. Whilst on Brown I was disappointed at the timing of his retirement announcement on the eve of the finals. When you are in contention for a flag I believe you should wait till the season ends and then make the call. Is he hoping to make this year’s grand final his farewell game? Just as well no-one did that last year and then had to suit up for a second farewell. And whilst on Krakouer we may have to allow for the fact that he was playing his first final after 122 games – he did play for Richmond after all. I was thinking when the side was selected (prior to Reid’s withdrawal that apart from Krak the other 21 not only had finals experience but had all played in a Grand final. In fact 20 players including Davis and Tarrant who didn’t feature in the premiership had played in at least 2 grand finals.

When a blunder by Scott Selwood led to Swan waltzing into to the open goal we were three goals up and looking good. Unfortunately yet another ruck free kick this time with a 50 metre penalty tossed in gifted a goal to Naitanui and was followed up by a clever dribbled goal to Le Cras. A steadier on the bell to the quiet Dawes was invaluable.

The third quarter saw us double our lead from 13 to 26 points. Krakouer’s second goal was the highlight from a team point of view and when big Cloke finally slotted his first major of the day eagles fans looked resigned to defeat. Late in the quarter rather than surging forward to kill them off we mucked around with keepings off and missed the chance. Perhaps we were already tiring. The last term began with an immediate goal to Lynch and then gettable misses by Shuey and S. Selwood. We were very negative refusing to take the game on and showing no run whatsoever. A brilliant third goal to Lynch and it was game on. We really had to just guts it out from there and at least we did finish with the last 3 scoring shots but it was a disappointing last quarter in some respects. What has happened to the fantastic finishes that we were renowned for earlier in the season? Malthouse delaying the sub until the 23 and a half minute mark was really poor I felt.

I said before the game that any win we could conjure even by a point would be enough to make me happy so overall I am very pleased.

On reflection it’s interesting to consider that we had outstanding performances from several players and very serviceable games from most others yet were not far off losing this one. Perhaps the eagles performance needs more credit. I see they laid a ‘world record’ 100 tackles.

So where to from here? I’m quite confident of making the grand final but not confident of winning it.

However that opinion is subject to change without notice. The return of Thomas should give us a big lift. We need the big 3 of Swan, Pendlebury and Thomas to carry us to this coveted 16th flag. A fit Reid would be nice also.

Players who may come into consideration for Horsburgh votes (in random order) include skipper Nick Maxwell who played his best game for the year, the brilliant Leon Davis, midfield machines Swan and Pendlebury, Harry O who was on fire, Tarrant,  Shaw and Wellingham.

One of them will take out the coveted Brent Tuckey medal.

And finally, Happy 50th birthday to the Artist formerly known as the big man. Hopefully we all get to celebrate on Grand final day with an artist who formerly was a big man and who still sounds like a big man in Meatloaf.

Comments

  1. Mick was impressed.

    He said it was one of the very best performance he had seen form his charges since he has been coaching the Pies.

  2. forwardpocket says:

    Certainly one of the last he’ll see in his time as Collingwood coach.

  3. I think he was talking about the Eagles.

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