Admiral Byng-inspired Malthouse leads Pies to victory

by John Ramsdale

Game Report v’s Footscray Sunday May 1st 2011

I’ll get it out the way early. A ridiculous time to have a game, but clearly 55,754 others didn’t agree with me.  At least it wasn’t at Docklands. I went to the game with some misgivings, no Jolly (he was very good last week), the run has to end at some time and I didn’t want to be the first to write a report about a loss this year.

The game began with the drizzle and the seagulls descending. The Bulldogs began in a fashion that we are used to seeing from Collingwood, moving the ball quickly and purposefully with excellent team work. On the other hand we looked slow, sluggish, sloppy, lacking confidence in themselves and those around them and uncertain especially in the backline, like St Kilda in disguise.

Our forward line looked very top-heavy with Chris Dawes, Leigh Brown and Travis Cloke and they were having trouble handling the ball in the greasy conditions. The delivery was less accurate than usual. Within 12 minutes we were in uncharted territory as far as this year is concerned, behind by 3 goals and the Bulldogs were looking very good. Scott Pendelbury had started on the bench and he made a difference when he came on.  Collingwood started to regain some of their composure and get on top. There were more forward moves but many of the shots at goal were taken from the pockets. Jarryd Blair snapped a goal and we looked like we were back on track. Ben Reid and Heath Shaw and Ben Johnson had been good on the backline and they had plenty of the play. Cameron Wood worked hard in the ruck and was getting kicks around the ground. A lacklustre start, but a better second half to the quarter left us 10 points down at quarter time.

The Bulldogs’ momentum had deserted them and Collingwood dominated the second quarter. A long goal from, Cloke who had been quiet early, from outside the 50 metre line set the scene for the rest of the quarter.   Collingwood did most of the attacking, but inaccuracy not seen since last year was evident. Sidebottom took a great juggling mark in the pocket and goaled which put us in front for the first time, half way through the quarter. The midfield, Dale Thomas, Sharryd Wellingham, Luke Ball and Scott Pendelbury were doing well and Reid, Shaw and Allan Toovey were solid in defence. Nick Maxwell was starting to look more comfortable, but is still well below his best. Andrew Krakouer was also starting to become more involved. The Bulldogs failed to score during the quarter and we went in 15 points up. When the statistics came up, I was surprised to see that Dane Swan was leading as he had been less prominent than in other games.

 The early part of the third quarter was an extension of the previous one as Collingwood continued to dominate the play but not the scoreboard. The Bulldogs’ early confidence and spark had gone. Highlights were another strong mark from Sidebottom outside fifty followed by a goal from Ball outside 40 and a much needed snap goal from Brad Dick who had struggled to get into the game. It looked like it might turn into one of Ramon’s “ boring” games, but the Dogs had other ideas. A goal from Sherman at the 18 minute mark, over a half since their last one, sparked them up and they had another three in four minutes. The backline were under real pressure and there was an air of nervousness about them. The last 10 minutes of the quarter had been a carbon copy of the first 10 minutes of the game. Younger readers will need the reference to carbon copy explained to them. What had looked like being a cakewalk had the sniff of an upset about it. Having dominated the quarter we went in only 8 points up. Thomas, Pendelbury, Wellingham, Wood and Sidebottom had again done well.

An ominous start to the last quarter as Maxwell was twice outmarked by the Dogs’ beanpole forward Jones, within a minute fortunately he missed both shots. Another goal from Sherman at the 4 minute mark and we were only a point down. Then scores were level. Negative thoughts began to creep in, “Oh well a draw would be better than a loss and at least we would still be unbeaten.” Then the turn-around began with an unlikely hero, Leigh Brown. “Cometh the hour, cometh the man.”  A four goal haul, including a long one from outside 50 and a Daicos/Didak dribble goal snuffed out any Bulldogs’ comeback.  Krakouer kicked two great goals, although he probably could have passed one off, but it would have been with less spectacular results. Thomas made sure that Didak got into the act at the end with a goal.  It had been an 8 goal to 1 last quarter.

It was a very good win and real wake –up call. They had to come from behind against an opponent who looked very good and very confident early. It also demonstrated the depth and evenness of the team. Bring on the bye. I look forward to reading Paul Harkin’s report.

Last year Mick Malthouse’s game plan was designed around ancient Roman army formations and German World War 2 leader Field Marshal Rommel.  He said “I looked at the Roman legion, which is in a box formation and very hard to penetrate. That box can get smaller and smaller, but you’ve always got fighting capabilities all the way through, which we’ve pushed in front of our opponents for the last two years.”

“The second one was a bloke who I read a lot about because of his daring. Rommel’s front-on assault was a methodology without superior numbers that hit an opponent, the enemy if you like, front on.”

Mick also claimed that you need to move on. He and the selectors are now gaining their inspiration from the 18th Century Royal Navy. This time it is Admiral John Byng. For those of you who didn’t watch SBS last week, here is the story

Admiral John Byng was a Royal Navy officer.  He was court-martialled and found guilty of failing to “do his utmost” to prevent the island of Minorca falling to the French after the Battle of Minorca at the beginning of the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). He was sentenced to death and shot by firing squad on 14 March 1757. Byng’s execution was referred to in the novel Candide by the French writer Voltaire. In Portsmouth, Candide witnesses the execution of an officer by firing squad; and is informed that  “Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres ”  (in this country, it is good from time to time to kill an admiral to encourage the others).

 Clearly Mick and the selectors decided that Andrew Krakouer was the one to do the encouraging for the others last week and Dayne Beams was this week’s candidate. We will look to the Danny Roach votes to see who might gain this week’s encouragement award. This is a side that you do not want to be dropped from. It will be very hard to get back. Ask Brent McCaffer and Tyson Goldsack.

 The Wee Georgie Bisset Medal Goes to

It was very difficult decision, as it was very even performance in many ways and players stepped up at different times to play their roles.

3: Steele Sidebottom: A great game after a fairly quiet ANZAC Day. On a night when many struggled with the slippery ball, he was sure-footed and sure-handed.  Takes a great mark for someone of his height and ran all night to collect the ball and then pass it on to someone. Three goals a good return for the evening’s work. 

2:Heath Shaw: Apart from Ben Reid he looked the most solid of the backmen all night, cool under pressure, ran all night, gets plenty of the ball and his disposal has improved.

1 Leigh Brown: Purple patch in fourth quarter turned the atmosphere of the game from one of real concern to one of triumph. He snuffed out any Bulldogs’ comeback. He had tried hard all evening, did some good work around the ground and was still running and chasing at the end.  I always manage to give him a vote in my reports because no-one else does and I wondered earlier how I was going to work him in.

Apologies to Ben Reid, (improved out of sight), Andrew Krakouer, Sharrod Wellingham,  Allan Toovey (does very little wrong), Luke Ball (he should dye his hair green so that what he does stands out more) and the usual suspects, Scott Pendelbury, Dale Thomas and Dane Swan and Leon. I also thought that Cameron Wood did a good job in the ruck. He needs a few games in a row.

PS We are branching out now with reports on the Seconds. Thanks Michael and James

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