AFL Round 17 – Gold Coast v Collingwood: Saturday Matineé

Saturday Matineé

IT IS LATE SATURDAY AFTERNOON at the manse in Heidelberg Heights. All day the temperature has barely risen to nine degrees. Thankfully there is no sermon to write for tomorrow as someone else is preaching at church and Melissa has just had the brilliant idea of showing the kids a late Saturday afternoon matineé of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in our bedroom. This leaves the television in the backroom free for a blissful afternoon of watching Collingwood beat the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium. I am hoping that the football will provide some welcome respite from Australia’s dismal effort at Lord’s.

The Trouble with Harry

It was interesting to watch Nathan Buckley’s press conference after a stirring recent win against Carlton. Unprompted he said, “I think it’s time for a reality check to assess where we’re at. We’re doing alright. We’re doing alright.” I am not sure I agree with the coach’s sunny summation. I cannot remember a Collingwood champion retiring mid-season like Ben Johnson this week. Nor can I remember two players having to stand aside from football despite excellent patches of form like Andrew Krakouer and Harry O’Brien. Harry’s season sums up the team’s fortunes- brilliant but absent.

Some non-selections have also been puzzling. Alan Didak continues to ply his impeccable trade in the reserves. Something doesn’t seem right at Collingwood. From the outside looking in, there is a lack of cohesion and hunger. More than this, there does not seem to be a discernible game plan, other than bombing it long to Travis Cloke for a point. The lack of defensive pressure when the opposition has the ball is disturbing. There is a sense in which the Collingwood graph has gone south since the tumultuous exit of Mick Malthouse. In 2010 our average points against was 75, in 2011 it was 70. Since Buckley has taken over these numbers have risen to 82 last year and 87 this year. Unlike all the top sides in the competition Collingwood do not get spare numbers back to help their defenders. Yet even these slight misgivings do not alter my expectation of a percentage boost this evening.

The game starts with a Gold Coast 50 metre penalty and goal from a slight infraction. Collingwood dominate the rest of the quarter but are staggeringly inaccurate. Dane Swan makes a shocking mistake on his left foot, dribbling a kick straight to a Gold Coast player sixty metres out from goal, who runs in and converts. Travis Cloke misses a couple of shots. The score stands at 1.7 at one point. The only highlight for the Pies is an incredible mark by the gymnast Jamie Elliott.

Star Wars

In the second quarter the lack of accountability on Gary Ablett begins to hurt badly. He has 27 possessions by half time. It is hard to understand why regular tagger Brent Macaffer is not assigned the task of standing between Ablett and the contest. The champ gets the ball so easily that it is almost presented by a butler with white gloves and silverware.  The Collingwood champ Dane Swan kicks two goals to give some answer to Ablett’s dominance.

The Pies have trouble scoring and I am starting to wish I could be in the bedroom watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Suns have system, any loose players drop back into space to force Collingwood wide. In stark contrast Collingwood afford the Suns an open paddock in their forward line. I cannot work out what our defensive strategy is. Trav has an opportunity to kick his fifth point but instead misses everything. The overall score stands at 2.8. Towards the end of the quarter Sam Dwyer is dumped by a Gold Coast player. Not one Collingwood player races in to defend their teammate, this sums up the Magpie malaise in 2013. In stark contrast to the dominance of the game’s stars, at half-time Elliott has 2 disposals, Krakouer 5, Macaffer 5 and Witts 3. Trav has 4 points. Collingwood’s season is turning into a high budget film that has poor reviews and cannot find an audience.

Hunger Games

In the third quarter Gold Coast are far hungrier for the ball. They charge into several contests and tackle with ferocity. In sharp contrast Collingwood give their opposition 10-15 metres of space. The best teams in the AFL play with hunger. They start their attacks from defense and push heavy numbers back. Collingwood on the other hand choke the middle of the ground. Once you get through the midfield flood you are greeted with an open forward line and space to run into. It is an old-fashioned, outmoded approach to the game. It is so 2010. In a shocking twist Trav finally kicks a goal but the game is slipping away.

Another problem with the Pies is their ball movement; it is so slow and predictable. There is no flow or run. Ablett on the other hand while built like a boxer plays the game with the grace of a ballet dancer. To three quarter time Collingwood have 58 points on the scoreboard. Against a team that they beat by 97 points last year.

House of Wax

I remember years ago seeing a matineé movie called House of Wax starring Vincent Price. In the last quarter the Collingwood players remind me of a series of wax figurines. They barely move and the ball keeps on bouncing off their chest. This club played in a Grand Final less than two years ago and nearly beat one of the best teams of the last 50 years on that day. Tonight they look like they might struggle against a bunch of 40 year-old veterans. The kicking skills are shocking; there is nothing direct about how they move the ball forward. Ben Reid is finally moved to the forward line but like all our forwards he kicks another point. The Collingwood skill level is appalling. Simple targets are missed and players slip over at the worst possible moment. They put no pressure on opposition kick outs. They do not get enough numbers back in defense.

Thankfully Ablett is there to provide some grace and he kicks the sealer after shimmying twice around a series of grasping Magpie defenders. He pirouettes like Nureyev. This is the first time in 27 outings that Gold Coast has defeated a club inside the Top 8. They deserve their win thoroughly. As the siren sounds I try to think of a worse home and away loss. The only one I can remember was in 1984 when Gubby Allan kicked across the goal to Simon Beasley at the Western Oval. Collingwood look like a team who would rather play practical jokes on one another, a la Dane Swan’s turning up to training with makeup covering his tattoos, than play football. Their season resembles a schlock horror movie that I wish I could turn off.

In his press conference at the end of this game Buckley says that some of the statistics looked okay. Gold Coast have the ball in their forward half 45% of the time, Collingwood 55%. The Magpies play an old-fashioned, predictable brand of football. It is not how many times you bring the ball inside your 50 that counts in 2013. It is how well you can get numbers back inside the opposition’s 50 and see if you can start a counter-attack from there. The modern game is all about running into space. The Magpies do not have sufficient skill, dash or daring to play football like this. There is only ever one statistic that counts in football, points for and points against. This team played on Broadway two years ago, at the moment they’d be struggling to appear on a broken wooden stage in a small hall outside a deserted country town in the middle of the desert.

GOLD COAST         3.4   7.6   11.7   13.7     (85)                  

COLLINGWOOD     2.7   6.9   8.10   11.12   (78)          



Gold Coast: O’Meara 3, Brennan 3, Day 2, Ablett 2, Harbrow, Tape, Prestia

Collingwood: Cloke 2, Elliott 2, Swan 2, Dwyer, Sidebottom, Goldsack, Beams, Seedsman



Gold Coast: Ablett, O’Meara, Harbrow, McKenzie, Bennell, Stanley, Nicholls

Collingwood: Beams, Swan, Sinclair, Williams



Gold Coast: Rory Thompson (ankle)

Collingwood: Nil



Gold Coast: Alex Sexton replaced Josh Hall in the last quarter

Collingwood: Caolan Mooney replaced Andrew Krakouer in the third quarter


Reports: Nil


Umpires: Hosking, Kamolins, Jeffery


Official crowd: 19,721 at the Metricon Stadium

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