AFL Round 20 – Sydney v Collingwood: Sports Triathlon (leg 1)

After weeks of waiting, splashing the cash to ensure the essentials (flights and accommodation) were booked, trying to concentrate on work and if you read the last post of mine, playing in winning football teams for a change, my long weekend had FINALLY arrived. A weekend where watching elite level sport was at the forefront, but where running with the pack was the centre piece (more on that a little later).

Before getting into the details of the game, let me play travel guide for just a moment. It is significantly easier to use public transport to get to the Olympic Stadium than it is to get to the SCG. For this match the train travel was included in the price of the game ticket which didn’t happen the last time I was in Sydney for an AFL match. Instead I discovered that to get a shuttle to the SCG I needed to pre-purchase a pass at Central station, meaning the walk from the city to the ground had to be relatively brisk to arrive in plenty of time for the opening bounce. Sadly though this service generally would run only for big Swans games, for it seems getting to a Giants game in the same precinct would cost extra, but I do stand to be corrected for Bulldog fans have had to travel to Bludger Central (Canberra) instead.

Unlike many night games at several other venues it was pleasant conditions for the seemingly annual Collingwood trek to Homebush to tackle the Swans. As this was my first visit to the Olympic Stadium I was keen to see if the theory that the venue needed to be half full to generate a decent atmosphere was real. Whilst the Magpie army was in full voice for most of the night, and the red and white brigade tried to respond in kind creating a noisy vibe to the ground, it must be said that the attendance of 42,000 was disappointing considering this was the preferred Sydney timeslot (notwithstanding the Roosters played their NRL home game in Sydney earlier that evening and Cronulla hosted a match at the same time), which to me places the future of the Olympic Stadium as an AFL venue in doubt. Certainly this many fans will be accommodated when the development at the SCG is complete, which many have stated provides a better atmosphere and enhances the chances of a home win.

The game itself did provide a shock to the system, for many had thought Sydney would be too strong via their midfield depth as opposed to Collingwood who may have had better top quality options but fell away after the “Swandlebury” connection needed to be rested. Certainly in the opening 10 minutes when Sydney emerged from the blocks faster than a runner at the very front of the Red Group at the City2Surf there were bad signs for the magpies, but to their immense credit they managed to secure a couple of goals against the tide to get closer at the first change. Then when it was expected that Sydney would be the team that would clamp down on their opponent, the opposite proved to be the case. It wasn’t as though there was an excessive tackle rate forcing the umpire’s hand that to me was the catalyst, but more so the missed handball targets from swan players that created several opportunities. Then when many teams such as our local club would attempt to play a little tempo footy to retain the yellow pill, the lack of movement forced contests which more often than not the team in black and white would eventually prevail.

There were signs through the isolation of Tippett that Sydney could get back into the game after the long break, neither Brown nor Keeffe (who replaced the former when he was substituted) had any chance to prevent the high priced recruit to bag 6 majors. Problem was the supply dried up when the Magpie midfield found another gear that Sydney surprisingly couldn’t match, and when the Swans looked like producing a scoring opportunity, the slow ball movement prevented their preferred option of Tippett in a 1-on-1 contest with whoever was opposing him would never eventuate. Many in the stands placed the blame on Jessie White as many bigger players who struggle seem to bear the brunt of the blame game, but to me there needed to be smaller leading targets to break up the defensive pattern. Nick Maxwell’s opponent, whom I couldn’t positively identify, is always a key man in this situation for Maxwell plays effectively when he is not needed to show accountability. The Swans had the cattle to ensure this, but the resting ruckman proved ineffective in a forward role and McGlynn was as anonymous as those operating the worm during a political debate.

The home fans were streaking out the door long before the famous gold jacket made its appearance (sorry golf fans, but the gold jacket you win at the Australian Masters doesn’t exactly stack up to this version), and in the end the pies should have won by more. The final margin would at least have been 38 if Travis Cloke kicked the ball properly, I’m still trying to work out how he could miss a pair of shots many find impossible to miss, and even greater if Elliott had better conversion than 3 goals out of 7 scoring shots. Those misses could come back to haunt his club in 20 days time when the ladder should be finalised and opponents for the opening week of the September Scramble (that’s finals for those wondering) are determined. That said, it was the smaller forwards that looked most dangerous with both Elliott and Thomas (Josh rather than the still absent Dale) preventing the Sydney flankers from being attacking weapons. Should they win on Friday Night against the hawks, then suddenly another contender is really in the mix.

As for the Swans, it struck me that they seemed to be a big team which may not be the right mix for later in the year. It’s not that a tall forward line could work for them given the options that could shortly become available again to them, but perhaps the bigger bodies have come at the expense of a little quickness. The youngsters also struggled with the bigger occasion, Rampe had issues in the back half most of the night, Mitchell was kept quiet and even Hannebery was soundly beaten in his duel with Sidebottom. Perhaps for them next weeks clash against the Saints has come at an opportune moment. As for me, it was another bucket list item ticked off as I drifted off for a few hours shut eye before the 2nd leg of the sporting triathlon started 10 hours after the first leg was completed.


SYDNEY 10.11.71

SYD: Tippett 6.2, Bolton 1.2, Shaw 1.1, K.Jack 1.0, Kennedy 1.0, White 0.2, Hannebery 0.1, Mitchell 0.1, RUSHED 0.2
COLL: Elliott 3.4, Cloke 2.3, Reid 2.1, Sidebottom 2.0, J.Thomas 2.0, O’Brien 1.1, Grundy 1.0, Pendlebury 1.0, Ball 0.2, Blair 0.1, Lynch 0.1, Macaffer 0.1, RUSHED 0.2

SYD: Tippett, McVeigh, T.Richards, Kennedy
COLL: Beams, J.Thomas, Grundy, O’Brien, Pendlebury, Swan, Ball, Macaffer

CROWD: 42627

MY VOTES (If I were giving them)
3: Dayne BEAMS (COLL)

GOAL: James SAVAGE, Sergio VILLAGRA (Emergency: Dale PUREN)
SCORE REVIEW OFFICIAL: Someone hopefully more competent than Tony Hill, Kumar Dharmasena, Marais Erasmus and Aleem Dar

About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.

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