AFL Round 22 – West Coast v Collingwood (Floreat Pica): Pies midfield needs to get hands dirty

By Rory Adams
A visit to Subiaco is like a throw back to the old surburban grounds in Melbourne. Facilities are adequate as long as a quick beer or coffee is not needed as these amenities feel quite archaic compared to the MCG or the Docklands. Once seated however the ground has a much better atmosphere than either of those stadiums as the one-eyed, cauldron-like atmosphere feels like a heaving Victoria Park back in the day.
Like Victoria Park was to Collingwood for years Subiaco is a fortress for the Eagles and they are expected to win and rarely do they let their faithful down. As a minority opposition supporter there is no better place to win and the memories of the overtime win in the final of 2007 and Troy Lehman snatching an improbable win by a point in 1992 are my best memories of games there.
However unfortunately this night was to be different and one which I will remember for the wrong reasons.
When Collingwood and the Eagles met in June earlier this year it was the battle for top spot and seen maybe as a Grand Final preview. The Pies prevailed that day and Travis Cloke had monstered the Eagles backline and Jolly had outpointed the best ruck combination in the league in Cox and Natanui. The problem was that Collingwood had just fallen in due to a late free kick to Beams and the Eagles would have taken heart that if they could reverse their fortunes in the ruck and hold an out of form Cloke that they could come up with the points at home. This was made easier with the withdrawal of Jolly and were to face the much less experienced and credentialed Wood all night.
After a promising first 20 minutes, a lot like last week against the Kangaroos, where Collingwood controlled the football, were able to find targets inside 50 and looked like scoring at will the Eagles started to dominate. Cox and Natanui in particular began to dismantle Collingwood at the stoppages, the alarming thing was that we looked unprepared for such a scenario. Collingwood’s unaccountable midfield was smashed time and time again and it looked incapable and unwilling of witching to a defensive mindset against a quality midfield that was bound to be favoured in this area.
Collingwood has become a dominant player in the past few seasons due to a blue collar midfield willing to work back and forward and lock down the ball when a scrap is required. The form of our tall forwards has been a worry for some time and well documented but the way we have been hammered by the Blues, Hawks, Kangaroos and now Eagles is of more concern. Collingwood plays with no midfield taggers and Kerr and Shuey must have thought that it was Christmas as they joined Mitchell, Harvey and Murphy as being able to play as they like against our midfield set up.
Not enough players are willing to get their hands dirty in the clearances in Ball’s absence and an answer to this issue is not an obvious one.
Buckley needs to make a call on either Brown or Tarrant in the backline when Maxwell returns as we require more run in this area. We need to get the confidence back in playing on after a mark as they seem extremely static, the long bomb down the line to Cloke and Dawes is surely not working although the long bomb to Natanui seemed to be the plan last night. Maybe Leon could come back for the kick outs no matter what shape he is in.
Three changes I would make if all our short term injuries are OK would be Jolly for Wood, Maxwell for Tarrant and Krakour for Sinclair and try and find some form against a demoralised Essendon.
I would love to see the pies go deep into September but on this performance a lot has to change and a very favourable draw must be found.

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