AFL Round 6 – Collingwood v St.Kilda: Pies prevail over sinking Saints but no splash

Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan The Times They Are A-Changin’


These lines seemed appropriate for the clash between the Pies and the Saints, especially with a bloke called Dylan Roberton playing. His name is close, but not quite Bob Dylan, and these teams aren’t quite what they were, and will need to learn to swim better and faster if they want to be competitive with the best.

Yes, a lot has changed for both clubs in the bit under three years since they met twice to decide the premier of the 2010 season.   Both clubs have changed coaches, each change causing considerable turmoil and angst, with both of the new coaches having been in the Collingwood box on the big days in 2010.  Playing personnel has also changed considerably, with the Pies this night fielding 13 players who played in either Grand Final, and the Saints ten after the late withdrawal of the admirable Lenny Hayes.

Most significantly, the game has changed a lot tactically, with the enhanced defensive zone and the forward press used by these clubs having been more than successfully countered by astute opposition.  Consequently the might of both these teams has waned, with the Pies treading water in eighth spot while the Saints had their heads bobbing under and above the water with their hands in the air in lowly 14th spot.  Thus this game was a must-win for both clubs, with the loser threatening to sink like Bob’s stone.

The Pies entered this game with more changes, taking in a new-look forward structure inspired by Jack and the Beanstalk, with Cloke, Lynch and one of Jolly or Witts forward. We also reinforced our leaky and injury-hit defence by pushing The Sack back and finding a new role for Daisy.

The game turned out to be as forgettable as the 2010 clashes were unforgettable, looking very much like eighth versus fourteenth.  The Pies started the game in characteristic fashion, dominating the early minutes but being unable to put a major on the board, with near misses punctuated by not so near misses and shots that might have been taken but weren’t.  It was clear that the media and internal focus on defensive pressure had been taken aboard as we tackled and smothered ferociously.  Just as characteristically we were hurt on the quick break a couple of times by the Saints and our two point buffer at the first break seemed insufficient advantage for 13-9 inside 50s and 13-8 clearances tallies. A familiar story.

Daisy was relishing his new role, as Harry continued to do and Jolly came back full of energy, as he often does after a break, leaping at the bounces/throw-ups and cleverly pushing forward. Whenever we play the Saints he is aware that McEvoy runs back to fill the space in front of Cloke, and Jol often runs diagonally from centre clearances that we win to the point of the centre square and beyond to become a target.  Thanks to my brother Paul, a former A-grade amateur coach, for pointing this out to me early in the game.

The second quarter was one of the worst quarters of footy we have churned out against average opposition for years and very unattractive for spectators.  We were far more concerned about what we didn’t want to do, which was to kick to contests in which we were outnumbered, than with any reasonable plan for effective ball movement. With the Saints looking positively Lyonesque with their defensive structures and frequently having extras behind the ball, we chipped the ball sideways and backwards with little purpose.  Whilst the principle was understandable it seemed incongruent with picking so many tall forwards, who would clearly benefit from getting the ball in quickly.

The natives in the stands grew both anxious and restless as we conceded the first two goals of the quarter and would have been in deep trouble against better opposition. The Saints appeared to have few forward options other than the reborn Riewoldt, with Kosi’s main contribution being a starring role in this week”s MRP for a clumsy hit on Elliott and the Sewer Rat well held by Heater, who played another excellent game in a different role on the gun small forward.  Our clearance work was clunky, with Steven and Armitage both prominent for the Saints. Goals to Jol and Harry, the latter from a horrendous error from Stanley, restored our narrow lead at the main break.

The third quarter saw us start well with a clear focus on moving the ball more quickly, as the faithful in the stands had been imploring for a half.  Pendles had a magnificent quarter, winning multiple clearances and setting up forward plays.  Jolly continued his good form and we built a reasonable buffer before a late goal to the Saints cut the margin to 13 points at the last break.  Witts, who hadn’t done much, was substituted midway through the quarter for the other debutant Kennedy and our structure immediately looked more mobile and productive, having a run of four scoring shots for 2.2. The game had opened up a little as players from both teams struggled to run as hard defensively as they had earlier.

The game continued in a more open vein in the last quarter, and the two class forwards, Riewoldt and Cloke, put on a show to liven up an otherwise very dull game.  After the Pies kicked the first two goals through Travis and Dwyer, Riewoldt put his old kicking woes behind him, nailing two shots from just inside 50 to give the Saints a sniff.  Travis steadied the ship with two more, both from frees (it is Umpire Appreciation round !) and we were home, a long bomb from Seedsman the finishing touch.

It wasn’t a game that anyone would have been rushing home from to watch the replay, but there were some positives beyond four points and no apparent injuries.  Daisy was outstanding playing as a back, and hopefully can kick on from here. Caff played his best game since 2010 playing an unlikely tagging role on Del Santo.  Our tackle count of 59 was much better than Anzac Day and our general defensive focus was improved.

Staying with positives, we got to have a look at Witts, who didn’t show much, and Kennedy who looked quick and clever, albeit he didn’t use the ball as well as he has in the twos.  Finally, it is probably an advantage to play St Kilda the week before we play Freo, as their game styles both have that distinctive Lyon imprint.

On the less positive side, our game style in the first half stunk.  Sidey was tagged out of the game by Geary, having his second stinker of the season. Blair was much better in the second half but had one possession in the first half (and that was a handball over his head to a Saint).  Dwyer and Elliott have both struggled the past couple of weeks, the latter having taken some big hits this year.  Lynch struggled with his permanent forward role until Witts went off and hasn’t hit the scoreboard much.  Krak was ordinary but might have needed the run at this level.  His lack of pace is a concern.

Votes for the Floreat Pica Society’s prestigious Michael Horsburgh medal:

3 –  Pendles – changed the game when it mattered

2 – Daisy – very good all night

1 – Jolly – broke even in the hit-outs, marked and presented well, kicked goals.  Perhaps we should only play him every second match so he is always coming back from a break !

Honourable mentions go to Harry, Heater, Travis and Caff. The Monkhurst/Francis Medal goes to Pendles.

Votes overall

3 Pendlebury (Coll)

2 Thomas (Coll)

1 Riewoldt (St K)

A massive game for us next week in Perth against the Purple Haze before we take on the Cats and Swans.  We play well in Perth but will need to play a lot better than the past couple of weeks if we want to be a top four contender.  Expect more changes to the line-up and for us to revert to Jolly and Lynch as the ruck combination.  It would be timely for Paine to kick a bag in the twos at Willy tomorrow, because there is a spot going begging.

As for the Saints, they have already sunk like a stone and are in treacherous Watters.

Collingwood 15.13.103

St.Kilda 11.11.77


Collingwood: Cloke 4, Jolly 2, Pendlebury 2, Seedsman 2, O’Brien, Blair, Krakouer, Clarke, Dwyer
St Kilda: Riewoldt 4, Siposs 2, Gilbert, Milne, Roberton, Koschitzke, Armitage

Pendlebury, Thomas, Jolly, O’Brien, Shaw, Cloke, Macaffer, Swan
St Kilda: Riewoldt, Steven, Geary, Montagna, Armitage, Roberton

Umpires: Rosebury, Stevic, Ryan

Official crowd: 40,071 at Etihad Stadium


  1. Agree with you Steve on Paine, I really think he can play and should come in for Witts who needs to bulk up, was pushed aside too easily on occaisions. Caff may have found his role, that and Daisy to half back were great moves. Spot on with your votes, Pendles has the ability to lift the team whenever it’s needed. Big few games coming up.

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