Almanac Season Review: Cam Hooke’s Collingwood 2016 Season Review





Last year our season collapsed under the pressure of injuries.  Sitting Top Four after 12 Rounds at 8 and 3, we slipped to 12th with 10 and 12 by the end of the season.  We thought it could only get better as our team repaired itself and was reconstituted during the off-season.  The promise of the future was there.


We picked up Treloar (at the death knell) and Aish and Howe, who started to get more and more of our attention as the season progressed.  And the 2017 pre-season was okay.  We beat Geelong at Kardinia Park; and North in Wagga, with a very close final check win over the Dogs at Etihad.  Things were looking promising.


Then we reversed it.  The first game we were slaughtered by Sydney and lost Swanny, Brownie, Williams and Witts to injuries; Swannie’s leading eventually to his retirement.  Jamie Elliott followed shortly after and Fas for significant periods, on and off.


The Season by Halves:


We had a pretty ‘gentle’ first half of the season – 4 games against Top 8 Teams; 8 games against bottom teams.  Even given this we had 4 Wins and 8 Losses for the first half of the season.  The Losses included significant thumpings by Sydney, St Kilda, the Eagles, Port and Melbourne; indeed it wasn’t so much the Losses, but the margins that were concerning.  Our Wins were against Richmond (almost a death-knell accident), Essendon and Brisbane – neither particularly noteworthy.  But we showed occasional glimpses of the capacity to perform destroying Geelong in a First Quarter performance that was quite extraordinary.  But we Lost to Carlton.


After the Bye (Round 13) we started to perform, even given the competition against Top Eight /Bottom teams of 6 and 4 respectively – by the end we had 5 and 5.  We won against GWS at their home, and WCE in Melbourne, and pushed the Bulldogs and Hawthorn to the death.  The narrow Losses against quality sides, even with players missing were significant and promise much for the future.  In every game there were periods when we performed and the team was dominant, but only for periods.  And we beat Carlton.


The good, the bad and the ugly:


  • The List.  We used 39 players during the season, including 6 debutants.  The numbers are even worse when applied to the Back 6 for the first half of the season – 20 players used in the Backs in the first 9 Rounds.  Comments:


  • Treloar and Adams have been massive additions to Pendles and Sidebottom.  Sidebottom and Adams have both successfully performed ‘tagging roles’ on occasion.  The challenge to control of the Midfield comes when including the ruck in this group.  The Mids’ Clearances are being degraded by the need for them to counter the failure of our ruck.  Grundy, quite correctly, is being regularly selected amongst the Best in the team.  I would suggest that this is principally because of his work around the ground; not his ruck work.  He positions himself well, is able to move away from defenders and has a fantastic tackle.  With the exception of other non-traditional rucks (eg. Natanui) Witts is a better fit as ruck.  And Cox and White are not capable, and Moore is not best used, in that role.  I still consider there is room to include both Witts and Grundy in the team.


  • The subject of much media discussion during the season, plus a bit of vitriol from fellow-supporters, I might add.  The subject of discussion has been consistently the measure of Trav’s goals scored at the end of the game; which I think is both wrong and unfair.  My criticism has consistently been the delivery to him – low and hard to a leading Forward is preferable to ‘up and under’ kicks.  While Moore is a real talent, we should not rely on ‘speckies’ to achieve ‘Marks inside 50’.  The return from injury of Elliott and Fasolo will aid the Forward Line.


  • Back 6. There were way too many ‘easy goals’ from unmarked opponents or an unattended Goal Square.  The apparent adoption of a zone defence as the basis of our defence pretty obviously didn’t work.  Early in the season we led the competition in points scored against us from Centre Bounce clearance.  This was impacted on by Clearance failure at the Centre and our lack of defensive pressure; both.  Our Back 6, plus an extra, need to be a distinct team, with both the willingness and capability to provide a ‘second-man-up’ option.  Additionally, there have been mismatches amongst the selections – speed and mobility are frequently key.  Some manning changes are necessary; as is some stability.


  • My Best. My Best over the whole season are, in order:
    • Treloar;
    • Pendles;
    • Grundy;
    • Sidebottom; and

A notable addition is Varcoe who has been fantastic as an example of commitment to the younger players.


Other Aspects:


  • There is absolutely no question that Pendles is one of the most talented footballers we’ve ever seen.  But I’m not sure he is the right man for the Collingwood Captain role.  I thought Maxy was simply outstanding in that role.  I remember one game when he was out-injured he spent the game on the sidelines screaming at the Backs, encouraging them and managing the Back 6.


  • The Game Plan. We want to control the Centre (and other stoppages), clearing effectively and driving forward into the Inside 50, preferably to end with a Mark inside 50 and a score.  Out of the Backline, we want rapid ball movement through the ‘corridor’ and via the Wings to connect with the Centre clearances.  application?


  • This is separately identified because it has been such a variable thing this year.  This is a fundamental responsibility of the coach(es) and the team leadership to motivate the team.  During the season we lost games from winning positions and have been subject to ‘drubbings’ when a respectable Loss was achievable.  This is my fundamental concern regarding Bucks as Senior Coach and Pendles as Captain.


  • The Coach(es). I’ve been largely pretty defensive about Buck’s performance over the last four years, however the numbers are starting to add up.  There has been public discussion on his replacement, particularly following his early extension (15 March 2016) – his tenure now runs out at the end of next year.  He has publicly stated that if the Pies do not make the 2017 Finals he will not be there.  My (very external) assessment is that changes are necessary and are being discussed.  Some of the Assistants may go and Brenton Sanderson is being talked about as a new arrival.


The Future:


Pies for Premiers in 2017“(there you have it first from me).


I have faith.  Our List is excellent and the Game Plan is sound when it’s implemented.  Perhaps that is the key issue that we haven’t really consistently ‘fixed’ this year – “how to implement the Game Plan”.





  • I love the Disposal Efficiency statistic.  As a measure of an individual’s effectiveness this separates the good and the great.  We need to pursue a 100% success rate in the delivery of the ball.  This requires the awareness, through the Game Plan, of where the recipient will be and, therefore where the ball needs to be passed.  It also requires great personal foot and hand skills.  “Up and under” kicks are not good enough.


  • Selections / List / Tactics. Farewell and thanks to those players who have already announced their retirement or movement.  I think there is scope for some changes, particularly in the Back 6.  There are some inevitable changes into the Forwards as players become available.  And consider playing Witts and Grundy in the same team.


  • Catch-up Footy. Even in the second half of the season we allowed oppositions to run away early leaving us massive catch-up targets.  See next point.


  • We must be a pressure side.  This must reflect the team’s motivation.  I am reminded of the old adage: “There are no bad troops; just bad leaders”.


  • Greater innovation is essential to get, and stay, ahead of the competition.  These can apply to selections, specific roles and general play.  I suggest the ‘run with/tagging’ roles, the extra man into the Backline and ‘lateral shift’ of the ball are all examples well adopted now.  I would suggest the ‘power HF Line’ is worth considering.


2017 looks pretty good for the Pies, but then so did 2016.


  • We can expect Scharenberg to take his place in the team (at last) and Elliott and Fas to crumb the key Forwards; Langdon, Williams and Ramsay to support Reid and Howe in the Back 6; even add Frosty in the ‘extra-man up’ role. And the bunch of (relative) newbies promise much – Marsh, Crocker, Phillips, Smith, Wills, Maynard and Darcy, of course.


Merry Christmas to all and I’ll see you next year.


Go Pies.



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