Finals Week 1 – Geelong v Collingwood: An unlikely chance to create something memorable

I was splitting hairs over this one.


The whole fortnight since the top eight had settled and week one finals match-ups had been ascertained, I was confident yet desperately worried about how Collingwood would fare after stumbling into the top four. And that’s what it was – a sheer trip, head-first into fourth position thanks to West Coast’s shock loss against Hawthorn. Our vanquishers last year, the Eagles had now transformed our season from nearly over to vastly endless in opportunity. But we first had to overcome the Cats if we wanted a serious shot at going deep into September.


A rainy Friday greeted Melbourne, and it left me in an even deeper state of uncertainty. Were Collingwood good enough to get the job done in the wet?


Luckily, the clouds dissipated once the sun set, and over 93,000 people cascaded into the ‘G to watch a tense match-up. I was situated in front of a couch, beer in hand with a group of fellow Collingwood and Geelong supporters, much like many other Australians would’ve been. Geelong opted to drop Stanley instead of Taylor, an interesting move considering it dragged Blicavs out of defence, where he had nearly made a name for himself as an All-Australian.


Collingwood came out of the blocks flying, knowing they had to move the ball differently against Geelong, who had traditionally defended their helter-skelter forward thrusts well. They were more measured, more willing to take time and find the right option. Sidebottom and Pendlebury were instrumental in this, providing maturity and level-headedness.


Their new-look offence worked, holding the ball inside forward fifty for the first five minutes. Adams broke through with a well-placed snap goal, proving he was ready to fire much like he did last September. Bang. Bang. Stephenson aided from two Cats colliding, scooping up the Sherrin to assist Elliott with a major, before he benefitted from another Geelong mix-up to goal himself. Just like that, the Pies had broken away.


Geelong slowly began to settle, with Dangerfield asserting himself on the match. Ablett and Selwood were both quiet, while Kelly was simmering. Stewart kept them in the match with his defensive play, allowing Gary Rohan to pop up and look ominous with an early snag. He had a chance to double it just minutes later, but sprayed the kick horribly. This, alongside Hawkins’ shocking kicking at goal, would prove costly.


The Pies went into quarter time on the back of another Elliott goal, set-up by some smart forward play by Sidebottom and Mihocek. Collingwood had fought past Geelong’s early reply to hold a comfortable lead, and looked to extend it early in the second term when Howe collected the crumbs to blast through a booming goal. He was everywhere, being a rock in defence and soaking up forward thrusts with some amazing intercept marks. Hoskin-Elliott chimed in with a goal out of nowhere, and Collingwood had a chance to rocket into half-time with a resounding lead. But Geelong weren’t giving up that easy. Both teams knew they had a home prelim at stake, and the Cats’ stars dragged them back into it before the main break.


Miers used his weird kicking style to perfection following a clever Parfitt snap, before Danger and Kelly’s influence allowed Tuohy to curl through a wonderful goal that uncorked Collingwood’s nerves during half-time. If Geelong kept this intensity up, they had a chance of running over the top of Collingwood now that De Goey and Greenwood were both in trackies on the bench.


The third quarter was an old-fashioned arm wrestle. Geelong had begun to nullify Collingwood’s ball movement, slowing them down into long kicks to packs. But the Pies were intercepting every Geelong attack with skilful ease. It took half a quarter for Sidebottom to seize the advantage of a Pendlebury free kick, weaving through to slot a goal that was met with a mighty roar. It would prove telling in a tight quarter, where Geelong’s superiority was defended ably by the Magpies. The 300-game superstar stepped up when it mattered, coolly slotting a goal from 50 metres that we’ve seen many times before. But perhaps not in such a clutch moment.


The last quarter kept swinging Geelong’s way, as they had an extra rotation and some form. The Pies maintained their level-headed approach, using their smarts to hold up the ball and take valuable time off the clock. Whenever the game looked out of reach for Geelong, they would pin a goal back. Dangerfield and Kelly, symptomatic of their efforts, kicked great goals to cut the margin to within two goals. But in a click of a finger Hawkins fluffed a snap at goal, and the Pies could hold on safely. Moore and Howe kept on intercept marking, denying any dangerous balls into the hot spot. With Maynard owning Ablett all night, the Cats looked toothless in attack when it mattered. And the Pies played it to perfection to record a smart win.


The days after were hard to fathom. Against all odds, against everything telling me up until week one of the finals that we wouldn’t make the top four and thus receive the sweet double chance, the Pies came up trumps in a tight contest. Now, the draw has opened up wonderfully for a September that could go anywhere for Collingwood.


GEELONG                1.2     4.4      5.6     7.9 (51)
     4.2     7.5      9.7     9.7 (61)


Miers, Tuohy, Rohan, Parfitt, Menegola, Dangerfield, Kelly
Collingwood: Elliott 2, Adams 2, Stephenson, Pendlebury, Howe, Hoskin-Elliott, Sidebottom


Dangerfield, Stewart, Kelly, Parfitt, Menegola
Collingwood: Pendlebury, Howe, Sidebottom, Adams, Moore, Phillips, Grundy


Fans’ Best on Ground, in partnership with Google: Scott Pendlebury


Duncan (knee)
Collingwood: De Goey (hamstring), Greenwood (knee)


Reports: Nil


Umpires: O’Gorman, Chamberlain, Meredith


Official crowd: 93,436 at the MCG


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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