Round 1 – Brisbane v Collingwood: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the Pies’ round one game against Brisbane.”

(quote by Charles Dickens and Steve Fahey)

Good old young Collingwood forever, they know how to play the game nearly three quarters

This was a roller-coaster ride of a game in which the views from the peaks and screaming joy of the downhill runs were quickly replaced by dread and the time clock moving like a roller-coaster cart edging its way up the steepest of inclines.  And at the end we all noted what great fun we had and asked whether we could do it again soon, and the aches in our bellies that had been there only minutes ago had miraculously disappeared.

After two poor matches to end our NAB Challenge campaign and a horrendous week off-field, I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect from the Pies.  The Lions had glittering recruits to display and had finished last season well, but had still won only seven games.  I tipped the Pies, as much in hope and faith as in expectation.

As in all three NAB Challenge games, we were slow out of the blocks and the Lions’ inaccuracy spared us from a bigger early deficit.  When the Lions’ McStay kicked the first goal of the game, a bloke in the front row of the top deck of the stand showed some round one rustiness when he dropped a simple chest mark, the ball bouncing to the next deck down.  We settled quickly, with Sidey and Grundy prominent. It was soon apparent that we had brought our manic tackling and pressure game, especially in our forward half and the Brisbane defenders couldn’t handle it, repeatedly fumbling and turning the ball over.  With our midfield dominant, our forwards had plenty of chances and we were completely controlling the game.  In the back half the ever-cool Langdon showed considerable poise, and Brown was solid in his new role as the defensive general.

The early parts of the second quarter were more of the same and we were all over them. The Lions didn’t win a lot of footy, and when they did were stagnant, with our mids on top and Adams doing a good job minimising Beamer’s impact.  Our much-questioned forward line was both functioning and teaming well, with Travis returning to his role of a few years ago as the hit-up forward, using his massive tank to push up the ground, White dangerous playing deeper and good support from Blair, Elliott and to a lesser extent Fasolo.  We looked dead on our feet in the last ten minutes of the quarter (which perhaps should have set off alarm bells) but when Travis’ late goal, courtesy of a very helpful 50 metre penalty, cancelled out Zorko’s goal a minute earlier, we went to the main break with a very handy 25 point buffer.

When the second half began as a continuation of most of the first half, we quickly skipped out to what appeared to be a match-winning lead.  Swanny teamed with Sidey for a great goal out of not much and then new boy Crisp snapped accurately on his non-preferred right foot.  By my calculations we were on top of the live ladder.  Halfway through the quarter the marks inside 50 were 16-5 our way, numbers which you would like to have every week.  After Rockliff was subbed out after a sickening blow when he backed into a leaping Varcoe, and Oxley cramped and was subbed out and replaced by our debutant De Goey, we gave up three late goals to give Brisbane a sniff, albeit they still trailed by six goals.

The last quarter was draining and appeared to go forever.  It’s hard to tell what the match-ups are on TV, but it appeared that no-one wanted to go near Rich, who changed the game with his ability to win the ball and use his raking left foot to advantage.  It was a great comeback game for him after doing his ACL in Round 3 of 2014, and appropriately for a bloke making a comeback on Easter weekend, he looked very much like a biblical figure with his long blond hair and beard.

A combination of the humidity, round one, the demands of our high-pressure game and Brisbane’s newly-found belief meant that we looked like a boxer on the ropes, dead on our feet and devoid of much movement other than deeply ingrained survival instincts.  We needed a goal, but didn’t look like getting one other than when Cloke was mauled in the goal square, but was not rewarded.  With eight minutes to go the margin was done to less than two goals after a clumsy effort from Ramsay was followed up with a disgraceful free kick against the same defender.     You could cut the air with a knife in the Fahey family lounge room as we kept one eye on the time clock.  To our credit we restructured (the Pies, not those of us in the lounge!), pushing numbers behind the ball and steadied our very wobbly legs, somehow surviving until the final bell.  There were several who were especially noteworthy in the last quarter –Toovs, who played his best game since his knee reconstruction in 2013 and won some very hard ball, Langdon who read the play beautifully in the dying minutes and Swanny who had a mixed night, winning a lot of the ball but spraying it all over the place. He had ten possessions in the last quarter, nine of which were contested and he won the ball regularly after a period when we had no control of the game because we couldn’t get our hands on the ball. (I do have a sneaking suspicion that he was notionally Rich’s opponent, but who can tell on the telly?!)

Relief was the predominant emotion when the siren went.  Do we focus more on the fact that we travelled interstate, built a massive lead and won a game that most expected us to lose or on the fact that we very nearly lost a game that looked, and should have been, done and dusted ? Make your own choice, but it has been 224 days since we last savoured the sweet taste of victory in an AFL game and that’s what I am choosing.

Sidey’s broken thumb is a considerable blow –he was BOG for the first two and a half quarters and is a high quality player in a midfield that now has few of them.  Grundy was fantastic in the ruck against their two big units, but can’t be expected to shoulder that load by himself every week or he will peter out quickly.  Horses for courses, but he will need regular support from Witts.  The forward line set-up and performance was very promising, and yet again, when we had six on six and got the ball in quickly we looked likely to score and the opposition found it very hard to get the ball out. Bucks, please use six forwards as our preferred template this season!! The defence looked shaky at times, which it will continue to do, at least until Reid returns (is it a when or an if?).  It is very inexperienced and while it has plenty of courage and combativeness, has too many who either don’t get much ball and/or don’t use it well when they do get it.  Seedsman will return soon after a good game in the twos yesterday and Darcy Moore will also slot in there eventually.

Of the newbies, Varcoe gave us something with his run, Crisp didn’t do much, but what he did was good and he has size, speed and athleticism and De Goey tried hard and should get a full game next week. Of the newish players, Oxley offers something with his speed and kicking skills and I’m not sure about Ramsay, who is in the combative but average skills category.

I won’t offer too much analysis or prediction about what round one might tell us about the season, as round one results are usually massively over-interpreted and we’ll get a clearer picture over coming weeks.  We were 18th after round one last season, so enjoy the week.  Have I mentioned that we are unbeaten at this point?

The Troy Lehmann medal goes to Sidey.  Votes for the time-honoured Horsburgh medal are:

3 –Sidey, instrumental in setting up the big lead, won contested footy and used the ball brilliantly (at 100% efficiency)

2- Adams, worked hard all night in minimising the influence of a gun player in Beamer and won plenty of hard ball himself

1- Blair, one of his best games for the club, 21 possessions, two goals, seven tackles and four clearances playing predominantly as a defensive forward was a very good return

Honourable mentions to the skipper, big Brodie, Toovs, Langdon and the two big boys up forward.


BRISBANE                                         2.3   3.5    7.6      11.8   (74)

COLLINGWOOD                             3.3   7.6   12.11    12.14  (86)



Brisbane: Christensen 2 Rich 2 Green 2 McStay Zorko Adcock Taylor Leuenberger.

Collingwood:  Blair 2 White 2 Sidebottom 2 Cloke 2 Fasolo Crisp Elliott Varcoe


Brisbane: Rich, Zorko, Paparone, Taylor, Merrett, D Beams

Collingwood:  Sidebottom, Adams, Blair, Grundy, Pendlebury, Langdon


Umpires: Scott Jeffery, Jordan Bannister, Andrew Stephens


Crowd: 31,240


Our Votes for the Malarkey Medal: 3 Sidebottom (C) 2 Rich (B) 1 Adams (C)

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