NAB Challenge: Point-fest at Visy Park

by David Enticott

I like pre-season games. They tend to be played at traditional, old VFL venues that give spectators a much closer view of the action. This match against Richmond at Visy Park also offers the chance to see a few young players for each team and to look at the tactics that will be adopted by the Pies and Tigers throughout the AFL season. I watch the game with two Collingwood mates- John a fellow Baptist Minister and Tim a mathematician and computer technician.

The one negative of this match is that the players sitting in the stands are a smorgasbord of our best footballers- Cousins, Deledio, Newman, Tambling and Cochin for the Tigers and Davis, Didak, O’Brien, Pendlebury, Thomas, Beams, Swan and Shaw for the Pies. For the coaching staff of both clubs the pre-season is a laboratory that gives them an opportunity to experiment with some new selections, tactics and positional moves.

The Tigers start the game well and Morton kicks an early goal from a good mark. The Pies respond with a flurry of points; many shots are taken from tight angles. Our new recruit Darren Jolly dominates the middle. Both clubs present heavy zones to one another and the only way forward is by a long, intricate chain of handballs. Troy Taylor excels for Richmond; he is clean of hand and sure of foot. Steele Sidebottom and John McCarthy both show patches of form for the Pies. McCarthy in particular may have a very good year ahead of him. At quarter time Collingwood lead by ten points.

In the second quarter the Pies continue to press forward. A new draftee called Ben Sinclair is impressive and shows a willingness to stand his ground in a number of marking contests.

Matches like this often become a bit of a scramble due to the combination of heavy zones and inexperienced players. Only the best footballers can find their way through the crowded numbers of opposition players standing in front of them. By half-time the Pies lead by thirty nine points.

In the break we chat about anything and everything. We talk about our tough draw for 2010 and whether we will be able to mix it with the elite teams such as Geelong, St Kilda, the Bulldogs and Hawthorn. There is no consensus. After all it is only early March. The greatest hope for Collingwood in 2010 rests with improvement from our young players- Dale Thomas, Dane Beams, Steele Sidebottom, John McCarthy and Harry O’Brien.

In the third quarter Richmond kick a couple of early goals. Mitch Morton is a leading light up forward. The Richmond backline seems indecisive; they can’t find a way through the Collingwood zone. Often they try and trip the light fantastic through half-back and end up getting caught with the ball. Modern football requires the dexterity and dance moves of John Travolta circa 1977. The Pies lead by twenty-four points at three quarter time.

The final quarter of this game will only be remembered for two things- first of all both sides manage to kick sixteen points straight without a single goal between them and secondly a fight breaks out on Collingwood’s half forward flank. Other than that the football is mostly lamentable. The point-fest is broken by a long goal from promising Richmond rookie Relton Roberts.

In the end Collingwood win by 28 points with a score of 11.24. While the return of sharp shooters Didak and Davis will help with our accuracy there is still much room for improvement. Both Paul Medhurst (ankle) and John Anthony (shoulder) seem to suffer slight injuries. Richmond do well to fight out the game but the Age’s headline yesterday heralding a bright future at Punt Road- with three final series in five years and a huge membership- seems light years away from this day at Visy Park.

Collingwood: 3.4 9.10 11.11 11.24 (90)?

Richmond: 2.0 4.1 8.5 9.8 (62)


Collingwood: Anthony 2, McCarthy 2, Corrie 2, Jolly, Sinclair, Barham, Lockyer, Ball ?

Richmond: Morton 4, King 2, Polo, Roberts, Vickery

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