Round 6 – Collingwood v Geelong: Pies pumped after getting jumped, Cloke’s kicking has us stumped

 Collingwood v Geelong – MCG, Friday 8th May 2015

Since this is my first report for the Floreat Pica society, I trust you will all bear with me as I chart the waters of reporting on a game that is not natural to my culture. By way of introduction, I was introduced to the society by my friend, Dave Nadel, with whom I have been going to Collingwood games for 20 years. I am a Pommie, who came to Australia in 1977, via New Zealand, due to marrying a Kiwi who met in London and we have survived together for 46 years!). I was told three golden rules about living in Melbourne before I arrived, 1) You will have to follow Aussie Rules, since it is a bigger religion than Rugby Union in NZ; 2) You have to pick a team as it is impossible to be neutral; 3) Don’t pick Collingwood since the others all hate them. That I got two out of three right is largely due to my son who, at the tender age of 8, realised he would have to pick a team and chose the Pies since the principle of his primary school, an FCL nun – Sister Kevin,  was a committed supporter and my boy felt it political to go the same way. Anyway I have enjoyed the ride since 1978 and celebrated two premierships along the way, which is more than I can say for my English soccer team, Port Vale, who have never got past the second tier, or Stoke City (both from two of the five town in the Potteries), who have only a League cup win to celebrate in over 150 years of existence.

It is undoubtable that being a Collingwood supporter provides elation and frustration in equal measure, but it is never dull. I expect much of the same when we face an old enemy tonight.

Geelong has been a thorn in our side for many years. In recent times the clashes have been hard to predict and even harder to stomach for us ‘pie’ fans. However, who can forget the wonderful nights at the ‘G’ in recent years when we enjoyed towelling the Cats; Anthony Rocca taking Matthew Scarlett into the Westpac Centre for most of the game in 2008, while the rest of the team tackled them out of sight to record an 86 point win. The whole 22 drilling the Kardinia pussies in to the turf as we marched into the 2010 grand final as well as great wins in 2006, 2010 (nearing our premiership best), 2012 & 2013. But on the downside, the umpires robbed us of a win in 2011, as well as the game that possibly cost the 2011 flag, when we were entrenched on top of the ladder, only to lose in the last home and away by 96. It really has been a roller-coaster ride, and so to now.

We have lost two of the revelations of season 2015, Seedsman and Ramsey, to injury, with Gault being sent back to the two’s to find form. Their replacements, Witts, Broomhead and Armstrong, seem to be right for the times. Witts will take some pressure off Grundy as well as providing a third tall in attack. Armstrong acquitted himself well at the end of last year and Broomhead is really going to be a player for the future, as well as now. If we bring the same intensity to the contest as in the past three weeks then anything is possible.

Well who’d a thought it seven days ago we out tackled, out ran and trashed a supposedly hyped up Carlton? I am writing this without the aid of any media analysis and also not having looked to see what that coach has said immediately after the game. I have waited until the sun came up to try to analyse and report on a dismal night for the most part.

The least said about the first half, especially the first quarter, the better, but I will say something. The stats say most of it. Fewer contested possessions, fewer tackles, less inside 50’s, effective disposals down in the 60’s rather up in the 80’s and little or no pressure on the ball carrier or in the middle of the park. The defence was left to face a wave of pressure and could not cope. Dave, Jim and I mused that giving the DR votes would be much easier than the Horsbroughs. In the second quarter Collingwood tightened up and some of the KPI’s began to become more even, though still behind Geelong’s. By half time we had only two goals on the board, those being scored by Swan and Pendlebury, although neither had the sort of influence on the game we have come to expect. It was posited at half time about when the Pies last scored only two goals in a quarter of football and neither Dave nor myself could recall. Selective memory kicked in and we could not remember, but I later checked that it was only four weeks ago at Docklands against the Crows. During the tsunami of the first quarter Oxley, Grundy, Langdon, Crisp and Toovey stood out as having come to play, while most of the others looked like rabbits in the headlights. Grundy was getting his hand to the ball, as was Witts when he went into the ruck, but it was all Cats at the fall and in getting first effective use. Delivery into the forward line, as well as around the ground was under pressure and largely ineffective.

At half time it looked as though we were in for a good old-fashioned towelling, which could have become the Mother’s Day Massacre like when Geelong thrashed us in the 90’s. I cannot recall the year but I think it was 1995 or 6. There was some hope from the second quarter, in that we were only beaten 4 goals to 1, rather than 7-1.

The second half saw something of a renaissance, as Collingwood clawed and scrapped its way back into the game. All the KPI’s in the first half that were in deficit began to even up and some of  the players, expected to perform every week, began to put their stamp on the game.  Particularly Pendlebury, Swan, Williams, Adams and Brown, although Swan still made some fundamental errors in distribution, as did others. I suspect that this was more due to trying to move the ball quickly than deliberate or lacking in skill. The third quarter and the first fifteen minutes or so of the last was the best spell for Collingwood all night and they moved from 52 points down to 23 with a head of steam. However, crucial missed shots, particularly from Cloke, Pendlebury and White in the final quarter,  proved to be vital when Geelong put on a burst to score three times in a matter of minutes to put the game well out of reach; and dead buried and cremated to quote Tony Abbott, although what would he know about AFL. On the flipside, Geelong missed some easy shots too in the second half, but then to be a great side, as well as a good one, you have to take your chances when they come, and win ugly when not playing well.

In retrospect I might quote Paul Keating and say “this was the loss we had to have”. We have won four games and will probably still be in the eight by end of the weekend, but who have we really beaten? Geelong, on the other hand, played Hawthorn & Freemantle, although being soundly beaten by both, but it would have hardened them. It would also appear that their youngsters are a bit more advanced than ours, as well as being bigger bodied.

Now let’s look at the “glass half full” side of the night. Young and up and coming players like Langdon, Oxley, Grundy, Crisp and Adams stuck to their task most of the night. Pendlebury came good in the second half, though not up to his usual stellar standard and was shaded in the super-star stakes by Selwood. Swan was OK, but needs to still improve, while other young midfielders are beginning to realise their obvious potential. Toovey is a shining light in defence and Brown is getting back to 2010 form. Others to flit in and out were Williams, Frost and Goldsack. What we do about Cloke’s kicking I do not know. Looking back to the 2008 game he kicked well all night and not just from long distances. White is much the same although not clunking his marks as he should.

Not a great game for a debut report, but we still have a reasonable run before hitting Hawthorn, Freemantle and Port.

Horsbrough votes:

Langdon – 1 Toovey – 2 Pendlebury – 3

With apologies to Brown, Crisp and Grundy


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