Round 1 – Western Bulldogs v Collingwood: Is this the strangest of times? (Floreat Pica Society)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

 

So wrote Charles Dickens in the opening sentence to “A Tale of Two Cities”.

 

To this we need to add “It is the strangest of times?”

 

This year’s season openers and launch has been compromised by the now pandemic of COVID-19 such that all games for the first four rounds were to be played in front of no spectators. Now even that has changed. Footy has been postponed until 31 May. This has not been seen before and has created a strange approach by all and sundry. Footy fans would have been expectant before the first game by following a long established process. The digging out of scarves, hats, tops and other accoutrements, as well as making sure they have their season ticket, MYKI card or parking booked. Sorting out where to meet before the game and when. This year is would have been sorting out who, if anyone, with which to watch the game on Channel 7. At least it was on the free to air network for Collingwood and Footscray barrackers. For those who did not watch the season opener, Richmond v Carlton, the experience would be totally new.

 

In my case Jim Kesselschmidt, with whom myself and Dave have been sitting on level 2 of the Ponsford Stand for some years now, offered his hospitality and ‘you beaut’ big screen TV. We duly accepted from opposite sides of the CBD. Jim cooked a lovely meal which we shared with his wife and daughter, neither of which were interested enough to accompany us in front of the TV, but then we would have been too close together!

 

I offered to do the first game as there appeared too little enthusiasm to do so, which I sure was in view of the strange situation surrounding the opener. I was also aware of the poor first round performance of the Pies in recent years under Nathan Buckley’s coaching. We have won only two out of eight games since Bucks took over in 2012. Wins against North by 16pts in 2013 and Brisbane by 12pts in 2015 are all we have to show. Against that we have lost to Hawthorn twice, by 22pts in 2012 and by 34 pts in 2018. We were smashed by 70pts in 2013 by Fremantle and by 80pts by Sydney in 2016. In addition we lost to Footscray in 2017 by 14 and to Geelong last year by 7. Not a good record at all to set off any season. In fact it put us behind the eight ball in most of those seasons, although we made a stirring comeback in 2018.

 

The encouraging news before the game was the debut of Tyler Brown to join his brother in playing for the team that their father Gavin so heroically played for from the late ’80s through the early 2000s. He of course also captained the club from 1995-1998. Other team news was that Jayden Stephenson was only an emergency, surely a reflection of his lighter pre-season work as well as a bout of glandular fever. Other selections were as would be expected with only Reid, Stephenson and Treloar missing from the team that narrowly lost to GWS in last September’s Preliminary Final. My expectations before the game were mixed with apprehension and hope. Apprehension because of our round one record in recent years, as well as the pundits who were tipping a tight game between two sides they expect to make the top eight and maybe even top four. Hope because without it we should not be Collingwood supporters or even supporters of any sports team.

 

First Quarter

Apprehension disappeared within the first 10 minutes of the shortened first quarter, by which time were 4 goals up from a great roving goal from Elliott, a super mark and goal from Cox, free kick goals from Grundy and WHE. Footscray managed their first after only 3 inside 50’s from a free kick. Callum Brown took a slick handpass from Tyler to wriggle through traffic and snap a nice goal to finish the quarter, with the Pies 26pts up. They should have been further in front since Grundy missed a sitter of a free kick and De Goey played on when he should have gone back after a mark and taken a set shot for goal, which he normally have slotted.

 

The general sense from the Ponsford Stand Brains Trust (PSBT) was that it was a great start to the game and the season. Collingwood were looking slick, accurate and hard at the ball. Obvious vote catchers were Grundy, Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Adams, Mayne, Noble and the threesome of father & sons Daicos and two Browns.

 

Second Quarter

Collingwood continued on in the same vein as they finished the first, with quick handball movement until they could kick to a target. A scare went through the PSBT when Cox fell awkwardly and limped off the field. He had already added to his first quarter goal with one from a free kick (which Jim almost suggested was dodgy). Brodie Mihocek then stepped up with two great mark and goals, before a flat spot of five minutes or so saw Footscray score three times to narrow a 48 point lead to 30 at halftime.

 

Again the PSBT were satisfied but not gung-ho about the game. General consensus was that we needed to begin the second half as we began the game. Vote getters in the second quarter were Grundy, Howe, Sidebottom, Adams, and Mihocek.

 

Third Quarter

The game tightened up in the third quarter with Footscray being much harder at the ball and slicker when in possession; however Collingwood matched their efforts and were better at moving the ball into the forward line scoring twice through Mihocek and de Goey to Footscray’s once. Footscray also scored their first behinds. A 35 point lead was a fair reflection of the dominance of the Pies, who apart from the flat spot in the latter part of the second quarter, were well in control.

 

PSBT were well satisfied with progress so far, though lack of crowd noise showed lack of atmosphere and passion. There was also little passion in front of Jim’s big screen TV, though much jollity. Vote getters in this quarter were Grundy, Adams, Mayne, Howe, Maynard, Daicos and WHE.

 

Fourth Quarter

The question at the start of the final quarter with the Pies dominance was ‘Could they keep it up and ice the cake, or would they shut up shop and deny Footscray a come-back chance?’ The quarter began tightly but after Daicos scored with a great snap after some slick and quick handpassing, Collingwood really put the handcuffs on the Doggies and two more goals to Adams and Daicos again after slick ball movement and intelligent passing pushed to margin out to 52 point at the final whistle.

 

PSBT had some time for a few humorous comments which were typical ‘dad’ style, such as “I see Footscray supporters left really early tonight” followed by “Collingwood supporters left to catch early trains and keep their distance from others”.

 

Overall it was a very pleasing result for the first and – as yet- only game this season. By the time the season resumes this may well be the only game played by Collingwood in front of no fans (except the Brown family).

 

The debut of Tyler Brown was notable and he looks to have a very promising career at Collingwood in front of him, as does his brother. Josh Daicos has improved his game, especially his tackling and pressure. The game style seems to have gone up a notch with much slicker and quicker disposal, and variability in the forward line.

 

Votes for prestigious Horsbrugh Medal are hard to determine as I felt with very few exceptions it was really a whole team effort, which is very pleasing. Rotation of players through the centre bounces worked well with a vast improvement around the ruck contests, and not only due to the dominance of Grundy. Footscray are a good centre bounce and stoppage team, or at least they were last year and especially in their premiership year. It is only one game, so things may change, but it is still very good to report as such.

 

I found the selection of three players for votes difficult so I have I have taken an executive decision to award votes to more than three players, approved by Dave.

 

3 – Grundy – Such a dominant game, not just in the ruck, but around the ground with his presence and involvement. His forays into the forward line have been an improvement on recent years and present difficulties for opponents, especially with Cox around. Hopefully he can improve his kicking.

 

2 – Adams – You do not notice the work he does in close and personal around the stoppages…then when you look at the stats and recall the times he shot off a quick handball to release a player into space.

 

0.25 – Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Howe, Mihocek. All these had either a consistent game over the four quarters or a dominant quarter. Pendlebury was especially dominant over the first quarter, and consistent over the remaining three. Sidebottom was good in the first quarter, serviceable in the second and third & dominant in the fourth. Howe was his usual consistent self over all four quarters in a defence that was only really challenged for 5-8 minutes in the second. Mihocek stood up when Cox was off the ground then was consistent after that.

 

My apologies to the two Browns, Daicos and Moore. Mayne was the highest disposal player on the ground and also helped get the team in the first quarter with 10 disposals, but blotted his copybook by giving away two goals with 50 metre penalties, something a player of his experience should not do.

 

Until the end of May.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. george smith says

    Ah Football, Footy, Aussie rules! It can turn you from Hank Williams to Katrina and the Waves in two and a half hours!

    It is 50 years since Collingwood’s blackest day (1970 GF), 30 years since Collingwood’s brightest day (1990 GF) and would you believe it, 15 years since Sydney Swans’ brightest day – yes that long ago!

    What to make of all this. Well the nearest thing I can think of is the 2010 grand final draw. That was a surreal week, the darkest of fears with the feeblest of hope all mixed in together. This is going to be a surreal year. Life will struggle on, I have my disinfectant bottle to squirt on lift buttons and door handles, looks like the glorious past – The Road to Victory, Part One and Part Two, will get a workout.

    Congratulations Collingwood, second on the ladder for two months, let’s hope the future is even brighter.

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