Round 10 – Collingwood v Sydney: A magical moment breaks through the buffering

There was a snap. Then a crackle. And then the pixelated sunset of Brisbane appeared on the TV screen. It had taken dad nigh on 15 minutes to get the Kayo stream up, and the Wi-Fi didn’t appear to be thanking him for the technological effort.


The connection slightly settled, providing us roughly 10 seconds of smooth and clear coverage before spluttering its way between frozen screens and a hyper-fast-forwarded replay to return to liveness. Up until the last minutes of the first half, this was how I watched the Pies grind against the Swans. To be fair, the shoddy screen-casting matched the putrid and inefficient effort put up by the black and white army.


The first quarter was an exhibition into two differing tactics. Nathan Buckley was trying to give his forward line a shot of adrenaline, a dash of openness to allow Stephenson, Thomas and Hoskin-Elliott to find some form. Some vindication for selecting the veteran Reid would’ve been nice too. But ‘Horse’ Longmire has been in the caper for long enough to predict what Buckley wanted. Without any experienced firepower, the Sydney coach instead plugged the Magpie attacking area with as many young colts as he could muster.


It’s a tactic that would cause Kevin Bartlett to rip out the last strands of hair left on his glistening noggin, but it worked for the Swans. Collingwood were slowed to a halt; long balls up the line did nothing, especially when Cameron and Cox were left out. Only Mihocek prospered – his work rate and consistent effort is an undervalued gem. But when the Magpies did get shots at goal, they were rushed and errant. When Sydney finally broke through the full ground zone, they gained a solitary easy goal out the back. It was enough to keep scores level at the first break.


Longmire knew the dour defensive tactics couldn’t continue in the second, so he slightly altered plans. Trusting he had done enough to shatter the confidence of Collingwood’s forwards, he only left two behind the ball and instead thrust the others forward. Would you believe it if I told you this caused some goals to be kicked?


First-gamer Trey Ruscoe gained a fortuitous holding free kick in the early forays. He may be best known for his mother and her deprecating response to hearing of her son’s debut, but he was astute enough to take the chance presented before him. The long-range shot sailed through; by the term’s end, Ruscoe was playing one-out in the goal square. It was a positive for the youngster, but a harrowing picture for the wider fortunes of the Collingwood forward line if their best performer was a debutant.


Not to be outdone, Sydney counter-attacked after the next centre bounce. Just an ounce of aggression did them wonders; debutant Sam Wicks found himself on the end of a smooth chain and he didn’t hesitate to slam one through. His goal kick-started the Swans; they went on to kick three more goals straight, the last one coming courtesy of a horror collection of Magpie handballs that found no targets.


That play summed up the Pies up until that point. Since their near miracle run in 2018, Collingwood had consistently changed their game plan. Last season, Buckley took emphasis away from fast and direct attacking, instead getting his experienced players to implement a possession-based game that didn’t work. This year, the number of handballs has risen substantially; how long will it take for Bucks to learn that attacking pressure is too good in the modern game to try and constantly handball your way out of it?


When Papley curled through that fifth goal, dad finally gave up with the connection. For reasons unknown to us, the phone had decided to stop sharing the stream on the TV. While dad grumpily fiddled with his Samsung, I loaded up Kayo on my phone and watched the proceedings on a smaller scale. It may have been a blessing from above; I don’t know how dad would’ve reacted to Brown chipping a 30-metre shot of goal wayward or Phillips spraying a set shot out on the full. But when the game returned to the TV, Noble ended the run of handballs, searing a kick onto the chest of Elliott for a much-needed goal on the stroke of half-time. From Noble’s kick onwards, the revamped connection stopped buffering, and provided us smooth coverage. Not that it mattered for dad – he was already nose deep in a novel to relax his rising blood pressure.


The second half didn’t give Collingwood fans a massive release from their month-long frustration, but it did provide for some improved play. Vice-captain Adams took the game by the scruff of the neck, encouraging Sier and Elliott to kick from the middle. Mihocek continued to present, leading Rampe on a marathon along the Gabba wings. Treloar joined Hoskin-Elliott on the injury list, having done a hamstring again. It may come as a surprise to non-Collingwood fans to hear that this isn’t as big as a loss as it appears. Since his double-hamstring tear in 2018, Treloar hasn’t been the same – his in-and-under game only leads in turnovers, and his constant handballs started the insidious disease of overuse that now permeates the black and white team.


Instead of feeling sorry for the injury curse striking Collingwood hard again in 2020, I was delighted to see John Noble slot his first goal for the club. He’s a whipping boy for fans; his attacking style and inconsistent delivery makes him an easy target. But at this point in the game he was Collingwood’s best, solely because he was the only player inclined to run hard for his first few steps and then kick long. When teammates followed his lead, the Pies regained control.


Reid received a lucky free directly in front, but it was reward for a third quarter where he found himself in dangerous positions. Adams finished off a goal that took hard work. Collingwood had to grind to gain a foothold against the stubborn Swans, but they had done what was needed to regain the lead.


This didn’t mean the match would peter out into a Magpie procession. Sydney had given their all, and weren’t going to relinquish the four points without a last quarter push. They took control of the game. When ex-Cat Thurlow slung through a miracle goal from beyond the arc, the Harbour team were within a straight kick. Buckley’s men had to find an extra gear.


In the end, they did enough. It was all because of one freak moment.


Firstly, Quaynor’s massive gash on his shin gave the black and white army enough time to regather composure. It wasn’t ideal for the young defender (who will need stitches and most likely surgery to patch that nasty gash up) but it helped Collingwood find energy to finish the game with only one player on the bench.


A rugby scrum ended in a Magpie behind. Looking to break out on the other side of the ground, Melican miscued his kick-out. The only Pie near the pack of Swans was Josh Daicos. He attacked, intercepting the bouncing ball and then handballing it back into play. With Sydney players hanging off his tail, he then deftly picked up the Sherrin and curled through an amazing banana. It could well be the goal of the year. It was an emotional moment for the Pies. Scrolling through social media, one comment said, “it was like father and son merged into one being for that one period of time”.  For black and white fanatics, it’s a ‘where were you when…’ moment; a fleeting spark that lit up a frustrating and boring encounter. Fans had waited over two decades for another flash of brilliance from the famous family. Maybe this is the start of another period containing breathtaking manoeuvres, thrilling goals and match-winning efforts. Either way, at least I got to see that goal in crystal clear high definition.


COLLINGWOOD          0.6       2.10     5.11     6.14 (50)
SYDNEY           1.0       5.0       5.2       6.5 (41)


 Ruscoe, Elliott, Noble, B. Reid, Adams, Daicos
Sydney: Thurlow 2, Wicks, Bell, Stephens, Papley


 Daicos, Noble, Maynard, Adams, Mihocek, Sier
Sydney: Rowbottom, Lloyd, Dawson, Thurlow, Hayward, Stephens



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