Round 11 – Adelaide v Collingwood: Baby steps


There’s never a calm week as a Collingwood supporter.


The months of March to October are primarily consumed by worry, doubt, frustration and dribbles of excitement. Mondays are for pained dissection. Fridays are for nerves and visualisations. Depending on how the weekend goes, we can only hope the next Monday starts off better than the last.


The black and white aren’t just notoriously flaky when it comes to Grand Finals – during the season, they are one of the primary candidates for an upset loss to a bottom side. The 2020 model of the Magpies had already fallen once before to the Dockers. But last week’s unconvincing win over Sydney meant Tuesday night’s clash with the winless Crows was no certainty.


Being the league’s most despised club means every side puts in a little extra to beat Collingwood. Adelaide may have had a horrible season, but their first term proved they had the desire and ability to challenge a rusty finals contender. Tyson Stengle paid homage to Eddie Betts, taking his number and re-enacting his trademark chase down tackles and timely crumbing goals. Collingwood had once been the league’s best first-quarter side; a collective clued in from the opening siren. For the second consecutive match, they faced going into the first huddle goalless. Their once vaunted defence had fallen – Nathan Buckley was left to print a new set of whiteboard magnets to fill the defensive six.


It took an Adelaide mistake for the Pies to work their way into the contest. It was always coming; the Crows have a reason for being where they are, and it’s because of their skill execution in dangerous positions. One such kick across goal landed straight into the arms of Josh Daicos who was coming off a match-winning performance against the Swans. His lovely set shot set the tone for an improved night when it came to converting in front of the big sticks. Unfortunately, his teammates didn’t get many more chances in the first half.


The Crows’ confidence grew with each passing minute they held the lead. Not used to winning a match, they looked eager to be out-working the black and white midfielders, and rapt to nullify any slow and high forward entries that begged an intercept mark. Without Darcy Moore down back, Collingwood’s defence looked to be above a tectonic plate. The shaky ground threw Roughead and Mayne off kilter. Only Brayden Maynard found his feet, putting in a hard-nosed effort at the footy that was often complimented by a trusty left boot.


Despite the pretty appearance of Collingwood’s scoreboard, the second term was punctuated by poor kicking. For a team who had enjoyed constant success in the past two years, their over-handballing (yet again) and poor field kicking demolished potential running plays and humbled teammates into avoiding risks for fear of piling on the errors. Their only release came through a lucky fifty metre penalty to the perennially unlucky Lynden Dunn. An under-valued member of the Collingwood list, the poorly-mulleted veteran stepped up to the plate and slammed through a goal he richly deserved. For all of the hours spent in rehab or alone at home fearing he would never return, Dunn had earnt his moment in the Adelaide night, yelling in delight. If Tom Langdon joins Dunn in the side soon, Collingwood’s defence may receive an unexpected shot of adrenaline they had forgotten existed. For the meantime, Pies fans have to wallow in the poorly timed leaps of Roughead and the inexperienced grappling from Madgen. At least John Noble is coming along brilliantly – 20 touches at over 90 per cent efficiency, with a hint of pace and flair, is exactly what a timid half-back line yearns for.


Trailing by upwards of two goals at the main break, the Pies were headed for a crash-and-burn type of night. Buckley had looked stressed from the outset, fearing a season-crippling defeat. Mark Robinson stepped in as interim coach from the Fox Footy panel, spraying the players as they appeared on a live feed. If only he knew that the way to getting back into the game was through coaching changes.


Bucks ‘cut the crap’ and flung Jaidyn Stephenson forward. He had clearly struggled in roles up the ground and received an early Christmas gift from Brodie Smith’s cannon leg to kick start the second half. With Stephenson sent to the goal square and the other stragglers pulled out to half-forward, the black and white forward 50 opened up. Previously uncertain midfielders could try to cut through the middle with the secure knowledge that Stephenson would be leading ahead of the footy. If he failed, Cameron and Mihocek had less attention to slide into one-on-one areas. It all worked.


Darcy Cameron found himself one-out on young Fischer McAsey and promptly booted two second half goals which included a great mark and goal after the three-quarter time siren. He can’t be dropped; a 25-year-old tall option who has only played a handful of games deserves a consistent run at it, especially when he hints at potential. Josh Thomas began to find the footy more – he may be an antagonist for Collingwood fans to blame due to his poor work rate, but he is a vital cog for this forward line. It was only two years ago he kicked over 30 goals in a season and filled the crumbing forward role. With bit-part players in Hoskin-Elliott and Elliott out, Bucks is relying on him to find form and goals.


Stephenson intercepted an errant handball for a second. In the space of 15 minutes, Collingwood had found a hint of their mojo.


The Crows did everything they could. Shane McAdam towered over Crisp for an exhilarating mark and goal. In a difficult and long season, Adelaide fans can take solace out of the potential shown by McAdam, McHenry and Himmelberg. This season isn’t for nothing.


Collingwood did what they had to do. It wasn’t pretty, but a much improved second half had a similar ring to the game plan that had sent them to a Grand Final and then a Prelim in the past two years. The forward line had finally slotted into its groove of open space and one-on-one contests. Trey Ruscoe looks good on a half-forward role. Let’s see what he can do after three goals in his first two matches.


Sier is a key cog in the middle. Grundy is still not right and is getting through on statistics. If the league wasn’t so focused on hit-out numbers, they would notice the ruckman is having a shocker of a season. Taylor Adams did his thing in the middle, accounting for a quiet Sidebottom.


But the best was Crisp. For the first time in weeks there were many strong performers, but the dash and assurance he gave was superb. To sum up the best of Jack Crisp, one only has to look at a five-minute period in the final term where he got the ball three times outside forward 50 and found black and white targets with all of his stabbing passes. He’s perfectly suited to that spot 70 metres out from goal, wheeling onto his left and quickly targeting an open option. It gave worried fans some familiarity.


And that’s what it all boiled down to. On a night filled with uncertainty, the second half soothed us all. We didn’t go to bed entirely pleased, but anxiety levels in black and white households dropped. Saturday night’s clash with the Demons will tell everyone lots about where both teams stand but, for now, Collingwood are doing enough, and that’s all that matters.


ADELAIDE              2.1     3.4     3.8     5.8     (38)
COLLINGWOOD     1.0     2.1     7.1     10.2     (62)

 Stengle 2, Himmelberg 2, McAdam
Collingwood: Ruscoe 2, Stephenson 2, Cameron 2, Daicos, Dunn, Thomas, Mihocek

 Smith, Laird, Himmelberg, Stengle
Collingwood: Crisp, Adams, Noble, Sier, Cameron, Maynard


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  1. Nicole Kelly says

    Sean, you summed it up perfectly! Not just the night that was but the feeling of being a Collingwood supporter. The stress they cause!! Thank you!

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