Round 12 – Collingwood v Melbourne: One on one, Gawn v Grundy



Gawn and Grundy did a lot of grappling. When you’re the two best ruckmen in the league, and you finally meet, pride is huge. First, you don’t want to lose. Then, you try and win.


I’ve been waiting for this clash all year. Just studying ruckmen. They aren’t everything, but they are a lot of things. It all starts from them. Paddy Ryder is elite, a joy to watch. But when it hits the ground, he lumbers like so many before. He probably shaded Grundy in taps a few weeks ago, but Brodie would hit the ground as an extra midfielder, battering, running, getting touches.


Then, two weeks ago, Brodie racked up a lazy 60-something taps against the Swans – so many to targets. You can’t buy that. Can’t. You have a vague idea, but who’s to know how a ruckman will develop?
Just ask Sydney, letting go Nankervis.


And all year, Gawn has been Gawn; dominating. Giving Melbourne first use constantly.
The clash was set for two very different styles.


Grundy is all torso, like Daicos, or Maradona, or water polo players. He uses that long torso to work around players, to slip and grind. He cheats, just enough, with little tugs, and pulls. He is a rule-rider, like SOS was in defence before him. Gawn, he’s strength of character. He puts his body on the line every ruck contest. They come at him in the air with big leaps, knees hitting, elbows out. And bounce off, as he keeps solid, his eyes on the ball, as it touches fingers.


I shudder to think how much pain he goes through during the week.
Both drop it close, to plan or voice, but Gawn gets better, almost impossible angles. Harms or Viney or Jones will be running behind and to the right. Every bit of big Max will be facing the other way, the lean, the ball, the momentum. His opponent with his fingers already on the ball! But, somehow, Gawn hooks it back, or down, or wide to rovers, free from opposition expectation.
I bet he’s world class at origami. Speed king at Rubik’s cube!
Grundy is all about position, after which, he is more predictable. But is just so bloody good at it.


And, vitally, both of them are fierce competitors. If caught out of position, and they know they will lose the tap, they will still find a way to still effect the contest.


They both kick goals. Grundy maybe a few more. They both charge when they land, often roving their own taps. Maybe Gawn more. Big Max pushes back, and takes a few more saving defensive pack marks. As a defender, I love this! Brodie carves it up through the middle.


Over half of each teams’ clearances start with a strong ruckman with a deft tap. And, from there, the game unfolds. Team structures, game plans, individuals. They all become easier to read if you focus on the one task, and watch its cause and effect.


I was drooling!
Game time. I sold my soul to the wife to be baby free for a few hours, turned the volume down, and cried; “Shoot the stats man!”. Those spiritually void liars.


As I saw it, Gawn is the better ruckman. But it was a mighty contest. When he lost, all Melbourne’s on-ballers were forward, and Collingwood got it clear and deep. Grundy made them pay.


With Melbourne winning as many as they lost out of the middle, they then had no real forward line, no solid structure. It was always crowded. They only ever really looked like kicking a goal after a goal, from clean centre breaks.


Thanks Max.
They were so hard to watch, in an exciting way! What makes them work, made them fail. Stupidly brave, quick hands, run, chip. They always went one too many, very rarely went long and deep, or had shots from the border. They stabbed when they should have bombed in hope.


Thanks mostly to Max, and BOG by a mile in Harms. They attacked at least as much as Collingwood did, probably more, yet their score was almost doubled.


Of course it’s not easy bombing it long when a defensive god like Howe, the incredibly watchable Moore, and Grundy are down there, marking everything. But it was a zoo. And their forwards missed some sitters.


Then, on the break, oh so sweet Collingwood were as open as deserts. The best defenders in the world aren’t going to stop the sheer class of De Goey and, to a lesser extent, Stephenson, when it’s one-on-one, no other player within 50 meters, and the ball is kicked in their favour. Who needs to hit-up lead? Just pick a direction, let it hit the ground on your side of the contest, and it’s all over.


Max can’t be everywhere.
It was slick, it was Heaven. Planned football manifesting on an oval. You could almost see the blueprint paper.


Melbourne were that kid, charging, all over the shop. Collingwood were, simply, a better team, with more top rung on-ballers. A tighter plan, better executed. More everything.


The game did give me much more respect for Melbourne’s backline. I bit outsized at times, they were desperate. They really ran it out of there! But they have no key backman, like a Brian Lake, or Howe, or Moore, who put a damn stamp on it! Force of personality. A defender that, the others – eyes on the ball – won’t leap and spoil. Melbourne’s back six charge back into packs, courageous, team orientated. Yet too often, they clash three up, mid-air.


The game also gave me a new appreciation for Christian Petracca. Damn, he has go! That force of personality I was talking about. He gave everything in a strong way. Seized the ball, charged the contest.


It takes some bloody good individuals to make team success. It takes some bloody good teams to give individuals the same.
The Melbourne supporters had Max Gawn. He shaded Grundy in the ruck, and thumped him around the ground. They had Petracca and Harms. And Collingwood fans had the better everything.


It was a pleasure to watch the game within a game. The All-Australian Grand Final in mid-June.


All that was missing was a closer contest. Then the value of the rucks, their worth, head-to-head, when it mattered, one kick in it, ball-up after ball-up, next goal wins, would have been epic!


Waiting for Gawn and Grundy to play against each other took me back to when I was a kid. I was about 13, going to the footy on my own, to some weird planet called Arnold Street, excited at the thought of watching Jimmy Jess take on Ross Glendenning. Of seeing Carey get all proud and try and out muscle Jackovich.


Of watching Flower versus Greig, or Hawkins, or Wood. The battles on the wing used to be epic. Football evolves, thank Christ! Who wants to live in stagnant water? Even the backmen rotate these days. But the ruck is still one-on-one.
A piece of history. Dinosaurs – proud and angry.


Cox blew in late against Gawn and was made to look like an amateur. Grundy stepped back in, and the real battle continued. Next time they clash, I will have been waiting a long time for it.


COLLINGWOOD     3.5     6.8     11.8     15.8     (98)
MELBOURNE          1.2     3.5      5.9      7.15     (57)


Collingwood: De Goey 3, Stephenson 3, Hoskin-Elliott 3, Grundy, Mihocek, Sidebottom, Treloar, Cox, Thomas
Melbourne: Weideman 2, Garlett, Petracca, Spargo, Hunt, Hannan


Collingwood: Sidebottom, Treloar, Stephenson, Hoskin-Elliott, De Goey, Sier
Melbourne: Gawn, Harmes, Oliver, Brayshaw, May, Petracca


Collingwood: Nil
Melbourne: Smith (flu) replaced in selection side by J.Wagner, Frost (concussion)


Reports: Nil


Umpires: Stevic, Deboy, Whetton, Ryan


Official crowd: 74,036 at the MCG



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  1. Dave Brown says

    Love watching the big men battle, Matt. Reckon you have summed up both players well. Compare this contest to the Crows/GWS game where O’Brien got spanked in the taps but was many times more influential on the ground and around it than Mumford. Not sure Jacobs is first choice anymore.

    Melbourne are a very likeable team, honest. They play very much like their leaders – always at the contest, hitting the footy hard. However, they lack balance and cohesion (and a forward line). Too often their numbers at the ball becomes a disadvantage as their better organised opponents knock the ball to space and advantage. Sometimes our values are too narrow.

  2. Contrary to your view Dave, i thought O’Brien did quite well in the tapping department against big Mummy. He even cleared the pill out of the centre himself on more than one occasion. In fact, I firmly believe O’Brien was the Crows’ best, if not the best player on the ground. I was really impressed with his form.

    About the Collingwood v Melbourne match, the “Pies were always in control against a most disappointing Demons. It must have been most worrying for Coach Goodwin to see how easily the Magpies raced the ball out of Melbourne’s attacking area, turning defense into attack And then, of course was the Dee’s dreadful goal kicking.

    At this stage of the season it would appear Geelong, Collingwood and perhaps West Coast (although they need to improve on Saturday’s showing) are favoutites for the Flag.

  3. Mark Duffett says

    Deep analysis is rarely so readable. Thanks, Old Dog.

  4. george smith says

    It should be noted that this was a regulation win. No stuffing it up in the second or third quarter as happened against Swans Freo and co. Solid four quarter effort. At 3/4 time the margin was beyond 5 goals which is virtually game over (1977 grand final excepted).

  5. Rulebook says

    Old dog unfortunately didn’t see the battle as I was at the Redlegs game love both of them especially,Grundy work rate around the ground for mine he’s just in front of Gawn re all aust at this stage.Max huge mental block when having a set shot also

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