Round 13 – Collingwood v North Melbourne: Fresh torture methods, a deadly duo and Mayne’s Menagerie


There’s many great rivalries in footy. Geelong v Hawthorn. Collingwood v Carlton. Meat pie v hot chips. South Australia v Victoria. Collingwood and North Melbourne is not one.


But it’s one of many small match-ups I have had to adjust to. In a different household, my girlfriend’s family is split; three don the black and white stripes, one trades the black for blue. Names like Nathan Buckley and Gavin Brown come up as often as Wayne Carey and Shannon Grant. Coming from a household that found ANZAC Day more stressful, it’s taken a couple of years to get used to. I’ve quickly realised there’s one positive – a mundane Monday night turns into an intriguing contest, irrespective of how sloppy the actual game is.


The two teams may be perched well apart on the ladder, but it doesn’t stop the Roos from pouncing on Collingwood’s rusty mistakes. The crisp starts that the Pies are used to has abandoned them in the past month, leaving their opening quarters bruise-free and without confidence. Instead of a quick Jaidyn Stephenson brace, we are forced to sit through North Melbourne’s youngsters jump on two horror turnovers to open the scoring. The one Shinboner in the room waits until agonised groans dissipate before chiming in with a knowing giggle. Sometimes it’s good to be the odd one out.


Collingwood is a side devoid of confidence. Their recent matches have only dwindled any remaining stocks of dare and enthusiasm. To say the black and white army are flat is to say that pigs can’t fly. Their midfield is too reliant on father time Pendlebury and the soon-to-be-departing Sidebottom, and the heavy load has fallen on Taylor Adams’ bulging shoulders. Luckily, he is of a strange build; short and squat, with tree trunk legs and a Heath Shaw-like waddle that makes his first few steps elusive. Leg days at the Collingwood gymnasium must be dominated by Adams and the resting Brody Mihocek.


Up forward we are let down by slow ball movement that clogs up the space. On numerous occasions the likes of Chris Mayne and Tom Phillips don’t know better, deciding to flick a handball backwards and allow Roos time to flood back before they eventually loft a chip towards the arc. When the Sherrin does finally get there, Cox and Cameron are incapable of plucking the ball away from Tarrant and Walker. If the Collingwood pair were skyscrapers, you would be questioning their structural integrity. The only moment of joy, or more so a relent from frustration, is when young Trey Ruscoe manages to saunter past two defenders, recovering a spilled mark attempt and curling through a tight goal. For someone without the dash of pace that Stephenson possesses, or the skill of Elliott, Ruscoe has made a fine start to his career. Somehow, he just manages to kick goals often. It’s a good unexplainable trait to hold.


The second quarter doesn’t give us majority a sense of relief. North Melbourne, like they were last week, remain in the hunt. Both sides are tardy, and many balls slide off the boot like they were in the midst of a Gabba summer storm. But the Brisbane night looks nice, and there is no excuse for the consistent missed targets. The sloppy nature of the night works in North Melbourne’s favour – Goldstein is doing his usual in the ruck, while youngsters with names such as Scott and Hosie slot important goals. When they do, even the Roos supporter cringes his face and squints for a look at the jumper number. He can only hope that in years to come they’ll be names synonymous with the royal blue and white.


There’s no snap moment of change, but steadily the Pies work to shift the tide. The game is on their boots, and in their minds. Finally, Pendlebury’s steadying touch settles his jumpy companions, and they work through some excruciating goals. Surprise surprise, Josh Thomas breaks out and kicks a goal when the half-back line decides to take an adventurous turn down the middle. My fellow Pies supporters clap like a pilot has just landed a plane successfully when he gets the handball receive and straightens to slot the major.


But we don’t learn our lesson. It’s almost time to clear out the forward line and leave one player to roam by themselves. But who could you pick now? De Goey’s dungeon would be a dream option, or Stephenson’s Saloon. But without them, Cox’s Carpark lacks the same fear. Even Mayne’s Morgue has a better ring to it. Luckily, Daicos is one of two Pies who have been brilliant all season. The other is Maynard, who continues to roam the other end of the ground like a bull, pawing at the ground and chasing young Roos who dare to stand in his path. 2020 has been the year Maynard has grown his horns.


But in Daicos, Collingwood have found a classy wingman and a magical goalkicker all in one little olive-skinned frame, topped by a flourishing mullet. An inverted torpedo thrown onto the boot in haste somehow winds its way between the two big sticks. Minutes later, a poor forward entry bounces back out and falls back to Crisp, who gives the type of delivery to Cox that sets him above his nervy teammates. He’s had a stinker, has old Mason, but he finishes the half with a lovely long-range goal. A major talking point at the long break is the return of Levi Greenwood – for someone coming off an ACL injury, he sure has thrown himself into every tackle and hard-ball get.


Having survived a painful half of footy, both sides hold hopes for the next two quarters. We believe ASIO now has the material for the world’s leading torture method, while the Shinboner expected this messy style. In the third quarter, both sides open up. Usually, tired legs means players begin to miss targets. In this match, the exhaustion dulled their minds and allowed their skills to do the talking. North benefited with two majors, only for Collingwood to leap ahead with four of their own.


Stereotypically, the attacks begun with Sidebottom and Pendlebury. For Pies fans, the two go together like pies and chips. Crackers and cheese. When you get a taste of both in one sitting, it’s delightful. Their run and class opened up the midfield, and North Melbourne’s youthful bodies couldn’t keep up with them. Pendlebury benefited from a generous free to slot one of his own, while Ruscoe found his second at the bottom of a cereal box and Flynn Appleby slid through his maiden major. No one realised – that’s what happens when you transition from one end of the ground to the other. Also, Collingwood were finally working hard, and lacked the energy required to make the trip up forward.


Moore began to take some contested marks, his hair bobbing on the way down. Hoskin-Elliott found space, and suddenly the forward line opened up a little. In a lethargic last quarter, the Pies opened up their margin and then stopped early, spent from the extra burst required to shake off the rust. When Sidebottom slid through to bang home a wonderful goal, the Shinboner pulled up stumps. Usually, he’d be on the train home, a solitary trip. Now, he just had to traverse the living room and find another couch. This year has made losing easier.


He’s lucky to miss a shining star in Jy Simpkin try to take on Cox and fail, dismally. It sums up the American’s efforts. After a quiet start, Cox showed his importance to the Magpie structure in the second half. He doesn’t need to take big marks and kick goals, he just has to demand attention and then bring the ball to ground. When he does, Hoskin-Elliott, Thomas and Ruscoe all benefit. Something tells me Stephenson would too.


The siren goes and there’s a smattering of applause from the Pies crowd in front of the TV. We’re satisfied. It’s been a hard watch, but one thing I’ve learnt in this household is that a win against the arch enemies at Arden Street is one to savour. It’ll be interesting to gauge the rivalry next week when we face the Blues.


COLLINGWOOD             1.2     4.3     8.3    10.5 (65)
NORTH MELBOURNE     2.1    3.4     5.5      5.5 (35) 


Ruscoe 2, Thomas, Daicos, Cox, Appleby, Adams, Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Hoskin-Elliott
North Melbourne: Dumont, Hosie, Scott, Simpkin, Xerri


Maynard, Daicos, Pendlebury, Adams, Moore, Sidebottom, Grundy
North Melbourne: Anderson, Higgins, Simpkin, McDonald, Dumont 




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