Round 15 – Collingwood v North Melbourne: Insipid (Floreat Pica Society report)

Match Report: Round 15 vs North Melbourne
by James Fogarty for the Floreat Pica Society

What is there to say about this game? It’s the first time North have won a game without Ben Brown kicking any goals since Round 3, 2016. Our lowest score since 1995. Ben Reid and Sier both down and out before half time. Writing this report only prolonged the pain of the game itself.

Despite my misgivings about “Marvel”, the Arctic winds of Saturday afternoon mean I suppress my usual complaints about not playing at the MCG as we head in on the Epping/South Morang/Mernda train. (Later, when the prohibitively expensive tickets of the lower levels send us climbing to the general admission seats on the top of Level 3 – a vantage point which allows us to see plenty of empty seats on the lower levels – my complaints are unleashed.)

My extended family divides itself along Collingwood-North Melbourne lines, so this is the traditional grudge match and always involves a pre-game catch up, and, depending on how bitter the losers are feeling, a post-game debrief. It so happened that, this year, the game fell on the two-year anniversary of my father’s passing, so it carried some extra significance. He was an avid Pies man. On his last legs Dad made it to the Queen’s Birthday game in 2017 – when Jack Watts kicked the sealer – and then two weeks later, almost completely debilitated in hospital, he got up to watch the Port Adelaide game on a laptop. Bad losses, the both of them. The 2003 Grand Final team photo became part of family folklore as he pushed an In Black & White magazine under everyone’s nose to gleefully point out that he was in the background, standing out in a bright purple raincoat.

In that photo, too, is Rhyce Shaw, who gifted Alastair Lynch that goal. Well, Shaw sunk us again on Saturday night. He has North playing some good, aggressive football. In this game, we were the hapless Shaw, and North were full of Alastair Lynchs, bullying us out of the contest.

Quarter by quarter thoughts as follows…

Highlight: Seeing Scharenberg return (and him having 15 touches at 100% efficiency over the next two hours).
Lowlight: Tarrant mindlessly bombs into North’s 50, only for Sidebottom, Moore and Mayne to all fly, spoil each other and miss the ball. Ziebell, of course, marks and goals.

Highlight: De Goey drops a sitter, picks up the ball just inside the arc, and without breaking a sweat, snaps a goal over his shoulder.
Lowlight: De Goey needlessly gives away a fifty to Jasper Pittard (worst mullet in the competition?). He kicks to Tarryn Thomas, standing in the Bermuda Triangle of Greenwood, Maynard, Roughead and Scharenberg, leaving our defence again looking at each other in confusion. Déjà vu to Ziebell’s goal in the first quarter.

There are no noteworthy highlights in this quarter, or for the rest of the game.
This is perhaps the worst quarter we’ve played this year. Ziebell and Cunningham run around like playground bullies and no one seems willing to do much about it. Surely we’re able – maybe just not willing? Greenwood, our tagger, watches them from a distance as he stays in defence.
In 2006, US music website Pitchfork reviewed the second album of Melbourne band Jet, infamously awarding it a score of 0.0 and embedding a YouTube video of a monkey peeing in its own mouth instead of writing a review. To review the second half of this game, Pitchfork would need to a more scathing video.

Larkey marks more or less unopposed in the goal square as everyone stands back on their direct opponent, and Mayne is left trying to spoil someone twice his size.
Before Cox goals with a minute on the clock, we’ve played a quarter and half of footy for a Mihocek poster and two rushed behinds.

I don’t mean to be scathing of our backs in the above notes. The ball was there so often and got there so easily on Saturday that they almost stood no chance. I think our problems are up the field, and the backs felt the end result of those issues on Saturday. Despite Grundy’s general dominance (average hit-out differential of 21 this year), we’re not getting the ball out of the middle. This week, North had 7 more centre clearances, Melbourne a few weeks ago had +10, and even the lowly Saints were +4 out of the centre last month. How can that be?

The inside 50 count, which we haven’t won in a month, is equally worrying: 36-64 vs North; 44-59 vs Bulldogs; 56-58 vs Melbourne; 45-56 vs Freo. Even considering the absence of Adams and Beams (and Sier for most of Saturday), something’s not right with our supposedly first class midfield.

Compounding this is the huge loss of Stephenson. Three of our five goals – Phillips, Mihocek and De Goey’s goals – were completely opportunistic, and perhaps even lucky. 37 is our lowest score since 1995. Under Buckley, we’ve gone sub-50 just three other times:
45 vs Geelong, Round 8 2018 (Geelong scored 66)
46 vs Freo, Round 1 2014 (Freo – 116)
39 vs Essendon, Round 17 2014 (Essendon – 103)

North’s inaccurate kicking (particularly early in the game) was the only thing that stopped the scoreline of this game going the way of those two 2014 games. With away games against the Eagles, GWS and Adelaide to come, we desperately need to figure out a better forward structure. Reid’s injury is unfortunate but will, mercifully, end the three tall forward experiment.

We’ve been playing insipid football for at least a month now, and we reached rock bottom on Saturday night.

I’m slightly consoled by the fact that North were the only team to beat the Eagles by 40+ last year. As well as this, they trashed Adelaide when they were red hot in 2017 (they were undefeated, and had just beaten eventual premiers Richmond by 76, only for North to put 64 on the board as they went scoreless in the first quarter). North are proven giant-killers – not that we’re playing anything like giants at the moment. Hopefully we can figure it out – and get some key players back in – sooner rather than later.

It was unbelievably hard to find three players worthy of votes from this performance, and these three were helped by the fact that there were no standout players and lots of passengers.
3: Treloar. A common criticism of Treloar is that he butchers the ball. His 40 touches against North were much cleaner than usual. A great runner, but more effective when players like Stephenson are there to mop up his tumbling kicks as they enter our forward half.
2: Pendlebury. Valiant. Even in his “off” games, there’s a sense of collective relief when he gets the ball. A steady hand amongst the chaos.
1: Crisp. A real steal from Brisbane. Though Moore gets more headlines, Crisp provides crucial rebound run. Fifth in our ‘metres gained’ for the year.

Honourable mentions to Scharenberg and Grundy.

Here’s the first photo my Dad took of me after bringing me home from the hospital:

Like the irritated baby in that photo, after Saturday’s game, I need a bottle and a nap.

Go Pies.



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