Round 17 – Adelaide v Collingwood: No singing at the Adelaide Oval this time around

No singing at the Adelaide Oval this time around

by Steve Fahey

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It had been a week in which I had experienced multiple glimpses of yesteryear.  I had spent a week on the western end of equally remote and beautiful Kangaroo Island. No mobile or internet connection and indeed no newspapers, although that is more of a glimpse of the future than the past.

 

I returned to civilisation at the also majestic Adelaide Oval to watch the Pies.  As I arrived, I recalled that last time I was here I sang Good Old Collingwood in celebration with some fellow FPS members.  Keen students of sporting history will know that the Pies had never saluted here in a VFL/AFL game so I should clarify.  It was the 2006/07 Ashes Test and England’s Paul Collingwood had just reached his double century so the O’Connell brothers, Chris, Lens and I broke into our favourite song.

 

That game had an historic and unexpected result so I was hoping for history to repeat itself as the Pies sought their first win here. They took on the red-hot Crows, who my father, a footballing optimist in the extreme, would have said were due for a loss after seven straight wins.  The Pies had won three on the trot after a first half of the season which could only be described (unless you favoured stronger terms) as wretched.  I was once again less than thrilled with selection – Fasolo out again injured was a big loss and I couldn’t for the life of me see how the two stoppers, Greenwood (the inclusion for Fas) and Macaffer could fit in the same team.  Surely last week’s VFL BOG Broomhead would add more to our forward line mix?

 

I was cocooned in a Collingwood area, a small black and white refuge amidst the throng of 50,000 looking to both continue their success and celebrate the 300thgame of a favourite son. The crowd noise and atmosphere was fantastic and another glimpse of yesteryear – very Vic Park circa the 1970s.  Passionate, loud, one-eyed and hostile to opposition teams and their small band of supporters, as well as umpires.  Yes, the toilets here were a lot cleaner and spitting on opposition players and umpires has fortunately gone out of vogue, but this was the vibe stirred up for me.

 

The game turned out to be a high-intensity and very spirited contest.  As Bucks and others have noted, it was won and lost in the first quarter. We started brightly, dominating possession and inside 50s but couldn’t put the score on the board.  Four blokes had shots from around the 50 metre line and none converted, or indeed, made the distance.  When the Crows sling-shotted from defence their forwards had space goalside to work into, which they did successfully multiple times and they both moved the ball deftly and converted their chances.  They also worked hard to endeavour to push their tall forwards up the ground and isolate Betts against the improving but inexperienced Maynard. For the second week in a row we found ourselves four goals behind in the first quarter (this week it got to five), which is not a recipe for consistent success.

 

We were left chasing for the rest of the game and we attacked the game with commendable energy and intensity without ever catching them.  Several times we were close enough if good enough, but were not good enough, lacking some precision and class with the ball.

 

Actually there was more to it than that.  Yes, we burnt the ball a lot going forward.  That was partly skill execution, partly forward structure, partly strategy.  In relation to structure, the absence of Fas, as well as the season-long absences of Swan and Elliott meant that we are missing the small and midsize forwards that provide a range of options to complement our talls.  Lyons was very good in that midsize role for the Crows.  We also don’t have a genuine crumber – Betts’ goal in the second quarter was a master class in that aspect.  So we erred in selection as noted previously – Broomhead is a midsize who can crumb and otherwise scrounge a goal and we needed another scoring option.  While it would have been tough on Caff to drop him after his job on Heater last week, either he or Greenwood plays but not both, and Greenwood has more to offer.

 

In terms of strategy, the Crows played with seven defenders, and we were happy to let them play the extra and have one ourselves.  We had our three talls (Cloke, White and Moore) complemented by Caff and Blair as defensive forwards and various others (Pendles started forward and spent some time there, Varcoe, De Goey etc.).  Looking at that list, to kick a winning score, you are going to need good contributions from your talls as well as some goals from your mids.  It makes it very hard for your talls when (1) they have a spare defender to contend with plus (2) there are not many elite kicks delivering it.  We just couldn’t get the ball to really dangerous spots often enough, with lots of long shots for goal early in the match and regularly couldn’t kick the ball long into the forward line on the break as we were outnumbered.  To add to that, the real rub was the Crows’ effectiveness in initiating their scoring from defence, especially in the first quarter.  Their defenders continually intercepted our entries – with Talia, Henderson, Lever and Smith having 39 intercepts between them before distributing the ball to their runners.  Smith is one of them himself and cut us to ribbons yet again, after recording Brownlow votes against us in the past two clashes and appearing likely to do so again.  My rather long-winded point being, at no point did we appear to decide to play seven forwards to match their spare.  Why not?

 

As it turned out we kicked ten goals – the eight time for the season (in 16 games) we have kicked ten goals or less.  We did keep the Crows, the highest –scoring team in the comp, to under 100 points for the first time in their streak of eight wins, so our emphasis on defence and pressure was partly successful,  and we were not opened up on the break so easily after quarter-time,  but you have to score.  The most telling stat of the match was the marks inside 50, which were 8-19 (and I suspect that a few of our 8 were not within 45), so what we tried didn’t work, despite a strong effort.

 

 

Despite a five goal loss, there were plenty of positives. As noted you couldn’t criticise the effort and application, which had the Crows under a lot of pressure and making plenty of errors. Unfortunately we made more. Grundy was once again outstanding, winning plenty of ball, marking strongly and more than holding his own in a fantastic contest against Sauce Jacobs which the umpires appeared determined to stay out of, despite WWF-level grappling.  Big Brodie didn’t use the ball as well as you would like, but at least tried to take the game on.  The mids worked really hard, with Treloar, Pendles, Adams and Crisp all having an impact.  The much-maligned Sinclair was superb in the third quarter when the Crows could have put us away, repelling attacks and consistently putting his body on the line.  Aish continued his improvement, making a solid contribution and having improved his hunger for the contest since losing his place earlier in the season.  Marsh was again encouraging in defence, reading the game well with a team-high ten intercepts and providing some dash.  I would love to see him tried as a tall winger in the mould of 1970s wingers Gary “Crazy Horse” Cowton or Wayne “Flash” Gordon. And Maynard was far from disgraced in his duel with a high class player in Betts.

 

There were also some negatives but I will leave them to my brother Paul to focus on in his DR report.

 

I left the ground disappointed but having very much enjoyed the experience and atmosphere.  While much of the week had involved glimpses of yesteryear, I left the ground thinking of the future and feeling considerably more optimistic than during the first third of the season.  We have some work to do but have a decent young list.  It’s time now to invest in next season and beyond – put some more games into Broomhead, have a look at Wills at AFL level (while letting De Goey find his touch at VFL level) and perhaps again push White into the back half to see whether he is an ongoing defensive option at this level.

 

Votes for the time-honoured Pendlebury Horsburgh medal are

 

3 – Grundy

2 – Treloar

1 –  Pendles

 

Big Brodie wins the Chad Rintoul Medal.

For the purposes of the Footy Almanac, the votes for the Malarkey Medal are:

3 – B Crouch (Crows)

2 – Grundy (Pies)

1 – Smith (Crows)

ADELAIDE             5.2   8.7    11.12   14.13 (97)
COLLINGWOOD     1.6   5.7    8.7      10.9   (69)

GOALS
Adelaide: 
Betts 3, Lyons 2, Lynch 2, Walker, Jacobs, Jenkins, McGovern, Henderson, Atkins, Cameron
Collingwood: Greenwood 2, Crisp 2, Cloke 2, Varcoe, Moore, Adams, Aish

BEST
Adelaide: 
B Crouch, Smith, Lyons, Talia, Sloane, Atkins, Henderson, Jacobs
Collingwood: Grundy, Treloar, Pendlebury, Sinclair, Crisp, Adams, Aish

INJURIES 
Adelaide
: Nil
Collingwood: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Meredith, Margetts, Fleer

Official crowd: 50,012 at Adelaide Oval

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