Round 2 – Collingwood v Richmond: Drawing the masses back into footy

Collingwood v Richmond

7.40PM, Thursday June 11







Australian Rules football has seen a lot of twists and turns over the years.


The game has lived through two World Wars, myriad health crises and some financial setbacks. But the enforced lay-off caused by COVID-19 was unprecedented.


Ten weeks after the opening round, the second weekend of games took place in front of an empty MCG. Richmond and Collingwood should have been running out in front of 90,000. Instead, they were to encounter a fresh set of challenges – no crowd, rushed preparation, fake crowd noises. And, of course, the removal of the basic right to high-five one’s teammate. Crippling stuff indeed.


Without their roaring Tiger army down at the Punt Road end, Richmond played the first quarter like a lonely and desolate team. Dusty struggled to get his meaty hands on the Sherrin, Riewoldt and Lynch were deftly covered by Roughead and Moore.


The black and white players swooped on Richmond’s slow start. Just two minutes into the eagerly awaited contest, Taylor Adams broke free from Dion Prestia at a stoppage. With Brodie Grundy getting first touch on the ball, Adams had an open path to burst through. His left-foot snap from 40 metres brought back memories of his similar shot in the dying moments of the 2019 Preliminary Final. In that instance, the ball curled into the post, and the Pies fell just points short of a Grand Final. But when the Sherrin found its way through the middle for the night’s opening goal, Collingwood fans had a soothing feeling that this night may be different.


From the get-go it was evident the Magpies knew how to beat Richmond. They employed a similar set of tactics to their round two encounter last year – pressure the Tigers into a turnover, and then make them pay by soaking up possession until they worked it over the back of Richmond’s intimidating zone defence. Usually, Messrs De Goey and Elliott were the skilful players working their way into handy spots. But they started off the night with a sheen of rust coating their foreboding tattoos, so it was wingman Tom Phillips who bobbed up for a lovely set-shot goal.


Richmond couldn’t get their hands on the footy, and were wilting under Collingwood’s opening onslaught. Grundy gave Soldo headaches; his dominance gave Steele Sidebottom a sliver of opportunity to slide through a left-footed snap goal. The veteran only needs a moment on either foot; his kick bent between the big sticks.


Callum Brown danced his way through despairing arms at ground level to chip through a fourth successive goal in the shadows of the first quarter. The older Brown, alongside another heir to the black and white throne in Josh Daicos, had troubled Richmond all throughout the match. Their breakneck pace off the mark and elusiveness was now combined with a mature head on youthful shoulders. The Magpies may have uncovered a fleet-footed pack raring to take them to the premiership dais.


For all of Collingwood’s brilliance in the opening term, it was inevitable Richmond would bounce back. They are a champion side. It looked like the Pies had poked a bear set in a winter hibernation when Tom Lynch capped off a flowing passage of play with a free-kick goal. But the Magpies hung on; Phillips was once again the beneficiary of an end-to-end chain of handballs and chips that frustrated Richmond and typified the leading side’s diligence and talent. When they are on, Collingwood are irresistible.


Lynch now had a taste for the action. He booted two more majors before the main break to give the reigning premiers a scent of victory. They had managed to dry up Collingwood’s inconsistent forward line, and were inching their way towards the Magpie’s stagnant score.


It was inevitable players were going to tire out quickly into the second half. A handful of training sessions doesn’t correlate to full match fitness. But instead of opening the game up, the two wise teams locked up proceedings and initiated a frustrating spate of defensive gameplay. Neither team relented – both knew the dangers the opposition possessed, and hedged their bets on taking the match into the final minutes.


The match dried up, a new battle occurring. No longer was football a simple sport of kicking, handballing and marking. It looked like Nathan Buckley and Damian Hardwick were playing chess without knowing the rules; they just tried to look like they were ahead of the game. But on the contrary, both teams cost themselves victory, and the least intense draw played out in front of no one. Maybe that was fitting.


Collingwood escaped with a draw without scoring for an entire half of footy. Richmond would have gone home with no points if it wasn’t for a terrible review call that granted the returning Jack Higgins a mark, despite being as far over the line as Wayne Harmes was all those years ago. The match fell into the hands of daring half-back flankers who were willing to take the game on and had sufficient skill to not turn it over. Bachar Houli and Jeremy Howe were each team’s representatives, while the two skippers attacked hard but were both uncharacteristically sloppy with ball in hand. Like a poor comedy skit, the fake crowd noise ramped up to a crescendo when the siren went. Much like its viewers, the AFL hadn’t intended for a draw. Let alone one where the combined score was 72.


If there was one thing season 2020 should have already taught AFL fans, it’s that surprises lay around each and every corner. But that Thursday night at the ‘G renewed the message in the most infuriating of ways.





COLLINGWOOD          4.1       5.3       5.4       5.6 (36)
0.1       3.1       5.2       5.6 (36)



 Phillips 2, Adams, Sidebottom, C.Brown
Richmond: Lynch 3, Bolton, Higgins



 Howe, Pendlebury, Adams, Sidebottom, Phillips, Daicos
Richmond: Houli, Cotchin, Lynch, Prestia, Lambert, Martin




3. Jeremy Howe (Collingwood)

2. Bachar Houli (Richmond)

1. Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)






Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.



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