Round 23 – Essendon v Collingwood: Pies’ annus horribilis ends with a whimper (Floreat Pica Society)

Essendon v Collingwood

3:20pm, Sunday August 22




As an extraordinary round of AFL footy unfolded over the weekend, my mind cast back to the last round of 1987, often considered the greatest round of home and away footy in the last 50 years.  In 1987 six of the top seven matched up against each other, three of the round’s seven games were decided by less than a kick and the minor premiership was decided by a goal after the siren by the skipper. Even the two bottom sides went head-to-head.  Sound familiar?



For those that weren’t alive/don’t remember, HERE is a summary of the 1987 final round (note that six of the seven games featured 35 goals or more!)



In 1987, as with the last round in 2021, the Pies were irrelevant, third from the bottom going into the round and playing the Bombers at the ‘G on Sunday afternoon in a game that would also finish the season for the Bombers.  The demise of the two Western Australian teams in the past 24 hours robbed the 2021 game of any interest other than to Pies, Bombers and Bulldogs fans.  The only significance of the game for the Pies was milestones for two excellent contributors since continuing their AFL journeys for the Pies – Roughy’s 200th and Mayne’s last hurrah. And of course it could be the last hurrah for some others (including JT and Robert Harvey) but they don’t know it yet and neither do we.



In the absence of the suspended Mihocek and with JDG now a midfielder, our named forward line, ([24] Josh Thomas,[35] Oliver Henry,[32] Will Hoskin-Elliott [33] Jack Ginnivan,[14] Darcy Cameron,[5] Jamie Elliott), did not inspire confidence that we could reach half of the 23 goals we managed in 1987 (when Mark ‘three to four weeks’ Orval kicked four, as did Daicos and Starcevich – HERE are the stats for that remarkable goalfest in which the margin at the last three changes was under a goal).



In our past two outings against the Bombers we had started well, kicking the first four and three goals respectively in those games before being outplayed for the rest of the game and losing.  The coaching staff would have identified this as a focus.  Unfortunately we addressed this by making a poor start and conceding the first three goals, the Dons looking a confident and well organised team, their defensive zone like a brick wall, every time our defenders kicked it out they marked it.



They also used the ball well within 50, with the Pies conceding four marks inside 50 in the first 15 minutes and Bombers getting out the back a couple of times. It looked like it could get ugly, and quickly.  Fortunately we managed to get ourselves into the game, winning a series of clearances and moving it OK, a clever assist from Henry to JDG leading to a miss before Mayne hit up Elliott with a nice pass on the lead, straight away followed by Crisp to Cameron had us with a couple of goals.  Both goals demonstrated the importance of good delivery and forwards who can create space.



A free to Daicos followed by a Waterhouse brain fade when he conceded successive 50 metre penalties meant that we were back on level terms just before the first break.  This turned out to be a moment similar to that about 10-15 minutes into the second quarter last week against the Lions, in that it wasn’t going to get any better than this.  We yet again conceded a late goal after we turned it over in defence yet again.



JDG, Adams, Howe and Mayne were all pretty reasonable, and Rantall was doing a good job as a tagger/run-with on Parish, despite not troubling the statisticians with any possessions of his own.  Good experience for the young man to run with a very good player and we are crying out for someone to perform this role, Tyler Brown having had a stint at it before doing his shoulder.



The second quarter started badly and stayed that way. The Bombers started winning the clearances and poured forward in numbers and we looked second rate.  A horrible switch by Sidey resulted in another turnover and goal and all of a sudden we were back to being several goals behind.  Wright was marking everything as we looked disorganised in defence and ceded to pressure several times, turning it over and being cut through like a knife through butter.  The milestone man Roughead was Wright’s opponent and having a very rough day. We finally put together a lovely chain of possession from the back half, ending in Wilson to Henry to JT, and a goal.



Unfortunately that was it for the quarter, with eight of their first 10 goals having come from our turnovers as they put us under a lot of pressure and set up an effective zone which we just couldn’t get through cleanly or often enough. The last couple of minutes before half-time were a microcosm of our woes in recent times.  We kicked indiscriminately into an outnumbered forward line and then conceded yet another late goal to Wright to have us trailing by the best part of six gaols.



The less said about the second half the better.  The Bombers went into game and energy preservation mode and we weren’t good enough to make any dent into the deficit.



The second half positives were:


  • The continued good work of JDG and Adams.  Adams had more of it but JDG was more damaging and used the ball better.
  • Elliot led really hard and got delivered successive half-volleys in the third quarter before Essendon coughed up a turnover and gave him one on a plate, then JDG showed the others how to land a pass and Elliott kicked another.  He was our best forward in this match by a country mile  – he’s a very skilled and hard-working forward who can create space and is a good kick. He has now been at the club for 10 years, albeit he didn’t play at all in two of those seasons.  Hopefully he still has a couple of good years in him and we can put some more talent around him.
  • Ginnivan didn’t do much and didn’t have his kicking boots on today but clearly has a lot of talent and a few smarts, the knockback in the last quarter was classy
  • Mayne’s tears as he left the field – once again he gave his all and played his role.  Father time and Waterman caught up with him in the third quarter when he conceded a free kick and goal.  He has been a fine contributor and clubman and his career resurrection since a disastrous first year at the club in 2017 is a great story and an enormous credit to him.



My pre-game prediction that we would struggle to score half of what we did in 1987 turned out to be correct. Our ball movement was often laboured, we turned it over too often, often due to the Bombers’ pressure, sometimes due to skill errors, they were better organised, more skilful and had better froward targets. A familiar 2021 story in other words.



Best players in alphabetical order were Adams, JDG, Elliott, Howe and Mayne. The Peter Bradbury Medal went to whoever got the three votes – you will have to attend the Horsburgh Medal function to find out who that is.



Of the other senior players, Grundy looked exhausted and/or injured and/or disinterested, Sidey had a bit of the ball but not much impact, WHE was largely absent again when played as a forward (he is clearly better suited on the wing), Maynard was OK but nowhere near his best, Crisp tried hard but was not as prolific as usual. Roughead did what Roughead does – he cracked in hard in the second half after a torrid first half in his 200th and at least prevented Wright from adding any second half goals. Most of the younger blokes not otherwise mentioned – Bianco, Wilson and Murphy, were pretty quiet.  It has been a long season for some of them.



It should also be noted that Robert Harvey gave a very difficult gig his best shot over the past nine rounds.  I don’t see him as our next coach but he conducted himself as he played, wholeheartedly.



Other than Mayne’s tearful farewell, the highlight of this game was the final siren, ending our annus horribilis in which we followed a crisis-ridden off-season with a poor start, a mid-season coaching change and a brief improvement mid-to-late season before flagging badly at the end to finish in 17th spot.  While the dice for this season was largely cast on the disastrous last day of the 2020 trade period, perhaps it was cast a couple of years earlier, on the last day of the 2018 trade period when we made the ill-fated decision to go double or nothing on our premiership hopes by re-recruiting Beams, seemingly without having done our due diligence. The rumours about Maynard wanting to leave (Nicks is my source; I have no inside info!) and Pendles stating today that he would consider offers from elsewhere (surely he will not leave?) suggest that the pain of 2021 may not yet be over for Pies fans.



It is noted that things also looked pretty ordinary at the end of 1987, and three years later we won the flag.  There is a lot of work to be done in what is now a bigger and more competitive league for us to even dream of that happening again.  We could do worse than look at the Bombers for a road map for what we need to be doing over coming months and years, After being a shambles for several years, they appear to have appointed the right coach and assistants, recruited talented youth, played them and taken on the game (the Bombers were fourth in points for before this round).  They are not there yet, but have made a big first step this season.  Fingers and toes crossed that we can more significantly forward next season.


Floreat Pica






ESSENDON               5.2      11.2      13.5      16.6 (102)
COLLINGWOOD      4.2       5.4       7.8       9.10 (64)


Essendon: Wright, Waterman 4, Stringer, Smith, Redman 2, Perkins, Snelling
Collingwood: Elliott 4, Cameron, Daicos, De Goey, Thomas, Hoskin-Elliott


Essendon: Smith, Stringer, Wright, Redman, Merrett, Cutler
Collingwood: Adams, Elliott, De Goey, Howe, Crisp, Daicos





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  1. george smith says

    Scott Pendlebury has returned to the fold at least until his playing days are over. They all come back, except Warwick Irwin.

    The chances of Scott coaching Collingwood have diminished muchly by the events of the past 10 years. It is to be hoped that no other Magpie champion will ever be offered the job on sentiment alone.

    As for the supporters of watif guy, who supported him for a decade – take a good hard look at yourselves.

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