Round 5 – Collingwood v Essendon: A hiding to nothing

Collingwood's banner versus Essendon, Victoria Park 1972

Collingwood’s banner versus Essendon, Victoria Park 1972

Pre-game nerve settlers at the Prince Patrick with my mate ‘Tarpey’ (as in the battling backman from our Vic Park days) are generally reserved for auspicious occasions such as Prelims and Grand Finals. It’s ANZAC Day 2016 but those heady days of Magpie relevance are fading into the mid distance. Even the pub is further than I recall from the ‘G.

Such is Bucks’ failure to instil cohesiveness, passion and belief into this year’s playing group, not to mention ongoing selection maladies and question marks over recruitment and player development, we conclude if Essendon Lite is too strong for us then our Dolph Lundgren jawed hero should honourably discharge himself from service.

So despite the brilliant autumn rays it was a rather sombre march to the stadium as we considered the fallen and he who might be felled. Today seems anything but auspicious, with the non-selection of Travis Cloke feeling like a risk more sizeable than the Collingwood 7 footer replacing him, Mason Cox. If ever Cloke was going to rediscover his mojo then surely Essendon’s undermanned defence was the ideal opportunity.

The Magpie brains rust must have breathed a sigh of relief when just minutes after the last post the game’s first post was scored by the debutante Yank, scooping up Moore’s pass before converting with a copybook drop punt.

Selection already vindicated as ecstatic teammates climb Cox like a radio tower, with the gusto one might reserve for Miss America.

All right, I want the young American. Cue Bowie on sax.

This was the early spark the Pies so desperately needed, but crucial to an emergent game plan is reward for effort. To that end Oxley, Fasolo, Moore (brilliant mark), Howe and Sidebottom (x3) capitalised on Treloar, Adams and Pendles’ work further afield, pouring on eight goals to the Bombers one by the change. Whilst the opposition was poor and the true extent of Collingwood’s transformation difficult to read, at least some confidence and verve was unearthed.

In the shadows of the Ponsford Stand Collingwood continued in emphatic fashion, Cox enabling Sidebottom to skid through his fourth just 90 seconds into the second term. What had been so gut wrenchingly difficult now appeared straightforward. A smarter set up at contests and stoppages saw a player hang back to guard space, then motor from the outside if the ball was won. Gone was the panicked handball and comedic kicking, players lowering their eyes to find targets or when the time was ripe going fast and long to the hot spot.

Whilst The Replacements had exceeded expectations thus far in 2016, one wonders how long the likes of Daniher, Zaharakis and Goddard can absorb the pressure over the course of the season. The latter two plus Kelly and Fantasia all battled manfully but with Joe off his tucker there was no aerial threat to worry the overly equipped Magpie defence boasting Reid, Brown and Frost.

Realistically, a win was non-negotiable and 50+ points was the pass mark, even accounting for the Woods’ own long list of unselectables. Thus a 76 point half time lead really should have realised a triple figure hiding. To their credit, Essendon showed some spirit as Collingwood lapsed a little, unable to maintain the same killer instinct.  The game danced around the margins, ultimately finishing at a mildly satisfying 69.

The jury remains out, however at least the story of the day would be the players’ rather than the coach’s execution. Cloke and several of his embattled teammates could learn from Cox’s uncomplicated approach. After just 12 months the Oklahoma engineer is already the most effective tap ruckman at the club, with even more upside as a forward.

On the train home a 20-something lad zeroed in on an attractive young lady with the requisite chemistry.  He alighted at Thornbury, and like his team, scored a handy number to call upon. It’s remarkable what a direct and focused approach can achieve when time is on the wing.

COLLINGWOOD    8.4   14.6  19.8  22.10 (142)
ESSENDON             1.1     2.2    7.4      11.7  (73)

Sidebottom 4, Fasolo 4, Blair 3, Howe 2, Moore 2, Greenwood 2, Cox, Oxley, Smith, De Goey, Adams
Essendon: Grimley 2, Fantasia 2, Langford, Brown, Daniher, Stokes, Kelly, Cooney, Merrett

Sidebottom, Pendlebury, Treloar, Fasolo, Reid, Adams
Essendon: Kelly, Fantasia, Hartley, Zaharakis, Goddard

Umpires: O’Gorman, Schmitt, Jeffery

Crowd: 85,082 at the MCG

About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. DBalassone says

    Well played JD. Love the Dolph Lundgren comparison as well as that handy work by the young fella on the South Morang line.

    Was happy with Big Mason’s debut, but let’s be honest: did he do any more than what Cloke has done the past couple of games? Cloke kicked 2 goals and had 16 and 15 touches respectively in his last two matches. Cox kicked 1 goal and had 10 touches. Albeit a few more hit outs. I just find the criticism of Cloke staggering. There’s been a lot worse at the CFC this year.

    I wonder if the forward line of Fasolo/Moore/Cox (as 2nd ruck) and half-forward line of Howe/Cloke/Blair would work? Would certainly stretch the opposition.

  2. Thanks Damo. The young fella put on a clinic, it was a best on train performance.

    I don’t disagree with you on Cloke. Still, in the mould of Sandilands but more athletic, Cox exerted influence beyond the stats and promises to be a real weapon.

    I like Cloke & Howe as high fwds and the straight shooters nearer the sticks. Might be a little slow & top heavy though. In a perfect world Elliott or Swan would take Blair’s spot.

  3. Jim Johnson says

    Travis Cloke? Has he ever played out of the back line? Like say
    centre half back. We have seen him streaming out of the back line and
    kicking at or for goal. He is a reasonable passer of the ball. He
    can mark or knock the ball to the advantage of a team mate, goes hard
    into the scrums and the opposing forwards would be mindful as to where he might be
    coming from. In defense he would not have two or three defenders on
    him. It would be more one on one and he is good at that?
    Neil Roberts did ok when moved from full forward to centre half back at St Kilda

  4. Interesting proposition Jim, the club is applying a similar theory with Jesse White in the VFL as a last ditch bid to extract some value from their investment. Didn’t work so well in the ones last week but he’s made a good fist of it in the magoos. I just can’t see it with Trav though.

    At his best Cloke covered enormous ground. But after several injuries over the past year and a bit I wonder if it’s his faith in his body as much as his himself that’s the crux of his form woes.

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Good stuff JD.
    First half was how I imagined we could play and it was terrific to see. Would have been nice to at least outscore them in the second half, but we’ll take any win at this stage. Would ‘Tarpey’ get a game in this team? I thought he was going to be the next big CHF after Starcevich….

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Superb JD.
    Was the young man on the train a pies fan?
    Agree with Damian’s points about Cloke, but Cox’s work gave plenty of excitement.
    Hopefully our season has been kick started.

  7. The Tarpey I know Phil was an unfulfilled talent. One time after a game at Vic Park against the Saints he took a specky over Molly Meldrum. Even better, when Molly tried to get past Ron Richards manning the door of the social club Tarpey disowned Moll and he didn’t get in!

    Thanks Luke – yep, Romeo was a pies man, albeit a very dapper one in a blue suit sporting an MCC lanyard. Dressed for success.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    What about the attractive young lady, was she a pies girl? I’m hoping so! Would round out this story nicely.

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