Round 6 – West Coast v Collingwood: Double and Nothing

Footy fans have been spoiled by attacking footy and thrilling contests in the early rounds of the season. Until now.  Round 6 has reverted to type with grinding wins (North; Sydney; Adelaide); beltings (GWS; Geelong; Eagles) and just making up the numbers (Saints; Blues; Port).

The Final Eight is already decided with only the Saints showing the sort of emerging talent to potentially trouble the current top 8 sides. So that’s 17 weeks to come of jockeying for position among the finals contenders.  Yawn.

Division One and Division Two? Split off a Champions League at mid-season that pits the best against each other on a regular basis? How good would weekly games between North, Sydney, Giants, Hawks, Geelong, Eagles, Crows and Bulldogs be?

My Eagles are a case in point. We are struggling to get out of second gear, but still managed to double the score of a Collingwood side that looks like Paul Keating’s “shiver waiting for a spine to crawl up”.

This was a game decided in the clearances. The Eagles dominated the first quarter and led by 33 points at the first change.  Naitanui continued to rule the taps but Pendlebury, Treloar and Crisp took the ball away and narrowed the margin slightly to 29 points at the half.  Worse was to follow with the Pies running all over us in the third and getting to within 10 points late in the term.

The unexpected fear of loss seemed the adrenaline shot we needed and the last quarter was a procession with my Eagles kicking eight goals to one. The first of them was notable with 2 Collingwood players slipping over unchallenged while in the clear to gift Cripps a running goal.

It felt like a tight contest, but the difference in class and depth between the two sides meant that we could put on 5 goals in a breath. The Pies look unbalanced.  Big clumsy blokes and lots of small triers.  None of the dominant, classy key position players that all good sides have.

Ben Reid bludges as a loose man in defence. Why isn’t he a marking target up forward?  Mason Cox will be a player, and his awareness and hands are excellent for a newcomer.  But he is still a couple of years away in learning bodywork and positioning before he can become a serious threat.  Ben Sinclair looks a dasher off half back, but Jeremy Howe makes Jesse White look brave.

The jury is still out on whether my Eagles are a serious flag threat again or just making up the numbers at the bottom of the eight. Mark LeCras won possessions at will and Kennedy bullied a plodding Nathan Brown, but both still have the kicking yips with set shots.   The defence was solid again with Jeremy McGovern our most consistent and creative player over 4 quarters.  Our small forwards were more desperate than recently, and 61 inside 50’s to 33 shows the game was played mostly in our half.

But other than Luke Shuey our midfield continues to underwhelm, with Priddis and Gaff having modest days and the support crew only honest toilers.

Nothing much to see here. Move along now.

Kardinia Park next Saturday will tell us a lot about both who are the real birds of prey and who are just big pussies.

WEST COAST                      6.4         8.8          10.12     18.16 (124)

COLLINGWOOD                1.1          4.3          8.5          9.8 (62)

Goals:

West Coast: J Cripps 3, J Kennedy 3, M LeCras 3, S Lycett 2, A Gaff, J Darling, J Hill, J Redden, M Hutchings, N Naitanui, S Wellingham.

Collingwood: D Moore 2, M Cox 2, T Broomhead 2, J Blair, J Crisp, L Greenwood.

BEST:

West Coast: J McGovern, L Shuey, M LeCras, J Kennedy, N Naitanui, B Sheppard, S Hurn.

Collingwood: S Pendlebury, A Treloar, J Crisp, S Sidebottom, J Smith.

Umpires: Jeff Dalgleish, Scott Jeffery, Robert O’Gorman.

Attendance: 37,931 at Subiaco Oval.

VOTES: J McGovern (WC) 3; S Pendlebury (C) 2;  L Shuey (WC) 1.

Comments

  1. Always great to enjoy the words of Paul Keating, in any context. Why not football?

    Probably the least memorable round of the season thus far.

    I’m not as confident that the eight is settled. Top four, yes.

    Thanks PB.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Fair report PB. Some flashes of hope for the overestimated Pies, but a long, long way to go.Thought we did ok to get to within 10 points in the third. Pretty regulation win for your Weagles in the end. Looking forward to seeing how you go at the Cattery. Reckon your big forwards can worry Geelong’s backs if they get a decent supply.

  3. DBalassone says

    Can’t disagree with any of this. The 8 does look settled, with perhaps Port the only chance if they get their mojo back and there is a slider. Reckon the Eagles will go close this year, if they can get those home finals and avoid Hawthorn in Melbourne (but who knows the Hawks could be the slider!).
    I marvel at the work ethic of Josh Kennedy.

  4. E.regnans says

    Insightful and dismissive of the incompetent.
    A touch of PJ Keating about this whole report, PB.

    Didn’t see nor hear a second of this. And only now (Tuesday morning) reading anything of it.
    There is a large element of going-through-the-motions in any given AFL season.
    Promotion and relegation would liven things up.

    But six rounds is far too early to be calling the eight closed.
    So much fixture-fiddling.

    There’s still time for the woods to master that untouchable chain-of-handball thing they sporadically achieve.
    Everyone is trying to create an overlap.
    A spare man. A loose man.
    The chain of handball thing between half back and half forward is Collingwood’s way. It works when everyone hits a target. If a target is missed, the other mob have loose men everywhere.
    Life on the high wire.

    Collingwood v Carlton next week.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Horrible first and last quarter by the Pies. We were pretty good in the middle quarters, but a long way off putting four quarters of footy together.
    Totally agree on Ben Reid, play him forward. Please.
    Regrettably swore while watching the game with my boys when the two Collingwood players slipped over unchallenged. Just a terrible moment when the realisation that the game was over came to light.
    McGovern is a star.

  6. From my untrained eye the convergence of two major factors are grounding the Magpies atm.

    An inexperienced list that also has too many players that are suspect by foot can’t afford to be without the likes of Varcoe, Elliott, Adams, Swan, Scharanberg, Ramsay, Williams and, dare I say it, Cloke.

    And with that dose of bad luck in mind, our flawed zone and often terrible stoppage set-ups play to those weaknesses. Basketball tactics on a football field, especially one as big as Domain Stadium, will never work.

    Richmond are promising a football department shakeup. I hope the same happens at Collingwood before the end of the year.

  7. John Butler says

    Collingwood losing. Carlton winning. I don’t see a problem here.

    Hard to read the West Coast Corporation this year. Saturday, as you suggest, will tell a tale.

    Cheers

  8. JD – You see a lot more of Collingwood than me, but my comments about “looking for a spine” were intended as a comment on the lack of mobile marking targets that hold the ball in a zone for the cavalry to arrive. it is something we do well.
    I thought your smalls and stoppage work were ok on the whole. But your work to get the ball forward of centre was for nought because there was no one strong and physical to provide a contest and hold it in. Cloke is clearly a head case, but even just having him commit to the contest would be good. You can’t have Grundy and Cox on the field at the same time as they are too slow and lumbering. Reid and Nathan Brown looked weak and indecisive for premiership players. I hesitated to criticise Frost because he did a very good stopping job on Darling, but he looks uncertain and is not providing the run and rebound that I saw from him a year back.
    You may be onto something about the defensive structure at the Pies. Footy teams are interdependent parts. The Eagles defence plays very wide of their man and just tries to provide a contest and run in out. You have to have confidence in that method – not be half hearted – and have a forward line that can lock it in to stop the ball coming back constantly. The Inside 50 count says it all.
    Makes me wonder about your having too many mids and poor recruiting/development of key position players. Buckley clones?

  9. Andrew Fithall says

    Thanks PB

    I reckon the Pies might have a bit of difficulty turning 8 and 3 this season.

  10. Damian Balassone says

    I reckon the musings of PB who sees the Pies once a year, tells me more about the Pies, than a season of Buckley press conferences.

    Q: How do you dismantle a premiership machine?
    A: With figjam.

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