Unpalatable ‘Pies need new recipe

In a memorable World of Sport match review, the late great Bobby Davis once offered a withering one-line critique of a host of Geelong players who fair dinkum let the team down. ‘Needs to catch a cab’ he said of a player lacking speed, and so it went.

In terms of Collingwood’s woes, the simplistic three word slogan being accepted as gospel is: “Bucks can’t coach”.

But in the spirit of Bobby, I’m casting a deeper, wider net. Here goes…

Leading Teams
The tenuous fabric of society is largely maintained because most people know when to STFU. If you can imagine all your work colleagues being encouraged to unload on each other, and in the process opening up little sores and rubbing them until they become festering wounds, you have an interesting form of team bonding. Sure it may have worked at Sydney, but clearly it hasn’t at Collingwood, if what I’m hearing is true about resentment between the party ‘Pies and the rest. Pay the bill and move on.

2-3 weeks, make that 8-10 weeks, wait no, season
Is the list any good? Can Bucks coach? It’s hard to say.

In the short time between back-to-back grand finals and the departure of David Buttifant, somehow Collingwood fell way behind league fitness standards. Bill Davoren arrived from St Kilda with the imprimatur to bring the players back up to speed. Snap, crackle, pop went the hamstrings, calves and knees – but it had to happen for the greater good. The following year the Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre enjoyed more roaring trade and last year a promising season was cruelled again by a ridiculous injury toll with the club struggling to field 22 players by round 23.

In the scheme of rebuilding a list, the negligible time spent on the field by top 10 draft picks Freeman and Scharanberg has been the keenest felt. Add to that Reid and Elliott.

Of course injuries will happen no matter what the training regimen, however already after 7 rounds Collingwood has rifled through 36 players. Only 8 have taken the field every week. Eight of the 15 on the #Blackmores list are defenders (yep, the injury list is even sponsored). If such wretched luck has a medical term I’d be inclined to ask the High Performance Manager what it is.

Thursday Night Losses
Sitting nicely at 8-3 last year Collingwood was presented with a massive opportunity to cement their position with an overdue win over Hawthorn.  Probably not the game to blood Moore and Maynard, you’d think. Then, against an emotion-charged Port, another narrow loss followed where 7 players over 195cm lumbered around a waterlogged Adelaide Oval. Selecting unbalanced teams is the Woods’ forte, as is playing favourites. Cloke or Cox/Howe?  I wonder who Carlton would have feared more?

Surely it’s hard enough to win games of football…

F#%@ the Ruck
Like a fine wine they say ruckmen take a long time to mature. Well here’s a fine whine about the glacial progress of Witts and Grundy. The former is a man mountain who contests with the vigour of a loud sneeze. The latter at least puts his body in, though I reckon Jarryd Blair averages more overhead marks.  Both rarely deliver as tap ruckmen in any case. Who’s the ruck coach again?  That’s right, there isn’t one, unless one rates Anthony Rocca as a former ruckman of note.

When the Levi Breaks
Owing to a broken leg, Greenwood’s 2015 output was restricted to half a dozen solid games, the highlights being hard tagging wins over Cotchin and Joel Selwood. This year? Only the odd handy goal reminds me #19 is out there. Similarly, in the absence of Adams, Swan and a part-broken Pendlebury, it would be handy if Crisp and de Goey reminded themselves how to play to last year’s level.

Burned Midfield
Scott Burns was a great on-field servant for the Magpies, and so too Tarkyn ‘The Likeable’ Lockyer, but the clearance count from stoppages is horrendous. On Saturday Brendan Bolton lauded his midfield assistants – I doubt whether Bucks has ever been compelled to do the same. Is Collingwood really hiring the best, or just best mates? If the bombarded, inexperienced backline does manage to win back possession, then mounting attacks 150m from goal on most occasions is really pushing it up uphill. Is right-hand man Robert Harvey in the wrong role?

Ground Control to Major Tom
…lobbing dinky kicks to no one, on and on.

Nor is dropping intensity to Scotch College kick-to-kick levels what you want in a defender. Ironically, Tom Langdon has an uncanny knack for finding the football. After two years and two games Buckley finally lost patience and moved Langdon up the ground, only for him to perform a Gubby Allan cameo against Melbourne, sucking the air out of a victory charge.

Frost is Lost
In his debut season Jack Frost filled in admirably for the oft-injured Nathan Brown and Ben Reid, holding down full back in Prestigiacomo blanket style. Now, asked to zone off his man, he’s bereft of confidence and rarely in the same widescreen TV frame as his opponent. Last week it was Casboult, who’s the next lucky forward?

In Hine we Trust?
Derek Hine’s reputation has taken a hit in recent seasons. Recycled players have generally failed and other selections have been hit and miss with a seeming preoccupation with left field project players. The fragility of recruits aside, has there been sufficient regard for filling specific needs and crucial kicking skills?

It’s Time.
Sorry Ed, you were good in your time and we thank you. But your original answer to “(I) have done this for 18 years, can I go through it again?  Have I got any more ideas?” was correct.

Grandiose visions of creating European style sports clubs, women’s teams and solving community problems is great but the Hawthorn template of focusing on the next flag is all supporters actually ask for. And unlike Ed, who on principle refuses to pay the equalisation tax on football department spending, the triple premiers are willing to pay the price for the expensive shoes.

Is there anybody out there though? A few have been warned off over the past 15 years since the club’s last election. Someone else is required to invigorate this stale, complacent and distracted club. This year Collingwood won’t even publish its membership figure, meanwhile average home crowds have dropped 12,000 since 2012.

In honour of Prince it appears we’re about to party like it’s 1999.

Where Does the Buck Stop?
And so to Nathan Buckley. Smart, articulate and self motivated man and thus cut from a different cloth to most of the Gen Y’s he’s leading. It may not have been Ed’s place to say so but surely it’s time Bucks reassessed a game plan that appears beyond the players currently available. Like Hardwick, Buckley has for periods demonstrated he can coach. Like Hardwick, his coaching department is collectively underwhelming – none of them having experienced AFL success elsewhere. Notwithstanding, Bucks made his bed and is responsible for his roommates…

Some of these stones cast from the outside may be misguided or fail the club’s side by side mantra, however in the spirit of Leading Teams it’s about time Collingwood addressed some home truths. Hard decisions need to be made and I’m tipping it won’t be tomato sauce smothering these ‘Pies. About the only promising aspect is a history pointing to a propensity to commit swiftly to a blood letting before a quick rebound.



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. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I reckon that Jack Frost would go alright elsewhere. On the few occasions that he is allowed to grab the ball and run a bit, you can see his eyes light up, then his shoulders sag when he realises that it will be a few weeks before he is allowed to do it again.

    Maybe he should take a walk with Derek down to the McKinnon for a local home truth session.

  2. Frost went alright at CFC for a while Swish but like too many has regressed rather than progressed. A good coach recognises a player’s strengths and limitations. Frost hasn’t got great footy smarts and is a nervous kicker but has great athletic capacity to shut down good forwards.

    I think they could all do with a walk down to the McKinnon for some truth serum. The group probably needs to loosen up a bit, not be so highly strung. Find the fun in footy and play for each other again.

  3. DBalassone says

    Brilliant writing Jeff. Reading your stuff makes me want to quit the caper. I still maintain that Cloke was far from our worst player in the 2 weeks before he was dropped. 16 possessions and two goals in each of those two games, while pinch-hitting in the ruck. From where I was sitting, he was trying his guts out. When Bucks said ‘he has to find his hunger again’ it was perplexing to me. I’m wondering if Bucks’ pride has become the pertinent issue here – with so many players who have either walked or have been traded, the question just has to be asked. And besides, even if Cloke is misfiring, Moore needs him nearby, in much the same way Sav needed Dermie in ’95.

  4. You’re way too kind Damo.

    It’s little wonder rumour had it that Cloke walked out on the club, you wouldn’t blame him having also copped it from his teammates during a Leading Teams sparring session. Cloke would have been fired up to prove a point on Saturday in a must-win game. I saw him in the VFL the week before and he did enough. Alas, he apparently has a crook back now anyway and will probably be anywhere between 1 and 15 weeks away.

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    More like ‘Bleeding Teams’ at this stage JD. You’ve summarised what I can only describe as a malaise perfectly. Surely we are not this bad?

    This is worse than the horror of the Shaw years because we are cashed up. Trevor Hendy for ruck coach anyone?

  6. John Butler says

    JD, just when we’re having such fun, you want to go spoil it with objective analysis.

    Personally, I’m perfectly happy for the Pies to proceed as they are. But if they must insist on improving, reading this piece wouldn’t be the worst thing they could do.

    Watching them Saturday, my general observation is they lacked football smarts. This is the wrong season to lack football smarts. It becomes more crucial each season to think your way through situations.

    So the question is, genuine lack of game sense or too tight a leash? What is being emphasized when they prepare?

    And I, for one, was very happy Cloke didn’t play. I suspect Rowe and Jamison were of like mind.


  7. LOL Phil, Trevor Hendy. Another to add to the list of bizarre acquisitions. Former iron man fixes Cloke’s goal kicking – that would have made for a good fantasy.

    It’s been said elsewhere JB the rule changes greatly reducing stoppages have most effected the stodgy teams like Collingwood, Freo and Richmond. That said Freo’s whole game is built on Sandilands and Fyfe and they are not playing.

    Whether you call it dumb or indecisive football, the result looks the same. I would agree too much instictiveness and flair seem to have been drilled out of them, although it must also be said our line/game breaking type players are mostly missing too. When there’s little continuity in personnel and an inexperienced lineup, over complicating with precise zones etc is a recipe for disaster.

    That Bolton can instil a cohesiveness within the space of 6 months is a credit to him and an indictment on Buckley and co.

  8. DBalassone says

    I think what we are seeing is the last remnants of a corporate/brand theory that originated late last decade: that dream theory being that the great player/captains Voss, Hird & Buckley must return and coach the teams they played for (regardless of serving an apprenticeship or not). It’s ended in disaster for all 3. Adelaide should be commended for not going down the same path with Riccuito, and Collingwood should have no better after the Tony Shaw failure. Having said that, Bucks should be given until the end of the year to try and redeem himself. Who knows what can happen? 4 coaches in 30 years is a pretty impressive stat, and a couple of flags at that, so maybe a bit of patience is what is required from delusional diehards such as I.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Sadly, I agree with everything you’ve written Jeff.
    Did we really need to pay overs for a four year contract for L.Greenwood, who lacks pace and has poor disposal?
    Surely leading teams is done.
    Would love for everyone at Collingwood FC, in all capacities, to read this.

  10. Each time I see Levi Greenwood, I am thankful that North called his bluff. He only had one good season (2014) for us and was on the list for years. Great work by his manager, though. D Hine’s days are numbered.

    JD, well done for calling out Leading Teams. What a load of codswallop. Didn’t Akermanis allude to the ridiculousness of all this when he was at the Bulldogs?

  11. I reckon Greenwood can play Smokie – I can’t explain why he has been so ordinary after a decent pre season this year but he’s not on his pat malone in terms of our midfield. The long term contract though was inexplicable and a sign of the times.

    I think Leading Teams goes to the club and Buckley’s mindset to try and create perfect citizens of every player on the list as if that will lead to on field success. Malthouse was more pragmatic – as long as players got the job done that was all he cared about. Hawthorn is basically the same. Seems to me this year Collingwood are allowing the media to inform their decision making. It was evident in the wrong headed decision to prematurely extend Buckley’s contract. Ask supporters if they care more that player x engages in some mind altering behaviour in the off season or is part of a happy, cohesive playing group that wins football matches and I reckon I know which way most would vote.

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