De Goey v Grimes – The Pivotal Contest in the Biggest Battle of the Year

There is something about Jordan De Goey.

Collingwood’s number two is a complex player – at 191 centimetres, De Goey is the perfect size – the prototype of the Bontempellian midfielder of the 21st century. De Goey is fast. His hands are strong. He has an insatiable hunger for the football. But he sits in the goalsquare, squinting up the field, brimming with promise.

De Goey has teased Collingwood. His foolishness has led to an early-career renaissance similar to the one of tattooed behemoth Dustin Martin at Tigerland. The 22 year-old Pie, like Martin, is dared, expected to tear games in two; he occasionally does.

De Goey is a big-game player, but not so much a Rolls-Royce as it is applied to some of his peers. He is hard edges and brilliance all at once, a precise, brutal weapon. He is an enigma, capable of the miraculous and Herculean.

On Saturday night, De Goey was masterful. Inside the Pies’ forward half, he was there, charging, a black-and-white machine. He kicked three goals (and should’ve had five), but his defining moment was a handball to a careering Travis Varcoe. De Goey had gathered, burning, making space in the contest by simply moving against the tide. The Giants whipped past; De Goey flitted between spaces. Varcoe’s dash demanded the leather and Collingwood’s tyro found him in stride.

It was with Varcoe’s goal that the Giants looked done. It was not Cotchin’s spinning snap from yesteryear, not Jack Macrae’s crucial set shot, not Nick Davis’ final quarter. But De Goey’s handpass was THE finals play of 2018 to date. It was September, encapsulated. Finding space when there should be none.

De Goey is as explosive as he is exciting. Matt Buntine did very little wrong, but all De Goey needed was a step. He got the step, and took several more. He took eight marks – five of them were inside his team’s 50 metre arc. He damaged with each of his 11 kicks and drew the camera to him every time the ball entered that 50 metre arc. At one point he drew the camera’s attention due to indiscretions – now he demands the lens’ attention with his football.

What football it was. His game, abled by a brilliant midfield display from Steele Sidebottom, led Collingwood to a rightful place in a Preliminary Final. Against the Tigers. If there is a man made for a Preliminary Final in front of 100,000 delirious barrackers, it is Jordan De Goey.

It’s close to certain it will be Dylan Grimes who makes his way to De Goey’s side on Friday. Grimes, too, wears the #2 – but while De Goey is a dynamic, enigmatic and brilliant talent, Grimes is a dour and careful, yet no less a brilliant footballer. Luke Bruest and Paul Puopolo scored a single goal against the stingiest defence in the league a fortnight ago – Grimes was The Man, impassible.

Grimes stands around 193 centimetres. He is as quick as De Goey, cool under pressure, adept at going about his job quietly and consistently. In 2017, if Richmond’s backline was a band, Grimes would be playing bass guitar, crucial to the success of the side yet only noticeable when they failed. However, his exploits have been noted this year – considered to be one of the unluckier All-Australian snubs, Grimes has resembled fellow Tiger backman Alex Rance in his mad dash to prevent danger up the field – while leaving an opponent alone at the goalmouth.

Grimes’ sudden ascension to footballing relevance has almost been as steep as De Goey’s. If he played bass before, he now finds himself as the lead.

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The two are matched. The young Magpie is perhaps the game’s superior small/medium goal scorer, while Grimes is one of the best versatile defenders in the game. De Goey has been sanctioned for drink-driving – ironically, Grimes owns a winery. It is fitting that they’ll meet in such a magnificent blockbuster, fitting that De Goey’s first appearance against the Tigers this year will be on Friday night.

Grimes has scalped almost all of his opponents this year – with the notable exclusion of Toby Greene, who kicked two goals from 15 disposals while opposed to Richmond’s key stopper. All-Australian Luke Bruest, Grimes’ most recent opponent, gathered 7 kicks and a goal at 54.5% efficiency. Grimes’ hit list is a vaulted collection of brilliance.

It’s for this reason that he’ll keep De Goey under wraps. Grimes, along with Neville Jetta, is the most underrated of the competition’s defenders – De Goey will have a say on Friday night, but it will be Richmond’s #2 who’ll take the points. Grimes’ pace matches that of De Goey’s and in the air, he beats him.

De Goey must make the most of a limited repertoire of opportunities against the Tigers’ Mr Fix-It. If anyone was to do it, it would be the Pie. But Grimes’ belting of Greene and Betts last year in huge finals gives him a big game reputation that cannot be ignored.

Collingwood, nevertheless, will be there. Steele Sidebottom’s class is unrivaled at the club. Brodie Grundy’s football is quickly becoming more magnificent than his dress sense. Adam Treloar looks like Bart Simpson and is as damaging for the Pies with his disposal as he is to Principal Skinner at Springfield Elementary. Mason Cox is yet to fire in this finals series, but at roughly 24 feet, the gigantic Texan is bound to have his say. Baby-faced assassins Josh Thomas and Jaidyn Stephenson will take some stopping while Tyson Goldsack is rarely outpointed. If all else fails, Jeremy Howe can just leap on someone’s head to inflame the contest.

But the Tigers are… well, tigerish. You can’t tackle Dustin Martin. Trent Cotchin’s Lego head is battered every game but the Richmond skipper trucks on. Alex Rance is Alex Rance. Jack Riewoldt’s leap has rivalled Howe’s in the past. Shane Edwards and Kane Lambert lead a fleet of dizzyingly energetic midfielders that resemble kelpies in their enthusiasm and honeymooners in their blatant disregard for bodily contact. Jack Higgins’ exuberance is almost exhausting to watch and Josh Caddy plays similarly to how he uses language – with impact and savage intent.

Add to the melting pot a deafening crowd, a spot in the Grand Final, a hundred years of rivalry and mutual hatred and you have one of the more ridiculously anticipated clashes in footballing history.

All roads lead to the MCG.

We can’t wait.

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