No one saw this coming. Every Collingwood supporter I spoke to was hopeful, but worried about how it might go. “Confident” was not a word I heard uttered often in relation to Collingwood’s chances against Richmond in the Preliminary Final.

But the Pies stood up, and in doing so, flattened the Tigers to win by 39 points.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of one of the biggest upsets since the 2008 Grand Final



The Magpie tackling

The Pies were on very early, and it was evident in the way they attacked the bodies of their Richmond opponents that they meant business.

It’s one thing to apply that sort of tackling pressure at the start of the game when you’re fresh, the adrenaline is pumping and you’re raring to go, but it’s another thing entirely to maintain it for the entire duration of the game. But here we had the Magpies, throwing everything they had at the Tigers, knocking the ball loose, refusing to allow their tackles to be broken, and dragging those in the yellow and black to ground at every opportunity.

And they just didn’t stop!

Levi Greenwood led the tackle count with 10, then Chris Mayne with nine, but it wasn’t the individual tallies that told the story – it was the ferocity!

The Pies hunted the Tigers. Like poachers in the jungle, they were unrelenting (though I like to think they’re a little more noble than poachers), and it created chaos amongst the Richmond ranks. We’ll get to the implied pressure a little later on, but the Collingwood tackling was an absolute highlight of the game. It was a whole-team approach, and they won the overall total by 11.

They say the wolf climbing the hill is always a little hungrier than the one sitting on top. Tonight we saw a wolf challenge the alpha, and knock them back to the pack.

Taylor Adams

I don’t want to look at any stats before I write this, but this was the absolute best all-round game I’ve seen Taylor Adams play. It’s not like I’m jumping on a bandwagon here – here’s a column I wrote about him earlier in the year, but he was amazing tonight.

He was everywhere; at clearances, at the bottom of packs, starting handball chains and sending the ball inside 50. He may have had better statistical games, but for mine, this was the most influential he has ever been. I always looked at the Magpie midfield as being comprised of a big three, with Sidebottom, Pendlebury and Treloar, but I apologise… they’re a big four! Adams has kicked down the door.

Now, the stats. 36 touches at 69% efficiency, 20 contested touches which was a game high, 12 score involvements and two direct goal assists. Shall I go on? Why not? Eight clearances, nine inside 50s and five free kicks, usually due to his hard tackling. I’m rapt the stats back up what I thought was a ripping game. I know the votes will probably go to Sidebottom or Cox, but give Adams a shout out as well – he was amazing.

Mason F’n Cox

I wish Jack Dyer were alive so he could talk about his arms going up to mark the ball like two big testicles… errr, tentacles. Thanks Jack, but I’ll refrain from making the teenage jokes from now on.

Cox was enormous today (OK, from now on). He clunked marks like the star forwards of old. None of this juggled attempt garbage – he was one-grabbing them at every turn. Watching Rance and Astbury flail away at the ball that was simply too far out of their reach was a real “sit up and take notice” moment for both me, and I’m guessing everyone who watched the game. It was a definite sign that if you get perfect conditions, Mason Cox can legitimately dominate a game.

He had eight contested marks for the game, which was only one short of the record finals mark set by Chad Cornes in the 2002 semi-final. Simply put, he was an absolute monster.

We wrote in our preview that he was disappointing in the first two weeks of the final, and we stand by that. We also said that he needed to clunk some marks in order to make the Tiger defenders accountable. I’m not arrogant enough to think that any player, let alone Cox would read what we write on The Mongrel, but far out… he delivered exactly what was required tonight.

Three second quarter goals helped the Magpies put their stamp on the game, and when they needed him to take a mark, be it at half back or at half forward, he presented beautifully.

It really is feast or famine with Mason Cox. There are games where he looks lost at sea out there, and that usually coincides with the conditions not at all suiting him, but when you have nights like tonight, your place in the side is secure. It was the game of a lifetime for him.

Steele Sidebottom

What would Collingwood have wanted from Sidebottom prior to this game?

I was of the opinion that 25 high quality touches, where he used his good decision-making and skill by both hand and foot would be enough. We got so much more.

Sidebottom amassed 41 touches and constantly put himself in the correct position to either release pressure on a teammate, or to get the ball clear himself. Those 41 touches were at 85% efficiency, and his run through the midfield was so valuable.

Here’s a question – who was his direct opponent? Here’s another question – does Sidebottom have some kind of contagious disease? Because whoever was responsible for him basically avoided him like the plague.

Speaking of contagious diseases, does anyone follow Sam Powell-Pepper on instagram? That guy just ain’t too bright, is he?

Travis Varcoe’s clean hands

I reckon this’ll be missed in a lot of reviews, but Travis Varcoe’s ability to take the ball cleanly, in traffic, either below his knees or overhead was absolutely masterful early in the game.

He does not get big numbers in games, but what he does do is provide a highly skilled, one-touch player whose ability to make a difference in a game means that he doesn’t have to touch it 30 times.

It was his pick up below his knees on the wing that led to the opportunity for Jordan de Goey to snap the first goal of the game from the pocket, and he did it again in the third quarter, as he just waded through traffic like Moses parting the red sea. (Just as an aside, I wasn’t actually there when Moses parted the red sea, but it sounds like an impressive feat).

Varcoe is an X-factor on the Collingwood team. Guys like Jaidyn Stephenson and Will Hoskin-Elliott were both down a bit today, but when the heat was on early, Varcoe was at his best. He finished with just ten touches and goal, but I’ll tell you what – give me his ten touches over the 19 that Dustin Martin gathered today. Varcoe’s were of a much higher quality.

Jack Riewoldt’s third quarter

I really think Riewoldt should’ve been All-Australian captain this season if they weren’t going to give it to an actual captain. His performance in the third quarter screamed of leadership, and it was his efforts that dragged the Tigers back into the game.

He kicked three of his five goals in the third, and added the first goal of the last quarter to really give Richmond a sniff. Sadly for him, you need more than just one bloke kicking goals to get you over the line.

Jack finished with 5.1 for the night – a lone hand in the Tiger forward line that has been so effective all year. On a night like tonight, I reckon the Tigers really missed Dan Butler. He is an intelligent forward who gets to the right spots and creates not only for himself, but teammates. With Shane Edwards having an off-night as well, someone like Butler may have provided a spark. Josh Caddy and Jason Castagna just didn’t show up.

De Goey owning Alex Rance

Now I know that Tiger fans will think I am just having a crack at Rance, but really, the only time this bloke looked decent tonight is when he was allowed to zone off and not have to be responsible for anyone. When he matched up on Cox, he was beaten – soundly. And when he found himself on Jordan de Goey… of the how the fun and games started.

De Goey was just too fast off the mark for Rance. All the Collingwood mids had to do was put the ball out in front of their leading forward, and they knew he was going to get it. He beat Rance in the air, he beat him body-to-body, and he beat him at ground level.

I don’t think there has been many times this season where Rance was moved off someone because he was being this soundly beaten. The only other time I saw was when Josh Jenkins got hold of him in Round 2, and he moved over to play on second-gamer, Darcy Fogarty to start having an influence, which he did.

De Goey was a sensation. It takes something special to beat Rance, but beat him he did en route to kicking four goals and looking like a potential match winner early in the game. I have to admit, at the opening bounce I watched de Goey run to position. When I saw it was going to be Rance playing on him, I thought we might see something special. Either Rance was going to nullify the Collingwood forward, or the Pies would use de Goey well and lead Rance a dance.

It turned out to be the latter, and the expected match up of Grimes and de Goey was forced to wait until the damage was already done.

No repeat last quarter fade from Brodie Grundy

There have been a few occasions where I’ve mentioned the coaching battle of wills between Buckley and Hardwick from Round 19. It was all to do with the way Grundy and Nankervis were used.

Nank sat for extended time in the third quarter last time as the Tigers retained their lead under intense Collingwood pressure. He wasn’t afforded that luxury this time.

Grundy had an enormous 56 hit outs tonight (19 to direct advantage), and when the time came to step up in the last quarter, he gathered 11 of his 21 touches to put the game out of reach. His take out of the ruck and subsequent snap to extend the Magpie lead put the game beyond doubt.

Nankervis was far from disgraced. He is a warrior and will always fight the game out, but Grundy was a man on a mission tonight. A couple of his taps to Pendlebury and Adams were absolutely perfect, and gave the Pies first use at crucial points of the game.

Trent Cotchin’s desperation

There were a few Tigers found wanting tonight under the Magpie pressure, but their captain was not one of them.

Cotchin had 11 contested disposals amongst his 25 touches for the game, both of which led his team, but it just wasn’t to be. He was hard at the ball, and hard at the man, as you’d expect from him, but it just wasn’t to be.

Cotchin was left fighting a battle all alone in the middle, with the Tigers struggling to find another midfield winner. He also laid seven tackles to be the best in that category for his team as well. He did all he could, and should hold his head high.

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Tigers going missing

Here’s a few names I want you to have a think about. Jason Castagna. Josh Caddy. Jack Graham. Dion Prestia. Shane Edwards.

They are names that have been synonymous with Richmond running over the top of teams, but tonight, they simply went missing.

Castagna laid a couple of nice tackles but simply could not get his hands on the pill. Graham provided absolutely nothing offensively, compiling a stat line of eight touches and two tackles for the game. He spent a fair bit of time trying to subdue Pendlebury, but the Pies are now a team who don’t rely on their captain for those 30+ touch games.

Josh Caddy was more like a seagull than the forward we watched kick 46 goals for the year. He didn’t earn a kick all night. Dion Prestia wasted the ball time and time again. On face value, you look at him with 24 touches and think he did OK, but he travelled at just 42% efficiency for the game.

And that brings us to the forward maestro, Shane Edwards. His selection in the All-Australian team raised more than a few eyebrows, and tonight would have provided a little ammunition for his detractors.

Edwards had just seven touches to three quarter time; a total non-factor. He was minded by James Aish for a lot of the game, as Aish flitted between him and Daniel Rioli. He finished with 11 for the game, but picked up a few after the game was gone. It may have been Edwards’ worst performance of the season. It was definitely his lowest statistical output for the season, and a game he’d like to forget sooner rather than later.

Dustin Martin

Well, do we want to talk about injury clouds? Or do we just want to give Levi Greenwood and Jeremy Howe the credit for doing a great job on the reigning Brownlow Medallist?

In our preview, we wrote about the issue of Dusty drifting forward, and how it provided Greenwood with a huge headache. Nathan Buckley was prepared this time, and as soon as Martin headed inside 50, Jeremy Howe went to him.

To be fair, Dusty did not look himself. There was no bursting from packs, no long, penetrating kicks, and no gut-running. His second efforts were non-existent, and even though Neil Balme was 100% confident he would play, perhaps having someone who would be physically able to provide multiple efforts and defensive pressure may have been preferable.

Thank you Captain Hindsight.

Martin looked like a bloke ready to end the season and regroup for 2019 tonight. Well, now he gets the chance.

He finished with 19 touches (58% efficiency despite only six kicks), eight contested possessions and zero clearances. Yep…zero.

In contrast, Greenwood had 16 touches at 50% efficiency and 10 tackles. No matter which way you slice it, sore or not, Greenwood was Dusty’s master tonight.


The Fumbles

Jayden Short, Bachar Houli, Reece Conca, David Astbury, Kamdyn McIntosh… these are names you don’t expect to give the opposition chances with double grabs when receiving handballs. You also don’t expect them to be completely losing the ball at ground level either, but that’s what they did tonight. They just looked… off. The Tigers aren’tsupposed to feel the pressure; they’re supposed to apply it, right? That’s the way this season has played out til now.

Credit the intense pressure of the Magpies, but it genuinely looked as though these players were a little overawed tonight, which is quite incredible given the size of the crowds the Tigers have played in front of over the past couple of years.

Maybe it was a perfect storm of pressure (both applied by the Pies, and the weight of expectation) or maybe the Tigers just had a bad day?

They picked a bad day to have a bad day.

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Righto… the nitty gritty.

You’d have to think Adam Treloar would be finally a little more content with his decision to choose Collingwood over Richmond. It gets brought up often, and though Treloar was by no means a star of any sort tonight (19 touches and only 12 to three quarter time) he would be sleeping a little easier knowing he has a chance to justify his decision next weekend.

I gave Levi Greenwood a bit of credit above where we spoke about Martin, but when Howe took the job on Dusty up forward, Greenwood would move over to Caddy, and he was excellent on him as well. As a matter of fact, Greenwood’s attention may have really thrown Caddy off his game. When was the last time Caddy got close attention from a genuine stopper?

I thought Pendlebury had a chance to really clean up a blindsided Trent Cotchin in the first quarter, but opted to tackle instead. I’m not sure the same courtesy would’ve been extended by Cotchin.

Speaking of Pendles, that little move where he prepares the handball to buy time didn’t come off a couple of times early in the game. It almost cost the Pies a goal in the first quarter.

Saw Dusty throw a couple of sneaky little elbows over the course of the game. That’d be the frustration, right? Not with Greenwood – with his own body not allowing him to perform the way he knows he can.

Nankervis started really well on Grundy around the ground, and was probably more effective than him up until three quarter time in all aspects other than the ruck. The last quarter changed that, abruptly.

Interesting to see Daniel Rioli have the words “run chase” written on his wrist strapping. It was nice to James Aish read them, and then apply them in the third quarter with a ripping run down tackle.

We had a bit of a focus on Jack Crisp a couple of weeks back as one of the most underrated defenders in the comp. His 16 touches in the first half were absolutely fantastic tonight.

How great was the way Pendlebury refused to take possession of the ball on the boundary line in the second quarter, but controlled it enough to force his opponent to tackle him and give away the free kick. The ensuing kick inside 50 and the way Collingwood were able to open up space for Mason Cox to lead into was brilliant forward craft.

I felt the Tigers really started to press hard in the second quarter. Repeat entries and their “wall” across half back starting to work meant multiple chances to score, but it was Jack Crisp floating forward that drove a dagger into the Tiger hearts when he goaled on the run against the flow.

Three direct goal assists should’ve probably been four after that chiselling pass to de Goey from the centre bounce. That kick could not have been any better, and it gave Rance zero chance to spoil. It was a real pity de Goey missed.

Will Hoskin-Elliott had a real “almost” game tonight. Got his hands to plenty of marking attempts but just couldn’t grab them. He is usually so good overhead, too.

De Goey’s one hand, contested mark against Rance is a signature moment for him. Power and finesse rolled into one, against a great player is the stuff reputations are built on.

Kane Lambert’s back to back snaps and misses really could’ve changed the complexion of the game had they been goals. Instead, the Tigers relied on their first year player, Jack Higgins to break a pretty long goal drought, right before the half time siren.

Just want to give a shout out to the umpires tonight. I think they did an excellent job, with only one or two decisions being somewhat questionable (a deliberate out of bounds against Sidebottom, and an advantage rule being called back after the Tigers decided to take it). Other than that, they were hardly noticeable.

So, let’s take a second to compliment Collingwood’s forward coaching staff. Against a team with such a settled defence, they were consistently able to get Mason Cox space to lead into and mark. It’s not as though he’s a sprinter. Great work by Brenton Sanderson.

The only time I saw Shane Edwards look dangerous today was when James Aish dropped a mark he should’ve taken. Edwards swooped, kicked to Riewoldt, who goaled. That’s it. That’s the only time – what an effort by Aish.

How about Chris Mayne selling the candy… TWICE!

Interesting that the push in the back paid against Martin in the third probably won’t be paid next year. How long ago was it that the hands in the back rule was brought in? That was a Kevin Bartlett special if I remember correctly.

So I was waiting in the third quarter for the Tigers to start to get nasty. This was something I loved about Hawthorn when they were on top. Getting beaten was so foreign, and so distasteful that they would quickly turn “unsociable”. I didn’t see that from the Tigers tonight, which was a little disappointing.

Loved Tom Langdon’s gutsy mark with the flight of the ball late in the third quarter. Anything could’ve been coming the opposite direction.

If there was one thing I didn’t like about Steele Sidebottom’s game, it was the poor handball to Jeremy Howe that left the defender looking a little proppy. He was immediately run down by Daniel Rioli, and appeared to tweak an ankle. Sidebottom should have had better awareness than that – he is one of the best at finding targets in the game. Surely he could’ve seen Rioli closing in?

I thought Cox caught Vlastuin dead to rights in the third quarter on the wing. Vlastuin tried the fend, Cox latched on and the ump gave the defender the benefit of the doubt.

Riewoldt’s falling mark and goal to start the last was exactly the start Richmond needed. He took that mark within 15 seconds of the bounce. You could just feel the Collingwood fans tighten up a little as he slotted the goal.

But minutes later, Kane Lambert dropped a chest mark 45 metres out. It just wasn’t his night at all.

Astbury had to have been one more touch away from being paid the one-hand mark in the forward pocket in the last. Looked incredibly close to a mark to me.

No mind… Higgins got a free kick moments later and slotted it and it was only 21 points the difference. How the hell did this happen?

I suppose it’s somewhat fitting that the goal to steady the Magpie ship came off the boot of Adam Treloar.

Grundy’s goal from the ruck contest sealed the Magpie deal and sent the Tigers out of the race. The rest was glorified junk time – I hope you enjoyed those last 6-7 minutes, Pie fans.

If I’m choosing my top five for the game, I’m picking Cox, Adams, Sidebottom, Riewoldt and Grundy.

And bottom five – Castagna, Edwards, Martin (gasp!), Caddy and Graham. Too many passengers, Tigers.


So, the wash up.

This can be nothing but an unmitigated failure of a year for the Richmond Football Club. A record win streak at the MCG, premiership favouritism all year, and two games clear after the home and away season should add up to premiership glory.

Alas, it didn’t, and Collingwood spoiled the party.

This throws the race for the flag wide open. You know that both West Coast and Melbourne are now sitting back thinking they are even more of a shot at a premiership this year. Let’s face it, up until tonight, the consensus was that teams were playing for the right to lose to Richmond in the Grand Final. No longer.

Richmond are now on a par with the 1999 Bombers and the 2008 Cats. They are the sure things that failed to salute. One would hope they can regroup and come back harder next year, but in terms of 2018, it is a case of what could’ve been.

For Collingwood… well, this is unexpected. After an early season period where people were calling for Nathan Buckley’s head, the Pies have rallied to become… well, a damn fine football club. It kind of helps when you have a giant who comes to play, I guess.

Whether it’s the Dees of the Eagles next week, Collingwood just turned season 2018 on its head.

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