Well, that’s it – the pre-season is over. We’re now officially in the home stretch to round one, and the Magpies and Blues gave Morwell a show in the final outing of the JLT series.

We saw legitimate one-on-one clashes, some midfield brilliance, young guns strutting their stuff, and intercept marks galore as Collingwood triumphed in a game where the result really didn’t matter.

But the performances did matter.

Let’s run through a few of them.

I had Darcy Moore as the best player on the ground today, and it wasn’t just that he took a heap of intercept marks. It was the quality of his opposition that mattered.

Charlie Curnow had one win against Moore all day, as a half-volley eluded Moore as he charged at it. It bounced to Curnow, who ran in and kicked an open goal. The commentators stated it was a missed chance to mark by Moore, and maybe it was, but it looked to me like it bounced as it got to him, and Curnow was rewarded for being second to the ball.

I’ll come clean – this time last year I thought that the move of Moore into the backline was a mistake, and really, I’ll be waiting until Moore performs like this in a string of actual AFL games before any apology is issued. JLT performances in Morwell are one thing, but in front of 80,000 fans at the MCG… that’s another. However, if we’re concentrating solely on today, he was fantastic in the role.

While so often the plaudits go to midfielders in the modern game, Moore’s efforts in curtailing Curnow were pivotal, particularly in the third quarter. He had 10 intercept possessions, and though there were other quality defenders plying their trade, Moore was the one I took notice of.

His match up with Curnow has the potential to be a modern classic. They are a year apart in age and should both be coming into their prime. If Moore continues down back, he will likely encounter Curnow a dozen times over the next 5-6 years. I’ll be looking forward to each and every tussle.

Charlie – you’re 0-1 against Moore now. You get a chance to tie it up in round 8.

Jack Crisp was also having a party across half back, racking up 33 touches and 12 marks as he continually got himself open and received from teammates looking for someone who could deliver the ball well.

Speaking of having a party at half back, it was a happy hunting ground for Steele Sidebottom, who drifted back and collected 31 touches of his own. I’d hazard a guess that a third of them came as an option as the Pies transferred play. At one point, Brendan Bolton threw Will Setterfield onto Sidebottom to give him a bit of a lesson in how to play midfield at the highest level.

I hope Setterfield has learned his lesson, as Sidebottom led him a dance, and via some power running, left Setterfield in his dust to get forward and receive an over-the-top goal from Tyson Goldsack. Sidebottom looked like a man on a mission in the first quarter – like a man who has been stung by his worst performance of the season last year coming on the biggest day of the year.

Patrick Cripps continued doing what Patrick Cripps does. I noticed the Blues targeting him from the kick out on several occasions – something I’m sure will not be lost on Damien Hardwick as we head into round one. And why wouldn’t you target him? He is wonderful in the air, hardly ever loses his footing, and wins his own ball like I tend to win the lowest possible prize in Powerball despite buying a ticket worth 40 bucks.

Bloody rip off Powerball tempting me with their big jackpots…

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Something I really liked from Collingwood was the unselfishness. It was exemplified when Josh Thomas opted to try to hit up Jamie Elliot in the third quarter despite being within range. Thomas had every right to have a ping for goal, but lowered his eyes and spotted Elliott in the pocket.

Why was it important? Well, you see the Collingwood team; at this stage of the season is a very hard nut to crack. Elliott is returning from injury and looking to get into a side that was a kick away from September glory, and the bloke whose spot he’s trying to take kicked the ball to him instead of going for home. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what you want from your team.

THAT is ego-less football.

And THAT is the ethos that Nathan Buckley has managed to instil in what was once a team of individuals, but is now a team – period.

I think the pressure might be off Paddy Dow a little now, and with 11 of his 14 touches coming in the contest, once he has the opportunity to run and spread, games with 20+ disposals should start flowing for him. As nice as it is to have someone else occupying the “great young player” spotlight, he is now operating in the shadow of Sam Walsh, who almost had the JLT fairy-tale, with a shot at goal in the dying seconds to put the Blues in front.

Yeah, almost, but it doesn’t really matter. Walsh was outstanding for a first year player, and gathered 23 touches to be amongst Carlton’s best again. When he gets the ball and runs, there’s a bit of Trent Cotchin about him, with those hunches shoulders. When he wins the ball at a contest, there’s some Joel Selwood about him… and readers would know I’m a bit of a Selwood fan.

What those two comparisons have in common is that they’re both incredible leaders of their respective teams, and internally, the Blues would have to be thinking that in Walsh, they have someone that will eventually be a leader at the club. The thing about good leadership – your leaders have to be someone people want to follow. You can already see that if Sam Walsh walked into battle, other players would follow right behind him.

Treat him with care, Blues – he’s wonderful.

I thought Liam Jones was really good in defence, even though he almost killed Jacob Weitering as he ran back and spoiled in the first quarter. I seriously think Weitering should get a raise, because last season, Jones put his life in danger on a regular basis, and often collided with either him or Marchbank. I hope they start communicating a little better, as they have the makings of a formidable defensive pairing when things go right.

That said, I am still not really sure what Lachie Plowman is. Mid-size defender, yes… but he looks like he doesn’t actually want the ball. His gather on the boundary, where he kind of just stood there, hoping he was out of play speaks of a guy who doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his ability to make a play outside of a defensive one. Is it just a confidence thing? He looks capable, but there is something that’s stopping him. Does he feat leather-poisoning? Can someone tell him it’s not a real thing?

Adam Treloar had 42 touches today, yet I thought Sidebottom was more damaging, particularly early. For context, that would match his career-high in an actual AFL game, so Treloar’s efforts are not being discounted – I just preferred Sidebottom’s measured disposal.

Treloar is a burst player, and I would prefer 25 touches with him being on the end of a handball chain, as I reckon that speed can kill teams.

Jordan Roughead showed enough early to indicate he’ll be a stellar defender for the Pies. Slotting in alongside Langdon, Crisp, Maynard, Moore and Howe, the Pies are formidable all over the park.

Ben Crocker had a ripping first quarter. I had him as BOG at that point. He drifted out of it pretty noticeably, but he was staking a claim for a run early in the season with that first quarter.

Marc Murphy had 22 touches and seven tackles, but I get the feeling we only saw him in third gear today. After an injury-plagued 2018, he’d be looking at two weeks’ time as the trigger for him to start going hard. He is effectively the third midfielder now – a perfect role for him at this stage of his career. I can actually see him doing some damage in that role if he can stay healthy, and both Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay should lick their lips if Murphy gets some space looking inside 50.

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Not really sure how I feel about Mitch McGovern’s pre-season. Actually, I am, but I’m trying not to be offensive. He hasn’t fired a shot as yet, and I hope he is still working into shape, because this really couldn’t get worse for him. I know both he and his brother are no fitness freaks, but he looks like he’s got tuckshop lady arms at the moment.

Probably the best game I’ve seen Sam Petrevski-Seton play for the Blues, and 11 contested touches is definitely the most I’ve seen him collect. Hopefully the quality of his disposals improves rapidly, but it was good to see him win his own ball.

David Cunningham looked lively up forward, and his desperation created some opportunities for his teammates in addition to the goal he scored, himself.

Callum Brown’s run and carry – electrifying. He looked like a million bucks when given space to get on his bike,

Just one more thing to point out before I rest my weary fingers. The Collingwood on-field leaders; Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom and Brodie Grundy, all had two direct goal assists each. That’s where the Blues need to start looking after each other. If they start getting Cripps and Murphy hitting up targets close to goal, players are more likely to run for them. Or maybe I’m full of it with that one.

Massive games in Round One – the Blues get the Tigers in the opener, and the Pies get the cats the next night. Both should be absolute belters.

Seeya JLT, it’s been great, but I want the real stuff now.


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