So I was waiting for the Tigers to make their move. Collingwood controlled the game, monopolised possession, and used precision kicking to slice through the Richmond defensive structures, but still, I was waiting.

In the end, I got sick of waiting.

In an incredibly professional display, the Magpies opened the Tigers up, and demonstrated a patience that comes with knowing your structures, and knowing when the right time to go is.

The Pies held the ball up when they had to, and waited until Richmond made a mistake to go forward in a rush, and when they did, their forwards were ready to pounce.

Their defence was on top, their mids were on top, and up forward, that bloke named de Goey sparkled like a diamond again. Funny, he had five goals, but I wouldn’t even have him in the votes.

I’ll cover off who I would in the good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

 

DARCY MOORE

Did Moore lose a contest all game? Serious question – I can’t remember seeing him lower his colours once throughout the entire contest.

Other defenders will have better stats, but Moore’s fearlessness in the air, his dash at ground level, and his tackling when the opposition had the ball were all standouts for me in a game where the Collingwood defence tore the Tiger attack to shreds.

Watching Jack Riewoldt up forward was interesting tonight. Whenever he was opposed to Moore, he was shut out of the game, and it was only when he was moved into the ruck (Alan Jeans used to say you don’t throw your thoroughbreds in with the brumbies, but what would he know, right?) that he started to get some touches.

Moore finished with relatively modest stats of 15 disposals and four marks, but the way he attacked the contest, and the way he crashed in meant he had much more of an influence than those numbers would indicate. Some of his decisions with the ball, including one diagonal kick across the ground to open up play, led directly to a goal for Jamie Elliott in the second quarter.

You know what? I thought the move of Moore to defence would be a mistake last season. I really thought he had the chance to be a very good forward, but with the emergence of de Goey, the development of Mihocek, and the four smalls in Elliott, Stephenson, Thomas and Hoskin-Elliott in the forward half, the best option was for him to go back and attack the footy.

I feel like a big man tonight, so I am happy to admit I was dead wrong on that call.

Moore looked like an All-Australian defender against the Tigers, and when you factor in the quality of the opposition, it makes his game all the more impressive.

 

BRODY MIHOCEK

Three votes, Brody Mihocek.

About half way through the second quarter, I watched Mihocek competing between wing and half back. He didn’t mark, but he brought the ball to ground and the Pies took off as a result. I thought “he really does present well as the get out of jail option these days.”

And from that moment on, all I saw, whenever Collingwood needed someone to lead strongly from half forward, was Brody Mihocek leading Nick Vlastuin to the ball and winning in the air.

He had five contested grabs for the game, which complemented his 20 disposals and saw him send the Pies inside 50 on ten occasions. As a centre half forward, this is the exact game you want from a player.

I don’t think we’re ever going to be sitting back and watching Mihocek kick six or seven goals ala Wayne Carey, but 12 marks, with three of them coming inside forward 50 is as good as you see at that position these days.

At times when I watch him, Mihocek can look a little rigid; a little mechanical as he gets around the field. I guess looks can be deceiving. It was far and away the best game I have seen him play in black and white (or any colour combination for that matter), and with plenty of goal kickers surrounding him, Mihocek’s presence as a strong marking, unselfish forward is vitally important to the Collingwood structure.

The Pies had plenty of standout performers, and I am unsure whether we’ll see Mihocek in the votes in the major papers and media outlets, but he gets my three votes at the Mongrel. He played an outstanding game.

 

PENDLES

There were quite a few Pies who managed to get a fair bit of the ball today, but none used it as well as the captain.

Scott Pendlebury had the fifth highest disposal count on the park, but he was easily the most influential of Collingwood’s midfield brigade. Yes, Treloar had 39, and yes Beams had 36, but I repeat – no one had the influence that Pendlebury did.

He ran at 84% efficiency for the evening, and rolled off half back and through the middle with monotonous regularity. He even pulled one of the old Pendlebury “sell the dummy and buy time on the run” moves, only to feed off to Chris Mayne by hand for a goal.

He had six clearances and eight inside 50s to go with a superb all round performance. It came out that last year he was suffering with injury, but Pendles looks to have no lingering effects this season. He was silky, he was skilful, and he once again showed why he is one of the most highly regarded players of the AFL era.

I’d love to see him get back into the All-Australian side this season so they can stop handing out the captaincy to people who aren’t actually club leaders.

 

THE TAG

I’ve got to ask the question – is Dusty completely healthy?

No, no… I’m not making an excuse. Not at all – I want to give credit, and the highest possible compliment to Levi Greenwood, and I don’t want anyone saying that Dusty was carrying an injury, or Dusty was under the weather.

Dusty had a bit of a stinker, and that was due to the attention of Greenwood whenever Martin played anywhere other than deep forward.

Nathan Buckley and the Magpies learned the hard way last year that whenever Martin drifts forward, Greenwood requires some help, and a switch where possible. The communication broke down once in this game, allowing Martin to isolate Greenwood deep forward. He took a one-on-one mark but did not convert the opportunity.

It would be the last chance Martin received.

From that point on, Tom Langdon stepped in to take the heavy lifting whenever Martin went forward, and Greenwood would pick up the assignment when Martin went back up the field. On occasion, Jack Crisp would bridge the gap between Langdon and Greenwood until the Collingwood back six re-organised itself.

 The defensive effort was well organised, and well executed for the most part, and coupled with the fact that Martin appears to not give a rat’s
ass about the defensive aspect of the game (zero tackles), as soon as a player gets a little win against him, they can turn it into a big win by capitalising on his reluctance to chase.

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DE GOEY

Superstar. Match winner. Beast. Throw whatever words you want around to describe him, but it probably wouldn’t be enough to describe the game of Jordan de Goey up forward for the Pies. He finished with five goals, but easily could’ve had seven for the night.

I’m not sure there’s a player in the league that leads as hard at the ball carrier as de Goey. He doesn’t half-lead, hoping the ball goes in his direction – he screams your name, runs right at you and commands your attention.

I watched Steele Sidebottom ignore his lead to the pocket in the first quarter, and de Goey gave him a spray. Every time he leads, he believes he is the best option. That may or may not be because he usually is the best option.

His kicking around the corner looks so natural, and that sidestep out of trouble is one of the best, and most powerful in the business.

With news filtering through that North Melbourne offered him a million per year to make the jump to Arden Street, Eddie and the Collingwood hierarchy should be saving their pennies to throw at de Goey when next his contract is placed on the table. I reckon the negotiation starts at a million per season.

And I don’t know where it ends. There aren’t many genuine match winners in the game, but de Goey is one of them.

TOM LANGDON

For the second week in a row, Langdon has demonstrated exactly why the Pies were so eager to keep him. he reads the ball beautifully in their, to the point where he’s the only one capable of marking a ball because every other bloke in the area has run under it, following their man, or completely misjudging it.

He is playing with the sort of confidence that is usually reserved for 200-gamers, but he’ll tick over 100 this season if he stays healthy.

The Pies are spoiled in the backline, with Langdon combining with Maynard, Howe and Moore to provide solid defence and tremendous rebound. If the they can manufacture Langdon as the loose man back there at times, he will be an amazing disruptor as he floats in and clunks marks.

Could be leading the Collingwood B&F at this stage, but hey… there’s a long way to go.

 

 

THE BAD

 

DION PRESTIA

He can be a great link man for the Tigers, but tonight, Prestia played the role of tackling dummy for the ferocious Collingwood mids.

On three occasions, Prestia was caught holding the ball, and with 17 possessions and just one clearance, he couldn’t get a look in against the powerful Magpie midfield.

Prestia is a nice complimentary player to the Cotchin/Martin/Lambert trio, but when one or two of them doesn’t fire, he needs to step up and fill the void. He didn’t do that in this game. he was slow, uninvolved and looked defeated too early in the piece for my liking.

There’s a reason Collingwood played in a Grand Final last season, Dion. They tackle hard and they don’t allow people to simply step around them when they attack the body. You’d be well served remembering that for your return bout later in the season.

 

DUSTY

On the surface, was it that bad a game for Dusty? Am I judging him too harshly because he has been so good for so long?

Maybe, but being good previously doesn’t automatically give you a pass in the present.

Martin’s disposal has been ordinary in the two games this season. His propensity to grub the ball along the ground and miss targets is an aspect of his game that seems to be getting progressively worse. He doesn’t run defensively at all, and while he was once like a young lover – willing to go again and again, he’s now more like a middle-aged man, happy with a one-and-done effort.

Many predicted a hungrier, more determined Dustin Martin in 2019, stung into action by his virtual no-show in the 2018 prelim against the Pies. Well, we didn’t get it today, and if Dusty is becoming the kind of player that waits for the game to come to him the first time, every time, we may never see the same intensity we saw from him 18 months ago.

He is a weapon, used correctly, that can destroy a game, but he watched a man at the other end do what he should be doing, today. It must be scary to see a younger version of yourself doing what you used to do just a short time ago.

But I reckon that’s what Martin saw tonight. Maybe that’s enough to sting him into action next week? Maybe not, but should he even need something to sting him into action these days?

And before I jump to something else, Dusty’s tackling stats for 2019. Two games… no tackles.

Lazy.

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THE UGLY

 

NO TACKLING = NO GOOD

Remember back to last year when Richmond had this incredible wave of pressure they’d apply, and teams would wilt under their relentless tackling and physical attack?

Pepperidge Farm remembers, and so do I. Well, Tiger fans, you’d want to hope that the team starts to jog that memory as well, because tonight they looked as though they had completely forgotten what made them a powerhouse last season.

They were outperformed in the tackle count by a staggering 60-33 in this game, indicating that the Pies were almost twice as hungry to apply physical pressure on the ball carrier. Think about that for a second, and then add this stat in.

The Pies had 467 disposals. The Tigers had 303. If the Pies had so much of the ball, how the hell did they also manage to tackle so much more than Richmond?

This is a matter of desire. The Pies had it tonight, and the Tigers simply did not.

Richmond had too many passengers. They had 16 players with one or less tackles. Yep, you read that correctly – 16 players did not reach the lofty heights of holding onto more than a single tackle. Six players had no tackles at all.

One of the players with no tackles was Jack Riewoldt. This is just a gut feel, but I reckon there’s more to that wrist injury than we’re aware of right now. It was obviously painful, and once it settles, I reckon there’ll be an issue.

If you want to know where the Tigers are going wrong, look no further than that, right there. Tackling is an effort stat, and if Richmond think they’re going to coast through the season, beating the Carltons of this world with a quarter of footy, then so be it, but it takes a little more to beat good teams.

I thought they may have learned that lesson last September. Maybe this is a good reminder?

 

DYLAN GRIMES’ LATE HIT

I’m not one to throw players under the bus – truth be told, I like a bit of the rough stuff, but Dylan Grimes’ raised forearm to the face of Jamie Elliott in the last quarter was absolutely stupid.

With their number one defender sidelined for the season, Grimes will be relied upon to carry a heavy load. He dropped that load at the first opportunity, tonight. His defence was fine – his defence always is, but that unnecessary hit on Elliott should earn him a week for stupidity.

Here’s why – I am sick to death of the MRO explaining that they need to get a medical report in order to ascertain whether the incident was serious. It was serious enough that his elbow/forearm smashed into the face of Elliott. I could see it. You saw it. You don’t need a medical report to know it happened.

The problem is, the AFL will only really punish the action if the player being hit either falls to the ground and milks it, or there is a legitimate injury. It doesn’t matter if they get injured – the action could be exactly the same in two similar incidents, and the way they assess them could produce two startlingly different results because one guy can take a hit better than another. 

The determination shouldn’t be based on whether a player is able to bounce up or not – the punishment should reflect the action; not the outcome.

Grimes ran in, raised the elbow and made contact with Elliott’s head. That’s all you need to know. That Elliott got up without a fuss is a credit to him. It shouldn’t let Grimes off the hook for what was an idiotic action late in a game.

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QUICK BITS

After two really poor offensive games, patience would be running thin with Dan Butler. He had eight touches and three tackles, but looked lost out there. Jack Higgins snagged two goals, but his influence was minimal, and additions like Oleg Markov and Jason Castagna failed to provide the explosive run they were included for.

A better game from tom Lynch today, with him remaining involved for longer stretches, and not appearing completely gassed after a couple of efforts. He looked really good on the lead a couple of times, and with Riewoldt nursing a sore wrist, he looked at home deep forward.

I loved his physicality to mark against Jack Crisp in the second quarter. It was textbook use of the body to out-position his opponent, but the question begs – how did Crisp end up isolated on him?

There were a few instances where players failed to make the distance from 40 metres, tonight. Cotchin and Higgins both missed shots from well within 50 metres at times they may have made a bit of a difference.

Six clearances for Brodie Grundy in this one. I loved his battle with Nankervis, and give Grundy the nod in that battle, particularly after quarter time, when the Collingwood big man started working hard from end to end to lose Nank.

Nankervis was far from disgraced, however. He was one of very few Tigers prepared to make a genuine effort to hold opposition players up, and make sure his tackles stuck. There could be a few at Richmond that could take a leaf out of Nank’s book in terms of desire. It was Nankervis’ lunge at de Goey in the first quarter that prevented the Collingwood star from snapping truly for his first. Nank is a workhorse – I’ll never say a bad word about him.

Is the goal kicking, or lack thereof, of Jack Riewoldt of any concern at the moment? No goals today. One goal last week. This is the reigning Coleman medallist and it looks to me as though he is sacrificing his game to allow tom Lynch to feel at home.

I’ve had many Richmond fans tell me that Kane Lambert is an elite midfielder. After 14 touches at 64%, I’d like to hear from them on reading this, and you tell me how he is considered elite.

It’s either feast or famine with Tom Phillips. He either completely butchers the ball going forward, as he did in the first quarter when he kicked it out on the full under no pressure, or he completely redeems himself with a goal and goal assist in back to back plays in the ensuing couple of minutes. I think his upside far outweighs his errors, but he just seems to get a little careless with the pill at times.

The Collingwood field kicking was incredible in this one. Brayden Maynard’s long 55 metre pass to Jaidyn Stephenson on the wing in the third quarter opened the game right up, allowing Mihocek to run into an open goal. It’s no surprise that West Coast and Collingwood played off in the grand final last year. Both teams use the ball beautifully.

That Maynard kick came as a direct result of Dustin Martin missing from 25 metres out after beating Greenwood one-on-one. The Pies got it and took off and the Richmond defence was caught napping. Oh, to only have Alex Rance dropping back, huh?

The mark/non mark that had Richmond fans up in arms was definitely not a mark to Tom Lynch. Nankervis clearly has first hands on it and it was a great call by the ump.

The Mason Cox goal in the last quarter, faking one way, then the other, then snapping… how did he get that sort of time to move amid the celebrated Richmond defence? Is he covered in poo or something? Does no one want to touch him?

Anyway, it was another Pendlebury inside 50, following a brilliant Dayne Beams clearance that opened the door for Cox to get involved. At that point, you knew there was no coming back for the Tigers. They looked cooked, and even a couple of efforts at the other end, including a perfect front and centre read from Shane Edwards, wasn’t going to be enough.

Not the best last quarter for Brandon Ellis. If Houli is right next week, Ellis should go out. He had 24 touches, but always looks hesitant, and I’d like to know how many of those 24 touches were taken as an extension of the kick in rules changing.

One last thing before I get to sleep – last year and in 2017, Richmond thrived on permitting opponents to create a little overlap, and then crunching them and taking the ball back when they used forward handball to gain ground. It was almost like they were daring teams to do it.

If they were daring the Pies, Collingwood accepted the dare and beat them at it. A long combination of forward handballs saw Stephenson goal from the square after a feed by Jamie Elliott, and left the Tigers standing with hands on hips, wondering where it all went wrong.

If you can execute well enough to move the ball before the pressure comes, the Richmond structure falls down. That’s what the Pies did tonight, and goals followed.

Fortune favours the brave, but the lazy rely solely on luck. The Pies took the game up to the Tigers and walked away with an impressive win. The Tigers… they need to lick their wounds and start realising that finals appearances are not handed out, irrespective of how you played last year.

Finals appearances are earned, and after a loss in Round One, the Pies showed they’re ready to earn theirs this season. The Pies have the grand final rematch next week. The Tigers have GWS on the road. Neither will be easy.

Nothing worth doing ever is. 

 

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