Just when you thought you’d seen it all…

In a spectacular weekend of finals, we may have saved the best til last, with the Magpies hitting the road and doing what many thought impossible, or at least incredibly improbable – knocking over the West Coast Eagles on their home deck.

The Pies got a great start thanks to a 2018-throwback performance from Mason Cox in the first quarter. Complete with tongue hanging out and swagger in his step, Cox clunked marks and kicked goals. From that point on, it was up to the Eagles to chase tail.

They did, catching the Pies on a couple of occasions, but Collingwood was able to dig deep, continuing to apply pressure and kick unlikely goals. When the final siren rang out over Optus Stadium, it was the Magpies standing tall, ending the season of the highly-fancied Eagles and recording another famous win for the proud club.

With so many highlights in an outstanding game of football, there are so many things to cover.

Let’s jump into them with The Mongrel’s Big Questions.

 

CAN THE PIES PAY BRODY MIHOCEK NOW, PLEASE?

The Pies have a couple of priority re-signings in the works at the moment, with both Darcy Moore and Jordan de Goey out of contract following this season. As the Pies squirrel away money to retain both of these young stars, word from journos has indicated that Brody Mihocek may have to look elsewhere to get the kind of deal his play has warranted.

However, after this performance, the Pies brains trust may want to consider finding a bit more coin to secure the services of the workhorse known as Brody Mihocek.

After a slow first three quarters that saw Mihocek register a goal to go along with his five touches, he picked up the pace considerably in the last, kicking two vital goals, taking a contested grab against McGovern, and kicking a brilliant left foot goal on the run, that on replay looked like it should not have gone anywhere near the big sticks – he kicked it like I would have… except straight!

And when the chips were down and the Eagles were pushing hard in the dying minutes, there he was again, thrown into defence as the loose man to cut off any long ball inside 50.

And that’s what he did.

Whilst Cox was the Pies’ best player up forward early, it was Mihocek standing up late and delivering a gutsy performance to drag his team over the line.

Mihocek had a stinker against the Giants in last season’s prelim final. Registering just two disposals and no marks for the day, he was one of the Pies’ worst. He would have been incredibly keen to have a great game to go some way toward erasing that memory, and whilst this game wasn’t what you’d call great, the last quarter was.

Brody Mihocek stood up when it mattered and was the most influential Magpie on the park when the game was in the balance. Hopefully, this is now taken into account as the Pies balance their books as see what they can do to reward a player who genuinely deserves it.

He belongs in black and white.

 

HOW GREAT WAS THE MAYNARD V RYAN MATCH UP?

I love a bit of rough stuff (settle down, ladies), and I love a bit of aggro in my footballers, so seeing Liam Ryan and Brayden Maynard going head-to-head in this contest was something I absolutely fixated on. Like most of us watching, I guess. They are competitors and didn’t mind letting each other know about what they were up to, which is an element of our game that’s been missing at times as the players conform to a standard that detracts from personality and focuses solely on team.

Two years ago, Ryan got Maynard right up the middle with a great hip and shoulder in the Grand Final. It left the wide open Maynard hurt and gasping for breath as the Eagles turned up the heat.

And it was on again in this one, with Ryan once again putting Maynard on his backside early in the second quarter as the Eagles came roaring back into the game. Ryan is one of the few who can consistently use a hip and shoulder without giving away a free kick or being reported, but it can still piss off an opponent and a riled up Maynard was pretty quick to have some words with his opponent.

Moments later, they were at it again when Ryan took a mark in front of Maynard and held the ball out for him to see. They called it “Phil Carmen-style” on commentary – I loved it.

Of course, these are the kinds of things modern footy has kind of coached out of players. They may call it showboating or maybe even lollygagging if Montgomery Burns was running a team. All I know is that I thought it added to the excitement of a game that had excitement in abundance!

The points go to Ryan if we’re looking at a genuine one-on-one matchup, but in fairness,  his only goal of the game came when he was playing opposed to Isaac Quaynor – not Maynard.

Let’s hope they clash again in 2021.

 

DID JEREMY MCGOVERN LEGITIMATELY THINK HE MARKED THE FOOTY IN THE LAST QUARTER?

Come on, Gov… you know you dropped it as you came down. We know you dropped it as you came down, and the umpires knew you dropped it as you came down.

So, why were you claiming the mark, big fella?

There were ample opportunities for Gov to throw the footy on his boot, or get a handball away, but he elected to partake in what was effectively a charade as he tried to convince everyone he’d clunked it despite the ump incessantly screaming “play on”.

From the ensuing stoppage, Jordan de Goey snapped truly to give the Pies the lead back.

Look it was a line ball, and we’ve seen players paid worse marking attempts. In his defence, he took the ball overhead and the ball only fell away once he landed, but really, he had to know that mark wasn’t paid, and it ended with a great goal to de Goey.

As the Slickster would say, honesty is the best policy. He’s such a jive soul bro.

I should probably add that McGovern was actually quite brilliant for most of the contest – his 11 intercept/ten spoil game gave him another defensive double-double to his name, and his lockdown role on Mihocek to three quarter time, and his relief work when Barrass was being beaten by Cox were both first class.

 

WHERE DOES THIS WIN RATE ALL-TIME FOR THE PIES?

Some of you reading this are probably better–situated to answer this one than me.

In and of itself, this win was brilliant. It was the kind of win that stirs the emotion, makes you proud and instils belief in your teammates. Not many gave the Pies a shot in this game. The whole “staying in caravans” thing that was being thrown around, the injuries that have plagued the team the whole season, the travel, the quarantine… it all pointed to a Collingwood team that limped into the finals falling over in a big way.

But to paraphrase Mark LeCras… you know what happened next.

How this win will be remembered will largely be based on how Collingwood perform next week and maybe the week after. Was it their last yelp in 2020, or was it the gutsy win that propelled them onto something greater?

Pies fans – I’d love to hear your thoughts on which wins have been better. This would have to be right up there.

 

HOW RELEVANT IS THE ROLE OF THE TAGGER IN THE MODERN GAME?

It’s a good time to ask, considering we just saw Levi Greenwood take Tim Kelly completely out of the game.

Kelly finished the evening with just 12 touches, as after centre bounces, Greenwood went to him and wore him like a man with five penises would wear a rubber glove – uncomfortably!

One of the more underrated run-with players, Greenwood also found ways to hurt the Eagles with the footy, going from the role of pure negation to that of threat with the footy in-hand.

Kelly has had some experience with taggers and has learnt to apply himelf in different ways to ensure he stays involved – his tackling was excellent in this one, but even that was matched by the output of his harasser, who had eight drag downs of his own to match TK and hit an equal game-high number.

Kelly ran hard, but everywhere he went, Greenwood was sure to follow.

With the Pies the only team remaining who opt to play a run-with player such as Greenwood, it is interesting to wonder who he’ll go to next week as the Pies play the Cats. Will he hit the centre hard after the bounce and take on Dangerfield? Or maybe someone like the long-kicking Sam Menegola could bob up on his radar.

Surely his performance in negating Tim Kelly gives him another run in the team next week? Imagine getting dropped after a game like that!

 

ON A DRY DECK, COULD MASON COX TEAR A GAME TO SHREDS?

Well, yes he can, but what we want to see is him do it for longer than a quarter, right?

Cox was brilliant in the first quarter, and he gave his team the dream start – three contested marks, three kicks and three goals. If he put his cue in the rack right then and there, you’d still call this a highly effective outing for the Big Texan.

And I suppose that’s what we’ll have to do.

After a quick switch that saw Jeremy McGovern on him for a brief period, Tom Barrass went back to work and regained control of the contest, restricting Cox to just three touches for the remainder of the game. One of them happened to be a very important contested mark in the last quarter, but in terms of inside 50 value, Mason was like Joe Ganino on a date – his output was delivered quickly and with impact, but there was little left in the tank after it.

I don’t want to sound as though I am being harsh here – Cox was the catalyst for the fast-starting Pies, but if we’re going to look at him as more than just a flash in the pan-type of player, he needs to clunk a mark or two on the lead and do a couple of other things when he is not getting the footy on his terms.

But yes – he was out there to make an impact and he did it nice and early. Without him, the Pies don’t win this.

 

WHAT DOES JOSH KENNEDY HAVE LEFT IN THE TANK?

People were writing him off earlier this season, remember? Then he hit his home track and… viola! All of a sudden he was in contention for the Coleman medal again.

If his body stands up, Kennedy could play another two seasons, but he may start to feel the pressure from the emerging Oscar Allen a little more keenly pretty soon. I have no doubt that we will see JK again in 2021, and I have no probs saying he will once again be a potent force in front of goal, but at 33 he cannot go on forever, and as much as the Eagles are built for the now, they also have to consider the future.

They have allowed Oscar Allen to develop at his own pace, which has been brilliant, but how far is he from breaking out? West Coast need to start considering whether keeping Kennedy in this team is helping short term, or hurting long term.

I’d happily commit to Kennedy for 2021 – he is a star and has a fair bit left in the tank, but anything following that would be something that would require some pretty serious discussion. Allen might benefit from another season as the third forward, but I am not sure he’d benefit from two.

 

WHAT IS JOSH DAICOS PICKING UP FROM SCOTT PENDLEBURY?

I’m not sure Pendles is actually teaching him, but Josh Daicos is picking up plenty from just watching the Collingwood champion in action.

There is a beauty in football that stems from a player refusing to be rushed into hacking the ball forward. Scott Pendlebury has always had that aspect to his game and we are starting to see more and more of it manifest in the style of Daicos.

I mean, it’s not as though he didn’t already have an all-time Collingwood great to learn from at home, right? Now he has another he can watch both on the park and on the training track and measure himself against.

The young man with the famous name is turning into an excellent playmaker for Collingwood, and that Pendlebury-like sell of the handball before swinging around and delivering by foot is becoming a potent weapon in his arsenal. Daicos is becoming more adept at buying time, and whilst I have no question peter would be smiling as he watches his boy get beter, I reckon there would be a bit of a satisfied smile on the face of the Collingwood captain as he sees some of his own game and influence creep into the way Daicos is going about his footy.

He has made the wing his own this season at Collingwood, and with 17 touches  at 82% efficiency in this game, Daicos further strengthened his spot in this team.

With rumours of another Daicos available soon, the Pies have done brilliantly out of the father/son rule recently.

 

DID TOO MANY EAGLES LEAVE IT TO TOO FEW IN THE LAST QUARTER?

They sure did.

I’ve touched on the failure of Tim Kelly to separate himself from the attention of Levi Greenwood for any meaningful stretch of time, but it looked like there were just a few young legs with nothing left for the Eagles, and one pair of returning legs that just ran out of steam.

Seven Eagles had one touch or less in the last quarter as they battled to overrun the Pies. Brayden Ainsworth, Jack Petruccelle and Brad Sheppard all recorded donuts, whilst Ah Chee, Duggan and Barrass all had just one touch apiece. Duggan’s one disposal last quarter was telling after his huge first half of the game that saw him lead all players with 16 touches.

However, most disappointing was the lack of output from Luke Shuey, who also registered just one touch in the final stanza.

I don’t want to be too harsh on the Norm Smith Medallist – he has been a huge fourth quarter performer over the journey, but you have to wonder what kind of football shape he could have been in coming off a double hamstring strain. That would really involve no heavy running loads until maybe a week before this clash. He looked like he was cooked out there.

In contrast, the Pies had just two players with one touch or less – Cox and Jordan Roughead. And you’d live with that.

 

WHO WON THE DARCY MOORE V JACK DARLING BATTLE?

This one kind of got a bit lost with the Ryan-Maynard battle seeming to take centre stage, but with Moore the All-Australian centre half back, and Darling one of the most powerful marking forwards in the game, we were really treated to the two of them playing opposite each other for most of the game, even if the commentators glossed over it whilst lamenting the lack of genuine one-on-one clashes in modern footy…

There was one happening right in front of you, dickheads!

Darling is a beast, and he plays on confidence, but Moore’s closing speed and ability to crash packs and get his fist to the footy are only matched by a couple of players in the league.

The tussle between the two see-sawed, with both players having moments in each quarter without really dominating proceedings. Darling finished with three goals and a couple of misses, whilst Moore sent 12 contests to the deck with spoils and also picked up six intercepts and five rebound fifties.

Whilst we didn’t see the trademark Moore dash from defence, his diligence on Darling is one of the components that combined to save the game for the Pies. One of Darling’s goals came from being taken high as he contested a bouncing ball inside fifty late in the game – not really much Moore could have done about that considering he wasn’t the one giving the free away.

I’m tempted to state it was a draw – it is a harder ask for a forward to dominate a game than it is for a defender to negate them, yet Moore was so good on help defence as well, I feel that he may have just had the slight edge overall.

I’ll go with the AA centre half back, but this contest was as close to a breakeven as you can get when you’re talking two stars of the game.

 

SHOULD TAYLOR ADAMS BE THE NEXT COLLINGWOOD CAPTAIN?

You’d think he’d be in really string consideration given the way he plays and commits himself to the contest.

Adams has been fantastic this season – to be honest, he has barely put a foot wrong over his time at Collingwood, averaging 22+ disposals per game in each of the last six seasons. However, it is not possessions that will see him assume the throne at Collingwood once Scott Pendlebury abdicates – it is the way he approaches the midfield matchups each and every week.

Adams is one of the few whose tackling numbers have increased despite the shortened game time. Ranked third overall in the league, and averaging 5.5 drag downs per contest, Adams leads by example with his commitment to winning the footy and working hard defensively when he doesn’t. he has been the heart and soul of the Collingwood Football Club this season and has played the kind of footy that screams “come with me” to his teammates.

It’s safe to assume that without Taylor Adams in the team, Collingwood would not have played finals this season. A Copeland Trophy is likely to be added to his 2020 accolades alongside his All-Australian selection, but the way Adams is going about his footy, captaining the biggest club in the land could be just about the biggest honour a player at Collingwood could receive.

Also, if you can explain to me how he was pinged for holding the ball there at one stage when Nic Nat seemed to tackle his own player, I’d be really appreciative.

 

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH BRODIE GRUNDY?

He has to be carrying an injury, doesn’t he?

Not giving him an out, here – I personally believe that if you take the field, you’re deemed as 100% fit, but even though the Pies got hold of the Eagles early in the piece, I thought Naitanui was completely murdering the Pies’ big man.

Naitanui won the hit outs in the first quarter 7-3, and picked up six touches to Grundy’s one. Though you could argue that Grundy broke even from that point on, it was concerning to see Nathan Buckley almost nursing his big man through the game just 12 months after we saw Brodie Grundy running out games as though he was training to enter marathons.

I have little doubt that we will hear a bit more about Grundy’s health once the season is done and dusted, but in the meantime, I expect him to battle on with whatever is restricting him as the Pies face the Cats.

Grundy did stand up in the last quarter, taking a couple of important “get out of jail” marks to free up the Pies out of defence. Those marks are as important as any on the ground as they break down a defensive set up that’s ready to pepper their forwards with repeat inside fifties, and Grundy did what he had to do late in the piece to ensure his team got out of this clash with the win.

 

And that’ll do me – what a win for the Pies. An absolute cracker of a game and a wonderful finish that will go down as one of Collingwood’s best. Their game against Geelong should be a belter next week.

Meanwhile for the Eagles… a bit of soul searching required. But for an errant, over-eager Tim Kelly handball, we may have had overtime. And anything could have happened from there. Big season review article upcoming in the next couple of weeks.