Where did it all go wrong for Collingwood? And where did it all go so right for the Cats?

Coming into this weekend, Geelong were licking their wounds after a loss to Port Adelaide they probably could have, and should have avoided. The Magpies were flying high, having sent the Eagles out of the finals race with an inspiring victory.

However, what we saw in this game was a total annihilation by the Cats. It was a systematic destruction of a Collingwood side that looked leg-weary and completely mentally fatigued. It was as though Geelong sensed it early – they were like sharks swimming and getting that first awareness that there is some blood in the water.

They didn’t circle – instead, they tore huge chunks out of the Pies, rendering them rather useless for the first half and effectively ending the contest with a brutal barrage of football brilliance.

We’ll run through the stars – Dangerfield, Duncan, Stewart, Henderson. And we’ll focus on those who went completely missing – Stephenson, Hoskin-Elliott, Mayne and Greenwood.

We’ll look forward to the Cats huge encounter with the home team, Brisbane Lions and to what Collingwood can take out of the game into 2021, but be warned – this is not going to be a pleasant read for Magpie fans. Not by a long shot. Your team was humbled in this game by a Geelong side that was hungrier, harder and quite simply, better.

Here are The Mongrel’s Big Questions.

 

WAS THAT THE SIGNATURE DANGERFIELD PERFORMANCE OF 2020?

It’s certainly up there.

Some people raised an eyebrow when Danger was not only awarded a spot on the half forward flank in the All-Australian team this season, but was handed the captaincy. In this game, he proved that these All-Australian selectors may just know what they’re talking about after all.

In the opening minutes of the second quarter, Danger absolutely smashed a pack in a marking contest, knocking three Collingwood players to the deck and allowing Tom Hawkins to feed Luke Dahlhaus for goal. Whilst his first quarter was good, in the second Dangerfield looked on!

He took contested grabs, converted from the boundary with apparent ease and he did it all with no screaming, no yelling, no fist pumps and no extravagance. This was as workmanlike a performance from Dangerfield as you’ll see. Spectacularly good – yes, but very, very blue-collar in the way he went about it.

There are not many in the league that can hold a candle to the kind of form Dustin Martin can produce, but alongside Nat Fyfe, Danger makes up one of three players who can dominate in the midfield and up forward. His work overhead probably puts him with Fyfe in that regard, but I reckon he has both of them covered when the ball is in dispute – he just throws himself at it and refuses to allow an easy clearance.

That kind of thing is catching inside forward 50.

Dangerfield finished with 19 touches, four goals (could have had five if Hawkins was feeling a little more generous) and a couple of contested grabs. He was a beast in this game, and if there was anyone who had any doubts about his ability to perform in a big game, a quick viewing of this first half would be advised.

And before I forget, my favourite thing about Danger’s outing tonight – the attitude. He acted as though it was expected that he would come out and do this. He acted as though he expected those shots from the boundary to sail through for goals. He acted like he’d been there before, and like he expected to be back there again.

It was cool, calculating and professional. And I liked it.

 

DID GARY ROHAN JUST REMOVE THE FINALS MONKEY FROM HIS BACK?

You know, there will be some who judge Rohan on whether he kicks goals or not. In some cases, that is completely understandable, but in this game, with an opponent like Darcy Moore on him, all Rohan had to do was breakeven, and I would have been content.

But he did a bit more than just breakeven.

Last week, we saw the kind of finals performance from Rohan that has plagued him in recent seasons. He was ineffective and found it difficult to get into the flow of the game. As so often happens, when he finds himself in that situation, he drifts out of the play and he ends up like the invisible man. Today, however, he was presented with the tough challenge of keeping Darcy Moore honest, and I reckon he pulled it off well.

Rohan had three contested grabs amongst his eight marks for the evening as he forced Moore to stay with him in the air. The great weapon that Rohan possesses, however, is that burst of incredible speed, and he was able to use this to gain just that little bit of distance in the last few steps over Moore, which led to a couple of marks that saw Moore unable to close the gap. Moore is no slouch in the speed department, but Rohan is like someone who’s been shot out of a cannon.

Though he did not hit the scoreboard in this one, Rohan’s ability to work up the ground, draw the footy in the air, and his overhead marking skills gave the All-Australian centre half back more than he could handle.

 

DID MITCH DUNCAN TOP DANGERFIELD AS BEST ON THE PARK

It’s close, and I almost jumped onto the Duncan bandwagon due to the fact he had to deal with Levi Greenwood early in the game. You know Greenwood – the bloke that completely shut down Tim Kelly last week enabling the Pies to win in West Australia? He’s a pretty handy tagger.

However, as the wheels fell off the Collingwood machine, Greenwood could not cover the rampaging Duncan. With six touches in the first quarter, Duncan turned on the jets in the second, racking up an incredible 13 touches as he tore the Collingwood midfield to shreds.

For context, Duncan had more touches in the second quarter than 23 players had for the entire game.

Duncan has lived his football life in the shadow of greatness. Dangerfield, Ablett, Selwood… the Geelong midfield has batted deep for a long time, but he was the best of them on this occasion, particularly with one of the great ones deciding to have a day out up forward.

 

HOW CAN YOU HAVE NINE OF THE BOTTOM TEN DISPOSAL WINNERS FROM THE SAME TEAM?

This is how you can see a team has completely given up the ghost.

At half time, I was perusing the stats and was not shocked to see that the majority of players at the bottom of the list were Collingwood players. That happens in a belting, but players have a bit of a knack for finding ways to get themselves into the game.

Not this Collingwood team, however.

By the end of the fourth, we had nine players wearing black and white making up the nine worst disposal totals on the ground. Will Hoskin-Elliott, Jaidyn Stephenson, Mason Cox, Levi Greenwood, Darcy Cameron, Chris Mayne, Brody Mihocek, John Noble and Jordan Roughead all had seven disposals or less for this game. The Cats ‘worst’, was Harry Taylor, with eight but whilst he basically took Mason Cox out of the game, I don’t think there is an excuse for any of these Collingwood players.

Stephenson, I’ll get to individually, but Will Hoskin-Elliott looks like a shadow of the player he was two years ago and the only person Levi Greenwood managed to stop from touching the ball was himself in this one, with Mitch Duncan tearing it up. Noble has been fantastic this season, but he went missing, Mayne is a player that has only neared this level of mediocrity when he has been injured.

This was just an insipid display by a team that looked like they played their Grand Final last week.

 

WAS THERE ANYTHING NATHAN BUCKLEY COULD HAVE DONE HERE?

No. This team looked absolutely cooked.

I read Grant Thomas on Twitter asking, or wondering at least, whether Nathan Buckley had done anything to address the flatness in a group that comes after a huge team win like the one over West Coast. It was an interesting thing to ponder, given his experience at St Kilda.

Did the Pies give it everything they had last week and left themselves nothing in the tank? Blokes like Daicos, Maynard and Pendlebury usually cannot help picking up touches, but they struggled to get near it in this one.

I thought Jack Crisp looked lively early in the piece and he would have been one of the very few Collingwood winners in the first half. Bucks threw him to half forward late in the second, trying to generate something, but all that did was remove him from the position he was faring well in.

Grundy looks like he is on one leg, Cox played his 15 minutes of footy for the year last week… without Jeremy Howe in defence and Sidebottom on a wing, the Pies just looked devoid of run.

Credit to the Cats – they made them look that way, but when a team comes into a game and looks like Collingwood did in the first quarter, I’m not sure Jock McHale could have conjured something to pull them out the funk they were in.

 

DOES RHYS STANLEY TAKE THE CHOCOLATES OVER BRODIE GRUNDY?

Yes, indeed his does.

I’m a little torn as to how we read this one. Stanley stepped up in this game – he drifted forward early and hit the scoreboard when opposed to Darcy Cameron, and was able to run away from Grundy a couple of times.

I suppose the real question is how much credit we give Stanley for his role, and how much we make an excuse for Grundy as he looks like he is carrying something.

Let’s have a bit of a challenge – in the next 48 hours, it will be revealed that Brodie Grundy has been carrying an injured ____________ and he will be having surgery in the next _____________.

Let me know what you think fits these blanks. My guess is either a groin or adductor and he’ll be in for surgery next week.

But if you’re out there, you’re fit. Back to Stanley.

He limped off with around six minutes remaining in the game, which will be one of the only concerns coming out of this game for Chris Scott. Against a duo like Stef Martin and Oscar McInerney, the Cats may need a backup ruck to help out. Do they pull the trigger and hope Esava Ratugolea will do more help than harm? Or do they go for the mobile version and bring in Josh Jenkins?

And at whose expense? Or does Scott just rely on Blicavs to play the role and put his faith in his most versatile asset?

Selection this week will be very interesting – the game may actually be won or lost there, particularly if Stanley pulls up a little sore.

 

WHY WAS JAIDYN STEPHENSON PLAYING?

Look, I don’t know. We know he had glandular fever in the off-season – that is incredibly hard to overcome, particularly if you have a slight frame to begin with and then you lose weight. But since he has been a part of this Collingwood team this season, Stephenson has looked anything but the player who rampaged to the NAB Rising Star award a couple of years back.

As a matter of fact, he has looked more like a deer in the headlights a few times too many. And those deer… when they get hit by the oncoming car – it ain’t pretty.

He started games well early in the season, and managed to kick goals in the first quarter like he was doing it for fun, but he appeared to fatigue quickly and would drift out of games. Still, the Pies played him, hoping he’d run into form.

He didn’t.

There is showing faith, and then there is flogging a dead horse.

As a result we have had this young fella out there, looking like he does not belong and losing confidence with every game.

In his rookie season, he kicked goals in 18 of his 26 games. Last year it was 12 of his 14 games. This season, it’s been eight of his 14 games. He has had a poor year, and I wonder how much keeping him in the team despite his terrible form has done to erode his confidence. Pendlebury can sit and encourage him all he wants, but the cure for Stephenson  is an illness-free off-season and a clean run at 2021.

I suppose this is a bit of a whack to Bucks, as Stephenson was clearly nowhere near in the right place to play this game – he was the worst of the Collingwood players to half time (just two touches to his name) and added just one kick, albeit a beautiful long goal, after the break.

I don’t like playing players who look like they don’t belong – it’s a confidence killer, and this game was one where the young man’s confidence would have taken a pretty big hit.

 

HAS TOM STEWART MADE IT ALL THE WAY BACK?

He wasn’t really gone for that long, but the shoulder injury that sidelines him probably cost him his third straight All-Australian selection.

In terms of half back flankers, I am not sure there is a more composed operator than Stewart. He reads the play, knows when to zone off and is a complete natural with the footy in hand – he very rarely makes a mistake.

After a dip in form last week, Stewart rebounded with a monster game against the Pies, notching 26 disposals, 14 marks and running at a scintillating 92% efficiency. He had eight intercepts and six rebound fifty disposals as he patrolled the Geelong defensive fifty like an overzealous security guard just waiting to punish those stupid Collingwood kids for trespassing.

This was the ninth time in the last ten games that Stewart has hit the 20+ disposal mark and against the Lions next weekend, his run from half back and precise delivery will be vital to the Cats’ chances of making the Grand Final.

In a lot of ways, it may come down to with player gets the most ball off half back and uses it best – Stewart or Daniel Rich. No pressure, though, Tom.

 

WHAT DID WE GET FROM GAZ IN THIS ONE?

Just a cameo.

I think his days of being the main attraction are long gone, but when the Pies were actually in the game (in the first fifteen minutes) it was the poise and class of Ablett that really shined, as he fed both Zach Tuohy and Gryan Miers for goals when other players may have been tempted to either go for home or blast it to the top of the goal square.

I was looking forward to another round of Ablett v Maynard in this game, but with Danger forward, Jack Madgen was handed the job on Gaz, and did it pretty well.

Every game we see Ablett in from here on out could be his last one. I still expect something brilliant every time I see him with the footy in his hands, but right now he just does the basics better than everyone else on the park – he just cannot do them as often. His little gather and give in the first quarter on the wing was brilliant, but missed by most, and though he didn’t do anything Ablett-esque, you get the feeling that there is one more big moment to come for the great one.

Personally, I am relishing these last opportunities to see a guaranteed AFL Legend run around.

It’s been a privilege.

 

WHY WAS PENDLEBURY SO QUIET?

That’d be due to a bloke named Brandan Parfitt, who has really excelled in his role this season and has become one of the best tacklers in the game.

Look, the Pies looked off, and that includes their captain, but it still takes diligence and a commitment to manning up at every stoppage to stop the run of Pendles… and Parfitt was up to the challenge.

In a game where the cats dominated possession, Parfitt was the best tackler on the ground yet again, picking up nine for the game. His close checking of the Collingwood captain at stoppages meant that the normally prolific Pendlebury didn’t have one for the entire game.

Parfitt’s performance will undoubtedly fly under the radar, with most media outlets just putting it down to a quiet night for Pendles, but make no mistake – there was a very good reason it was a quiet night.

 

HOW MANY TIMES MUST TEAMS LEARN THE HARD WAY?

Do not leave your ruckman without help at boundary throw ins inside 50. If you’re a forward from Brisbane, read that bit again. Then read it again!

Three times in this game, Tom Hawkins muscled his opponent out of the way to take clean possession at a stoppage. This is happening every week, but teams are not setting up to deal with it at all.

Collingwood were lucky in this game (in this sense, if no other) that Hawkins wasn’t able to convert these clean takes into scoring opportunities, but if you continue to apply no pressure as soon as he touches the footy, he is going to burn you.

I rate Chris Fagan as a good tactical coach – I would be watching next week at any forward 50 stoppage to see whether someone like Rayner or McCarthy… maybe even Berry is given the responsibility of tackling Hawkins the minute he takes it out of the ruck. He is a beast, and there is only one way to beat a beast – you must slay it.

 

ANY QUICK BITS, MONGREL?

Is it just me or is Eddie McGuire really starting to resemble Kevin Rudd?

Really disappointing use of the footy by Darcy Moore in this game. He had four turnovers from his ten touches, but the worst point of his game came when he elected not to lay a shepherd for Jack Madgen on the boundary, allowing Cats to get after Jack Madgen. It was Dangerfield who dragged him down, earned the free kick and slotted the goal, and Moore was ten metres off the play waiting for a give from Madgen. Bloody shepherd, Darcy, and maybe your teammate could have got a kick away!

Finally, another ripping outing from Lachie Henderson – what a luxury he has been for Geelong this season, and it seems as though he has given his two best outings of the season in the finals. Could he string a third one together? A fourth? Dare to dream… but what a wonderful insurance policy he has been for this club.

 

And that’ll do me – great win by the Cats; one of the most convincing finals wins we’ve seen, and with the top four on the ladder all qualifying for the preliminary finals, it’s time to get pumped.

Geelong need this win – they have had enough prelim fades in recent years – time to put that to a stop. But Brisbane are the real deal this season, and they have plenty up their sleeves as well.

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