Some wrote the Pies off. Others prophesised that the arrival of the Blues was imminent. People have been doing both for years, and people have been let down, time and time again.

For the ninth season in a row, Carlton have started 0-2… the dreaded 0-2, which puts them on the back foot and has them chasing the pack right from the get-go. And it was the hated Magpies inflicting the second loss, with a midfield that reigned supreme, a defender who has taken his game to another level, and a forward on the cusp of superstardom, leaving no doubt that Collingwood is far from a spent force.

Where does this leave the Blues? Does this win give the Pies the launchpad required into a do-or-die season? And what were the talking points in the Round Two opener?

As always, we dive deep with The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

 

MOORE V MCKAY

Can you have a guy best on the ground when his direct opponent kicks four goals on him? And if not, then how far down the votes does he slip as a result?

The battle between Darcy Moore and Harry McKay was one I circled when I was doing prep for this game. In a contest that felt as though it could be a toss-up, whoever emerged victorious in this individual battle would most likely have a big say in the outcome of the game.

McKay is immensely talented, but early in the game he appeared lazy. Moore beat him to the spot on several occasions and made sure McKay was not going to get the jump on him. But the thing with Darcy Moore – he gives you every chance to beat him if you’re good enough. He plays an attacking form of defence, if that makes sense? He hits the contest hard, backs his judgment, and trusts those around him to do their jobs.

Harry rallied late in the first quarter, kicking a goal after a sizzling pass from Zac Fisher (who shook Jeremy Howe out of his boots at half-forward before delivering), and he added a goal in the second and two more in the third before regular transmission recommenced and Moore took over again.

So, on one hand, you have McKay finishing with four goals, so you could argue he has done his job, right?

But then you have this monster game from Moore opposed to him that saw the AA centre half back collect 17 intercept possessions, with three contested grabs among them. Moore totaled 22 touches, six rebound fifties, and importantly, five score involvements. For mine, he gets the nod and gets it quite easily. McKay was playing out of the offensive goal square and had seven score involvements. Moore had just two less despite playing about 180 metres away from his goalmouth.

There was a bit of chatter amongst the other Mongrels as to whether a defender could win the Brownlow. I believe the last to do it was Gavin Wanganeen all the way back in 1993, but I am happy to be corrected. As it stands, the big Collingwood defender could have six votes in the first couple of rounds – I’d love to see him shake it up and start gaining some notice from the umps.

With games like this, how could you not notice?

 

THE OLD FELLA

It feels a little strange to regard Scott Pendlebury as one of the elder statesmen of the game, but that’s where we find him as 2021 rolls on.

In this game, Pendles took one for the team and stood next to Patrick Cripps at stoppages. He’s played this role before and played it professionally and clinically – this time was like deja vu.

Pendlebury got the better of Cripps over the course of the game, with his vision and patience with the footy in hand once again causing the optical illusion of appearing to slow the game down around him.

He gave the handball off to set up the Steele Sidebottom goal in the first quarter as one of his eleven score involvements, using his footy nous to know when to spread from the contest to become the release option for the guys burrowing in like Taylor Adams. It was a stark difference in the clearance work between the Blues and Pies – Carlton had more, but did considerably less, and it was the calming, almost hypnotic presence of Pendlebury in the middle that steadies Collingwood when the heat is on.

He topped 30 touches, ticking over that number with a bit of keepings-off in the last quarter, but the number that should impress most is the five clearances of Cripps. This man can run roughshod over most stoppages, but great positioning from Pendles and the ability to remain dangerous made him more than a handful for the Carlton star.

This probably won’t go down as one of Pendlebury’s greatest games – let’s face it, he has torn contests to shreds in the past, but for a 33-year-old to head out to the middle, take on the responsibility of putting the brakes on the runaway truck that is Cripps at stoppages, and doing so whilst being one of the best performers on the park makes you realise just what a great player he is, was and still could be.

 

CRISPY… THE CREAM

Jack Crisp looked like he was having fun out there in this game.

Looking at the Pies this season, after the loss of Adam Treloar, I started to ponder who it would be to benefit from the increase in available midfield time, and Crisp was the name that jumped out.

It was interesting in this one – he spent a lot of time on the wing (wait for our Wingman Rankings on Monday… he is making the early running) whilst moving across half-back, playing more of a defensive wingman role than attacking. It worked a charm.

Crisp picked up a career-high 36 touches as he drifted back into defence and provided help for his teammates and formed part of the Collingwood rebound crew, turning defence into attack.

He was a little untidy with the footy at times, but his seven score involvements indicate that when he started to become involved in plays, the Pies reaped rewards. Crisp is the perfect solution to the wing slot for the Pies. They’ve moved away from playing Josh Daicos in the role, opting to send him forward for some reason, but after trialing John Noble in the role last week, Crisp grabbed it with both hands. He is a prolific runner and gets to the right spots to make an impact.

Opposed to a quiet Jack Newnes and a church mouse-silent Will Setterfield, Crisp had a day out and would be more than content lining up out wide every week if Bucks deems it in the best interest of the team.

 

THE MACHINE

Pick your favourite Taylor Adams highlight from this one.

Want some help?

Was it his repeated extractions of the footy en route to collecting a game-high, and career-high 13 clearances?

Was it his incredible goal from the pocket in the third quarter to steady the Pies, that was almost touched on the line by a desperate Carlton defender (Mason Cox really should have applied a better shepherd to ensure there was no chance of touching it, too)?

Or was it his desperate, lunging, rundown tackle on the charging Zac Williams inside defensive fifty that saved a goal?

You’re a bit spoiled for choice with Adams in this game, huh? He was an absolute warrior in this one, not only leading the game in clearances, but also tackles, contested touches, and inside fifties. His work ethic and ability to go for second and third efforts in the same contest need to be commended. A complete heart and soul player, Adams is the type of character that a team like Collingwood can stand behind as it reshapes itself in 2021.

He left nothing on the table in this one, and if not for the amazing exploits of Darcy Moore, we may be talking about how easily he was the best player on the park.

 

THEY CAN’T SCORE?

That was the word on the street, right? Collingwood can’t score…

And then they did.

Jordan de Goey burst to life, snagging four first-half goals and could have had six for the game but for a combination of unselfishness and inaccuracy. Mason Cox started to get into the swing of things, took a few marks and drew some free kicks inside fifty, and Brody Mihocek continued to be the unsung hero of the Collingwood forward line with another three goals in this one.

The only lowlight for the Pies was the ankle injury to Jamie Elliott, who’d started with a bang and really got the Pies rolling with two first-quarter goals.

Word from the medicos was that he’d rolled an ankle, but for him to be taken off and on crutches, it’d be a pretty significant ankle roll. EDIT – confirmed this morning he has a “crack” in his fibula. Yep… a rolled ankle, indeed.

The Pies looked dangerous whenever the ball entered forward fifty. They had the players present to create chaos and capitalised on some panicked decisions by Carlton defenders at points. With the Brisbane Lions looming and the Big Daddy of current defenders, Harris Andrews, ready to take one of Mihocek or Cox, it will be players like Will Hoskin-Elliott, Josh Thomas and Trey Ruscoe that have to step up and support de Goey if the Pies are to continue this style of footy.

 

IS GRUNDY BACK?

Not quite, but the signs were definitely there.

You can look at the domination in ruck taps as an indicator if you like, but what has always made Brodie Grundy special have been the second efforts, and guess what started to peak out and have a look around in this game?

That’s right – ol’ second effort-Brodie started to emerge.

He laid tackles (six for the game had him only behind Taylor Adams) and he started to find the footy at ground level, throwing himself into contests in a manner we haven’t seen anywhere near as much as we’d have liked to over the last 12 months. Collingwood fans would be smiling after this win, but the form of Grundy might make them start thinking that he is turning the corner.

He copped a bit of flak after he signed his long-term deal last year, with some wondering whether his form warranted it. Look, his best is THE best when it comes to rucks; it’s just a matter of capturing that form as often as possible, and whilst he wasn’t quite there in this game, the signs certainly pointed in the right direction.

 

POSITIVE SPOTS – THERE WERE SOME, I SWEAR!

Look, when you promise so much and deliver so little, it is hard to be glowing when you’re reviewing a game, and Carlton have failed to deliver again in 2021. That said, supporters would be buoyed by the work of Sam Walsh, whose work ethic and willingness to run himself into the ground for the team.

Michael Gibbons kicked two unbelievable goals to light up the MCG, whilst Jack Martin provided one of those halves of footy that makes you wonder how good he could be if/when (but mostly if) he starts putting together four quarters of footy.

Weitering was good against Cox for the most part, picking up a massive 16 spoils, but the free kicks against both he and Liam Jones gave Cox some easy shots at goal and were completely unnecessary considering Cox was dropping uncontested marks prior to one of them.

I suppose the big talking point was the game of Zac Williams.

On one hand, his clearance work and combative nature saw him collect ten clearances, however, his disposal left a little to be desired. He had 20 touches but eight turnovers, running at just 50% efficiency. He had two goal assists but gave away five free kicks. It seems like for every great thing he did, he traded off something pretty crappy to get it.

The biggest positive is that he was able to crack in and win his own footy. If he is doing that, he will take the heat off Patrick Cripps, but that brings me to my next section…

 

THE BAD

 

UMMM… WHERE WAS PADDY CRIPPS?

It’s been a love fest for Cripps and the media over the past few years. He has been lauded by both tier one and tier two media as the man that has carried the Blues.

But carried them to where?

There was some discussion last week about Cripps not looking like himself against the Tigers. The commentators mentioned that he decided to go for power and impact over stamina in the off-season, and that could either be a reason, or an excuse, but the attack on the footy – so synonymous with the Cripps game… it just wasn’t there in this one.

I covered the influence of Scott Pendlebury in a section above, but for an inside bull like Cripps to be blanketed at stoppages the way he was in this one is a bit of an indictment on the man. Pendles is great, and you’ll find me throwing zero shade in his direction, but Cripps should be monstering him at this stage of their respective careers. He should be bodying Pendles up and heaving him out of the way.

Instead, we saw a rather passive version of Cripps at stoppages and an ineffective incarnation of him up forward. He found five clearances throughout the game but where was the trademark Cripps bursts through packs? Where was his crash and bash football? Where were the chest marks inside 50? It feels like he left it back in 2019.

We are just two games into the season, but already you kind of get the feeling that Cripps will be a major talking point for a number of reasons in 2021. We’ve already had some bozo stating that Walsh has gone past him on the basis of their Round One outing, and I am sure there will be speculation around his contract negotiations and his future as the season wears on, but right now, the main concern would have to be the fact that one of the best players in the league, early in the season, is having minimal impact on the game.

Do a couple of chest marks sticking make the difference? Is that all it would take to change the perception of Cripps’ game in this one? Maybe, but we’re just guessing, because he dropped those marks inside 50 in a very Un-Cripps-Like fashion.

I don’t know about you, Blues fans, but watching Cripps in this one, I started to feel uneasy. Fingers crossed for a return to form in Round Three.

 

 

THE UGLY

 

THE NEXT STEPPERS… STEPPING BACKWARD

In the off-season, we ran previews of every team and what they required to take the next step in 2021.

Whilst many will focus on a recruit or draft pick, I am a big believer that it is the players with 30-40 games already under their belt that help teams jump up the ladder quickly. It is those players that the club has invested time and effort in that take the next step and go from being role players to good, or very good players in one year.

And those in that position for Carlton just are not doing that.

Will Setterfield, Tom Williamson and Paddy Dow played nothing games. They did nothing of note, they contributed nothing of note and they gave Carlton fans nothing even resembling something to look forward to. Even as role players, they were minor players – like extras at a coffee shop scene. They just blended into the background and had no lasting effect.

In a team that desperately needs its bottom six to elevate their games, the Carlton contingent failed to do so, and failed miserably. Setterfield played on a wing and could not get involved. His return of nine touches playing in a role that sees plenty of open space should see his position in the side re-evaluated.

However, he had a dream run compared to Williamson, who was a complete non-factor. Playing across half-back, he was seemingly incapable of reading the ball or applying pressure at ground level. How many tackles did he have? One. How many spoils? One. How many times did he intercept the incoming footy? Two.

And then there is Dow – there was a lot of positivity around Dow this off-season. He was back stronger and fitter and was ready to command a place in the team. I’m putting this out there – if he was not a top-three draft pick, he would struggle to get a game.

Just like he struggled to get a game last season.

Dow may have the potential to be something pretty good, but do the Blues have the time to waste while he contemplates how to be that? He had 13 touches in this one despite being thrown into the mix often enough to make a difference.

Carlton welcome Fremantle to Marvel Stadium next week – they are a team that have been torn to shreds by injury. The Blues need to show some damn killer instinct and go right after them from the first bounce. Anything less than a resounding win and you can stick a fork in this team again this season…

… and you can continue waiting for players to make the next step as they continue to tumble backwards.

 

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

IS BRAYDEN SIER THE ANSWER TO THE COLLINGWOOD MIDFIELD’S ONGOING INSIDE PRESENCE?

I’m not sold, people.

Yes, he is a bit of a bull, but in terms of being an impact player in the middle, I’m not really seeing. If anything, he is a little lumbering, and does not cover the ground as well as you’d expect from a mid.

At 23, he should be entering the beginning of his peak years, but after returning nine touches against the Dogs, he notched 16 in this one. Yes, it’s an improvement, but are you seeing enough from him? 12 of his 16 touches were handballs but he ran at under 70% efficiency. I hate to say it, but I think he is a stop-gap until the Pies find someone else to fill the role.

 

WHY IS JOSH DAICOS NOT PLAYING ON THE WING?

He was so good in the role last season, but he has spent the first two games of the 2021 season patrolling half-forward to middling results. Perhaps this is a trial, and I thought that with Steele Sidebottom returning, perhaps Buckley was getting ready to have Sidey on the wing.

Nope… he was playing half-forward as well.

Daicos really started to get off the chain in late 2021. He made the wing his position last year and now, the Pies have moved away from what was working well. I can see this hurting them at some stage.

 

HAVE THE BLUES FOUND ONE IN LACHIE FOGARTY?

He looked pretty good in this one, and was an integral part of the Carlton fightback through the second quarter. Seems to know the right place to be across half-forward and inserted himself into pivotal plays for the Blues as they made a bit of a run.

Just couldn’t find his way into a regular spot with the Cats, but this Carlton half-forward line was screaming out for a bit of class in this game, and he showed that he could be the man to provide it.

 

DID THE BLUES GET BANG FOR THEIR BUCK FROM ADAM SAAD?

Not in this game. Last week, yep… but not here.

There was a fair bit of “hit and hope” from Saad in this encounter, which has been one of the perceived negatives of his game. Had a couple of nice, accurate passes late in the game, but early on, his run and carry were stifled by the Pies and he opted to throw the footy on the boot a little too readily for my liking.

 

 

OTHER BITS

Lachie Plowman on Jordan de Goey had disaster written all over it at one point. The Collingwood forward seemed faster, stronger and possessed better skills – that’s pretty hard to overcome. After a torrid first half, Plowman settled nicely in the second half, and whilst not winning the battle, a break-even for him after halftime is as good as a win.

Is there space for both Brown brothers in the team at the same time going forward? Whilst I think both have a bit to offer, they seem to both have the same bits to offer. I wonder if the Pies are forced to make a tough call at one point over the next couple of seasons…

If all else fails for Carlton, a cleared out fifty-metre arc with just Zac Fisher and an opponent in the vicinity would be something to behold. There are plenty of elusive players at this level, but Fisher’s jab-step and change of direction are otherworldly at the moment. Him in a one-on-one would be a nightmare to deal with if you knew there was no support coming your way.

So, overall, a nice, solid win for the Pies to restore a bit of faith and bring the team together. Moore, Crisp, Pendles and Adams the stars, whilst the Blues could smile about Walsh, Williams, Fogarty and McKay. Sadly, much more to frown about for the Blues, with players not stepping up when required.

 

ADDITIONAL MEMBERS CONTENT BELOW

Second Fiddle? Why Carlton Need Cripps As The Number One Man

 

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