For both Collingwood and GWS, the stage couldn’t have been more set on Saturday night football. Less than two years earlier, these same two sides were playing off for a spot in the Grand Final. Same place, same torrid conditions, and well, I’m sure you true football fanatics know how it went.

Fast forward to today, and both sides are on the struggling end of the stick.

For the Giants, it was pre-empted from their disappointing 2020 season that they were on the decline. For one reason or another, they just looked like a shell of their 2019 side that stormed their way into the Grand Final. With three losses in three games, not many pundits had them struggling as badly as they have been the past two weeks.

Last week they added Phil Davis, Matt De Boer, and their captain Stephen Coniglio to an injury list that is building: Lachie Whitfield, Harry Perryman, Braydon Preuss, Adam Kennedy, Daniel Lloyd – if you consider him a best 22 player. You get the picture.

This was Collingwood’s to win. They needed something after fluffing a golden opportunity against Brisbane last Thursday night. It was the sort of night to make a real statement to the competition that they are not a spent force in 2021. It didn’t happen, and as a result, they’re 1-3 after the first month of footy.

I don’t often like going in early, but I’m genuinely fearing for Nathan Buckley’s job security. GWS were given absolutely no chance in this game and they made the Pies out like a ship of fools. Didn’t help that the wet weather played into the hands of the remnants of the GWS midfield – young, but still capable of causing a ruckus.

But enough waffling, it’s time to jump into the game itself – always plenty to unpack and there’s a bit in this one.

 

Mumford on Grundy

Every time I see Shane Mumford’s name on GWS’ team sheet, I sigh. It’s a bit like the way everyone believed Prince Phillip was dead for several years before he actually kicked the bucket, I believed Shane Mumford’s footy career was cooked since 2017, but somehow manages to rob someone else of a list spot year after year.

But despite my personal grievances, he always seems to lick his lips whenever the Giants come across Collingwood. He did a good job on Grundy in the Preliminary Final and in the corresponding game last year, Mumford had Grundy’s number as the Giants pinched another win from under the nostrils of the Pies.

Watching this installment of the contest, you’d have certainly given the points to Mumford at half time. Grundy had the hitouts, but it’s his work around the stoppages and around the ground that elevates him to the top echelon of ruckmen in the competition. That said, teams have slowly figured him out over the past year – just as we saw Stefan Martin and Tim English work over Grundy physically at the MCG in round one.

And no one ruckman exerts himself physically – both within and out of the rules – like Shane Mumford does. And in true Mummy fashion, he bullied Grundy into just the four touches by half time. Mumford did begin to tire in the second half and Grundy finished with the 20 disposals but the big Giant still collected the 17 touches for his troubles, led all players with eight clearances and had six tackles.

 

It Aint’ Easy Being Greene

I’ve thought about penning a column about this bloke during the week. Being a Bulldogs supporter, Toby Greene is automatically public enemy number one. But for all the times he slugs Caleb Daniel in the snout and boots Luke Dahlhaus in the mouth (in hindsight, could’ve done it more), he still is a bloody good football player. At times I think he’s a bit of a misunderstood player

Especially this year, when the Giants have been at their worst, Greene has been one of the rare few that tries his heart out every week. Last week, watching the game against Melbourne, he bagged himself five goals in a brilliant performance. He should be a permanent forward because he’s an out and out match-winner.

This week he kicked another bag of five – 5.1 to be exact. A lot of the focus will deservedly go on Nathan Buckley’s decision to stick with Isaac Quaynor as opposed to a proven lockdown defender in Brayden Maynard for two and a half quarters, but the ball had to come to Greene first, and he was a class above in trying conditions. He took strong grabs, he finished cleanly with snaps on the run he was just the man you wanted with the ball in his hands.

At half time, he kicked three goals and I was saying to myself that the time is right for Nathan Buckley to stand Maynard on him – not sure who he was running with at that point – Bobby Hill maybe? But once the move was made, the Giants were 27 points clear and had ultimately decided the contest.

I must give full credit to Maynard, however, because Greene barely saw it after Bucks made the switch, but that’s a poor move coach-wise. I understand the need to give the kids a shot – and Quaynor still is a baby in the AFL world – but the trigger needed to be pulled quicker – Greene’s five goals were the difference in the end.

 

The Second Half Of Hoskin-Elliott

He’s not going to be the best Pie on the ground – but for my money, Will Hoskin-Elliott’s second half in this contest deserves recognition considering how much flack he’s copped over the past few weeks.

Safe to say it’s been warranted, he’s hardly introduced himself to the leather product – his 2021 constituting 30 disposals in the first three games, including a six-possession game last Thursday against the Lions. Watching that game last week, he had all the classic traits of a bloke shot on confidence: He fumbled, stumbled and crumbled under perceived pressure.

He was on track for another stinker at half time – one disposal in the first quarter and added another in the second, that’s a pair for those of you playing at home. He came alive in the second half, kicking two goals from 14 disposals – it was a stark contrast from the man that was wearing the number 32 in the opening half; he looked a little more like a man who had nothing to lose – almost consigned to losing his spot next week.

He wasn’t the best player on the ground wearing the black and white – Steele Sidebottom won’t get a small column, but he gets a shoutout here – but I think even Hoskin-Elliott will admit that he needed that game, because another quiet game would’ve made it a hard for the coaching staff to not drop him for next week.

 

The Contested Giants

In – let’s be honest – shithouse conditions, this was always going to play in favour of the players that thrive on the contest. It’s common knowledge that the Giants have quite a number of players that love the contested ball. The following part highlights the work of two players, but It’s also worth mentioning that Mumford had the 13 contested possessions, Sam Taylor in defence had 12 contested possessions and Tim Taranto had ten.

Jacob Hopper epitomizes the wet-weather slog. Yeah, he’s never been the best user of the footy, but his identity lies with the contest and in this one, he doesn’t let you down – 32 disposals, with 19 of them being contested possessions. It was a great in-and-under demonstration, with 23 of those touches being handballs and not gathering many metres with his touches, with 170 metres gained.

Callan Ward didn’t just have the 285 metres gained as well, but was also just as proficient at winning football from the source – 15 of his 37 disposals were contested, but also picked up seven clearances with his touches – second in the game behind Mumford, but he led all players in centre clearances with four for the match.

The Giants were +15 in contested possessions and +4 in clearances and the impact that both players mentioned above were far greater than that of Scott Pendlebury and Taylor Adams before he went down with the knee injury – don’t worry Pies fans, it’s not an ACL, but he’ll be gone for a little while.

 

Madgen

Jack Madgen hasn’t played many games of senior footy, but in the Pies’ games I’ve seen with him in it, this is by far the best and most complete game he’s played in his career.

He’s played 25 career games in four seasons and has played a few roles – third man up in defence, key defender, Buddy Franklin’s rag doll to name some, but I’ve never exactly pictured him to be the sort of player that Jack Crisp is currently – the man who runs and carries and is a primary source of generating rebound 50s.

He had 11 touches in the first quarter alone, most of them on the back of helping generate the offensive drive off the half-back line. Between him, Crisp and Brayden Maynard, the trio all combined for over 1500 metres gained for the entire match. For Madgen, he got 556 metres gained off of 25 disposals and four rebound 50s, maintaining his early average of four rebound 50s per game so far in 2021 despite playing a bit further up the ground.

I can’t remember who said it, but I do recall someone saying that Jack Madgen needed a spell for his effort last week against the Lions – he was sloppy and at times did look a little lost with his disposal, but this was a great response from the defender this week, especially considering how under pressure the Pies were for large parts of the contest.

 

Other Bits

Whilst we’re on career-best games, I thought Lachie Ash had his best game in his short career – had the 28 touches, 11 marks and five rebound 50s – with the conditions, his class with the ball was very apparent, particularly in the third term when it began pissing down in Melbourne for the 35th time that day.

I mentioned earlier about the tough players playing to conditions, I thought Chris Mayne played a very good game – 20 disposals, nine marks, seven intercepts and went at 80 percent disposal efficiency.

I don’t say it about Jeremy Finlayson often, especially since the Grand Final, but I thought his efforts were outstanding in this one. The four goals came on the back of a great blend of gut running, opportunism and great finishing. Also, his efforts as the back-up ruck were top notch, which definitely made Mason Cox look like he was auditioning for amateur hour a few times despite the obvious height difference.

Really liked young McCreery in his ‘official’ debut – I’m definitely not counting his game last week as a debut (don’t get me started on that). Kicked his first goal from only seven touches, but you’d be pretty happy with his pressure and his efforts – eight tackles overall.

Thought Darcy Moore was okay, the conditions meant he was always going to have a hard time intercept marking, but still came through with some good moments. He did attempt to mark when he should’ve spoiled a couple of times, however. Force of habit, maybe? Also Harry Himmelberg should get some credit for working to make him accountable. Jeremy Howe had his moments too, but I think he drifted in and out of the game.

Jack Buckley was shadowing Brody Mihocek for a lot of the night and kept him to 1.2 from seven touches whilst picking up 14 touches himself. He was pretty good for the Giants late last year, and looks like a player for the future.

I really liked Bobby Hill’s game – kicked the first goal of the night on the back of sprinting from half back to get to the feet of Toby Greene at the goal square. He finished with 11 disposals, but looked very clever with the ball in the conditions – had five score involvements and the two goal assists.

What was the point of playing Brayden Sier if he had gastro when kids such as Jay Rantall, Finlay Macrae and Reef McInnes are sitting their awaiting their debut games (Hopefully not as the sub?) Another brain-dead dumb decision by Buckley and the selection committee. Should’ve never have played.

And on that mind-boggling note, we’ve put another review to bed this weekend. Well done to the Giants for their first win of 2021 – a bit of pressure released on Leon Cameron for the week, but with the unbeaten Sydney Swans awaiting them next week in their battle of the NSW teams, that pressure valve might be back on for him this time next weekend.

As for the Pies, well there’s no bigger assignment in the AFL right now than a trip to Perth where they take on a West Coast side that will be reeling from their massive choke job against St Kilda. Optus Stadium is a fortress, especially for the Eagles, who play the ground so well (You’d hope so, that being their home ground).

But after this weekend, there needs be a bit of heat on Buckley given a few of the really strange calls that transpired on Saturday night. It’s time to start playing more of the kids and commit themselves to a bit of a rebuild – The kids above need a game, as do Tyler Brown, Oliver Henry and possibly Caleb Poulter.

 

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