Before we begin, how great is it to see close to a full house at the footy again! To the 54,000+ people that attended the game, from a spectator the width of the country away, thanks for the noise and the atmosphere that I’ve missed so much about AFL footy. It was great.

The Pies came out hot on the Eagles’ home deck, and looked as though they may have been thinking an upset was in order. With Darcy Moore starting forward and Brodie Grundy quickly pushing inside fifty after ruck contests, the Pies had the West Coast defence scrambling.

However, a wonderful second quarter from the home side, powered by a Carey-like quarter from Jack Darling, swung the momentum back to the Eagles’ favour. From there, West Coast cruised to a 27 point win over a Magpie outfit that lost Jordan de Goey and Jeremy Howe early in the piece and looked undermanned from that point on.

Who were the best players on the park? What were the best moments? And which players flew under the radar in this one?

The Mongrel has it all, and more, in our good, bad and ugly.

 

 

 

THE GOOD

 

THE STOPPER

I’m going to start this one off with a bit of a strange one. Yes, I’ll get to Redden and Allen, and Darling… they were all great, but the game of Jackson Nelson deserves some recognition here.

I am informed by our resident West Coast Mongrel, Daniel Jon Kershaw, that Nelson can be a bit of a whipping boy within West Coast fan circles. Is that right? If so, it might be time you change focus, because his attention to detail at stoppages this season has been first class, as he plays the role of defensive mid.

In this game, he took responsibility for Steele Sidebottom at times, and Scott Pendlebury at others, doing a great job of limiting their influence on the contest. I reckon it is fair to say that the only time Pendles looked dangerous was in the last quarter, and truthfully, the game was just about put to bed by that point. Sidebottom, on the other hand, didn’t look dangerous at all.

And you have Jackson Nelson to thank for that.

The Eagles were +8 in the clearances, and whilst many will look at the numbers of Sheed, Naitanui and Kelly as the drivers of that advantage, the defensive work of Nelson was excellent. Switching between the two, Nelson did enough to hamper his direct opponent to the point where I would dare you to say that either had a profound influence on the game. They compiled nine clearances, collectively, but they were simply not the kind of touches that hurt at all. They were nothing touches.

There’ll be plenty that get plaudits in newspapers and on TV coverage on Saturday, but the ones that single out Nelson – they’re the ones doing their job well. He was huge in this game… even if you didn’t notice him. Even if you still don’t like him!

 

THE QUARTER FROM HEAVEN

I was asked after the game whether West Coast would be content with a 27-point win against a Collingwood side that lost two of their integral parts early in the game.

I reckon all they’d have to do is rewatch the second quarter and there’d be enough positives out of that period to make even the most cynical of West Coast fans smile.

Firstly, there was Jack Darling. As alluded to in the opening, there was a real touch of Wayne Carey about Darling in this one (the times when he wasn’t being beaten by Glenn Jakovich, at least). Carey used to turn games in a ten minute patch, with contested marking and quick-fire goals.

And that’s what we got from Darling in this quarter.

With seven disposals – all contested – Darling took two contested grabs and converted well to slot 4.1. In a game decided by less than five goals, his herculean efforts to lift his team were vital in eroding the advantage the Pies established in the first quarter.

Darling was a beast, combining well with Oscar Allen (two goals and two contested grabs of his own) to take the game by the scruff of the neck.

With Josh Kennedy struggling a bit with an ankle/lower leg injury (kicking – two weeks, Mr Keane!), Darling and Allen finished off the hard work in the middle from Jack Redden.

Ah yes… Jack Redden.

The baby-faced assassin is not one that leaps to mind when you talk about elite mids in the competition. Hell, ff you lined up a fully fit West Coast team of mids and were asked to pick a side for a schoolyard game of footy, my best is that Redden would go behind Shuey, Yeo, Gaff and Sheed, but if we were basing things on this game, you’d stop and pause, at least considering who you pick first.

Redden split time between the inside mid role, and the wing, running amok in either role as he compiled a career-high 37 touches and ten marks. His constant movement and ability to find space gave his teammates an option whenever they were under the pump.

I have to admit, when I looked at Redden for a fantasy keeper league this year, I was quite shocked that he is the wrong side of 30. Hell, when did that happen? I still picture him as one of the up-and-coming West Coast mids – unless he plays til 40, this is who he is… and who he is was pretty bloody good in this contest.

 

THE HEIR APPARENT

Can we have a moment’s silence for the key defenders over the next eight to nine years, please? Because I have a feeling, at one time or another, that Oscar Allen is going to tear a few of them to shreds.

There is an argument within our team – one West Coast supporter and one Western Bulldogs supporter, and every time either team plays, and one of Allen or Aaron Naughton has an impact, the Allen v Naughton debate comes up.

Who would you rather?

Allen is having the dream run as a young key forward, learning his craft in a consistently successful team, with two stars of the game to learn from and to take the heat when they have to. That is a good argument for, and against Allen, but what is undeniable is those hands… those wonderful, clunking pair of hands that latch onto the footy in flight and squeeze the air out of it.

His mark in the incident where Jeremy Howe was injured was not given anywhere near enough attention. Whilst I understand that Howe’s injury could have been a significant moment, not just for Collingwood’s season, but for Howe’s career, the grab from Allen was an absolute highlight, and as a neutral supporter, made me sit up straight, waiting for the replay.

Though Kennedy was down in this game, the Eagles had the luxury of not just one excellent alternative, but two. Oscar Allen is fast becoming a player that you simply cannot allow to have a clean run at the footy. With two bags of 4+ goals this season, including this game’s career-high of five, Allen has fired a warning shot over the bow of every other team.

It will be interesting to see how they respond to this emerging star.

 

BACK AT HALF BACK AGAIN

Hats off to Liam Duggan in this one.

Astute footy watchers would know that the Adam Simpson has been playing around with Duggan’s role this season, with the man who once had the dirtiest mullet in the game playing most of his footy on the wing through the first four weeks.

Being someone who watched the wing roles closely (wingman rankings released for members every Monday… end of cheap plug), I think it is safe to say that it was an experiment that failed. Duggan found it difficult to work into the game from the wing, and with the injury to Shannon Hurn, a little more stability was required.

The time was right to move Duggan back into defensive fifty… and didn’t he love it!

A career-high 36 touches whilst running at 83% efficiency saw Duggan do as he pleased, collecting a mammoth 751 metres gained and seven intercepts. He looked calm, composed and completely in control, displaying a cool head even when the Collingwood pressure was at its highest.

Hurn’s absence was always going to go one of two ways. Either the combination of Witherden and Duggan was going to hold the fort, o things were going to break down. Whilst Witherden was impressive notching 30 touches at 93% efficiency, many of those disposals were from kick ins, which is why I rate Duggan’s game so much higher.

29 of Duggan’s 36 touches were by foot, as he seemed to love having more space to move in once again.

Whilst no one wishes Hurn anything but a speedy recovery, the West Coast defence is in safe hands with the return of Duggan to the back six. He was outstanding in this one.

 

SHEED BREAKS HEARTS AGAIN

It was just a little twist of the knife, wasn’t it?

The dagger he plunged into the hearts of Collingwood supporters three years ago has left a nasty scar, and in a five minute period in the third quarter, Dom Sheed was back again to shank the Pies and give the blade a little twist in the process.

Sheed was having a… an average game, I suppose is a fair assessment, until half time. He’d had 13 touches, was the link man in quite a few Eagles handball chains, but there was nothing to his game other than numbers. A bit of run and carry, but not too much, and a nice little goal assist was enough to get by, but nothing to write home about.

But maybe he felt like writing home about something…

IN a brief period of the third quarter, Dom Sheed burst to life, and in the process, burst any of the Collingwood bubbles remaining, slotting three goals in less than four minutes of game time. Sheed worked hard from the middle to get on the end of both chains by foot and hand as he slotted goal after goal to take the West Coast lead out to five goals, effectively putting the game out of the Pies’ reach, despite what the commentators were attempting to sell you in the last quarter.

At 26, we are now seeing Sheed at his peak. Despite being a wonderful insurance policy for the inured Shuey/Yeo combination at the moment, Sheed will be one of the pillars of the West Coast midfield for the next three or four years as well. And if he keeps finishing like he did in this game, maybe there are a few more twists of the knife the Pies fans will have to endure before all is said and done.

 

THE DEFENSIVE ADJUSTMENT

I’m not sure how many of you guys look for this, but there was an undeniable shift in tactics in the West Coast defence in the second quarter, and if you’re looking for a reason that Darcy Moore was shut out of the game so well by the Eagles, look no further than the switch from both Tom Barrass and Jeremy McGovern to spoil contests as opposed to trying to mark everything that came their way.

It was failed marking attempts that started to unravel the Eagles in the first quarter, with both Barrass and McGovern backing themselves in against Brodie Grundy and Darcy Moore, and losing.

I could just imagine Adam Simpson fuming as they opted to try to mark the footy, only to misjudge the flight, or be beaten in a contest, when a kill was the preferred option.

The defensive duo came out after quarter time and started playing smart defence – not spectacular defence intended to build a good supercoach score, but good body-to-body checking, good work on Moore and Mihocek before the ball arrived, and good spoiling.

McGovern ended up with his first defensive double-double of the season, with ten intercepts and 12 one-percenters, whilst Barrass, usually a prolific spoiler, was reduced more to the role of bodying up Moore and not allowing him a clean run at the footy. Yes, not as spectacular, but damn effective.

The defensive adjustment by the Eagles in the second quarter allowed the team to run forward in waves on the rebound, and with the forwards getting on top, they were able to kickstart a match-winning lead.

 

DIFFERENT BALL GAME THIS TIME

Last season, we saw a timid and reactive Tim Kelly fail to fire in the finals series. His display, with Levi Greenwood wearing him like a cheap suit, was a huge factor in the one-point loss that ended what was an inconsistent and frustrating season for the Eagles.

In a game where the Eagles’ midfield was slowed by several injuries, much was expected of Kelly, and he just did not show up.

As the ball was bounced to start this game, there was a sense of the familiar as Greenwood wandered over and started to harass the West Coast star. Make no mistake – this was the test for Tim Kelly. Not only did Kelly have to beat his opponent, he had to overcome the memories of one of his worst performances at the club.

From the first bounce, Kelly looked to be on. He ran hard, created opportunities and could have finished the quarter with two goals if it hadn’t been for that goal umpire and his pesky post. Five of his six early touches were contested, as he demonstrated immediately that he was well and truly up for the fight.

Kelly would go on to finish with 26 touches and seven clearances with Greenwood hanging off him and dispelled a few demons in the process. Onwards and upwards from here, for TK.

 

ROUGH

He is by no means flashy and isn’t going to win any AFL glamour awards (who would win if they gave them out? Hmmmm….) but there is never any question that, when given a job to do, Jordan Roughead goes out there and does it to the best of his abilities.

No sooking, no posturing – just a quality key defender that makes life tough for the key forward unlucky enough to have him by his side.

Roughead’s stats in this game won’t make your standard game review, but a few numbers that should – six possessions and three marks. That was the net result for Josh Kennedy having dealt with Jordan Roughead all game. That and a sore ankle, but we can hardly blame Roughead for that.

Rough would fare marginally better, with seven touches and three marks, but his nine spoils and the way he was able to stifle the effectiveness of Kennedy was a win for the Pies on a day when wins were few and far between.

 

THE BAD

 

THE OTHER EXPERIMENT

Below is a bit of a spiel about the move everyone wanted the Collingwood coach to make in this game. It deserves its own section, but there is another positional shift I really have not been supportive of for the whole season, thus far.

Josh Daicos was one of the better young wingmen in the competition last season, bursting to prominence with some hard run, silky skills and the type of consistency that only comes when a player learns their role and becomes comfortable playing it.

It is what makes players like Andrew Gaff, Sam Menegola and Isaac Smith so damaging in the position – they are allowed to continue to play there and develop their games.

Not Daicos, however. It seems he is not permitted to do that.

It is one of the big misses of the year, both from a coaching aspect, but also from the AFL Media, who have simply neglected to mention that Daicos is now being forced to play as a half forward and, as a result, the Pies are lacking his delivery inside 50.

Shall we look at a few numbers?

Okay… let’s.

Daicos is yet to hit 20 touches in a game to this point of the season. At 14.2 touches per game, he is -3.1 on his 2020 numbers despite the reduced game time last season. He has a marginal improvement in goals, going from 0.6 to 0.8 per game, but despite moving closer to goal, his score involvements has improved by just +0.7 per game.

In short, he is being wasted.

Yes, we all love the Daicos name, and some of us may have shouted it as we learnt to kick a dribble kick round the corner in our younger years, but the thing is, no one I shouting his name at the moment because he is being square-pegged into a round hole whilst players like John Noble, Jack Madgen and Chris Mayne are run through the midfield on the wing.

For all the talk you hear about Darcy Moore not being moved (see below) or the injuries to de Goey and Howe, have a bit of a look at the way the Pies have used Josh Daicos this season. Nobody’s mentioning it, and it is about time someone did.

 

 

THE UGLY

 

DAMNED IF HE DID – DAMNED IF HE DIDN’T

They’re going to come for him. You know they’re going to come for him, don’t you?

Nathan Buckley will answer questions all week about why he didn’t move Darcy Moore back into defence, with the big West Coast forwards getting on top. He’ll be criticised and his coaching future with the club will be called into question.

We can see it coming like a storm on the horizon. Get your umbrella out, Bucks… it’s about to pour.

However, he won’t get that criticism from me. Not on this one, at least.

People have been banging on about what the Collingwood coach should and shouldn’t do. It seems like every man and his dog, and maybe the dog’s mates who have dropped around for a bit of rear-end sniffing fun, have had an opinion on how Buckley can fix this team.

The short answer is easy – he can’t. They’re done.

However, to start whacking him for not moving Darcy Moore back to defence… this was the damn move half the people that’ll criticise Buckley actually wanted the bloke to make, is juts wrong. “Oh, why doesn’t he try something?”

He did! And in many cases, it was exactly what you wanted him to try.

He wanted to see how this would play out. He wanted to see whether using Moore as a viable forward option was going to be worthwhile, so I can understand why he didn’t move him. Maybe he is not making decisions to win one game, but to prepare the player for life after he moves on as coach? Maybe he was trying to give Moore experience in the role to allow him to acclimatise to a position he will play for the rest of Buckley’s tenure? You don’t succeed at that if you just move him out of there the minute something goes awry.

Of course, I am playing Devil’s Advocate, here. Would I have moved him back? Yep, I would have, but that’s not to say I don’t understand what Bucks was trying to do.

Buckley is now in a no-win situation. If he picks up a win, in the eyes of many, it simply staves off the inevitable. If he picks up a loss, they all look at each other and no, knowingly.

Remember The Green Mile? Tom Hanks and that horrible little prison guard would walk a man to the electric chair and say “dead man walking” as he made his way past the other prisoners.

That’s Bucks right now. The dead coach walking. You reckon he knows it, too, and as Moore was held without a touch for two quarters, the temptation to move him into defence must have been immense. Buckley stuck to his guns, kept Moore forward and the Eagles broke the game open.

You wanted him to try something and he did. Then you wanted him to stop and he didn’t. He was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t. Such is the life of a dead coach walking.

 

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

WHO WON THE RUCK BATTLE?

You knew this one would come up, right?

Let’s score it like boxing, just for fun.

Grundy had Nic Nat on the ropes in the first quarter, and landed some heavy shots, forcing Naitanui to cover up. As the bell rang, and Grundy had two goals to his name, the judges scored it 10-8 Grundy.

Quarter two saw the Naitanui fightback. Not so much with haymakers, but he kept Grundy at arm’s length and put a few jabs on his chin. Grundy threw a few back, but Naitanui leveled things up. 9-9 Draw.

Another close tussle in the third, but Naitanui managed to get on top in a couple of ruck duels, taking the ball cleanly and setting the Eagles alight. 10-9 Nic Nat.

As the bell rang for the final quarter, both guys looked a little fatigued. Grundy got on top in hitouts, but again it was Naitanui winning a couple of clearances, himself. Score 10-9 Nic Nat.

And what a cop out by the Mongrel, I hear you all say! You know that amounts to a 37-37 judges’ decision, right? Well, look… I thought it was pretty close.

 

IS ANDREW GAFF WORKING BACK INTO FORM?

You can look at the stats sheet if you like, and it will tell you one story – 38 touches at 71% efficiency is nothing to sneeze at, however, I felt that there was a lot of hack kicks froward and disposals under pressure for Gaff. Yes, he got plenty of it, but he didn’t really hurt.

Similar to Dustin Martin the previous night, score involvements are always a good way to see whether the disposals a player has are damaging. Are they creating opportunities, or just looking good on the stats sheet?

Gaff had five score involvements for the game. I’m afraid if you just read stats, you may be lulled into thinking he was one of the best on the park. He was good, but he was nowhere near one of the best.

 

DID YOU RATE BRAYDEN MAYNARD’S EFFORTS ON JACK DARLING AFTER HALF TIME

Yeah, he was really good. Got pinged for a free kick to give Darling his fifth for the game, but if you’re Nathan Buckley, you take that one. It was a free kick given away via 100% effort.

Maynard finished with a defensive double-double of his own, with 11 intercepts and 13 one-percenters. He may be more prominent once more now that Howe is on the sidelines for a few weeks, at least.

 

IS MARK KEANE IN TROUBLE FOR TRIPPING/KICKING?

Never liked kicking in a footy match (that’s why I hardly ever got a kick – boom tish!)

Seriously though, I reckon Keane’s little ankle tap on Kennedy was one of those dumb moments where you do something as a way of being antagonistic, and as soon as you do it, you think “oh, I shouldn’t have done that…”

I wrote above that he will get two weeks, as it was way off the play and there was potential to cause injury, but rather than go back and correct it, perhaps one week is more suitable as JK played on, though he did look like he was in discomfort.

The lesson is – don’t kick people!

 

WANNA SPECULATE ON DE GOEY’S INJURY?

Looked like a broken nose, didn’t it? Kelly got him pretty flush – completely accidental and no case to answer, but I am quite intrigued by the extent of this injury and why he couldn’t re-enter the field of play after… HE ALREADY DID!

De Goey came back on before the docs checked out the vision and got him back off the ground. Then we were told it was a facial injury? Was it concussion-related? Or did the Pies just not want to say it was concussion-related as that would mean an automatic 12-day break?

Surely it has to be a little more than a broken nose? Interesting to hear the special comments blokes a little derisive about him staying off if it was “only” a broken nose.

 

OTHER BITS

 

I really struggled to find a positive for the Pies in terms of the “good” section. Not to say there wasn’t any, but to have a token one on there with the West Coast ones didn’t sit well with me. The only one that was remotely close was Jordan Roughead’s game on Josh Kennedy, so that made the cut.

I thought about Jack Crip’s efforts, but the ten turnovers swayed me from adding that, and whilst I enjoyed Fin Macrae’s efforts, they weren’t jaw-dropping or anything.

I guess I’ll just leave them in this section and cop the criticism of providing a one-sided review? So be it…

I liked the game of Brody Mihocek. You keep hearing the words “old school footballer” whenever they talk about him. He is going to have games where he doesn’t play well – everyone has them – but it will never be due to lack of effort.

Brayden Sier… was on the ground for an hour and in the first half hour, had just one touch. Picked up nine in the last quarter when things were more or less put to bed. Pies fans, I am not sold on him at all. Playing as the medical sub may be a very difficult thing to do, but if you get the chance to get out there for half a game, you have to show you’re worthy of a full game next week, right?

People were howling for the too-high free kick to be paid to Zac Langdon in the last quarter. I think the umpire made a wise call in not paying it. Langdon led with his head and was actively looking for high contact. If the league is serious about reducing concussion, encouraging players to do what Langdon did by rewarded the action, would be hypocritical.

I miss Liam Ryan.

And Willie Rioli.

I miss them together the most.

 

And that may just do me, lovely people. The Eagles now move to 3-2 with a trip to that horrid place in Geelong on the cards next, whilst the Pies and the Bombers line up for their Anzac day clash, and irrespective of where they sit on the ladder, that’s always a belter.

 

 

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