Collingwood entered this game with the blowtorch pointed directly at the club and primarily coach, Nathan Buckley.
Languishing in 17th position, it was time for the Pies to stand up when it mattered most. Going up against a Suns side that had won only three of 14 matches played at the MCG, the onus was on the Pies to stand tall. On paper they looked ready for the kill, bringing in a combined 339 games of experience to their side
Late in the fourth quarter, an ominous chant rang around the MCG, however it was not the home side that was punctuating the win.
Perhaps the banner malfunction was a sign of things to come, as Gold Coast got out to an early lead, withstood a furious third quarter pressure cooker, and kicked away in the last term to gain the four points with a 24 point win. Collingwood were inaccurate and also made several key errors, failing to capitalise on the chances the young Suns offered.
There will be some disappointed Collingwood supporters drinking away their sorrows over the remainder of the weekend……
Let’s get straight to the point…Darcy Moore is not a forward. He looked out of sorts early as Collingwood failed to get the ball in an advantageous position for him. Gold Coast sent Jy Farrar to Moore early, in what appeared to be a great matchup for the Pies to exploit, however, Farrar is an actual defender so he was able to handle Moore pretty easily while also gaining six disposals in the first quarter, running off Moore and being clean at ground level.
To be fair, the forward setup from Collingwood was poor, and Moore often had to venture to the wing to get any space to operate, but as the game went on his work rate dropped significantly as the home side adopted the high ball approach. He finished with five touches for the game.
One other colossal mistake from Collingwood was the tactic of using Brayden Maynard against Josh Corbett.
On paper, it appeared an acceptable move as there is only a one-inch difference in height, but whether the Collingwood scouts did not do their job, or they completely underestimated or disrespected the aerial skills of Corbett.
The outcome was disastrous.
Corbett – the former mature-aged pick-up absolutely dominated Maynard, kicking 4.2 from 16 disposals and eleven marks (four contested). The fact that Buckley left Maynard (who tried hard) in a one-out situation with Corbett was almost damming. For his part, the work rate of Corbett once again was a factor, as he feasted on the space left by the Suns’ high working half forwards.
SON OF A GUN
In this corresponding match-up last year, Josh Daicos was a thorn in the Suns’ side, as they once again fought back from a deficit. This game, the son of club legend Peter did all he could to drag the Pies across the line. He fought a stiffening lower back, and the pressure of Lachie Weller and Noah Anderson to be the best for the midfield group. 27 disposals, four marks, five tackles and eight score involvements for the 22 year old.
THE ULTIMATE WARRIORS
It was a very intriguing midfield matchup with the experienced campaigners of Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom against Touk Miller and Hugh Greenwood. Pendlebury did what he could, as (Daicos aside) most of the midfield were fumbling and off their game. The Pies captain still displayed good clearance work and exceptional hands. The problem was, the Suns midfield duo of Touk Miller and Hugh Greenwood were inspirational.
Early on, Miller was causing headaches, helping himself to 20 first-half possessions and continuing his outstanding form. After the switch of Sidebottom to Miller, it was then up to former Crow, Hugh Greenwood to apply the heat. Greenwood played arguably his most complete game in his career, accumulating 25 disposals, five marks, ten tackles, 11 clearances and a goal. He played a massive hand in negating the hit-out disadvantage of Gold Coast and he also had a few instances of hitting the ball on ground level or getting important deflections in contested situations that halted Collingwood forward movement.
A career-high 20 contested possessions for Greenwood in this clash, with his massive work rate a feature.
David Swallow also made an impact with Greenwood resting forward. The Suns co-captain was pivotal with 15 touches and two goals as relief of the fatigued Greenwood. He has handled his transition to primary half forward with aplomb, while also being able to impact forward 50 stoppages.
BATTLE OF THE YOUNG STARS
No matter which way you prefer to spell it, the battle of these two was exciting.
Rankine vs Quaynor.
Yes, the stat sheet will indicate that Quaynor dominated Rankine, collecting 20 disposals and keeping Izak to nine touches and one goal. However, I must point out a few things.
First off, the rebounding and footballing IQ of Quaynor was tremendously valuable in this one. He appears to be the only defender stepping up in the wake of Moore’s role reversal. Time and time again he was able to settle down the Pies backline with clean disposal, breaking a tackle, or initiating a timely switch.
Rankine had nine touches and a goal for the game, and he was largely quelled, but I feel at times he just tried to manufacture something out of nothing at the wrong times. Quite often he would look to make the “home run” ball with every disposal and that led to a few turnovers or getting caught in possession. It would be blind of me to acknowledge his first-quarter goal, from an inside 50 stoppage (with a nice block from Weller) he lost Quaynor and intercepted a Pendlebury handball, snapping truly on the left foot from 20m
With Collingwood threatening in the third quarter Rankine had a great piece of selfless play where he collected a Grundy hit-out in the pocket and rushed a kick across the face of goal. He then pushed to the square and dove on a loose ball, knocking it to David Swallow who kicked truly. It’s those efforts that would please Suns fans and would also mean the contest was closer than the stats sheet would indicate.
Brody Mihocek was the Collingwood forward line for most of this game. He was sensational all game for the home side. He jumped out of the blocks with eight first-quarter disposals, running Charlie Ballard ragged and taking him away from his trademark intercept game in the process. His work rate was absolutely exemplary as he collected a career-high 24 disposals, 12 marks and kicked 4.2. He just keeps on working his backside off, and is the type of no-nonsense player every team cries out for.
An interesting statistic from today – it was the 219th game at the MCG for Scott Pendlebury whereas the Suns collective 22 had played157 games at the ground. Suns star wingman, Brandon Ellis had played 105 of those, and if he continues his form he may get his name on a wing on the hallowed ground.
Ellis was everywhere for Gold Coast, tallying a game-high 35 disposals and 16 marks at an eye-popping 97 per cent efficient. He was a constant release valve for the defence, and his long goal came at a crucial time where the home side was pressing hard, yet could not get a touch on his 60m shot towards a pack in the goal square.
In the second half, when the Collingwood midfield army was in full flight, Gold Coast needed somebody to help weather the storm.
Up stood Sam Collins.
He had been a touch down on form in 2021 and he had his hands full with Darcy Cameron in a few contests early. However, in the second half, Collins was tremendous in limiting the damage on the repeated forward 50 entries against the undersized back-line. The star full back collected 23 disposals, 12 marks (4 contested) and several crucial spoils.
The grab taken by third-game wingman, Nathan Murphy was a thing of absolute beauty. Opposed to Ellis on the nearside wing, Murphy tracked a skied ball in flight, running back and took the mark with traffic coming the other way.
That act should have lifted the Magpie army, however, it strangely resulted in the Suns lifting their work rate and pressure around the ground. Collingwood were ruing the lost chance of the momentum swing to get the team back in the lead, however full credit to the youngster making his mark (so to speak). That type of courage was a welcome sight to see for a Collingwood team that looked rushed and awaiting contact at times.
First off, I will try to be as impartial as I can be due to being a Gold Coast supporter. Is it harsh to say Brodie Grundy had a pathetic game? Possibly…
Let me explain…
I was fully expecting our midfield to be taken to the cleaners by a a team led by one of the top three rucks in the game. As the numbers go: 20 disposals (14 contested), four tackles, a goal, five clearances sounds like a solid game right?
Problem is, not only was Grundy going against a team down three ruck-men, but his two opponents were a 20-year-old academy graduate defender, and a state league utility who have massive height disadvantages against the Pies star.
Perhaps Grundy was guilty for taking the foot off the gas, as he was going against somewhat of unknown commodities. The issue is, that when your back is against the wall, you would expect your biggest asset to be a force to be reckoned with.
Despite the numbers, I don’t believe Grundy was.
The ball work was nice, and credit to the Suns for putting the clamps on the ball-winners, however, three marks is inexcusable for a player of Grundy’s standing in the game. I must add that the Magpies midfield were often content to give the short kick/mark away instead of forcing the Suns to go down the line, which is arguably where he could have made a larger impact. The only time Grundy ventured forward and made an impact was in the last few minutes, with the game well and truly done.
Jordan de Goey does not look right. Maybe he was carrying an injury or perhaps he has just dropped his bundle. Was handy with six clearances however barely an afterthought up forward opposed to Sean Lemmens
Jack Lukosius is the ultimate zone breaker in this day and age of rolling defences, combining his disposal with his agility. The Suns are reaping the rewards, as he provides the perfect complement to Ellis. Two or three times he pinned the ears back and took the long option and it paid immediate dividends.
I really rate the game of John Noble. His biggest value is the way he knows when to attack, which not a lot of the small half backs possess. The subtle art of timing is the difference between being a good player and a great player. 18 kicks, four marks and a goal for the speedy half back.
The Suns youth need to be composed in key situations on the attack. As previously mentioned with Rankine trying to bite off more than he can chew at times, the trend also applied at times with Ben Ainsworth and Sam Flanders. Quite often, they tried too hard to make something happen, or tried to bust one more tackle. That composure will come with experience and voice around the contest as quite often it’s a lot easier to make a decision when you haven’t got the ball than when you have.
Ainsworth redeemed himself in the second quarter, attacking a high bouncing ball on the wing, leaping high to tap down setting up a mark and goal to Corbett
The Pagan Paddock approach may work wonders with Ben King. Getting him space to operate, especially goal side, has been a key to unlocking his full arsenal, while also keeping him switched on. Couple the goal side attack with the leg of Lukosius and the midfield pace, and King’s rise should continue He looked well-positioned to burn up the MCG after taking off in the centre circle but was undone by a churned up centre circle. I must also mention his follow up efforts at ground level, diving on a loose ball to start a chain of handballs that Swallow finished off
Caleb Poulter was solid on debut with 14 touches, however, he needs a bit of guidance in his defensive work, as Lukosius and Ellis ran riot in opposition to him. He definitely deserves to get some game time – I liked what I saw from him.