After an onfield performance that reflected what was happening off the field, the Magpies spiralled in 2021.
Finishing second-last, the Pies put time into their kids and attempted to fast track their rebuild. A potential new star and an injury-free run for Darcy Moore could see the Pies turn things around quicker than most expect.
Over the last month and a bit, I have been slowly compiling questions relating to each team to include in our season previews. There were so many questions in need of answers. When I finally sat down and started the previews, it quickly became apparent these articles were going to be huge. There were simply too many things in need of addressing.
So, the way this is going to work is that the first five questions are available for free for each team, to whet your appetite and the next 10-15 are for our members.
So, it’s a ploy to get people to join the site?
Ummmm, yeah, kind of, but it is also about providing value for those who support what we do here and enjoy the content – those who are already onboard. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I am aiming to compile the most comprehensive team previews out there, so if you like sinking your teeth into articles with a bit of meat on the bone, that’s what you’re getting here. No flippantly thrown together article with a stupid prediction at the end – I’ll leave that to those with restrictions on word counts and pressure to make space for gambling ads. We’re diving deep.
So, without further ado, here are The Big Questions regarding the Pies in 2022.
ARE THE PIES’ BEST SIX AS GOOD AS ANY IN THE GAME?
A bit of positivity to start things rolling, huh?
Let’s look at the top six players at Collingwood right now and you can make your own mind up.
Darcy Moore – Already an All-Australian, he has the capacity to be the best defender in the game. Can control a game from defensive fifty, and can play either man-on-man, or switch it up and adopt the role of floating interceptor.
Jordan de Goey – Has the potential to be the first player to average 20 disposals and two goals per game in the last ten seasons. Can play either forward or in the midfield and do either to the extent that he is the best on the park in the process. Despite off-field issues, could be the best player in the game with his head screwed on right.
Taylor Adams – In and under mid that throws himself into the contest, Wins clearances, lays tackles, and contests the footy with the best of them. Number one centre clearance player in the game in 2021.
Brodie Grundy – Was the best ruckman in the game in 2019 and has comfortably been top three or four in the two seasons following that. Great tank, great second efforts, but there are a couple of issues to address as we near the start of the season (I’ll get to that).
Jack Crisp – Wonderful running half-back who could easily make the transition to the midfield and make a success of it. Reads the ball well, gets to the right spots, and breaks lines.
Jeremy Howe – Best overhead mark in the game? Certainly the most exciting, but two seasons of injury have reduced his stock slightly. Needs a good run at it in 2022, without weeks on the sidelines.
So, in terms of the top six, Collingwood have a great balance of defence, mids, and a potent forward. With these six fit and firing, the club will be nowhere near as bad as it was in 2021. The loss of Moore and Howe damaged the defence significantly, and the switching of de Goey from the middle to forward may do as much harm as good.
On their day, this top six is absolutely as good as any team in the league… but that leads us to the next group underneath, which does not prompt the same level of confidence.
WHAT TO COLLINGWOOD NEED FROM STEELE SIDEBOTTOM?
Leadership and that might be about it at this stage.
Sidebottom has turned 31 years old, and after promising so much in 2018, with a career-best season, he has been unable to replicate that type of form, to the extent that he is has seen his numbers in decline steadily since then.
An outside player by nature, Sidebottom was at his best when he was able to run hard and find the footy. For whatever reason – be it injury or a drop in overall fitness – he has been on cruise control since 2018.
I got ya.
Sidebottom has had 30+ disposals seven times from 2019-21. In 2018 alone, he did it 14 times. He was one of the driving forces behind Collingwood’s charge into the Grand Final and hit his best form playing in the finals, compiling a 40+ disposal finals game in the stunning Preliminary Final win over the Tigers.
And from that point, it was as though he nodded to himself, thought ‘my work here is done’ and has meandered about the wing and half back like someone playing out time on his career. Sadly, that may actually be the case, now.
Can we expect a sudden reinvigoration from Sidebottom that propels him back to the levels of a few years ago? It seems unlikely, doesn’t it? Meanwhile, his presence on the wing and half back, going through the motions has seen players like Josh Daicos trialled elsewhere – half-forward in Daicos’ case. And that stalled his development, as well.
There was a time I believed that Sidebottom was the successor to Pendlebury as the next Collingwood captain, but that time has long since passed. He is now someone with perhaps one year of good footy in him if he chooses to trot it out. In a side that is up and running, he could be a real weapon. However, in a team that will likely struggle at points, he has the potential to be a well-disguised passenger.
Harsh, I know… but not entirely unfair given what he is capable of, and what he dished up over the past three seasons.
DO THEY NEED JORDAN DE GOEY UP FORWARD OR IN THE GUTS?
I touched on this above. Despite his erratic off-field history, including a recent indiscretion, Jordan de Goey remains one of the most important pieces to the Collingwood puzzle. And let’s be honest – he owes them more than one at this stage!
Does he repay the faith in 2022, or is this season just a mechanism for him to extract cash from another club at the conclusion of this season? Yep, he is out of contract after this season, so we will learn a little more about what makes him tick as the season progresses.
But addressing the question at hand, Craig McRae has a few decisions to make about the role of the potential superstar. Forward, or in the midfield? Or both?
Recently, Bill Skelton wrote an interesting article for The Mongrel Punt detailing the players who have averaged 20+ disposals and two or more goals in a season. There have been none that have hit that mark since Steve Johnson, ten years ago. De Goey has the opportunity to be the next man to do that.
Essendon use Jake Stringer very effectively as a forward/mid, but de Goey has a bigger upside. People have called him Dusty-lite, which is a whack, but he has the capacity to be something special. With the right balance, JDG could be at around 23-24 touches per game and two goals. That is not just a great set of numbers – it is bloody brilliant!
In the back half of 2021, Robert Harvey, as interim coach of the Pies, pushed de Goey through the midfield. The result was 29 touches per game over the last nine games of the season. Prior to that, Nathan Buckley played him more as a forward. Though less consistent, he had bags of four and six.
Can the Pies learn from the Bombers in terms of how to use de Goey? Can they see what Essendon did with Stringer in 2021 and give the same amount of freedom to their enigmatic star?
Whilst the Stringer split veered more toward forward-time at a rate of around 60%, the opposite may be right for de Goey. With 60% midfield time, he could be very dangerous when he makes the switch forward, particularly if he times it well to capitalise on confusion and chaos inside 50.
If the Pies get this right, and de Goey is able to knuckle down and concentrate solely on footy for a year, his season could be one to remember.
For the right reasons.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM NICK DAICOS?
No, not “Joe Ganino in the park” kind of flashes, but just the kind that indicate the kid will be something special, as I am not sure we can expect him to be special right off the bat.
We’ve heard a few mentions of Pendlebury possibly moving to half-back, which, in light of both Dyson Heppell and Jack Ziebell successfully transitioning into the role, could be a great way to both add value to the team and prolong Pendles’ career. It may also open up opportunities for Daicos to work through the middle in bursts.
That said, given that he is a very long-term investment, I wouldn’t be immediately throwing him into the middle – and metaphorically to the wolves – in his first month of footy.
Humour me for a moment – could we see the Collingwood version of a high priced law firm in the making? Daicos and Daicos… wingmen de jour?
In 2020, Josh Daicos primarily worked from the wing and was pretty damn good in the role. 2021 saw him start the season as a half-forward. This was decisively less successful, and by the mid-point of the year, we had him back out wide, but also spending the occasional period in the guts.
With Josh on one wing and Nick on the other, a dual-wing attack from the Daicos Brothers could set the Pies alight. It would take the heat of Nick, whilst allowing Josh to play the role he excelled in before being shunted around, and allow Josh to get back to doing what he does best.
Call me an ideas man, if you must.
CAN BRODIE GRUNDY PLAY LIKE SOMEONE TRYING TO EARN A CONTRACT AGAIN?
Following the 2020 season, I waiting for the Pies to make an announcement on Brodie Grundy. He was clearly not playing at the level he was in 2019, where he ousted Max Gawn from the number one ruck spot. Despite moments, 2020 was a real disappointment.
But nothing was forthcoming.
I started to wonder whether the reduced game time had reduced his ability to impact games – I mean, Grundy’s strength in his 2019 season was his ability to keep going when all others started to fatigue. Maybe the reduced length of the games were allowing others to keep up with him?
2021 would tell a different story, surely.
The first alarm bells went off in Round One, where Grundy failed to dominate the Western Bulldogs. Over the preceding few seasons, he’d used the Dogs as a punching bag, but the recruitment of Stef Martin seemed to negate that. He seemed to rally following that game, with five out of six games above 20 disposals, and four of those games also seeing him hit 40+ hit-outs. However, lacking from his performances were the second efforts. His clearance work was not the same and other, lesser-skilled rucks, seemed to be finding a way to break even with him around the ground.
He ended the season -2.19 disposals, -10.23 hit-outs, and -2.08 clearances on the numbers that made him such a hot commodity in 2019. I used 2019 as the comparison due to the game time being the same. 2020 is a wash when we are looking at comparing players.
Grundy is contracted with the Pies until the end of the 2027 season – yep, you read that correctly – 2027. Hell, I hope I’m still alive to cover the footy that far off in the distance. Since signing on for this long-term deal, Grundy has suffered a noticeable dip in form. If the Pies are to go anywhere, it cannot be with a ruckman that meanders about the place and is content to be in the top five in the league – he can do that standing on his head. A driven and determined Brodie Grundy has been, and can be again, the best ruckman in the game.
He has to play like a man with something to prove, as opposed to a man with nothing left to prove. 2022 has to be the renaissance of Brodie Grundy.
And that’s it for non-members. The next 11 questions are for those members who support us. I want these to be the biggest season previews you’ll read and am determined to give value for money. Some sites will give you lip service about your team – I will be diving deep. The Mongrel does the work… always. Want to join us?