Coming into the 2022 season, both the Pies and Saints had huge question marks over them.

For Collingwood, their 2021 was a disaster, but with the second son of a gun making his debut, and some intelligent recruiting, they looked, on paper, at least, as a team that could give teams something to worry about.

The Saints were disappointing in 2021 as well, particularly coming off an inspired 2020 season that teased a new era at Moorabbin.

Under the lights at Marvel Stadium, it was the Pies who used a ten minute period in the third quarter to kick away, hanging on to beat the charging Saints in a highly-entertaining clash. The Mongrel has all the details and asks the Big Questions as we take a deeper look into this game.

 

COULD JORDAN DE GOEY END UP BEING THE BEST CONTRACT IN THE LEAGUE?

This was an interesting chat amongst the Mongrel team during the game – someone suggested his contract is the worst in the league because he shouldn’t have one. It made me smile.

Jordan de Goey, when he concentrates on playing football, is a devastating weapon. When he doesn’t, well… we all saw how that can end up.

He was a beast in this game and very well could have ended with four goals. Playing in the middle and moving forward when the opportunity presented, de Goey gave the Saints nightmares. It was his combination with Brodie Grundy at the start of the third quarter that established the Pies’ advantage – it would prove to be a match-winning one, as the Saints came home hard but were unable to maintain the rage.

In that period, he slotted a goal and was responsible for a couple of centre breaks that drove the Pies deep into attack. With 27 touches, two goals, and 12 score involvements, he played a similar role to that which has made Christian Petracca a media darling over the past two seasons. Somehow, I don’t think de Goey will get the same love from the media that Petracca does, and that’s fine. Someone has to wear the black hat – if de Goey can do that and produce as he did in this one, whether the media love him or hate him, they’ll find it pretty hard to ignore him.

The matter of his contract will rear its head by the middle of the season, and with de Goey appearing as though he would like to stay with the club, Collingwood could find itself in a great position to secure his services for well under what would usually be market value for someone of his immense talent. With the baggage he now carries, the Pies could very well turn what some of our writers think is a bad contract into one of the best value-for-money deals in the game.

From where I sit, de Goey is one of the few players that could seriously give the 20/2 club a shake this season. No player has averaged over 20 disposals and two goals in a season for ten years, now, but de Goey could be the man to do it. Forget Dusty-lite. Forget how you feel about the bloke. When he plays this brand of footy, Jordan de Goey is a star of the game. If he keeps his nose clean, he still has the potential to be ranked as one of the best in the game.

 

COULD PAT LIPINSKI END UP THE RECRUIT OF THE YEAR?

If you went shopping for a player to fit into a system and complement those already in the mix, I doubt you could do better than securing someone with the talent of Pat Lipinski.

Caught in the midfield crush at the Western Bulldogs, Lipinski was like a caged tiger, stalking back and forth, just waiting for an opening to pounce. In a team with Bontempelli, Macrae, Libba, Treloar, and the emerging Bailey Smith, opportunities were always going to be difficult to come by. So, after a period where Collingwood’s off-season moves rivalled those of the Fremantle Dockers at their worst, the Pies found their mojo again and targeted one of the more under-appreciated mids in the game.

On the periphery at the Kennel, Lipinski did his apprenticeship and was ready to branch out on his own. He demonstrated that he was ready in the preseason and then when the real stuff started, he proved it to the wider footy community.

Racking up 30 touches (the second time in his career), Lipinski worked through the midfield exceptionally well, combining with Taylor Adams, Steele Sidebottom, and Jordan de Goey to give the Pies plenty of drive out of the guts.

There wasn’t much he didn’t do in this game, racking up five clearances, seven inside 50 deliveries, and two direct goal assists and he made a pretty big statement that, at 23, he is ready to become the player he was not permitted to be at his former club.

 

HOW GREAT IS IT TO SEE A LATE BLOOMER PROVE HE BELONGS?

If you watched the Saints through the preseason, you would have seen Jack Hayes strutting his stuff for the Saints and making an excellent impression. The SANFL product with the barrel-chest looked completely at home whether playing in the ruck or up forward in the practice games and with Paddy Ryder on the sidelines, got his opportunity in Round One.

He did not let it slip through his fingers.

In a scintillating burst of footy in the third quarter, Hayes breathed life into the Saints just as it appeared as though the Pies were ready to administer the killing blow. Hayes kicked two goals for the quarter, had eight disposals, and took two big contested grabs (four for the game). He kicked the ball beautifully to give teammates further afield the opportunity to have a shot at goal and if we’re being completely honest, he was dreadfully unlucky not to be awarded a free-kick at a crucial point in the last quarter when it appeared as though Jack Madgen took him high in a marking contest.

In terms of long-term impact, Saints fans would be looking at the debut of Hayes and wondering whether they need to rush Ryder back at all? Marshall was good in the ruck and had the better of Brodie Grundy in the ruck in the first half before it evened up a little, and I can see Marshall handling some of the less-talented rucks with ease. This gives Hayes the opportunity to drift forward and hit the scoreboard.

He finished with three goals in this one in a stellar first outing at the highest level, and could have been so much more but for one whistle that just did not blow.

Oh, and at one point, Mrs Mongrel looked up from playing with our two-week old son… as much as you can play with someone who is unconscious 80% of the day, and remarked that with that hairstyle, Hayes looked like the Ben Stiller character from Tropic Thunder, Simple Jack.

Pretty hard to deny the resemblance.

 

IS TAYLOR ADAMS MADE OF STEEL?

He plays like he is, and even though Mason ‘Krytonite’ Wood may have got him with a nice bump that seemed to really shake him up, Adams’ ability to extract the footy and make huge second efforts to stifle his opponent were genuine highlights for the Pies.

He had a game-high 11 clearances (eight from the centre) to give the Pies forwards great opportunities to hit the scoreboard, and went head-to-head with Jack Steele at stoppages all around the ground. And it is in that head-to-head contest that we truly see the value of Adams.

Steele played a typical Jack Steele game. He was tough at it, won his share of clearances (six of them) and was always cracking in to lay a tackle. That said, whilst he ended up with more touches than Adams, I am not sure he had anywhere near as much influence on the game. This is perhaps best exemplified by score involvements. Adams notched seven of them, with two goal assists coming from his work. Steele had three score involvements in total. He just didn’t impact the contest at the same level as Adams.

 

DO YOU HAVE JEREMY HOWE AS ONE OF THE BEST, OR DOES HE GIVE OPPONENTS TOO MUCH LEEWAY AT TIMES?

Personally, I had him as the best player on the park at halftime. He looked right at home cruising around the defensive 50, clunking marks and cutting off the St Kilda attack on multiple occasions. Though he seemed to come back to the pack after the main break, Howe’s return to the Collingwood side and, importantly, his return at a high level of fitness, sees this team look a hell of a lot more settled behind the footy.

Though the Pies were missing Jordan Roughead (as underrated a defender as you’ll find), Howe was able to slot in and play a handy backup to Darcy Moore as he concentrated on the man-child known as Max King. However, it was when Moore suffered a big knock in a clash with Tim Membrey that Howe was somewhat exposed by King.

Forced to shift over onto the young star, Howe was caught giving King way too much room to get a clean run at the footy. King looked as though he was capable of taking over the game at this point and but for his wayward kicking at goal, could have really set the Saints up. As great as Howe is at being the interceptor as the third man up, when it came to actually shutting King down, he allowed the big man to get too much separation and could not both close the ground and get the necessary elevation to affect the spoil.

Hopefully, the Pies will not have to reply on Howe to play the role of key defender too often. His best work comes when he can float, zone off, and play as the help defender. It also gives us the best chance at seeing a hanger or two. In the end, Darcy Moore was able to get back on the field after being assessed for concussion and was able to restrict King to just five touches in the second half, but it does shine a light on how important the Pies’  key defence stocks are when those jobs would be asked of Howe without both Roughead and Moore.

 

WHO WON THE MARSHALL V GRUNDY CLASH?

At halftime of this game, I had Marshall as the clear winner.

He was working Grundy all over the park and playing like the young lion climbing the mountain. Grundy was more like the old lion sleeping on top of it. As the siren sounded to end the first half, Grundy had amassed seven touches and one mark. He was virtually unsighted in the second quarter as Marshall put the hard yards in and put some real distance between the two.

I wonder what Craig McRae had to say to his big man in the rooms? After the break, Grundy came out with a head of steam and started to take the game up to Marshall. His tapwork, in particular, was one of the reasons the Pies were able to establish a lead, as he worked the footy down to both Jordan de Goey and Taylor Adams at stoppages and gave his team first use.

Marshall continued to gain the upper hand around the ground but appeared to be tiring, and when you’re playing on Grundy, particularly with his huge tank, you have t be able to run out complete games.

Marshall had just one touch in the last quarter. Grundy had seven, and he added three individual clearances as well.

On paper, this looks as though Marshall was better on the night, and that may very well be the case, but when the Pies needed Grundy to stand up late in the game, he did just that. He has always been about stamina. He has always continued to provide efforts late into games. Marshall faded, and it is something he will need to work on if he is to truly become one of the best big men in the game.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF BRAD HILL AND THE IMPORTANCE OF STOPPING HIM

This is a two-fold section, highlighting not only what Hill is able to bring to the table, but also what the Saints lose when the forwards work hard to deny him the clean run from half-back.

At halftime of this contest, Hill had only eight touches to his name. His run and carry were non-existent, and with every touch he managed to pick up, he had to work his arse off to get it. You have to give the Collingwood forwards a huge amount of credit for this. They obviously did their homework on Hill and were prepared to crowd him whenever there was a loose ball, and whenever there was a turnover in the Saints’ favour.

It is no secret that Hill does not like contested footy. That’s not a sleight on the bloke – he has made his name as an elite outside runner, but in order to become involved in this game, Hill was forced to put his nose to the grindstone and tough it out. This was the first game he recorded double-figures in contested disposals since Round 14, 2019. Hell, even when he gave them the run, handballs went behind him or forced him to slow down to accommodate their poor execution. For someone reliant on his pace and continued run, that is a killer.

As the game wore on, the run of Hill came to the fore more, picking up 18 second half touches and aiding the Saints as they threw caution to the wind and staged a gutsy comeback, but the work in the first half to make him earn the footy is the blueprint when it comes to slowing him down.

It wasn’t just one player doing the work on Hill. Beau McCreery, Jack Ginnivan, and Trent Bianco all took their turns in stifling Hill at stages, with McCreery’s tenacity giving Hill problems on several occasions. Yes, Hill was able to work into the game, and that is a credit to him, but the Pies had a job to do when it came to him, and they did the hard work early enough to ensure Hill was not one of the reasons they walked away from this game without four points. Their efforts were huge in capturing the win for the Pies, but I doubt you’ll see it acknowledged in many outlets.

 

THE FIRST TURNOVER

It was interesting to see the St Kilda players run to get stuck into Nick Daicos after his errant kick in the first quarter, leading to a Mason Wood intercept and goal. The Jack Higgins pressure to cause the turnover was outstanding, but there was someone else that should have received a bit of attention from the Saints in terms of his lack of effort to prevent it.

That man was Jeremy Howe.

Howe was the player who dished the handball to Daicos on the last line of defence, and once he completed the delivery, all he had to do was take one step backward to impede the run of the desperate Higgins. Just one step back and he would have completely blocked the line Higgins was on to put pressure on Daicos. Just one step backwards and it would have allowed Daicos to get a little extra on his kick to clear Wood, 30 metres away.

But he didn’t make that step. He simply stayed on the spot her was and Higgins closed into to make contact and cause the turnover.

I am not here to state that Howe played poorly – he was one of Collingwood’s best, particularly in the first half but sometimes it is the little things that make teammates look great. Howe had the option to give his young teammate time and space to execute. Instead, he permitted Jack Higgins the opportunity to attack, and the Saint’s lunging attack on the body of Daicos forced a turnover.

He should have been much better than that and had he been a little more aware of his surroundings, there is no pressure, there is no turnover and no St Kilda goal.

 

HOW MUCH HEART DO THE SAINTS HAVE?

Plenty, and as popular as it may have been to whack them last season, there was a really good takeaway from this contest. If they had the skill to match, even better.

Halfway through the third quarter, this team was gone. Down by around six goals, the Pies were one goal away from the floodgates opening, but, buoyed by Jack Sinclair, Simple Jack Hayes, and some stellar defence from Cal Wilkie, the Saints clawed their way back into the game. Not to put heat on Jack Higgins, but he had chances to really capitalise on the momentum, but couldn’t get it done in front of goal, finishing with 0.3 for the quarter.

It may seem like I am patronising the Saints here, but it is not the case. I rate Collingwood’s top six players as highly as any best six from any team in the league, and with the chips down, the Saints not only matched them, but regained control of the game to the point they looked like the better team.

There is plenty to work with, here – do not despair. Jade Gresham showed a bit, Mason Wood was hard at it, and on the big grounds, Brad Hill from half-back can still be a weapon. I think you’ll find that dropping a game to the Pies will be something that happens a little more often than teams would like in 2022. The Saints were not that far away, at all.

 

OTHER BITS

Not just in the looks department, but does anyone else besides me find Ollie Henry to be like a slightly larger version of Connor Rozee? Just the way he moves, the little change of direction and shimmy of the hips to create space… he is marginally taller but will fill out to be a bigger body than the Port star… I hope he doesn’t lose that mobility that makes him so dangerous.

The Daicos boys… great to see them BOTH playing well in Nick’s debut game. Josh looked like he was well and truly up for the occasion, and though there were some iffy moments early on, Nick quickly found his feet and started picking up possessions at will. Love the idea of playing the younger brother off half-back before shifting gears and giving him midfield minutes – really intelligent, long-term thinking from McRae.

Also, seeing Josh Daicos back on the wing… wonderful news. He was excellent in the role in 2020, but struggled at half-forward early in 2021, and by the time it was corrected and he moved back onto the wing, he seemed to have lost a little confidence. He’s excellent on the wing – keep playing him there!

Isaac Quaynor continues to get better. At times I feel as though he has to rein himself in a little and be a little less expansive. I’d love to see what he is capable of if given the green light to attack the footy and take off whenever the opportunity presents.

A quick check of the 2021 scores… and yep, this Round One outing by the Pies matches the number of times the club topped 100-points for the whole season last year. I like what I’m seeing.

For the Saints, you take out Byrnes and Kent and replace them with Zak Jones and Jack Billings… we may have had a different result, here. I know they weren’t available but I am pretty sure Jack Bytel was? And Cooper Sharman? Of the two, I am intrigued as to why Sharman couldn’t get a run. If you have any info, I am all ears.

Not sure what look Max King is going for with the hair and moustache… he either looks like a taller, thinner Mario Brother, or he is a Borat fan.

Pretty selective application of the tightened up holding the ball rule in this game. Consistently inconsistent again, it seems? It looked to me like Pendlebury was caught cold at one end, but play on was called, and then Mason Wood got a 360 turn and handballed away and was pinged? Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but then again, when has our holding the ball rule ever made a lot of sense. Frustrating…

Do I think the Pies got the rub from the umps? Hmmm, at crucial stages, they may have. The over the shoulder non-call to Hayes against Madgen is the standout, but only because of the timing. There was a ridiculous deliberate decision paid as well at one point, and I also thought the Pendlebury non-call was stiff. Given the three I remember all went the Pies’ way, maybe St Kilda fans have a right to feel a little upset.

That said, you cannot switch off for periods and expect to win. That’s on your team.

 

Anyway, that’ll do me. The Pies will be a lot better than people think this season, health permitting. As mentioned, their top bracket is of the highest quality, and if the kids come on quickly, they may surprise a few teams. I am in no way thinking finals, but the talent to improve and knock over a few teams on the way is definitely there.

For the Saints, I reckon this stings. Warnie’s tribute, his number and wicket totals on the ground… there were some players that didn’t seem to grasp the importance of it, and others until it was too late.

Cheers for supporting The Mongrel.

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