Collingwood v Essendon – The Big Questions

In the game of the year to this point, a last gasp kick from Jamie Elliott dragged the Magpies over the line in a pulsating last quarter against their old foes, Essendon.

It was the type of game you could not help be drawn into, with the Pies putting the Bombers to the sword in the first quarter, only to see a spirited Essendon comeback in the second take the contest to another level. As the teams jockeyed for position down the stretch, it was the Bombers looking like they would pull away, and when Harrison Jones dragged down Jeremy Howe inside fifty to draw a holding-the-ball free kick with a minute left, it looked as though Essendon had done enough.

But looks were deceiving.

The shot from Jones had a date with the woodwork, gifting the Pies one last chance to go coast-to-coast. Moving the ball with speed, Collingwood took the ball end to end, resulting in a Jamie Elliott mark on the boundary.

The siren sounded.

The pressure intensified.

The kick was true.

The Pies snuck home.

So much to get through in this one. Let’s jump into The Mongrel’s Big Questions.

 

WAS THIS THE GAME OF THE YEAR?

We’ll get to the ins and outs of this contest soon enough, but as a clash, this was about as good as it gets. Really, all that was lacking was an extra 20K in the house, as this contest deserved a full house at the MCG.

If you’ve ever been to a close contest at the MCG, you will understand the following sentence – the crowd, the building, the game, itself… it takes on its own personality when things get tight. The crowd and the structure become this heaving, gasping, screaming mass that is almost absorbed into the place, making it more an experience than a game of footy.

When you’re there screaming for your team, riding every bump (not with a grin), and pleading for the result you’re after, it is almost as though you can sense you’re part of it – part of the game, part of the history… part of footy.

That is what the MCG provided in this game. As the Pies fans exploded in the first quarter, showering their team with rapturous adoration, to the guttural roar of the Bomber fans as they clawed back into the contest. The sighs of disappointment, the screams of adulation, the goosebumps, the highs, lows, and everything in between – this was the type of game that drew people in and refused to let them go. You were not there to watch it. You were there to experience it.

It was Aussie Rules Football at its blindingly good best and this game had it all.

 

IS THIS THE WAY TO COMBAT NICK DAICOS?

It’s a bit harsh when a first-year player has 21 touches and a goal playing off half-back and you’re looking at whether he was limited by the attention of the Bomber forwards, but that is the esteem that Daicos the Younger is now held.

And if you need proof as to how impactful he can be, look no further than the first quarter, when he was permitted to run around without an opponent on the turnover, and carved the Bombers up as a result.

We’re not talking ludicrous numbers of anything, but when you consider that the soon-to-be Rising Star winner had seven touches in the first and managed just six over the next two quarters, you start to understand that tightening up on him, and in general, was one of the reasons the Bombers were able to work back into the contest.

In the first quarter, Daicos was allowed to wander around behind the man with the ball and be present for the easy dish-off. From there, Pies further afield felt comfortable in the knowledge that if they managed to get open, he’d find them. Once that avenue was closed down, the Pies started to look stagnant, unable to generate run and carry from defence.

A lot of credit has to go to both Will Snelling and Ben Hobbs, who put work into minimising the potency of Daicos. You can often see them putting the bumpers up and preventing him from getting to the next contest.

The kid burst back to life in the last quarter as the Pies broke the Essendon shackles, but the blueprint was crafted in this game. Put the “brakes on Daics” and the game suddenly becomes a little harder to navigate for the Pies.

 

WAS THAT GOAL OF THE YEAR FROM JOSH DAICOS?

Do players still get a car if they win goal of the year?

If I were Josh Daicos, I wouldn’t be investing in one anytime soon. I reckon he may have one coming his way.

In a brilliant individual effort, he had a fantastic one-on-one win over Sam Durham between wing and half forward before taking off, getting rid of Nick Hind, bouncing twice inside fifty and slotting a magical goal that had long time, and even newer Collingwood fans screaming “Daaaaaaicos!!!” at the top of their lungs.

How I have such horrible memories of his father haunting my team when I was younger.

Now, there is a new generation of supporters that may very well learn to fear that name all over again. Goal of the Year?

Easy.

 

DID THE GUTSY RUN OF JACK CRISP SWITCH MOMENTUM?

It was no Phil Manassa type of run, or a Mick McGuane run for that matter, but it demonstrated the mindset of the Pies in the last quarter and the “take on the game at all costs” attitude that would propel them to the unlikely win.

Jack Crisp was not at his best in this one, but the thing is in big games like this – it doesn’t matter what has happened; it matters what happens next, and Crisp made sure that that moment counted.

With a wave of red and black crashing down around him, he had multiple possessions through the guts, drawing opponents to him like moths to a flame. The end result was the substitute, Josh Carmichael marking and goaling to get the Pies up and running.

Prior to that point of the contest, it appeared as though things were all going Essendon’s way. The early goal to Matt Guelfi gave them a handy lead and the Pies needed some inspiration desperately. That it came from the man who has busted a gut all season was no surprise.

Jack Crisp probably won’t make the AA team this season. He strikes me as one of those ultra-consistent players who are loved and adored within the club, but rarely get the plaudits they deserve outside the four walls. Moments like this start to change the perception, outwardly at least, of players like Crisp, and go a long way to seeing his value recognised all over the footy community.

 

HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOU WERE HARRISON JONES?

One huge, clutch play that saw him catch a stumbling Jeremy Howe and win a free kick inside 50 for his team, and moments later, a shot at goal that drifted left and continued to do so until it hit the woodwork.

Jones then watched as the ball rebounded to the other end of the ground, Jamie Elliott marked and kicked the goal to win the game for the Pies.

Sports psychologists are paid a decent salary these days, and I reckon the one contracted to the Bombers will be earning his money as he talks through this moment with Jones over the next little while. It will be important that Jones continued to build on where he is at the moment and does not allow this moment to define him for the foreseeable future.

Yes, it was a devastatingly costly miss. Yes, the Pies made him pay in the worst possible way. But he was the one making the play in an outnumber and winning the footy. Where were his mates when he was battling the odds?

Harrison Jones will have moments of doubt and the question will be bouncing around his head for a while – what if? What if he were five metres closer? What if he adjusted his kick just a little? What if he had just kicked that goal?

What’s done is done and cannot be changed. It is how he bounces back from this that matters. Kick the next one, Harry.

 

WAS THIS THE GAME THAT MAKES SAM DRAPER?

So close. He was so close to making this contest his own in the third quarter as his Bombers surged and the Pies started to wilt. He had the better of both Mason Cox and Darcy Cameron around the ground, with Craig McRae opting to play the Big Texan as the number one ruck and Cameron more up forward.

However, in the last quarter, he needed an exclamation mark and all we got were question marks.

Draper was the best ruck on the park and looked very dangerous when he got a clean run at the footy, but as good as he was, I just wanted to see him finish things off.

And this game had a bit left on the table in terms of his performance.

 

HOW DID CALDWELL ON PENDLEBURY PLAY OUT?

With Pendles notching 16 touches and two clearances, the work of Jye Cadwell should probably be commended.

As with most of his team, Pendles got the jump, picking up six first-quarter touches and a goal as Collingwood could do no wrong, but as the screws tightened in the second and third quarters, Caldwell’s leash on the Collingwood skipper became a little tighter, limiting him to just ten touches for the remainder of the game.

Pendlebury was still creative when he did find the ball, but the defensive aspect of Caldwell’s game prevented him from getting the ball quite often, and in a game where Essendon will lament lost opportunities, Caldwell can once again hold his head high as he was able to work both ways to be effective with the footy and mindful of the work of his star opponent.

 

WAS THAT ZACH MERRETT/DYLAN SHIEL’S BEST GAME OF THE SEASON AS A COMBINATION?

It would have to be close.

Merrett can be prone to throwing the footy on his boot at times. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but his vision and ball-use in this one were a genuine highlight.

And Shiel’s run from the centre as the Bombers controlled the clearances was fantastic.

Only one thing irked me a little – they were nowhere near as prominent in the last quarter. Just ten of their combined 68 touches came in that rollicking last quarter as touches became harder to come by. I get the feeling that had one of them had a big quarter and said “come with me, fellas”, we might be talking about an Essendon win, here.

 

WHICH LOSS HURT MORE – REDMAN OR MAYNARD?

Both are really good, solid defenders that have very little bullshit about them – I’d love either of them on my team, if I am being honest. Mongrel is difficult to teach.

Redman looked to be finding his groove when he went down with what they’re calling “internal injuries” after a big fall in a marking contest against Brody Mihocek, and Maynard, typically, injured himself as he threw himself across the boot of an opponent.

If you were going to pick two players whose influence would go close to cancelling each other out, these two would be right around the mark.

If pressed, given the role Redman has played in 2022, I’d probably go with him as the more important loss, especially because he has played tall so often and has been in red-hot form. Fingers crossed we get both guys back sooner rather than later, as I genuinely enjoy the way they go about it.

 

AND LET’S TALK HIGH TACKLES FOR A MOMENT, OR TWO, SHALL WE?

Oh, we might as well, because there will be no escaping the subject this week.

In the first quarter of this one, Mason Redman absolutely clocked Jack Ginnivan with a blatant head-high tackle that was not called. Not since the Toby Tax has there been a more obvious set of rules for one player and one for everyone else.

It was a clear free kick, with Ginnivan’s reputation obviously influencing the umpire’s decision-making.

It shouldn’t have – it was there. However, as much as I think that whistle should have blown and the free kick should have been paid, I can kind of understand why it wasn’t. If I were an umpire, I would feel as though I’d been being conned this season by certain players, and given Jack is so damn good at leaning into tackles and going rubber-legs as he does, I would probably err on the side of letting it go, as well if I thought it was line ball. I mean, Jack Ginnivan and Cody Weightman had been treating the umps like suckers all season. Maybe this is where the chickens come home to roost?

This situation will level itself out and the game will find a nice balance between what is there and what is accentuated, but the AFL has obviously decided that initiating high tackles is something they do not want as part of their product and Ginnivan had really gone about making that his one-wood thus far in 2022. For at least the time being, he is going to have to use a couple of the other clubs in his bag. Truth be told, he seemed a bit lost in this one after the first free kick was not paid.

Jack finished with just five touches with his main weapon removed from his arsenal, and I reckon we learn a fair bit about him over the next several weeks. Time for Ginnivan to step up and show he is more than just a one-trick pony.

 

AND FINALLY… COMETH THE MOMENT?

Before we get into the ice-cold attitude of Jamie Elliott, let’s take a minute to recognise the wonderful kick from Trent Bianco to set him up for the shot. Many young players would have blazed away as long and high as they could to gain distance, but Bianco gathered, assessed his options, and found Elliott in one of the toughest pockets to kick for the game.

I have fond memories of that pocket at the ‘G. Buddy’s running goals, Travis Cloke’s massive goal against the Tigers, and now, we can add Jamie Elliott’s heartbreaking set shot to the list.

How fantastic was his reaction, taking a moment to make sure it was on track, before turning the the crowd and cupping his hand to his ear like Hulk Hogan, soaking in the cheers of the Magpie faithful?

What a moment.

What a game.

What a goal from one of the best small blokes who plays big the game has seen.

 

ANY QUICK BITS?

How great was the first quarter from Ash Johnson? Three goals in front of the big MCG crowd… that is boyhood dream kind of stuff.

Zero possessions inside 50 for the entire first quarter for the Bombers… hard to fight back from a quarter of footy like that, but credit where it is due; they did it.

Really liked the contribution of Matt Guelfi for the second week running, His contested mark in the second as part of the Bombers’ run, and several other instances of putting his body on the line indicate he is now becoming the player the Bombers need him to be.

He still looks like he wears eyeshadow and plucks his eyebrows, though. And he had a really unfortunate stain on his backside for most of the game, which seemed to amuse Mrs Mongrel for some reason. She is pretty low-brow.

Kyle Langford worked into the game well in the third quarter after looking like a square peg in a round hole in the first half. He is a good overhead mark, but as the third marking forward, he is much better served getting on his bike and leading.

Great cameo from Josh Carmichael, and in kicking those second-half goals, he really demonstrated a cool head in a crisis. He is keeping Ollie Henry out of the side, who I rate tremendously, so the Pies obviously rate him.

Gotta go back and watch how the Pies were able to move the footy coast-to-coast so easily in the last minute of the game. As Jones lined up for what would turn out to be his poster, the Bombers should have been set up to box Collingwood in, but they had loose men everywhere.

Maybe the Bombers were expecting a 50-metre penalty for the ball being kicked away after Jones dragged Howe down? Or is that a can of worms I don’t have the time to open right now? If you have the time… feel free to get the can opener.

I might be on an island here, but I really liked the way holding the ball was interpreted in this game. 16 free kicks were given for HTB. In some games this season there have been two in total, so great to see the tacklers being rewarded.

 

Loved this game. Absolutely loved it.

The Pies get to finish off the Power next week back at the MCG, whilst the Bombers should be back on the winners’ list with a clash against North. Probably don’t want to win by too much, though – would be nice to retain a top five pick coming into the draft.

 

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get it!