Before I get this underway, I just want to take a second to highlight just how great footy can be.

It is so easy to get caught up in the worst aspects of the game and those associated with it. For the past week, the main stories on every footy show – on radio, TV, or in print, have revolved around racism, the Adelaide Crows camp, and who should be held accountable. Negative news sells, and whilst we don’t indulge in it at The Mongrel Punt, I know there is a significant segment of the footy community that lap that stuff up. I still prefer to focus on the game, itself.

Yes, it’s been the bad news story that has just kept delivering, but when you get home and sit back on a Friday night to watch two of the top three teams in the game venture out onto the MCG to engage in the type of contest worthy of a final, you start to realise that in spite of all the other stuff, this game is pretty bloody fantastic.

It renews your faith that in its essence, footy is wonderful. Sometimes, it really needs to be just that.

The Pies and Dees engaged in a classic, with over 70,000 in the house to witness one of the games of the season. The stars came out to play, with Petracca, Brayshaw, and Oliver starring for the Dees, whilst Jamie Elliott, Jordan de Goey, and Nick Daicos turned heads for the Pies.

Collingwood made it 11 wins on the trot with a game based on pressure tackling and a never-say-die attitude that saw them harder at the contest as the game wore on.

We saw cameos from young players – Ash Johnson continued to make a name for himself, and Nick Daicos once again lived up to the hefty weight his name carries. We saw old hands doing what they do best, and we saw a footy team in black and white continue to grow before our eyes.

This was a statement game from the Magpies – another nailbiting win against the team many believe will be there on the last Saturday in September.

Maybe… just maybe, the Pies will be standing opposite them as the national anthem plays?

Let’s jump into The Mongrel’s Big Questions.

 

 

DO WE BELIEVE YET?

It’s getting harder to deny this team, isn’t it?

Sure, you can say they were lucky. I find that to be a bit of a cop-out – kicking straight is not luck. Nor is 11 wins on the trot – the last time a Collingwood team did this was in 1965. And do you know who won the flag that season?

Nah, it wasn’t Collingwood – they went out in straight sets, losing to Geelong and Essendon before the Bombers won the flag, so let’s not make any comparisons. But 57 years with premierships in between… irrespective of what occurs from this point, this is something that should be celebrated by the Pies.

Celebrated to a point, anyway – don’t be like St Kilda and release a DVD about your winning streak (how soft was that?), but this is the type of purple patch that you dream of as a fan, and Collingwood are knocking over some of the big boys in the process.

Craig McRae has built, or rebuilt this Collingwood machine into a formidable outfit in record time. The top six at Collingwood were always going to pull their weight, but the way he has worked newer players into their roles quickly and without teething problems deserves to be recognised.

The last two weeks for this club are monsters – facing Sydney at the SCG, before heading back to the MCG to face the old rivals, Carlton in a game that could very well shape the season for both.

Do you believe in the team with the best pressure in the league? Do you believe in the team with the Rising Star all but sewn up? Do you believe in a team that has young talent performing the roles they are allocated to a tee? Every player on their list is buying in.

If you’re not believing yet, why not?

Collingwood have given no indication they believe they won’t be in the hunt for the flag this season. As a matter of fact, the second win of the season over the Demons should set alarm bells ringing throughout the offices of every other contender.

At five in a row, people questioned whether they were a flash in the pan. After seven wins, they were a little quieter. As the streak ticked over to ten, people started to begrudgingly accept that the Pies might contend in 2022, but they all looked at Round 21 and thought that the Demons would burst their bubble.

But what now?

Now that the Pies have brushed aside Melbourne for the second time this year, there is only one thing left to do.

Start believing.

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS BRAYDEN MAYNARD TO THIS COLLINGWOOD TEAM?

He is a heart and soul player, and I am sure that many Pies fans had their hearts in their mouths when he opted to wait and see what was happening after last season before recommitting to the club.

Maynard is as hard as nails and he strikes me as the type of bloke who would love his footy just as much if he weren’t pulling in a few hundred grand per year to play it. Some of his actions in this game were both selfless and incredible. His tackling… wow – he almost killed Alex Neal-Bullen in the final quarter, and he was first on the scene when Ed Langdon got his hands on the footy in the first quarter, as well.

But it is not just his physical work that deserves recognition. Though he looks like Scott Pendlebury’s slower brother, Maynard plays an intelligent game of footy – he is not about racking up the touches , as many of the modern half-backs make their name on . No, no… he would rather use a tap on, or act as a shield to protect his teammates than he would run past for the easy touch. Players like him, sadly, are few and far between these days.

If you were going into battle and needed someone from this Collingwood team to stand beside you, who would you choose?

Allow me to rephrase – who would you pick second? Because if you answered anyone other than Brayden Maynard, I reckon you might need some psychological help. Oh, unless you chose Beau McCreery – he is an acceptable choice, as well.

Maynard probably won’t be in any AA teams in the future – really, he will be lucky to make the squad of 40 – but internally, the Magpies would have to adore the way he goes about it.

He sat back after 2021 and he watched. He noted who the Pies had targeted to coach the team and learn what he was about. Once he was satisfied, he signed on as well. As soon as his pen hit the paper, Maynard was all-in as a Magpie once again. And games like this demonstrate that he knew what he was getting into.

Maybe he saw the oak tree in the black and white acorn last season?

 

DOES JORDAN DE GOEY BELONG ON THE BALL?

It comes up so often, doesn’t it? What is the perfect way to play Jordan de Goey?

With 24 touches and nine clearances, it would be hard to argue for him to be stuck inside 50 after this week’s effort. Though I still have real concerns about his ongoing defensive efforts at stoppages and on the spread, de Goey was combative and seemed to relish attacking the ground ball without taking a step or two to slow down. Sure, there were times when he overran the footy because he was running at top pace, but when he got it right, there was nobody that could slow him down, let alone stop him.

How often do you see someone wade through a Jack Viney tackle like the former Demon captain isn’t even there?

Jordan de Goey did it in this game. With a head of steam and an appetite for destruction, he barreled right through Viney’s tackling attempt to set the Pies off and running. When you have a bloke running through the midfield that can do something like that, the temptation would have to be to leave him in there all day.

And with the emergence of Ash Johnson up forward, maybe this is something the Pies can now commit to?

 

WHAT IS THE MAIN TAKEAWAY FOR THE DEMONS FROM THIS GAME?

It’s quite a simple one – if you want to generate the run and carry from defence that makes you such a weapon, you have to protect the blokes who start the process.

With zero intercept marks inside defensive fifty between them, Melbourne found themselves in a situation they don’t often land in – they were forced to defend deep, and they were forced to defend in dangerous spots.

Usually, Steven May or Jake Lever – hell, even Harrison Petty, work cohesively to crush the resistance of the forwards. We’ve seen plenty of forwards drop their heads and start moping around the forward fifty as the Melbourne defenders start clunking intercept grabs in front of them, right?

But we didn’t see it in this one.

Whilst a heap of credit has to go to the Collingwood forwards, who made every contest and forced the ball to ground, there needs to be a bit of reflection from the Demons, as well. What were they d to work FOR each other in this game?  Did any of them work to make blocks on their teammates’ opponents?

To me, it looked as though the Dees started to head down the dangerous path of Self-Preservation Road. It’s a lonely place, because when you head down there and your teammates follow, the communication stops, the want to go the extra yards for your mates stops, and you’re left to battle with your man, hoping to get a win, because you’re well aware no help is on its way.

Melbourne defenders were too often left to fend for themselves in contests, whilst in the past, it has been their ability to get back and cover for each other that makes the forward fifty entries close to impossible to pull off.

They fell down in this one and though Lever an May ended up with 19 intercepts between them, it is their marking that usually takes the sting out of the attack, and there was none of it evident against the Pies.

 

WAS THAT THE BEST PRESSURE FORWARD GAME WE’VE SEEN FROM JAMIE ELLIOTT?

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Every week since Round Five, I have been watching every game like some obsessed sicko, and tallying the free kicks awarded for holding-the-ball. The reason for this is an upcoming article at season’s end that will highlight the most effective tacklers in the league – the guys who give you bang for your buck.

I’ll also be highlighting the blokes who lay heaps of tackles but don’t win free kicks for their effrts. I call them the professional cuddlers club.

The season-high for holding-the-ball decisions in one game is three, and Jamie Elliott equalled that number against the Dees.

More importantly, Elliott nailed all of his tackles inside attacking fifty, which is one of those key performance indicators for most small forwards.

When asked this week whether he did his defensive work inside 50, Elliott can afford a smile – he did more than that – he turned defensive pressure into scoring opportunities and in a lot of ways, actually kept the Pies close enough to challenge the Dees in the first half.

I heard during the week that he had missed 89 games over the course of getting to 150 games played. That’s a hell of a lot of footy, and I could imagine plenty of Pies supporters were frustrated with Elliott ostensibly missing one out of every three games, but man…. he has repaid the faith in 2022.

And it is brilliant to watch.

For the record, the Pies had eight HTB decisions go their way. The Dees had just four.

 

HOW GREAT WAS THAT START WITH FOUR PIES TACKLING ED LANGDON?

Before we rejoice in the fact that the Pies went after Langdon at the very first opportunity (and Langdon was smiling about it; how can you not love that?), we should focus on how that first minute of the game set the tone for the entire encounter.

The Pies heard his comments – all duck and no dinner… yeah, I really don’t know what it means. I’ve had duck for dinner… it was lovely, and quite filling.

The beak tastes yuck, though.

Anyway, Collingwood sent a message that they had taken Langdon’s comments personally and were determined to show the Demons’ running man that there was way more to them than anyone thought possible.

They’ve been doing just that for 11-straight games now, right?

Credit to Langdon – he did not back down at all, happy to skirmish with the Magpie players as they tried to rough him up. He then drifted forward in the second quarter to mark and goal, giving Pies fans something to really boo about.

I have enjoyed the way Langdon has played in 2022 and though his contest with Steele Sidebottom was about as close to a draw as you can get, I loved seeing someone talk the talk and then be completely fine with walking the walk, even if it meant that four guys piled on top of him looking to inflict damage.

The last time I saw something like that, I’d accidentally walked into Joe Ganino’s bedroom. Talk about punishment… some things you just cannot unsee.

 

IF THE DEES’ MIDFIELD DOMINATED, HOW DID THEY LOSE THIS?

Well, when the opposition continues to kick straight, way above the AFL average, it really doesn’t matter what you do.

The Dees should have, or could have put this game to bed had they emulated the scoring accuracy of the Pies in the first half. The Dees had seven more scoring shots, but led by just 17-points heading into the main break. Really, they should have been five or six goals up.

Melbourne were +20 in clearances and +93 in disposals for the game. They had +24 inside 50s and won both contested and uncontested footy. They did just about everything right, but they failed to seal off the corridor, and whilst the Dees had more of everything, the Pies had better value from what they did have.

Seeing Collingwood actively looking to use the corridor caused the normally excellent transition defence of the Demons through the midfield to break down. Players like Darcy Moore were looking to exploit even the smallest hole that would permit the Pies to find the fastest way home, and it paid off a few times (except when Will Hoskin-Elliott was involved… what the hell is that guy doing?)

When you are working efficiently, it means you’re not just working hard, but working smart. I hate to say it, but when you combine working smart with the pressure the Pies applied to the Dees when they had the footy, the Dees were both outworked and outsmarted. Collingwood converted the chances they created via hard work and the Dees simply missed too many gettable ones.

And on that note, a big hello to Max Gawn.

 

IS ANGUS BRAYSHAW NOW A PERMANENT MIDFIELDER AGAIN?

It looks to be the case, doesn’t it?

Here’s the thing, though – when Brayshaw was last playing regular midfield minutes in 2018 and into 2019, he was not really that great a kick inside 50. Sure, at that stage, it seemed as though the Demons were content to bomb the footy in there and hope for the best, but they have rectified that aspect of the game over the last two seasons. In that time, Brayshaw has been playing wing and half-back.

Maybe it is a lesson he has not yet learnt?

Brayshaw ran at just 59% disposal efficiency in this game and when you consider that 17 of his 32 disposals came uncontested, I wonder whether maybe, just maybe it will take Brayshaw a little while to find his groove again.

Can Brayshaw get his groove back in the middle, or should I stop referencing movies I have never even seen? Seriously, I don’t even know who Stella is or how she got her groove in the first place.

 

QUICK BITS

 

How bloody string is Beau McCreery? He is an absolute man-child – at 21 he is standing in tackles and refusing to be dragged down and you know the thing I love about him best? Watch how hard he runs in forward fifty when he thinks there might even be the slightest chance to lay a tackle or pressure the ball-carrier. So many players seem to go 3/4 pace when they chase, but his first three or four steps are pure power as he sets off on his hunt.

James Harmes as the sub… I really don’t know about that. I would have much rather have plonked him at half-forward, pointed to Nick Daicos and said “no touches for him”.

I know Alex Neal-Bullen worked off Daicos for a vital goal in the last quarter, but if we’re looking at the game as a whole, the soon-to-be Ron Evans Medallist had 31 touches and ten intercepts, whilst ANB managed 1touches and a goal. Nothing to sneeze at from ANB, but I want Daicos locked down if I am playing Collingwood and that did not seem to be Neal-Bullen’s role.

Great to see the umpire let it go when both Jack Ginnivan and Christian Salem hit the deck in the second quarter. In this regard, I reckon the umps assessed the game as though it was a final. Little silly pushes weren’t paid and the game was better off for it.

I still don’t understand how Will Hoskin-Elliott continues to get a game every bloody week for the Pies. His wasteful shot at goal/pass as the Pies tore through the middle of the ground just screamed indecision.

My fellow Mongrel, Jimmy Ayres, reckons Will Hoskin-Elliott looks like both your mate, and your mate’s mum.

Mrs Mongrel then chimed in that even when Christian Petracca has a shave, he still looks like he could play a neanderthal in a movie.

This is what I have to tolerate as I am trying to concentrate…

Shout out to Isaac Quaynor, who kept Kysaiah Pickett under wraps for most of the game. We’ve seen Pickett tear games to shreds this season, but he was matched in the contest by Quaynor, who is a hell of a lot quicker than people give him credit for.

Amazingly, Darcy Cameron still holds our Mongrel Ruckman Title Belt. As long as the Pies keep winning, he cannot loe it (unless he does not play). The team really bailed him out in this one, because Max Gawn was easily the best big man on the park.

So, if you’re the Dees, do you start to worry?

In a word, no.

They’re likely going to finish top four and if they can rectify a bit of their forward structure, they’ll swiftly move into the later stages of September. No need to get upset – they ran into the form team in the competition. Now, time to regroup and head into finals.

 

And… my eyes are closing and I still have to edit (not a great sign), so I may just leave it there. Make no mistake, this was an enormous win for the Pies and they now sit in second place on the ladder. Seriously, who saw them coming? Even if you thought they’d be better, did you think they’d be this good?

They get the Swans next weekend in a belter, whilst the Dees will be looking to put the Blues under the pump. Things are getting verrrrrry interesting, indeed.

As always, massive thanks to our members. Sincerely, you guys enable me to do this and I am extremely grateful.

 

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