In one fell swoop, the Magpies dispelled any doubts stemming from their brilliant 2022 campaign. Trailing for most of the game and looking on a couple of occasions as though they may let the Cats get a little too far ahead, the Pies once again rallied, played irresistible football, and took home the four points in a ripping game of footy.
I’m not sure how the criticism of Collingwood began this off-season. Was it that they won so many close games in 2022? Did people think they were up to their eyeballs in those games by accident or something? People are so stupid, sometimes. This team has a mindset that sees them refuse to lay down.
Down by three goals?
No probs… we’ll keep playing our game.
Fall behind against the reigning premiers?
Again, not an issue. We’ll just keep the faith. It’ll be okay. Our process works.
It was far more than just okay against the Cats this time, with Collingwood kicking the last eight goals of the game to run away with a 22-point win to start the season.
Let’s jump into The Mongrel’s Big Questions stemming from the big Magpie victory.
SO… TOM MITCHELL DOESN’T HURT TEAMS, HUH?
I’ve hated this argument for a few years, now. It’s a stupid take – a lazy journalist’s take stemming from a comment by Nathan Buckley back in 2019. Sadly, as Hawthorn failed to surround Mitchell with the talent to capitalise on his ability to win the footy, he found himself doing u-turns and ended up having to kick the footy blindly because he had bloody nobody running to receive. It fed the opinion that he wasted the football, when really, Hawthorn wasted his best talents by not giving him running support.
He doesn’t have that issue at Collingwood, does he?
Mitchell tag-teamed with Taylor Adams as the two worked both in the middle and across half-forward. Whilst both finished with a couple of goals apiece, Mitchell looked so much more at home in the middle of the ground, whilst Adams seemed to adjust better to the half-forward role, which may indicate that we’ll see more of that as the weeks tick by.
Nowhere near his 50+ disposal days, the Pies’ new recruit had 21 touches to go with his two goals, however, it was his work at the coalface that would have won over his teammates. Mitchell’s clean hands and quick gives aided the Pies in releasing the footy from stoppages, as he read the ball off the hands of the rucks better than any other player on the ground and released to a target on the move..
He finished with ten clearances for the game – easily the game-high number – and played an important role, both offensively and defensively in ensuring the Pies hit the scoreboard and trapped the footy inside 50.
Craig McRae must be pinching himself that he has been able to land such a supreme midfield talent so cheaply and in his first game with the club, Tom Mitchell completely blasted the foolish “his possessions don’t hurt” rhetoric out of the water.
Just ask the Cats how much his possessions hurt. They’ll tell ya.
WHAT DID THE TOM STEWART INJURY MEAN TO THE CATS?
Losing a player the calibre of Tom Stewart can cripple a team. And whilst it didn’t completely cripple the Cats, it did leave a hole in defence that needed to be filled pretty rapidly.
Unfortunately for Geelong, they had to make a move that changed the offensive aspect of the game to ensure they had someone back there to cover. That someone, in this case, was Zach Tuohy, who started the game on the wing and looked very dangerous early in the piece, snagging two goals in the first quarter.
Tuohy is one of those players that can play anywhere, but over the past couple of seasons, whenever I have watched him work on the wing, he has been damaging with his two-way run and it seemed as though we were going to be in for another outing where that part of his game became crucial to Geelong’s success. However, with the absence of Stewart, Chris Scott needed someone reliable back there and was forced to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Whilst Tuohy was solid in the role, it cost the Cats his vital run and long kicking inside 50. It is more than just losing Stewart. That would be a big enough blow in and of itself. They also lost the attack of Zach Tuohy and that hurt almost as much.
Ongoing, the extent of Stewart’s injury will be something Cats fans await with equal parts hope and dread. He Is arguably the best pound-for-pound defender in the game and has been the major component of a Geelong defensive unit that is watertight. They have plenty of players to slot in and cover him, but none can replace what he brings. Fingers crossed this is a minor strain or something and he is back quickly.
IS THIS THE YEAR OF JORDAN DE GOEY?
Yep. It’s as simple as that.
Just last week, I wrote an article talking about the ceiling for the Collingwood lightning rod, and I got the standard responses when it comes to de Goey. How high can he fly? “Oh, probably to Bali…LOL2022”… you know the type, right?
However, there is something about the way de Goey played in a couple of finals last year and the shape he got himself in to commence the 2023 season that tells me he means business this season.
I floated that he could be the first guy to average 20+ disposals and 2+ goals per game since Stevie Johnson did it over a decade ago – yep, that combination doesn’t occur that often. Well, he started the path to averaging those numbers very well, with 25 touches and three goals. More than that, I was impressed with de Goey’s creativity, contributing three direct goal assists as part of his 11 score involvements. He added five clearances and six inside 50 deliveries to a high-quality outing that is sure to shut up his critics for at least a week.
Jordan de Goey has copped a fair bit over the last 12 months. The stuff from Bali last year was an absolute beat-up – so much so that I am genuinely pulling for him to put it all together this season and become the player many thought he could be.
He’s made the first step. Let’s see where he goes from here. His ceiling… it’s a bloody high one.
CAN WE GET A BIT OF LOVE FOR JACK CRISP’S DEFENSIVE EFFORTS?
Had a couple of people mention to me that Patrick Dangerfield wasn’t as impactful as he normally is, and I was in complete agreement.
There was a reason for that.
That reason’s name is Jack Crisp.
Not playing a tag, but more as an accountable midfielder looking after Dangerfield at stoppages they attended, Crisp applied pressure to Danger at the contest, resulting in the Geelong captain hacking at the footy more often than he’d like. Danger still cracked in – he knows no other way – but every time he did, it was with Jack Crisp in close proximity.
We tend to celebrate the efforts of a tagger when that is his sole purpose, but run with roles on the opposition’s best midfielder tend to be overlooked when they are not tight tags. Crisp took the responsibility of ensuring Dangerfield did not have a huge impact on this contest, and when the final siren sounded, it would be pretty hard to dispute that he did just that.
CAN SOMEONE WAKE UP COACHES AND GET THEM TO PLAY A DEFENSIVE FORWARD ON NICK DAICOS?
Sydney did it. It worked. Twice!
Hawthorn did it in the preseason. Guess what? It worked then, as well.
Chris Scott didn’t do it. The result?
35 touches at 91% disposal efficiency.
Righto, this is not rocket surgery – the equation is simple. If you leave Nick Daicos alone to run his own race, he will carve you up. His disposal is pinpoint and his ability to pick the best option sees him emerging as an integral part of Collingwood’s relentless rebounding from half-back. If you play a defensive forward on him, he is forced to earn every kick, has no time and space to operate, and importantly, you force someone else to take on the responsibility that Daicos now has.
Looking up and down the Cats’ lineup for this one, why could a player like Brandan Parfitt, who was doing bugger all after he was subbed on anyway, head over to the younger Daicos and put the clamps on him? How about Mark O’Connor? It seems to be the role he is best at – why not allow him to play it to the benefit of the team? Surely Chris Scott has studied tape, right? Surely, he knows that this tactic has been effective for others?
If so, why was the younger Daicos having the red bloody carpet rolled out for him every time he touched the footy?
I know a lot of coaches like to back their own system and back their own structures, but when you can see what is happening as plain as the nose on Josh Daicos’ face (sorry Josh… it’s a bit of a honker. We all see it.) you bite the bullet and deploy your defensive players to roles where they can actually make a difference.
I don’t know about you guys, but either Parfitt, O’Connor, or even someone like Tanner Bruhn, who faded badly after halftime, being given a job on Nick Daicos would have changed things quite a bit. It certainly would have forced the Pies to try something different and the way Nick Daicos was going, that would not have been a bad thing, at all.
HOW DID WE RATE THE RATUGOLEA DEFENSIVE EXPERIMENT?
It was up and down. He looked strong early in the game, only to have a couple of brain fades that cost his team – opting to try to mark against beanpole Mason Cox, and then giving an off-the-ball free kick away, causing a turnover – but the attack on the footy in the air was, for the most part, pretty effective.
The Cats have something to work with – I am not sure this is going to be a success, but if the Big Sav is permitted a free run at the footy as a contest killer/interceptor, he has the athleticism to make contests and aid his teammates quite effectively.
I guess we can look at the impact his direct opponent for most of the game, Daniel McStay had on the contest (not much at all) as a way of justifying the move.
I’m nowhere near sold on it but it may be worth persevering with for a while, yet.
HAS AN MCG CROWD BEEN LOUDER RECENTLY THAN WHEN DARCY MOORE RAN DOWN OLLIE HENRY IN THE GOAL SQUARE?
Maybe when Heath Shaw ran in and smothered Nick Riewoldt in the grand final?
That roar and the celebratory applause for the efforts of the Collingwood captain were thunderous, but I have to wonder what the Geelong players were doing, just standing there, watching the scene unfold before them?
No attempt to get in to shepherd.
They just watched as Moore closed down the space and absolutely nailed the former Magpie in a ripping tackle. Tom Hawkins just allowed Moore to wander past him, and Brad Close just had a bit of the stunned mullet about him as he kind of asked for the handball, but not really.
Oh, and don’t think I am excusing Ollie Henry here, either. He should have had some urgency about him and kicked the bloody goal!
It was a great moment, an inspirational moment, and right then and there, anyone with any doubt about the selection of Moore as Collingwood captain would have quickly changed their minds.
WHO DISAPPEARED AT GEELONG?
Tanner Bruhn – 11 touches in the first half. Just two in the third quarter
Cam Guthrie – maybe his worst game in quite a while.
Brad Close – hardly sighted, which is a huge loss as he is usually so prolific between wing and half-forward.
HOW’D WE LIKE BOBBY HILL’S GAME?
I heard someone say recently that all he was asked to concentrate on was tackling this preseason, and with two clear holding-the-ball wins for the little fella, it looks as though he has done just that.
He matched Jordan de Goey’s three goals as a game-high, but also found space to run into a few times that were missed. Looks valuable.
WAS THAT THE BEST OUTING FOR JOHN NOBLE IN A LONG WHILE?
He was fantastic. I know he is a bit of a whipping boy for Pies fans, but his clean-up ability was excellent in this one and he barely put a foot wrong, all game.
Oftentimes, he was responsible for the kick just before the Pies went quickly through the middle of the ground. He’d take possession, look inside, give a little handball and BAM… the Pies would transfer play into the guts and the fast break would be on.
He finished with 29 touches – just two shy of his career-high – and hardy wasted a touch, often bringing his teammates into the game as opposed to bombing long and hoping for the best.
HOW LONG CAN PENDLES KEEP THIS UP?
I’m hoping it is for a while – I’d love to see him get to 400 games.
With 27 touches and eight tackles, Scott Pendlebury once again proved that he sees the game unfolding just a fraction before everyone else. Little tap ons, a creative handball to open the game up, the classic Pendlebury “Top Gun” brakes on to watch his opponents fly right past him – the former captain was doing it all in this one.
His eight tackles in this one narrowed the gap on all-time leader, Joel Selwood, who was watching on as the man who will become the greatest tackler in the history of the game (statistically… no one is as good as Tony Liberatore… no one) moved just that little bit closer to overthrowing him.
It was another vintage Pendlebury game, with nine score involvements once again emphasising just how important he is to this Collingwood side.
DID THE CATS’ ACCURACY TRICK US?
A poorly phrased question, I know. I’m sure you know what I mean – did it keep them in the game?
Yes and no… for periods there, the Cats looked like the better team. They would be challenged and would answer it. Good teams do that. The thing was, Collingwood just kept challenging and kept asking the question of Geelong until the Cats had no answers left.
Yeah, you could say that their accuracy kept them in the game – numbers rarely lie, but the overall feel of the contest was that Geelong took control at various stages and then fell away at the end.
I know the Pies’ system is built on trust in each other and running to support teammates, however, I simply don’t trust Will Hoskin-Elliott. He does some nice things, but almost inevitably follows them up with something dumb.
I do trust Beau McCreery, however. The guy is a battering ram intent on destruction. His tackle on a wide open Patrick Dangerfield was an absolute ripper.
Not sure how I feel about big Mason Cox trash-talking Esava Ratugolea after he took his big mark in the first quarter. He had six touches for the game. Sure, he finished with two goals, but really… if you’re gonna yap, at least make sure you’re having a great day when you do.
The Jeremy Howe injury… sickening. I watched it back, paused and freeze-framed… horrible injury. Not sure how long a complete break like he experienced will keep him out for for, but that looked incredibly nasty. Interesting to hear Darcy Moore get emotional about it in the post-match, too. Indicative of how close this Collingwood team is, I suppose. He was attacking the contest hard up until the collision with Stengle and looked to be reading the footy well in flight. He’ll leave a big hole in the Collingwood defence.
A nice little cameo from Reef McInness after being subbed on for Howe in the third quarter. He looks as though he will be pushing his way into this Collingwood side as a regular over the next month or so. He just looks like he knows how to play as a forward, attacks the contest hard, and makes things happen.
And that may just do me. Huge win for the Pies, and in dispelling the Cats with their relentless pressure and rebound attack, they have sounded a warning t o those who thought their 2022 was a fluke. This mob is for real.
As for the Cats, they looked a bit hobbled and will have to back up against the Blues next week on Friday night… blockbuster!
Massive thanks to all who support us at The Mongrel. Without you, there is no us.