After both clubs had resounding wins in their respective season openers, I was eager to see what would transpire as the Pies welcomed Port Adelaide to the MCG.
On paper, this was an intriguing matchup, and one that I had circled on my imaginary calendar… because no one except Mrs Mongrel uses actual calendars to keep track of things. Would the Power target Nick Daicos? Could Scott Lycett combat the two-headed ruck monster of Cameron and Cox? And how would the midfields match up, with the Pies so balanced and powerful, and the Power possessing a Brownlow Medallist of their own, as well as the returning “heart and soul” of the team, Travis Boak.
It was a near perfect day for footy, with Melbourne offering overcast skies and just the slightest breeze. Things were all set for a huge clash that may let us know where these teams truly sit early in the season.
Let’s jump into The Mongrel’s Big Questions about the Magpies’ brilliant win over the Power.
That was a domination. By halftime, this game was O-VAH, with the Pies smashing Port in the contest.
This was a team that trounced Brisbane last weekend and announced to the footy world that 2022 was an aberration, and the Pies made them look ordinary. The foot may have come off the gas after halftime, but the first half from Collingwood was about as good as it gets. They were brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
If you were waiting to see whether Collingwood were going to have the same “luck” as they had last year, I wouldn’t hold my breath. It is going to take something special for clubs to consistently get near them.
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THE NICK DAICOS TAG?
For starters, Ken Hinkley sent a bloke who has played half-back to Daicos with the express purpose of shutting him down… playing as a half-forward. So, in an unfamiliar role, Lachie Jones was asked to stick with Daicos like glue through the first half and ensure he didn’t have an influence.
It didn’t go well.
Daicos was able to work through and around the tag, losing Jones in traffic, finding the footy at will, and getting just enough space between the two that the devastatingly good kicks from Collingwood were able to pinpoint exactly where to kick the footy to bring Daicos into the game.
Secondly, there was no physicality.
For a player with a reputation of being “hard at it”, Jones hardly put a glove on Daicos, allowing him to play bruise-free footy and run around without any consequence. I’m not calling for Jones, or anyone else for that matter, to start whacking the kid, but there is a level of physical pressure that is acceptable in this game, and players like Ryan Clarke in Sydney have found it. Jones was a mile from it.
By the time the tag was dropped to start the third quarter, Daicos had collected 17 touches and kicked a goal. I almost felt sorry for Jones. It was as though he was taken out behind the woodshed and shot by Ken Hinkley after that effort, finishing the game with numbers hat indicate just how little influence he had – five disposals and zero tackles.
Was he the wrong man for the job? And if that is the case, who should have taken on th role?
Personally, I would have went with Xavier Duursma. He has offered little over the past 12 months and although we can put a fair bit of that down to recovering from injury, he strikes me as the type of player that could run with Daicos and make him earn his touches – not physically, but by being able to stick close to him.
How about Darcy Byrne-Jones? His role at half-back is one that could be played by a handful of others and I don’t know about you guys, but I have rarely seen him really damage the opposition from half-back since 2020.
Or, you know what? If you’re serious about stopping Daicos, put someone on him that will take the job seriously. Willem Drew is a beast in the contest and loves the combative nature of the game. I don’t think you’ll have to ask him twice to give Daicos a bit of a bump and niggle (the evil cousin of slap and tickle).
Overall, it was a failed move from Ken Hinkley. Yes, at least he tried, but really, that’s what you say about the kid in third grade that runs last in a race and falls flat on his face, isn’t it?
WHY WOULD YOU START THE HEART AND SOUL OF THE CLUB AS A SUB?
Oh… if it is fitness, then so be it, but in a game where the Collingwood midfield absolutely molested the Power, why the hell was Travis Boak – one of the best contested footy players the club has – sitting on the bench awaiting an opportunity to play the role he has been so damn great in?
I know this is coming across as a Hinkley-bash and I have to be careful, as I know there are segments of the Port Adelaide fanbase that cannot wait for him to be shown the door – I am not intending to appeal to that cohort, but I cannot, for the life of me, understand the thinking behind having a club legend sitting on the pine whilst others are out there playing the type of footy they should be embarrassed about.
The thing about Boak is that he always gives it his all – irrespective of the scoreline, his work ethic and commitment to the cause never wavers. Port could have used someone like him out there in the first half to stand up to the clearance and contested possession domination.
I am sure there’ll be answers around it, speaking about him working back from injury and being eased back into the rotation, but Boak is an aerobic beast. If he is fit enough to play a half, he is fit enough to play a full game. And when would you prefer him out there – when the team is seven goals down after halftime?
“Yeah, look Trav… the game is ostensibly over, but go out there and see what you can do”
Or, when the game was still there to be won?
I know which one I’d choose, and if he wasn’t healthy enough to play the game, he shouldn’t have been out there at all. For what it’s worth, he looked absolutely fine in the two quarters I did see him out there.
For those who disagree, I ask this – can you see Collingwood starting Scott Pendlebury as the sub?
ARE THERE ANY TOM MITCHELL DOUBTERS LEFT?
They’d be wise to be quiet after this effort.
Another 27 touches. Another eight clearances. Another 16 contested touches.
Another week where Tm Mitchell stands up, raises the middle finger to anyone who doubted his ability to play this game and play it well, and makes them crawl back into their little holes. Imagine thinking for a second that this bloke wastes disposals… far out, how easily influenced by media were you?
I already went through reasons people may have fallen into that opinion after reviewing the Pies’ Round One game, so I won’t repeat myself (you can read that one here) but if you’re stubborn, want to see a bigger sample size, or just plain love being wrong,, keep talking about how he doesn’t hurt as he hits the scoreboard, extracts the footy, and sets up his teammates to succeed.
With the right teammates around him, Mitchell is as good as any link man in the game, and he definitely has the right teammates around him to allow him to play his natural game at Collingwood.
What an absolute bargain. Hope the Hawks are enjoying paying his salary.
DID ANYONE SEE DARCY CAMERON BEING THIS GOOD?
I admit, I was a little worried when the Pies traded away Brodie Grundy. There was a big part of me that thought they were not just allowing one of the best rucks of the last decade to wander away, but were allowing him to walk to another contender.
I didn’t think that second part was all that wise.
However, the rise of Darcy Cameron has been brilliant to watch and I can now understand just why Craig McRae was fine with seeing his All-Australian ruck depart. It was interesting to hear Nathan Buckley state on commentary (albeit, without real knowledge of the ins and outs) that Cameron would not be in the top 15 or so in the league for ruckman contracts.
He is likely correct, and with two years to run AFTER 2023, the Pies have locked away an emerging star of the game on a deal that would make Supa-Cheap Auto consider changing their name to Fairly-Decent-Priced Auto.
Matched up against Scott Lycett – a player that can get on a role and assert physical authority on a contest when he is up and about, Cameron collected 18 touches, laid five tackles, and had four clearances. The best part about this is that he did his best work early in the game as the Pies were establishing their lead – he was important when the game was important.
The reigning Mongrel Ruck Champion added a title defence to his CV in this one, giving his midfielders first use often, and contributing both around the ground (four contested grabs) and on the scoreboard (nine score involvements).
I am not sure that anyone expected Cameron to move into contention for the All-Australian ruck spot this season – not him, not Craig McRae, and likely not you or I, but with efforts like this one, we simply cannot dismiss that this may be the case, particularly if the Pies keep winning and feeding off his great work.
COULD CHARLIE DIXON HAVE HAD A BIGGER SAY IN THIS GAME?
He started well, didn’t he?
Early in the game, it looked as though Charlie Dixon was going to be far too strong for Billy Frampton, but after a poke in the eye to Scott Lycett, Dixon had to move into the ruck for five minutes and in that time, things started to fall apart for the Power.
The Pies started to become composed and collapse back into Dixon’s space once Lycett returned to the fray, and as a result, the momentum he generated early in the game was lost.
Dixon worked hard up through half-forward, but he is always at his best inside about 30-35 metres from goal. Do you know how many touches he had in that area?
The Pies’ defence did a masterful job of forcing him out of his comfort zone after halfway through the first quarter and whilst the delivery to Dixon was pretty poor, you have to give the Pies a lot of credit for working things out so quickly and making the adjustments.
IS THERE A HARDER-WORKING FORWARD LINE IN THE GAME THAN THAT OF COLLINGWOOD?
I can safely say that at this point of the season, no, there is not.
There was an effort (r multiple efforts, actually) from Beau McCreery in this game, right around the early stages of the second quarter, where he took on two opponents and did everything in his power to win the contest for the Pies. Despite the outnumber, his desperation managed to keep the ball alive and in dispute until the cavalry arrived and the Pies swept the footy away.
It should have been an easy win for the Power in that situation – the numbers were with them and they led the race for the footy, but it is testament to the mongrel in McCreery that he simply refused to allow Port the opportunity for a clean possession.
When you add in the fact that Jamie Elliott is tackling like a demon, that Jordan de Goey is taking pride in his defensive work, that Taylor Adams is adding another dimension when he is stationed at half-forward, you start to get a picture that this Magpies team has all the makings of a side that will ride that forward pressure deep into September.
How can you not love what Scott Pendlebury continues to do for the Magpies? Creative, hard-working, and with an air of class that few possess, his touches were all off the top shelf, and none were better than his over-the-head handball to the running Nick Daicos to set up a magnificent goal.
Miles Bergman got better as the game progressed. I thought both him and Dan Houston struggled greatly early in the picture, turning it over and being caught with the footy, but Bergman continued to work hard for the majority of the second half.
Do Port take anything away from the second half? The intensity was down from the Pies – only marginally – but the Power obviously started matching it with them around the ground. On the road, I reckon you look for some little wins, and that would be the one I would take away. Players like Zak Butters, Willem Drew, and Connor Rozee all started showing a bit after the main break.
The free kick count was lopsided – almost as bad as the contested possession count. A 34-15 advantage is normally something that would be cause for concern, but the Pies just seemed to be first to the footy all the time and would be taken high, or held without it too often. Yes, it was a big margin, but I don’t think it was anything to complain about too much.
That said, the umps were red-hot on holding the ball, particularly early in the contest. I kind of liked that – rewarding great tackles doesn’t happen that often.
I didn’t like the “dangerous” tackle call on Ryan Burton. When a player is throwing their foot at the ball, attempting to get a kick away whilst being tackled, part of the responsibility for his safety MUST sit with him. Burton was in the middle of tackling Elliott and went to take him to ground. Elliott shifted his weight to attempt to get a kick away and his complete loss of control over his own body exacerbated the danger.
I’m not saying it wasn’t a dangerous tackle to the letter of the AFL law, but players are often punished for tackles where the bloke with the footy contributes to the tackle as much as the player doing the tackling.
I like Sam Powell-Pepper and the way he plays the game. I wish he’d do a little bit more, but I reckon Port fans would be wishing that of just about everyone out there in this game. SPP looks like he actually gives a shit – gotta respect that.
And that’ll about do it for me. Massive win for the Pies. They get the Tigers on Friday night in what should play out in front of a massive crowd.
Meanwhile, Port front up for The Showdown. I love this game every season – cannot wait to see Port test themselves against an improved Crows. It may sound hyperbolic, but that game could set up their season. Being 2-1… that’s where you want to be after three games.