When you think of make-or-break games, a contest pitting the then-third-place Collingwood against the 11th-placed Sydney looked like it was only a do-or-die scenario for one of the sides.
However, this game was worth so much more than just four points to both teams.
For the Swans, it was a chance to pick up a huge scalp on the road and re-establish themselves as a force in 2023. Their beginning to the season has left a lot to be desired, and though we could point to injuries as a valid reason, this was the team that was one win away from being premiers in 2022.
They needed to be better.
For the Pies, it was a chance to knock over a team that got the better of them twice in 2022, with one kick keeping them from the Grand Final.
It was a slog at the MCG, as both Collingwood and Sydney failed to capitalise on chances, resulting in the game being played mostly between the arcs.
The first quarter had a bit of everything, and until the slog set in, there was a definite finals-like atmosphere. Over 70,000 supporters filed into the ‘G for just the second contest between these two teams in 14 years, and they were pumped for it.
The show started with a bang, with the defensive attention quickly shifting to Collingwood’s young star, Nick Daicos, but the Pies were having none of it and flew the flag for their number 35.
On a day where goals were hard to come by, Brody Mihocek finished with a career-high five, whilst Scott Pendlebury wound the clock back to accumulate 31 touches.
The Pies pulled away late, stretching the Swans until they broke, registering a 29-point lead and giving themselves a game clear at the top of the ladder.
Meanwhile, Sydney fell a game and a half outside the top eight, with last year’s Grand Finalists looking very shaky.
Enough of the preamble – let’s get into The Mongrel’s Talking Points.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Another week, another Defensive Double-Double for Darcy Moore. After recording 11 rebound 50 disposals and ten intercepts last week against the Crows, Moore was back at it this week, controlling defensive fifty and making life horrendously difficult for his opponents.
As an encore performance, he notched another ten one-percenters to go with 11 intercepts, mixing things up and once again staking his claim as the early leader in terms of an All-Australian key defence position.
When he found himself matched up against Lance Franklin, he outpaced him and out-read him. When he was given Hayden McLean or Logan McDonald, he simply watched, waited, and zoned off when he had to in order to do clean-up duty.
It won’t likely be as widely discussed as other points from this game, but Moore’s influence on this contest was profound, and it seems this Magpie team made a wise decision when bestowing upon him the honour of leadership.
And Moore has taken to it like a born leader.
EVERYTHING EXCEPT THE DELIVERY
Geez, I wanted Nick Blakey to hit a few targets in this game. Not just shitty little chippy kicks at half back, mind you… no, I mean the ones where he was darting forward like a madman, with the footy tucked under his wing and his crazy-legs running style tearing up the middle of the MCG.
A couple of times, he just overshot his target and the momentum he was generating dissipated to nothing. It is one f the great “what ifs…” from this game. What if Blakey had nailed a couple of those passes on the run? What if he dropped the hammer, took the game on that little bit more and ran all the way to 50 before unleashing?
The bloke has so much potential to be the most damaging rebound player in the game – he just needs that one last, vital component. Once he gets that last two or three steps of balance and puts the kick right where the forward wants it, right them will he become something truly special.
CHECKERS THIS OUT
I’m not sure that anyone is ever going to accuse Brody Mihocek f being more sizzle than steak – he is one of the hardest working, honest footballers you’ll see. In short, there is simply no bullshit about him and on any given day, you know exactly what you’re going to get from him – a contest, a second effort, and hopefully a couple of snags for his effort.
Well, we got more than that today, with the big fella notching a career-high five goals, including one that brought the entire stadium to their feet.
Have a look at the vision below – I am not sure what else Nick Blakey could have done to prevent Mihocek from being effective in this situation. He bodied him up, had him off balance, looked as though he was going to reach around across (lol, sorry) and spoil the ball, only for Checkers to hold off for a second before launching at the ball and soccering a fantastic goal out of mid-air.
I have to admit, at that point, I was wearing a smile a mile wide.
I like seeing hard-working players rewarded. I like seeing the meat and potatoes men get some fancy dessert now and again. And I like the unsung heroes to get the credit they deserve.
Brody Mihocek has been huge for Collingwood for a few years, now, and to see him able to bask in the glow of doing something amazing like this… it warms the cockles of your heart…
… which is almost as good as warming the heart of your cockles, I’m told.
It’s not often I get words of wisdom from Mrs Mongrel as I watch a game for review, but she was close at hand during this one. So much so, that rather than engaging in something she enjoyed, she decided to chime in with a few choice comments about players.
And then when I started doing the same, stating that Aaron Francis was like Prince Harry and William’s uglier brother, she got annoyed and left.
Prior to that, however, she made comment that Isaac Quaynor looked like he was a powerful unit.
Now, I don’t usually sit there wondering how strong players are, but once she made that comment, it become something I could not unhear… and I started to look at Quaynor and the way he took off and the power he generated… it was quite spectacular.
Then it hit me – Isaac Quaynor is all glutes! He’s a complete power-ass!
From that point on, IQ’s ass become something I could not unsee. It almost defies gravity!
Normally, that would be it for a topic as unseemly as this, but to speak only of IQ’s bouncy backside would be doing him a disservice. The way he operated in this game was fantastic. Whether in the air, or making ground, IQ was all over the place inside defensive fifty, collecting the footy and distributing with class. I mentioned above about the players that lifted without Nick Daicos dominating across half-back – Quaynor seemed to relish the opportunity to take on more responsibility with the footy.
Still just 23, IQ is only now entering his peak years and will be a fixture in the Collingwood defence for years to come.
Good game, Glutes.
THE DAICOS TAG
I love a good duel, and this one was on the cards weeks ago, as Ryan Clarke started to prove his fitness and push toward being included in the senior team.
He’d done the job on Nick Daicos twice last season and was looking to make it a hat-trick with a big win at the MCG. But this was not the rookie Nick Daicos he was dealing with. How would it play out?
Better yet, how did it play out?
Well, it was more difficult to gauge this time, as Daicos split time between the midfield and the defence. When he moved into the midfield, Clarke would go with him, but hand over at a stoppage and then pick him up again in open play. It was a chance for Daicos to get off the chain in traffic, but strangely, he didn’t.
That would be because Callum Mills took on the role of minding him when Clarke dropped a disposal off the pace.
What we ended up seeing was several scenarios play out. And in fairness, Clarke didn’t spend longer than a minute playing on him in the last quarter, so we strike that from the record for discussion around their duel.
– There was no real run and carry from Daicos. He totalled 276 metres for the entire game. With ten touches in the last quarter, that probably looks more like fewer than 200 metres – possibly fewer – through the first three quarters. It is a clear season-low
– three score involvements, meaning he was not starting those chains of possessions that opened the game up.
– Scott Pendlebury and Josh Daicos drifted back into defence more often, picking up the slack from Nick’s lack of output.
– deducting the kick-in/play-on stats means that Daicos had 12 in-play disposals whilst opposed to Clarke through three quarters.
Like it or not, that is a win for Clarke, who had 14 disposals, five score involvements, and a goal of his own. This was Round Three in their trilogy, and as much as I am sure that people will look at Daicos with 25 touches and proclaim him the winner, in their individual battle, at least, Clarke got him again.
Of course, there is only one battle that genuinely matters, and the Pies got the win in that one. Let the Swans have this little battle win. Collingwood won the war.
WHAT DO THE PIES HAVE IN ASH JOHNSON?
I am still not completely sure, but I know it was enough to send Ollie Henry back to the seconds in 2022 and have the Pies not worried at all when he wanted out to head back down the highway to hang out with the brother.
Johnson has a beautiful pair of hands… like he is the marking equivalent of someone that uses Oil of Olay every day – they’re in pristine nick! He flashed in and out of the game a little too much for my liking, but his talent is undeniable and if he is able to start working on ways to stay involved when the footy is not bouncing his way, the Pies will have a pretty special talent to deal with.
SPEAKING OF SPECIAL TALENTS…
Two parts to this one – I love Errol Gulden
Part two – I am not loving what Isaac Heeney is becoming.
There is so much of Zak Butters/Connor Rozee in Errol Gulden. He finds the footy and uses it beautifully. He managed seven clearances in this game whilst attending zero centre bounces, and spent the majority of his game darting along the wings and flanks, causing big issues for the Pies as he did so.
Heeney started on a wing, and during the first quarter and a half, looked to be a problem for the Pies, as well. He worked hard n the fat side of the ground to drift forward and mark, but that was a bit of a wake up call to Steele Sidebottom, who found himself matched up on the blonde star and went to work on keeping goal side of him after Heeney’s early dangerous foray forward. His two set shot misses were so costly in a low-scoring game – I get the feeling there are some serious doubts festering in the young man’s mind.
Anyone know a good sports psychologist?
You won’t see much credit given to Sidebottom for his role in this one, but I am telling you – he is one of the more selfless players at Collingwood, and his willingness to slot into the role of defensive wingman gave the Pies breathing room and respite from that which Heeney could inflict.
NATURAL CONSEQUENCES OR INTERVENTION?
Have you ever watched a nature documentary where an Impala is born and a lion gets the scent before it’s really learnt to run?
The documentary makers could step in to save the Impala. I’m sure they want to. I’m sure their instinct is to make noise, drive off the lion, and rescue this poor animal that has just been born, but that is not what they’re there for. No, they are there to shoot the action and allow nature to take its course.
The impala will be eaten.
It is the way of things.
In the AFL, the umpires also have a decision to make, but it is not life or death, as the documentary makers deal with. No, far from it. In the AFL, the umpires have decided they are fans of the intervention model. They want to stop things before they start. But then all of a sudden, they decide they’re not. I’m not sure you can oscillate n these things.
So, when Ryan Clarke ran forward to kick a goal, with his direct opponent, Nick Daicos trailing him, Sydney let the kid know all about it. There were scuffles and wrestles as Collingwood players came in to remonstrate with the antagonistic Sydney players, and as Tm Papley came up from behind and gave Daicos what can only be called a nudge in the back, one of the umpires decided to drop his camera, become more than an observer, and blow the whistle.
He was no longer allowing nature to take its course. He was going to intervene.
That’s fine – he made that decision. No one would care, as long as that was consistent, right?
AFL umpiring and consistency? Hahaha! HB, you’re funny.
Less than a minute later, Daicos ran forward, handed the footy off to Will Hoskin-Elliott, who snapped a goal for the Pies to open their account… and the Pies players came for Clarke, getting in his face, pushing and shoving him. Turnabout is fair play, I suppose, but shouldn’t the same treatment invoke the same result? The funny thing was… there was no whistle this time. Where was the umpire that was so offended by Papley’s nudge moments before that he awarded a free kick to Collingwood at the centre bounce? Where was his outrage now that the shoe was on the other foot?
Where was the consistency?
You know where it was – nowhere to be seen.
I know this is a bit of an old man rant, and that’s fine, but if you’re seriously going to intervene at one end and award a free kick, only to allow similar stuff to happen at the other end and you put your whistle away and simply allow it to play out, not only are you weak, you’re weak and inconsistent. If you’re gonna pay it one way, pay it the other way!
Whenever you ask an AFL fan what they want from umpires, the answer is simple – consistency. In two moments featuring many of the same players, the umpires made it clear that they were going to be using the intervention method when it suited them, and allow for natural consequences when they preferred that option.
Good luck working out when they were going to do either one from that point. I wouldn’t want to be an Impala.
Or a Lion.
Buddy has always had a different running style, but he looks to be short stepping at the moment. You reckon he knows those hammies only have a certain amount of time left?
Both teams looked at their best when able to pull off a switch forward of centre. That’s when the space opens up inside 50, but if it is performed slowly… well, my guess is we don’t have brainless people reading this. The Pies were able to move the ball quickly at half forward – bang! One kick to open the fifty up. Bang – another kick either inside 50 either on the fat side, or into the middle, and then one more to a leading target. If that sequence takes longer than five or six seconds, the defence covers it. The Pies were able to keep under that time on several occasions. The Swans hardly got under ten seconds, which led to a lot of contested work.
Are people making a thing about Collingwood fans booing Buddy Franklin now? I’m not sure what to make of it – booing Horne-Francis is wrong…. booing Buddy Franklin is wrong… booing Adam Goodes is…. oh, I see where they’re going with it.
In this case, I am not sure there is anything more to it than Collingwood fans booing Buddy because he has been a thorn in their sides for so long. Remember when he leapt over their players in the middle of the MCG and snagged that goal? I do… it was breathtaking. Still, he plays for the opposition… they’re not gonna cheer him. Pretty sure Papley was getting booed as well.
On that happy note, I may just call it a night. I got stuck with back-to-back games today due to our very own Slugger feeling unwell. Get well soon, mate.
The Pies move on to face GWS next week. All things being equal, they should walk that one in. As fr the Swans, Freo at the SCG is a “should win”. That said, there have been a few “should win” games this year they’ve lost, so I trust nothing at the moment.
Massive thanks to all those who support us here, at The Mongrel.
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