The race for the top spot continues, as Collingwood flexed their muscles in the second quarter to put the result beyond doubt against a Fremantle side that is… well, if we’re being honest here – they’re just making up the numbers now.
The Dockers have been one of the more disappointing sides of 2023. Semi-finalists from last year, things just haven’t clicked for them this year. Freo expected that they would be thereabouts again this year. The inclusions of Luke Jackson and Jaeger O’Meara should’ve helped them get an extra win or two and potentially be on the doorstep of the top four.
Instead, the reality is that they’re now 7-10, and a chance of returning to finals footy will pass them by this year. Seeing them blood some of the kids coming through is great – I’ll get to that later.
As for the Pies, it’s been a terrific second year in charge from Craig McRae. I’ll admit, I was one of many who didn’t see their 2022 campaign for what it was and expected them to fall right back into the middle tier of teams this year, but they continue to amaze and showcase just how good they’ll be.
While this probably won’t be a win to write home about, this was a win they needed to bank ahead of what could potentially decide the top spot next week against a Port Adelaide side that had just had a 13 game winning streak..
After a slow start in the middle, the engine room got going in the second term, with an incredible burst of goals that saw them kick 10 in the quarter to blow the game completely out of the water.
THEM DAICOS BOYS
Nick Daicos’ extreme rise as an elite player has been one of the year’s biggest stories. Having been there last week to see him tear the Bulldogs to bits, it’s not hard to see why many are touting him as the best player in the comp and a Brownlow Medal favourite in his second season.
A part of me feels bad for Josh Daicos because, for all the widespread recognition Nick has been getting, plenty should be coming his way for his ability to run the wings and to hurt the opposition with his disposal. Like his younger brother, he was essential to their second-quarter run.
Of course, the Pies steamroller doesn’t start nor end with these two, but it feels like they’re the cornerstone of the entire operation. Nick’s transformation from a half-back flanker to a fully-fledged midfielder has been a wonder.
We saw aspects in this game that he is a human like all of us and missed some shots on goal on the run as this game progressed. But we also saw aspects throughout the game that we’ve come to expect from him. He just completely mesmerises with his understanding of how the game unfolds. He finds space where there’s hardly any, and now he finds that space to go in and win the hard ball.
There were only four Collingwood players who registered double-figures in contested possessions. One was Tom Mitchell, who was subbed into the game early in the second half. The others were Taylor Adams and these two gentlemen. There have been criticisms for both regarding being outside runners that only gather the ball as handball receives. Anyone who’s watched these boys play these claims is dumbfounded.
Nick looks likely to rack up another three votes from the umpires in this game: 36 disposals, seven clearances, four tackles, 21 pressure acts, seven inside 50s and 11 score involvements for 1.2 and two goal assists in this game. Also worth pointing out that he attended 22 centre bounces in this game – second behind Jordan De Goey.
Meanwhile, Josh had 31 disposals, 16 kicks at 75 per cent, seven clearances from stoppages, six marks and five score involvements for one goal and one goal assist.
We’re all witnessing something special with these boys. Nick looks like a lock for the All-Australian team. If they were serious about putting wingers in the team, Josh would have to be one of the first considered.
ARE WE SLEEPING ON JAMIE ELLIOTT?
Before I checked his season tally, I thought Jamie Elliott was on track for 35-40 goals this year.
After this game, he’s currently sitting on 25, which I thought was surprising considering his standing in the side. I suppose as well; he’s missed a few games this season.
However, in just the past month, he’s kicked 15 goals; five goals against the Gold Coast two weeks ago, four last week against the Western Bulldogs and backed up with another four goals in this one.
It’s weird saying that Elliott is the elder statesman in this forward line, and I’m sure Pies fans will have felt cheated by injuries taking away two full seasons of him in his prime. But these are the games that you will see from Elliott and walk away from it thinking that he’s a serious player.
Maybe he’ll still get to 40 goals at the end of the season when it’s all said and done, and I think he’ll have earned them. Many instances in this game saw him push up the ground and lose his direct opponent when the Pies could transition the ball off Fremantle’s turnovers. A couple of his goals resulted from being found goal-side of his direct opponent and getting on the end of some brilliant ball movement by his teammates.
So to answer the question above – of course, we’re sleeping on him because the Collingwood forward line is also about guys like Bobby Hill, Brody Mihocek (although he hasn’t played the past two games), Ash Johnson (his three goals were impressive) and a returning Daniel McStay, who I think will be one of the more Pies players who will be scrutinised as we head into finals.
HOW GOOD IS IT WATCHING BRAYDEN MAYNARD?
If it weren’t for Nick Daicos, Brayden Maynard would be my favourite Pies player to watch.
For every player like Daicos, who plays with such a ‘Hollywood’ flair, there are the players who dig deep, blue-collared blokes like Maynard who throws his body in any contest he can, if he’s not hurting himself, he’s hurting someone else. If he’s not doing that, he’s impacting contests.
This performance had everything from the man called ‘Bruz’. He started with a crunching tackle on Michael Walters, and his influence on the contest continued. One passage of play in the second quarter saw him impact an aerial contest as the one in a three-v-one situation. He pinged off one Freo player into another and then smothered a kick from Andrew Brayshaw to force the stoppage.
That is the sort of stuff you come to expect from Maynard. The more impressive thing is that his shoulder is still not 100 per cent. There was footage of him at halftime, half of his body bandaged. But don’t act as if you wouldn’t have him at your club.
At the Doggies, I’d have about three or four of him to fly the flag because only a select few would like to stand up and show some testicles when the going gets tough.
Maynard had 20 disposals, six marks and six score involvements in what was a dynamic afternoon for him regarding what he does with the ball; I love what he does when he doesn’t have it.
He hits and tackles hard, but he also does it fairly; considering that ‘tackling’ and ‘hurting players’ in the same sentence usually result in a holiday in modern footy, it’s a rare commodity. He finished with eight tackles in this one and 21 pressure acts.
Tell me you want to cross paths with this bloke on a footy field. I’ll show you a liar.
THE BIG COHUNA
One of the big reasons Fremantle has gone backwards is their forward line. The 11th-best team in the competition for points isn’t going to bring home the flag. But I suppose in their defence, they’re relying on Jye Amiss, who’s in his second season, Luke Jackson as a second-string ruck playing forward (been pretty good this season, it must be said) in his fourth season and this man – Josh Treacy who is in his third season.
I need to remember that Matt Taberner is in this squad as well, but if Justin Longmuir puts his faith in these guys as the key pillars in the forward 50, then his days will be numbered.
Jye Amiss has kicked 31 goals for the year and will be incredibly better off for it when he hits the prime stages of his career. Still, I’ve maintained that I see a lot in Josh Treacy, and while yeah, the game was pretty much in the books by halftime, he showed plenty of signs that if he can stay fit and healthy, he and Amiss can make a pretty solid paring.
Treacy will be 21 in August, so he’ll have plenty more football life, and performances like this one are great for confidence. On an afternoon where Amiss was only kept to one goal and pretty much silent for a lot of the afternoon, Treacy took ownership of the forward line and could catch some of the Collingwood defenders unaware with his leading patterns.
Three goals for the day is something many key forwards will take when the side doesn’t get many clean looks going inside 50. They only went in 35 times – they average 50 entries a game.
I also thought his bodywork on Nathan Murphy late in the game was impressive, and it shows that he’s a strong boy when it comes to it. He finished with five marks, two of which were contested and had a further two score involvements in addition to his three goals.
Some positives for Fremantle was that their work around the clearances in the opening quarter was top-notch; they were 6-1 in centre clearances to quarter time and +10 across both centre bounce and stoppage clearances.
And while they got belted 15-7 in centre clearances after quarter time, they were also gridlocked around the contest with Collingwood, just -1 in contested ball throughout the game.
With no Serong in the side this week due to suspension, Andrew Brayshaw lifted the side from the front, and it was one of the better games I’ve seen from Jaeger O’Meara in purple this year. But the performance from Neil Erasmus should yield some praise too.
Freo drafted Erasmus as a top-10 selection back in the 2021 AFL Draft. What I liked about him from his draft year at Peel was that he was a multi-faceted player who played in all three areas on the ground. He’s also a sublime user of the ball by foot.
Last year he was only seen at the top level five times – one of those was as an unused medical sub – he’s been a bit more prominent this year, playing in his eighth game for the season and finding a bit more confidence in running into the right spots and we saw a bit of that in this one.
It was tough to gauge where exactly the Dockers played him in this game; he had a fair bit of it along the wing but also saw a lot of the ball across the defensive half, which is understandable, considering Collingwood had nearly 20 more inside 50s. But he recorded six centre-bounce attendances in this game too.
Having said all of that, this was an opportunity for him to take full advantage of Fremantle being without one of their star on-ballers for the week, and he thrived with the opportunity: 26 disposals, including 13 kicks at 77 per cent efficiency, 13 contested possessions (only Jaeger had more at Freo), a team-high seven rebound 50s, four stoppage clearances, ten tackles and 23 pressure acts.
Undoubtedly, this performance solidifies his spot within the best 22 next week, and I’ll argue he should stay in the side for the next few years. He’s a player who already shows a great blend of inside grunt and outside class, and he already has shown so much from this game alone.
There’s no doubt Freo’s got themselves a keeper there.
Darcy Moore had five intercept marks in the first quarter, and everyone was blowing up at Fox Footy about the record – he only had one after that. It was an incredible term, but after the 10-goal burst, he just settled in.
Some excellent runs from half-back out of Oleg Markov. He can be a turnover lout sometimes, but it can be beautiful when he runs and makes an efficient decision.
Taylor Adams was the best on the ground up to halftime, featured in many big scoring runs and kicked a couple of goals himself. He only featured in 15 centre bounce attendances, featured a bit across half-forward as well, but still had four of his seven clearances from the middle.
Another man that got a fair piece of it in the middle of the second term was Jordan De Goey. He featured in a couple of centre clearances and had six touches, looked damaging every time he got near it.
It is not every day I agree with what Jonathan Brown has to say on Fox Footy, but he made mention of Jack Crisp’s kicking efficiency and how it has improved – gee, I remember when many people canned him for his kicking. Well, he was kicking them alright in this one – had 13 kicks at 61 per cent – Adams and Nick Daicos were kicking them at a worse percentage.
When Brody Mihocek returns, what will this mean for Ash Johnson? His form the past couple of weeks means he should stay in the side, but Mihocek is in career-best form, and you’re not moving him out. McStay also kicked a couple, and I think he’s important to the structure. Hate to be Craig McRae at selection Thursday night.
The Sean Darcy injury meant we saw more of Luke Jackson in the ruck in the second half. I liked what I saw from him; he showed plenty of grunt and ability in the middle and featured for two goals, which was good footy.
Saw plenty of James Aish across the centre bounces and stoppages and thought his work in close was impressive – he finished with 11 contested possessions, ten ground ball gets and six tackles.
What’s happened with Lachie Schultz’s goalkicking the past month and a half? He looked certain to jot down at least a goal per game, and now it seems like he’s lost all confidence in his set shots – he had five shots on goal for two behinds.
Great to see Joel Hamling back and playing footy. This game was only his third since the end of 2019. He finished with 11 touches, eight spoils and took a good, contested mark in his return.
Sam Switkowski has got to be one of the best pressure players going around right now; 34 pressure acts and five tackles. But just the seven touches.
How have Freo fans seen Alex Pearce’s first year in charge of the side? I think it’s been a bit of an underwhelming run – constantly beaten in one on ones and has had lapses of concentration when the ball is in defensive 50.
And on that, that will do me for this review. We got to see the best of Collingwood in this game with a ten-goal burst, and it sets them up nicely for a top-of-the-table showdown against Port Adelaide next week at the Adelaide Oval.
Fremantle will be at home next week to take on a Sydney side still fighting for a slim chance of September footy.
You know who’s a great bloke? The Doc. You can buy him a coffee for the work he does by clicking the link below. I’m sure he’d greatly appreciate it.