The silence. The Last Post. The national anthem. The roar of the huge crowd.
The Anzac Day Clash.
I barrack for neither team, yet I cannot help the feeling that I am about to witness something special every year. I feel it in the pit of my stomach when I watch those teams line up.
The trumpeter plays, the flame burns, the soldier belts out commands, and I remember my own grandfathers, who came back from WW2 as shells of the men who went to fight for this country and spent the rest of their lives wasting away. Watching Collingwood and Essendon ready themselves to fight it out always gets the emotions flowing, as it should on such a day.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of the biggest home and away game of the year.
The Magpie pressure
Essendon kicked across the half back line, then back to the other side.
Then they kicked backwards, and across the ground again… and Collingwood kept moving into space. They tried again, only to be cut off by a maniacal Collingwood midfield and defensive unit. The Bombers simply could not move the ball, and it was due to the Magpie pressure.
A mix of strong bodies and speed put paid to Essendon’s chances early, and had the Pies converted a bit better, we may have seen a 90-point margin by the end of the game.
When the ball was in dispute, Collingwood made it theirs. They won the contested disposal count 141-117, led by their ruckman again. Grundy had 13 contested touches, sharing that number with Anzac Medallist, Adam Treloar. Only one Bomber was in the top five – Zach Merrett, but he was bordered by the two aforementioned, as well as Pendlebury and Callum Brown, with 10 apiece.
Adam Treloar - ANZAC medallist
While the Bombers went side to side and back again, Treloar put his head down, backside up and drove the Pies forward time and time again.
Linking with Pendlebury, Sidebottom and a host of others, Treloar showed the sort of heart and guts Pies fans have wanted to see from him since they recruited him.
Walking out to receive the Anzac Medal, you could see the pride in Treloar’s eyes. You could also see the happiness for him in the eyes of his teammates.
Treloar chose Collingwood over Richmond. Maybe in time, that decision will be justified.
Sidebottom’s two goals in red time
The reigning Best and Fairest winner kicked two ripping goals as the time ticked down in the first quarter.
The first was the result of some excellent bodywork against Mark Baguley, protecting the ball and soccering it through.
The second came moments later as Mason Cox dropped a sitter. The ball spilled to Ben Reid who snapped toward goal. Again, Baguley tried to stop Sidebottom, but as he went to ground against the behind post, Sidebottom punched the ball to keep it in play. He recovered, turned and slammed through his second.
Sidebottom was good all day, and his patience and sure hands saw the Pies out of danger when the Bombers did apply pressure.
Mason Cox improvement
I am sure that seeing him drop a mark or two early did not instill a great deal of confidence in Pies supporters, but redemption was not far away.
Cox clunked a few overhead marks, three of them contested as the Pies turned the heat up on the Bombers. He’s come a long way since his Round One disaster and it will be interesting to see how he is used against Richmond in four days’ time.
I don’t think he will get the same free run at the contest as he experienced today against Hurley and co, who should be ashamed of their efforts to curtail him. None of them put a body on him as he ran to contests.
Quiet start for Jaidyn Stephenson today, but it became apparent early in the second quarter that he is not one to drop his head after one bad quarter. He picked up nine touches in the second and finished with 15 and a couple of goals.
Tom Phillips was excellent again, racking up 25 touches, and Callum Brown would’ve made the old man proud, with 22 disposals, including ten contested touches.
Big Boy Grundy
Yeah, I know it’s McEvoy’s name, but it’s not as though BT has it copyrighted.
Tom Bellchambers split the points with Grundy in the first, but the Collingwood ruckman’s aerobic ability, and willingness to work hard at ground level saw him collect 22 disposals. He also outpointed Bellchambers at the centre bounce.
His tap to Pendlebury to open the second half was absolutely perfect. He did his quest to be recognised as the best ruckman in the game no damage with today’s performance.
Rising star falling?
I’m worried about Andrew McGrath.
Whilst he had plenty of mates, he was one you’d think would relish playing on the big stage of Anzac day. His return – 10 disposals. But what about those disposals? 0 clearances, 0 inside 50s, 0 rebound 50s, 0 one-percenters.
He played the game between the arcs and did bugger all.
Bomber supporters would be expecting better from him – a step up and forward was required this year, particularly with Essendon touted as a legitimate finals contender. They looked anything but today, and McGrath looked nothing like the 2017 youngster that took out the Rising Star award.
Darcy Parish on the other hand... at least he put in.
Brendon Goddard and Michael Hurley
The body language from the Essendon veteran was atrocious today. Goddard had heated exchanges with David Zaharakis, exchanged words with Joe Daniher and threw his arms up in the air in exasperation as Steele Sidebottom slotted his third goal of the day.
Of course, Goddard was not part of the contest that saw Sidebottom goal. He was standing fifteen metres away. That's how he had space to throw his arms out like that.
I wrote on the weekend about Hawthorn looking like they were expecting someone else to do the work against North Melbourne – that’s how some of the Bombers, Goddard chief amongst them, looked today. He berated others all day long whilst propping himself behind the ball and having it delivered backwards and side-wards to him.
Between him, Michael Hurley, and a completely ineffective Essendon midfield, the Bombers looked like a team in disarray.
Goddard still barked instructions, stared daggers at teammates and generally looked like a guy whose finger had poked through the toilet paper before the start of the game. He was not happy to be out there, but who on the Essendon team was? It was an insipid performance, and deserved a bigger belting than they got.
I understand frustration - believe me, I have children, but he wasn't demonstrating leadership out there. He wasn't putting an arm around someone and talking to them - he was blasting them, and that does not make for a great environment. Then again, maybe he was giving out a few much-needed home truths?
You know what? Let’s just say it – Goddard and Hurley got cheap stats today. They didn’t hurt Collingwood at all. They played safe footy and had 62 mainly useless touches between them.
The Four Day Break
This looms like a big issue.
Adam Treloar knows what it means to have only four days to prepare for a team. He mentioned it in his Anzac Medal acceptance speech.
Both the Pies (Richmond) and the Bombers (Melbourne) will be up against it next week.
Biggest home and away game of the year. The crowd is pumped. The umpire goes in to bounce the ball and the whistle blows – free kick for a push into the centre square. No sense of occasion by the umpires.
Daniher’s first goal was promising, clunking a mark, but the kick at goal that provided the opportunity by Jackson Merrett was an absolute stinker. It was a great sign for Joe, however. He looked "on". Unfortunately, for a little while after that, he reverted to baby giraffe-mode and looked clumsy before finding his groove again later.
I heard someone say that Adam Saad sometimes looks like a chicken with its head cut off when he gets the ball. He’s got jets, and loves using them, but sometimes he looks as though he has no idea where he’s headed or what’s gonna happen next. Sounds like my life, actually…
Stringer looked dangerous in the first quarter, but then had an absolute disaster of a second. I’m not even sure he touched it until just before the siren. I wonder if Worsfold toyed with moving him up to high half forward to provide some sort of option. He’s a strong body, and can at least stand in a tackle.
De Goey’s soccer goal was freakish. I thought it was going to dribble through for a point, but he just did everything right in that situation, and the execution was brilliant. De Goey is a beast – strong through the core and very hard to bring to ground. You can see why Collingwood would be desperate to retain him, despite indiscretions.
Jeremy Howe didn’t do a hell of a lot, but his tackle on youngster, Matt Guelfi in the second quarter was a ripper.
Stephenson’s goal in the second quarter was indicative of the Pies’ will to be first to the ball. The Bombers trailed the ball in flight to the goal square, and when Stephenson kicked the goal, three of the closest four players wore black and white.
Nice contest at ground level between Grundy and Daniher on the wing. Grundy wins.
I wonder if there was much talk from the Bombers today? Cale Hooker stood under the ball about 30 metres out.He looked left, right and then finally at the ball before spilling it. It was as though he was expecting contact and no teammate told him otherwise.
I see that David Myers had 20 touches playing mostly as a big-bodied mid. I can’t see him being overly successful in that role. Watching him before his time away from the club, he was used as a half back, and his decision-making was often delayed – he often looked as though he didn’t know what he was doing back then. So it’s no surprise to anyone if he looked that way today too, right? He was OK, actually, but long term… not sure about him in that role.
Stringer’s miss from 20 metres out early in the third was head-dropping stuff.
I don’t think I am alone in wondering how long Joe Daniher had to hold Jack Crisp for it to be awarded holding the ball. Blatant missed free kick. The Pies went coast to coast right after it and Stephenson goaled all by himself. Horrible sequence for both the Bombers and the umpires.
I would love to know the amount of backward and sideways kicks Essendon had in the third quarter. I think it might actually outnumber the amount they had to go forward.
The Magpies’ hands in close were excellent again. Very similar to their ball movement against the Crows. It may come undone against intense pressure, but they weren’t going to get that from this Essendon outfit.
Gutsy mark by Tom Langdon falling backwards.
McGrath gave away fifty which contributed to a shot at goal for the Pies – it was his only score involvement of the day. Yep… smack.
Early in the fourth quarter, a graph showed that Goddard had run 12.1 kilometres. That’s a lot of back and forth across the ground at half back.
A couple of big one on one wins for Ben Reid against Michael Hurley late, including a great stretching mark after excellent use of the body.
Basically the entire fourth quarter was garbage time. It was a good chance to play Cox and Reid into a bit of form.