Collingwood v Melbourne - The Good, Bad and Ugly

In front of over 83,000 people, the Magpies made a huge statement, dropping the highly-fancied Melbourne Demons by seven goals.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

The big stage

This really goes both ways. Those who stood up, and those who didn’t. Which players relished the big stage, and which players shrunk? Mason Cox stood up. Jordan de Goey stood up. Tom McDonald stood up. But where were Christian Petracca, Angus Brayshaw and Jesse Hogan?

The big stage can make or break a player. There’s not many finals played in front of half empty stadiums, or in Alice Springs. You’ve got to get big wins in front of big crowds.

The Melbourne players mentioned above have the ability to produce huge numbers. Let’s see them do it in front of a big crowd at the MCG before we start touting them as premiership contenders. Let’s see if they can perform on the big stage before we anoint them as contenders.

You don’t win flags in June… and it was a harsh lesson today for several Melbourne stars.

Mason Cox

Clunk… clunk… clunk… goal… goal… goal.

That was basically the story of Mason Cox up forward for the Pies today. There’s been times this year where he has looked out of place, and people… including myself, have thought that he doesn’t look like he belongs out there.

He belonged today, and more than that, he owned today! Six goals playing against a good defensive set up is a magnificent return. And it wasn’t just in the air that Cox reigned supreme. His work at ground level seems to have improved substantially. His snap off the handball from Adams was excellent, and he beat Oscar McDonald to a loose ball in the third quarter that I thought he had no chance of getting.

Not everyone has sung Cox’s praises this season, but they’d have no choice today. He was huge… pardon the pun.

Jordan de Goey

What a first half. After a couple of weeks where he wasn’t amongst Collingwood’s best, he looked like he meant business right from the start.

He was a complete bull today, and looked every part the superstar in the making many believe he is. Whilst we’ve seen him play up forward so effectively, today we saw him in full power midfielder mode. He finished with 12 inside 50 deliveries after having ten in the first half, and man… he loves finding Jaidyn Stephenson. Those two looks as though they have a bit of a special connection.

Melbourne sent Jack Viney to him in the second half, which is basically the ultimate compliment for de Goey.

Jordan de Goey’s price tag will now start to be a topic of conversation again, as he remains out of contract at season’s end. There’ll be teams circling, but he fits at Collingwood, and fits perfectly.

Stephenson v Jetta

Stephenson looked great early, and Melbourne were forced to pull a switch and send their best small defender onto him. What ensued was a great one-on-one battle between the two.

Jetta is having a career renaissance, whilst we’re witnessing the genesis of Stephenson’s career. The Collingwood forward finished with four goals and missed another three. Of those, two goals came against Jetta, but there were some great individual wins for Jetta as well.

If you’re looking for a clear winner, it’s Stephenson on the whole game, but Jetta was far from disgraced. Stephenson finished with 12 disposals and 6 tackles. Jetta had 10 possessions, of which seven were intercepts.

Biggest play between the two saw Jetta lead Stephenson to the ball and try to step around him. Stephenson had none of that, caught Jetta holding the ball, and the resultant advantage kick saw Josh Thomas mark and goal 25 metres out.

Tom McDonald

He is close to the best forward in the game at the moment, and showed why today.

Matt Scharenberg is no slouch, and he had a very good first half. I had him as one of the Pies best after two quarters. And then TMac went permanent forward and managed to get isolation several times.

What resulted was a five goal second half blast from McDonald. I felt for Scharenberg – he ran into a buzz saw named McDonald today. There wasn’t much he could do. McDonald was not at all intimidated by the big stage. He is a star, and was shining whilst many other Demon ‘stars’ faded.

Steele Sidebottom

Another wonderful outing by the next captain of Collingwood.

Steele showed composure, class and went hard to get the ball when he had to. He finished with 14 contested touches amongst his 32 disposals, and took a couple of nice marks under pressure as well. He added five clearances and six inside 50 deliveries.

I love that Sidebottom is now finding the time to appraise the situation and find great options when he gets the ball on the outside. This is all part of him developing into a great leader – he is making his teammates better.

Lynden Dunn

I’m not sure he got beaten in a one-on-one all night. He has often been criticised for doing stupid things in games; sometimes by me in these reviews, and I’ve often thought you allow him one dumb act per game.

There were no dumb acts tonight. He outduelled Jesse Hogan when he was isolated on him, and was excellent when the ball was at ground level, throwing his big body into the mix to win the contest and/or make space for his teammates.

The one moment that stood out for me was the race back from centre half forward against Mitch Hannan. He had no right to be in that sixty metre sprint, but there he was when the contest was decided, neck and neck. If you looked at that as a one-on-one in isolation before the game, you’d think Hannan wins it and probably runs into an open goal. Great desperation by Dunn.

Gawn v Grundy

So here we are, thinking that today would determine just who would be the All-Australian ruck outcome. No such luck.

Grundy was better over the four quarters, and he had 10 hit outs to advantage, to Gawn’s five. But then, Gawn was better in the first half. But then, Grundy’s defensive efforts were better. But then, Gawn went forward and kicked a goal.

I wanted a definitive answer today, and all I got was waters further muddied. If forced to choose one, I think Grundy was better, but by no means was it a complete victory.

THE BAD

Jesse Hogan unable to take a mark

Shrinking on the big stage after beating up on a couple of teams, Hogan went goalless for the first time this season in the Demons’ biggest game of the year. He didn’t take a mark until the third quarter, and was a non-factor in the game.

The problem is… he had plenty of mates. When a big forward has a down day, it’s okay when the mids are on song. They weren’t on song today.

Hannan kicked a couple, but was far from influential, and Jake Melksham, who has been a contested-ball beast this season, failed to really fire a shot.

But Hogan is the big gun in this forward line. As he goes, the others follow. Today he did bugger all, and several of his mates followed.

The sacrifice of Angus Brayshaw

Really shaky start by Tom Phillips this week. He made mistakes and looked to be a step slower than usual. There were simply no easy kicks for him early in the game, and he usually gets a bit of outside ball. Well done to the Dees to shut down his run, but Angus Brayshaw was the sacrifice.

Was it worth giving up the ball-winning ability of Brayshaw to curtail the influence of Phillips? In the last two weeks, Brayshaw has had 37 and 39 touches. Today he had 16 and no influence on the play. Phillips didn’t either, finishing with 19.

They played to a draw, but if you look at the game as a whole, the Melbourne mids were beaten soundly. They could’ve used a player like Brayshaw in and under today. They cut off their nose to spite their face, and though it didn't hurt on the surface, underneath his influence was missed.

THE UGLY

Free kick below the knees.

I’m getting a bit sick of these re-interpretations.

This rule was brought in to stop players being injured by opposition players sliding in feet first. It’s the Gary Rohan rule, introduced in knee-jerk fashion by the AFL when Rohan had his ankle broken. Years later, it has morphed into what we now see - any contact below the knees in a contest is penalised irrespective of who arrives first.

Taylor Adams dived after the ball and knocked it into the path of his teammate. The whistle blew and a free kick was awarded to Joel Smith, who stopped, and then with both feet, fell over the top of the fallen Adams.

This sort of free kick, penalising the more desperate player, is completely against the spirit of the game.

What made it worse was that as a result of this free kick, the ball went forward and Jack Viney handed to McDonald for a goal. It completely halted the Collingwood momentum. It was a horrible free kick, and one the AFL should be looking at in the off-season, as it is a blight on the game.

Christian Petracca

Apparently this bloke fancies himself a bit.

He is a star in the making, and a big, strong body that can stand up in tackles, take hits and dish them out. How I wish I saw some of that today.

He was taken at number two in 2014. Three picks later, a bloke named Jordan de Goey was picked up. Compare the two today. I keep going back to the big stage, and for good reason. De Goey performed. Petracca did not.

Petracca finished with 15 touches, and got 7 of them contested. He didn’t hit the scoreboard, and in a high-contested game, he had one tackle. I doubt this’ll shake his confidence, but maybe it’s time Petracca does some of the hard stuff next time the Dees have a marquee game. Otherwise you may get a bit of a reputation as being someone who goes OK when the going is easy, but doesn’t do much when the heat is on.

No one likes to be known as a flat track bully.

 

OTHER BITS

Daniel Wells… I said it to my old mate Adam West a couple of weeks ago. Looks too heavy.

Pendlebury selling the candy to Nathan Jones on the half forward boundary was gorgeous. He hit de Goey short, who hit cox for the goal. Credit Pendlebury for making something out of nothing.

Anyone put some money on Stephenson to win the Rising Star award? Must be close to Tom Doedee in the race right now.

Loved the physical clashes in this game. Good to see an early one between Jack Crisp and Nathan Jones. Physicality in the game isn’t dead as long as we have games like this.

How did Clayton Oliver not make the distance from 45 metres out early in the game?

I so wanted Jeremy Howe to kick the goal after busting through a pair of Demon defenders in the first quarter. Not a lot of difficulty in the shot compared to some of the other goals this year, but it was the busting of the pack that I loved.

Adam Treloar gets under my guard every week. He had none touches in the first quarter and I barely remember seeing him.

Not much was made of the Howe mark early in the third, but it was a good mark with the flight of the ball. If it were anyone else, we’d be lauding them, but because it’s Howe, it’s just another day at the office.

Phillips’ clanger to allow Harmes to swoop and goal was a monumental error. He had time, space and just fumbled it right in front of goal. Then he went to ground. Two cardinal sins in the backline.

Jordan Lewis had 33 touches today. It didn’t feel like it as he has so many touches as part of the chain of Demon possessions. None of his touches were better than his handball to Nathan Jones across half back which opened the game right up through the middle.

Hogan may not have got much of the ball early, but his spoil on Howe, where he took the body as well, opened the door for Neal-Bullen to goal.

De Goey’s efforts to keep the ball in around the wing, sharing it with Treloar allowed Will Hoskin-Elliott to run forward and mark all by himself 25 metres out. It was against the flow at that point, and a clear indication that this wasn’t a game that would change momentum suddenly.

Stephenson should’ve kicked the goal to open the second half. His unselfish handball attempt whilst running into goal, 15 metres out was the epitome of being TOO UNSELFISH.

Tim Watson on commentary called for a too high free kick to Christian Salem early in the third. My take – if you duck, or lean into a tackle to try and get a high free kick, you should be penalised.

A few minutes into the third quarter, I noted that Scharenberg had been excellent on McDonald to this point. Oops…

Cracking goal from Stephenson whilst laying on his back. Made the best position to mark against Jetta, but fell over. Still, quick thinking to throw the ball on the boot.

Amazing pressure on the wing by the Pies, not allowing the Dees any clean run. It culminated with Josh Daicos catching Hannan holding the ball.

Will Hoskin-Elliott has a beautiful pair of hands.

The third quarter was where Mason Cox really imposed himself. He was completely robbed on a mark near the boundary where the umpire thought his second grab was over the line. It was a clear mark inside the line.

Amazing desperation by Howe to chase down Hogan and then Spargo to cause a miss at the beginning of the last quarter.

Tom Langdon (the somewhat attractive looking young lady) had a ripping game across half back. Loved his intercept marking and defensive positioning.

Interesting comment by BT on Wells – “He does like to be 100% when he plays.” What did that mean? He can’t play hurt? Can’t carry an injury? That was long the knock on him at North Melbourne.

Junk time after five minutes into the last quarter. Best thing for the rest of the game was seeing Daisy Pearce in a beanie. His her five-head and she looked really good. She should add a beanie to her regular ensemble.

Great win for the Pies. Statement win and adding to the perception that the Dees can’t beat anyone who is in form. Are they flat track bullies? Let us know. Give us a Like on Facebook or a Follow on Twitter and we’ll have a chat about it with 5000 or so of our closest friends.