West Coast v Collingwood - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The West Coast Eagles travelled to the MCG and walked away with a win over Collingwood, and a sense that they are a legitimate premiership threat.

Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of their 35 point win.

 

THE GOOD

Mark Hutchings

Take a bow, mark.

Whilst many have lauded the efforts of Ben Jacobs and George Hewett, Hutchings put an exclamation point on his season today with a magnificent run-with role, completing shutting the prolific Steele Sidebottom out of the game, and aiding in rendering the Collingwood midfield ineffective.

I remember sitting back watching the first quarter and thinking Sidebottom had been hardly sighted. Then I saw him flash past, and right with him was Mark Hutchings, and I just nodded.

Hutchings had 15 touches of his own today, but it was late in the game when he caused Sidey to lower his head in defeat. With the game in wind down mode, Hutchings released Sidebottom from his clamps and ran forward. Elliot Yeo made an interception and got the ball to him, and Hutchings finished for the Eagles.

Sidebottom walked back to the centre as Hutchings celebrated with teammates.

The big two back

If you want to talk pure statistical impact, the individual returns for Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling aren’t all that impressive individually.

Darling took only two marks for the game, and Kennedy five, but the presence of the two big targets seemed to make the Eagles walk taller. As the midfielders ran forward, they knew they had targets that would, at the very least, bring the ball to ground for their smalls to run onto.

Kennedy was responsible for three early goals for West Coast. He kicked two himself, and was awarded a free kick that allowed Darling to take the advantage and run into an open goal. Whilst Darcy Moore zoned off Kennedy several times to make an impact, Kennedy stayed home, and finished with three goals. If not for the advantage rule, he’d have had five.

Darling got a couple of huge wins out on the wing against his opponent for the day, Matt Scharenberg in the third quarter. Using his body brilliantly, he was able to get over the back twice and on one of the occasions, set up Mark LeCras for a one-on-one contest with Jeremy Howe, which he won and goaled from.

Darling looked to take a while to warm into the game, but his contested mark in the last quarter, with Moore trying to spoil, and Brodie Grundy in the vicinity, was reminiscent of what he was doing in the first half of the year on a weekly basis.

Welcome back, big fellas… just in time to make a run at top two.

Jeremy McGovern

This was a powerful performance by McGovern. When Jordan de Goey was looking electric early in the game, it was McGovern who decided enough was enough, and took it upon himself to cut off multiple entries where de Goey was the target.

He had a game-high four contested marks, and had 14 intercept possessions. He managed to build a wall across half back all by himself at one stage, and completely altered the way Collingwood were going forward.

McGovern looked so much more comfortable back in defence, after being thrown forward by Adam Simpson to plug holes in recent weeks, and his 22 disposals and six spoils attest to that.

Gaff after quarter time

The running man was at it again today. He was completely worked out of it in the first quarter, but Gaff has the kind of work ethic that means somehow, someway, he’ll get involved.

He battled back from having just four touches in the first quarter to finish with an equal game-high 30 disposals and sent the Eagles inside attacking 50 on six occasions.

Another week, another non-signing by the Eagles. It’s looking like he’s going right? But then, people said that about Rory Sloane in Adelaide, too.

De Goey dangerous again

I’m not sure that there is a more exciting forward/mid in the game right now than de Goey. He just looks dangerous every time he goes near the ball.

That move that seems to be becoming his go-to move – the one where he gathers the ball and jumps sideways suddenly, is something no other player in the league is pulling off with any sort of regularity. To add to that move, he then looks to the goals and sidesteps around any foolish enough to encounter him.

De Goey is already repaying the faith at Collingwood, and if they are going to push deep into September, he’ll have a big say in it. He finished with four goals and threatened to take the game over in the first quarter.

Nathan Buckley must have wrestled with whether to keep him in the midfield, with Sidebottom unable to influence the contest this afternoon, but that would’ve left a hole in the forward line, particularly with de Goey’s partner in crime, Jaidyn Stephenson having a quieter outing, and Will Hoskin-Elliott still feeling the effects of a leg injury from last week.

Darcy Moore had his hands full down back with the Eagles’ big two, which made throwing him forward difficult as well. I suppose a situation like this demonstrates just how much an injury to a pillar of your team, as Lynden Dunn is to Collingwood, shakes things up.

Lycett steps up

When Nic Nat bit the dust in the second quarter, I was watching and waiting for Brodie Grundy to take the game over.

It didn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong – I think Grundy did an admirable job. He had six contested touches in the first quarter, going head to head with Naitanui, but once Nic Nat was injured, I felt that Grundy’s influence was negligible. Give credit to Lycett for that.

Forced to play a lone hand in the ruck, Lycett was commendable. His stats are not going to blow anyone away – Nine touches and 17 hit outs as opposed to Grundy’s 14 and 30, but Grundy was unable to take a mark all day, and a lot of that was due to the attention he received from Lycett.

It appears as though we might be about to see a lot more of Lycett in the ruck for the Eagles, and if today’s efforts are anything to go by, he’ll more than hold his own.

 

THE BAD

Dangerous tackle… my backside

Now if you have a look at some other footage today, you’ll see Robbie Gray get dumped over the boundary line in Perth and have his marbles scrambled by a legitimate dangerous tackle. No one will have an issue with that tackle being punished.

However, at the MCG a dangerous tackle decision was awarded against Elliot Yeo in the second quarter that was farcical. In the ruck contest where Naitanui was injured, Taylor Adams picked up the ball and was caught by Yeo. It was a great tackle, and Yeo rolled him to the side. Seriously, I just went back and watched this and showed my missus… she thought it was soft as butter as well, and she turns away from anything violence-related that doesn’t involve giant robots from Pacific Rim movies. Adams collides slightly with the stationary Jack Redden on the way down and his head does not touch the ground. It was “light falling over.”

The decision is made and you can hear the crowd groan. It’s rules like this, and their interpretation that just confuse and frustrate supporters. Wanna know what’s worse? Taylor Adams jumped up, took the kick and De Goey was awarded a free kick for holding inside 50, so that weak-as-urine decision led directly to a scoring opportunity for Collingwood.

Check out the video below of this terrible decision.

Steele can’t break the tag

If there’s been one constant in the Collingwood side this year, it’s that Steele Sidebottom will outlast his opponent and come good down the stretch. It was the story… until today.

We’ve paid tribute to Hutchings’ game above, but with Sidebottom down, and Treloar missing for an extended period, the Collingwood midfield, so good for so long, looked a little under siege. They have been able to rely on Sidebottom to produce as the game drags on – his endurance and aerobic ability (which are the same thing, I guess, but you know… it makes it sound nicer when I say two things) usually see him come to the fore late in games.

But he got the wet blanket treatment today, and just couldn’t shake it.

 

THE UGLY

Nic Nat's knee

Sometimes you can just tell something is not going to turn out well, and when Nic Naitanui limped off the ground, there was a sense that something very bad had happened.

Footage soon emerged from him hobbling around the West Coast rooms, and those hoping it was something minor saw their hopes dissipate just a little more. It always seems to be the innocuous incidents that turn out to be the worst ones, and today, with Nic Nat trailing Grundy to a contest, it was an innocuous as it gets.

Whilst the football hopes for the best, it fears for the worst. Naitanui’s return from his last knee injury was a long one. The Eagles did everything they could to get him right, and have managed him through the season to this point to ensure he could have as significant an impact as possible and as little wear and tear as they could manage.

And now this – the other knee gives way. If this is anything like his last injury, he will not play again until 2020. It seems so far away. Fingers crossed.

The worst 50 metre penalty of the year

We’ve seen protected zone, late spoils and abuse cost teams 50 metres, but the penalty against Travis Varcoe today, for encroaching over the mark was the worst I’ve seen.

Why? Because he was still a good two metres behind the mark when the whistle blew! It was a shocking decision, and the umpire just guessed this one. Gaff marked it and stood still for a second or two, assessing his options, and Varcoe moved to the vicinity of the mark. Gaff started backpedalling and there was the ump, blowing the whistle like he just received it and was dying to try it out.

He GUESSED that Varcoe had infringed. He hadn’t. It cost a goal, and it put the Eagles up by 19 points late in the quarter.

 

OTHER BITS

Forget Nic Nat’s tackles on Brandan Parfitt and Karl Amon earlier in the year. Jack Crisp’s take down of a rampaging Nic Nat is close to being the tackle of the year. It was a belter!

I heard that Will Hoskin-Elliott had to prove his fitness to play this week after suffering what I thought was a knee injury last week. Turned out it was an upper-shin. Well, I reckon he tricked whoever gave him the fitness test, because he was not in the game all day today.

Really didn’t like the free kick paid against McGovern for taking the legs out of Josh Thomas. Gov had both hands on the ball and was first there. This is not the reason the rule was introduced. It was introduced to stop incidents like Lindsay Thomas sliding in on Gary Rohan. This was so far removed from that action that you cannot compare them. It’s a rule that needs to be looked at. This, and the dangerous tackle rule as well. Both cost West Coast goals today.

The Pies just owned the footy for the first ten minutes. They ran in numbers, and in once instance, tackled in numbers, with three Pies laying a tackle simultaneously in the middle. The Eagles looked a little shell shocked, actually, and were being forced into silly errors. It took Josh Kennedy standing up in the forward line to settle them down.

I wonder why players are  scared to lay a bit of body contact. At one point a kick to de Goey dropped short at half forward. He was steaming out, and two Eagles were coming the other way. No contact was made. It was the perfect opportunity to run into the bloke looking the most likely to take the game over. I miss that gladiatorial aspect.

Jeremy Howe was very unlucky to have a mark paid against him to Josh Kennedy in the first quarter. As the man in front, I thought Howe had just as much of it as Kennedy, yet saw the full forward paid the mark, and kick a goal.

The next contest between the two was a little more decisive, with Kennedy expertly using his body to mark on his chest. I love seeing a forward take control of the game like that, even with a quality defender like Howe opposed to him.

Lewis Jetta did everything right in leaving his man to make the spoil at half back… except one thing. The ball was not punched forward. It got over the back and there were Pies everywhere. It was like a fat kid’s birthday platter! Hoskin-Elliott handed to de Goey in the square for his second.

There are too many pigeons on the MCG. Please remove 60. No… I am not a crackpot.

With that blonde hair, and gaunt features, Darcy Moore is starting to look a fair bit like Moana Hope. Credit to some dude on Twitter whose joke I just stole.

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Brad Sheppard is having a ripping year, but he looked a little jumpy in the first quarter when he had to chase Stephenson. He got into his back and held him and gave away the free. To his credit, Sheppard worked him out pretty soon after.

Really quiet first quarter from Yeo. He’d have nine touches in the second to make up for it.

Jack Redden has been the surprise packet for the Eagles this year with the retirement of Priddis, and to a lesser extent, Mitchell. 30 touches today, 11 contested possessions, eight marks and seven tackles. Pretty complete game matched up against Pendlebury for large parts.

Speaking of Redden, really smart to suck Grundy in and draw the free kick when Grundy dragged him down. I haven’t seen Grundy lose his cool often, but he did today, and it cost a free kick.

Pendlebury had an interesting game. Looked to be wanting to play his regular role, where he has all the time in the world, and makes great decisions, but the options just didn’t seem to be there for him today. His handball to nowhere in the second quarter was made to look halfway decent by Josh Thomas who was the only bloke to keep his head over it amid the scramble. He backed out and snapped a nice goal.

Moore started to look ominous when allowed a run at a contest. He killed a few in the second quarter.

Disappointed not to get a look at the incident where McGovern was dumped by Greenwood after disposing of the ball. A downfield free kick was paid and Gov had to go off briefly, so SOMETHING happened. If you’ve got footage, please share.

Willie Rioli kicked the Rioli-est goal he ever Rioli-ed in the second, as he just waltzed through the defenders and slotted a goal from 30. Lovely stuff from Willie.

Loved Brandon Maynard’s run through the middle with Elliot Yeo in hot pursuit. His kick to Stephenson at half forward, travelling at that pace, was excellent.

I thought the Eagles got hammered with tackling free kicks in a couple of minute period. We had the Yeo “dangerous tackle… ugh, then Crocker did one of the few things worth talking about from him all day – got caught in a Gaff tackle that was deemed in the back but clearly wasn’t. Moments before, Matt Scharenberg took possession of the ball whilst on the his knees, was tackled, and it was a bounce. Consistency…

Nice couple of elbows thrown by Pendles under the guise of trying to get rid of the ball.

Horrible turnover at half back from Varcoe saw LeCras get the handball from Venables for the goal. I think Varcoe’s negatives are starting to outweigh his positives in the Collingwood side. He doesn’t do anywhere near enough.

Saw Luke Breust wait for the ball to get over the back yesterday instead of jumping at the ball as a defender bore down on him with the flight. Willie Rioli did it today in the second quarter, too. Had he leapt at the ball instead of waiting, he gets front on contact and a free kick. Instead, Brandon Maynard gets a spoil. That was an un-Rioli-like piece of play.

Second free kick to Kennedy that sees advantage taken wound up with Darling handing off to Rioli for a goal early in the third.

Wonderful clash of bodies between Rioli and Tom Phillips as both contested a mark, and I was so relieved to see play go on and no whistle being blown. Too many times the whistle goes for any contact in a marking contest. This was just two blokes committed to making the ball their own. Play on!

Rioli’s third goal looked so easy. It definitely wasn’t but he made it look at that way. The way he looked so relaxed slotting it from 50 as defenders closed in… pretty Rioli-ish if you ask me. Great hands from Masten to feed him, as well.

Fantastic tackle from Kennedy on Howe just outside 50. The Pies started to look a little gassed around this point. Howe was a stationary target, and as such, was easy pickings for the charging Kennedy. It was definitely one of those handballs that did nothing but transfer the pressure from one player to another.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate ruck free kicks? Yes? Multiple times, you say? Well, the one against Grundy to Lycett early in the last quarter went on the list today. You can see by the look on Grundy’s face just how well it was received.

Great zone off by Darcy Moore to prevent the Cripps mark 15 metres out. He backed himself and got a hand in there as Rioli streamed forward.

As fatigue set in, the Eagles’ field kicking really seemed to elevate. They were patient and just hit targets from one side of the ground to the other and back again until something opened up for them.

Another ripping tackle from Kennedy, this time on Darcy Moore sees the advantage taken by Gaff, who went inside 50 and Darling snapped a goal. Three free kicks to Kennedy resulted in goals to other people today.

Ripping intercept mark by Duggan to finish off our review. It was almost a specie, but wasn’t. He looked like he wasn’t expecting to mark it at all.

If I had a time machine and went  back to Round One, and told myself that by Round 17, Collingwood would look inept up forward without Mason Cox, I probably would’ve laughed at myself, but there you go…

Great win at the ‘G by the Eagles. They must be feeling good about their team as a whole, whilst feeling a bit down about the injury to Nic Nat. The Pies… well, what has been working didn’t work today. That doesn’t mean it won’t work next week. Cox will straighten them up a little.

 

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