The Pies got the jump on North Melbourne, and they never looked back, running out winners by 66 points and placing a huge dent in the finals chances of the upstart Kangaroos.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
The tackling machines
The modern AFL game is all about pressure, and it was as though one team realised it more so than the other today.
Humour me for a moment. Here is the list of the players with six or more tackles to their name today. Scott Pendlebury, Jordan de Goey, Brayden Maynard, Josh Daicos, Ben Cunnington, Brayden Sier, and Taylor Adams.
One of these things is not like the others, and sadly for North, it was only one player who looked like he could stick a tackle all day – Cunnington.
The tackling numbers were outstanding for Collingwood. They laid 83 tackles as a team to North Melbourne’s 47. They had more of the ball, and worked harder to dispossess the opposition when they didn’t have it. When you have genuine stars like Pendlebury and de Goey in the list of top tacklers for your team, you must be doing something right.
Jordan de Goey
Speaking of de Goey, is there a better mid/forward in the game currently? Another four goals and 19 touches just continue to enhance his reputation, and make his signing with Collingwood a few weeks ago seem like a masterstroke from the Magpies.
Whatever they’re paying him, it’s not enough at the moment.
He is wonderful on the lead, and even better in a body-to-body contest. His contested mark in front of goal against a wonderful defender in Scott Thompson just highlights how good he is, and hints at what is to come. He is the sort of player who could rip a finals game, or series to shreds.
It’s premature, I know, but as people start looking at Cam Rayner as the next Dustin Martin, we might have something very close already leaping to the fore in de Goey, and he might end up being much better than Dusty around the goals before all is said and done. He’s a joy to watch at the moment.
Taylor Adams in lieu of Adam Treloar
There were quite a few who wrote the Pies off as Treloar was sidelined with a pair of hamstring injuries, but you know those tricky Chinese people and their words – they use two brush strokes when writing “crisis”. One brush stroke is for danger, and the other is for opportunity.
The danger was losing the run and power of Treloar. The opportunity has come in the form of Adams stepping up and making a significant impact. He had 28 disposals today and laid a game-high 10 tackles to be well and truly entrenched in Collingwood’s best.
He was particularly effective early on, collecting 12 of his 28 touches in the first quarter. As good as Treloar is, and as much as the Pies would love to have him back, Adams is demonstrating that not all is lost, and he has turned this apparent crisis into a great opportunity.
Jed Anderson’s contested work
He probably could’ve done a fair bit more today, but I love the hard work Anderson is doing in the North midfield. He is hard at it, and what is strange is that there were Hawthorn supporters who’d mock the trade that sent him to North.
Why? Because Hawthorn received the pick it used on Ryan Burton in exchange. But if we’re looking solely at 2018 performances, North actually looks like they’ve done really well out of the trade. He had a game-high 16 contested possessions today but only had 22 overall touches. This tells me that he isn’t getting very much on the outside at all, but what he’s doing on the inside is easing the burden on Ben Cunnington.
Anderson’s physical pressure in the first quarter looked like it may turn the tide for North. After going off with a head knock with Steele Sidebottom, he burst back into the play with some more big hits at the North half forward line that caused a stoppage. From that stoppage, Grundy gave away a free to Goldstein who goaled.
Anderson is an interesting study – he was all but written off by footy fans after a terrible run with injuries, but he has made an excellent return to form this season, and will be a great asset for the Kangaroos going forward. He’ll never die wondering in a contest.
A Rolls Royce car on each team
We had an earful today with commentators (they just blend into each other for me these days) talking about Shaun Higgins not being influential in this game. I think they may have been partly correct, inasmuch as his disposal inside 50 was a little lacking on the rare occasions he did opt to kick, but his gut-running and centre clearance work was excellent. I think some of those commentators really get sucked into a hive-mind kind of thought pattern. One person says it and the others agree almost as a default.
It was great seeing Higgins and Sidebottom opposed at stoppages. Higgins may be a Rolls Royce, but Steele is a little more like a four-wheel drive. Different styles, but enthralling to watch.
Across from Higgins at many a stoppage was Scott Pendlebury, who topped 30 touches again. If Higgins is a sleek modern Rolls Royce, Pendlebury is a classic. He travelled at 87% efficiency today (Higgins went at 67%) and even managed to bounce the ball on the head of a pigeon as it flew past.
Pendles had a bit of a quieter start to the season for the first couple of rounds, at least in terms of impact but he has been as impressive as any midfielder in the game since. He would have to now start being in strong consideration for yet another All-Australian berth. It’s funny how the cream always rises to the top, isn’t it?
Ben Cunnington’s unique ability
This’ll be a quick one on Cunnington, as I reckon the focus should be on Collingwood given the magnitude of their win, but Cunnington’s ability to take possession, stick out an arm, backpedal, crash into another opposition player and bounce out to get a disposal away is something no one else in the game is doing.
He is like a pinball in there, bouncing around, keeping hold of the ball and looking like he is the only one in control as chaos thrives around him. I know Dustin Martin uses the fend off better than anyone, and Luke Breust has a wicked version as well, but in tight, no one makes space for themselves the way Cunnington does.
You often hear someone say a player works well in a phone box, but I often prefer the term coined by Allan Jeans about Gary Ayres – a good driver in heavy traffic. That’s what Cunnington is; a wonderful driver.
So he had five minutes to prepare himself to play today. Maybe that’s a tactic Collingwood should employ all the time with Daics. This is the best I have seen him play in his young career.
He was an important link man for the Pies today, laid a bunch of tackles, and had five score involvements for the Pies. Spending plenty of time on the wing and up forward, Daicos looked polished, and showed the kind of poise many Pies supporters hoped they’d see from him earlier.
His 23 disposals are far and away a career high, and he was effective with 83% of them.
Howe on Ben Brown
This looked like a dangerous proposition for Collingwood, and in the end, you’ll look at the stats sheet and see Brown finished with two goals, but it was a match up that North fans would’ve liked when they saw it, and fans of the game in general would’ve liked too.
It’s testament to Howe’s development as a defender that sees him line up on the Coleman medal leader to open the game. He switched out after a while and started to ply his trade against Jack Ziebell (who really only got involved early due to free kicks, in truth), who is a better match up for him. Howe's marking and ability to read the ball in flight make him an incredibly valuable asset to have drifting across the front of a pack. I'll readily admit I never saw him becoming an elite defender. How wrong I was...
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many players staggering off the field with blood dripping from their faces… and they were all North Melbourne players.
Ziebell bled like a stuck pig after copping an errant elbow from Jeremy Howe, Todd Goldstein had a cut under his eye and copped a whack in the mouth, Jed Anderson was bleeding from the head, and Scott Thompson looked like Lord Voldemort if Harry Potter was R-rated.
Thompson obviously copped the worst of it, with his nose running like a tap for basically the entire game. Meanwhile, the only running the Pies had to contend with was the run they had out of the backline all game.
The early misses from North really put them behind the eight ball. They appeared to be more settled to begin the game, but were simply unable to capitalise. Misses from Jed Anderson, Goldstein and Daw saw the Roos’ score sit at 0.3 as the Pies ran forward to kick three straight goals.
Collingwood was obviously the better team on the day and probably would’ve had a healthy win irrespective of the misses, but a few goals early may have changed the complexion of the game. As it stands, we won’t know that, and the Pies were head and shoulders above.
The bottom four
I don’t like being harsh on the kids – they obviously need time to mature and develop, but they truly looked like boys playing against men today.
The bottom four in total disposals for the game were Jy Simpkin, Kane Turner, Luke Davies-Uniacke, and Alex Morgan. Morgan gets a semi-pass, sitting out the last quarter and half, but the other boys – they were just ordinary.
Yes, boys against men, but this is a man’s competition. If you play boys, they’ll be treated as such.
You have to wonder about Davies-Uniacke in particular. He padded some stats late in the game, but up until three quarter time, he had only three touches. Simply put, he did not look like it.
His missed tackle on Sam Murray in the middle of the ground in the first quarter (10.50 remaining for those playing along at home) was incredibly poor. It cost a goal as Murray went forward and Will Hoskin-Elliott marked and goaled. If North are serious about making the finals, and they still can, every bloke on the field needs to be a contributor – there can be no passengers, irrespective of age or experience, but if you’re missing the finals – keep them in and get games into them.
North had a few passengers today, and they paid for it
So the stats say he had 13 touches. That’s nowhere near enough for this bloke. He has been threatening to be something for years, but is yet to produce the kind of form that warrants the attention he received as a prospective free agent.
North wrapped him up and signed him to a new deal just a couple of weeks ago, and THIS is how he repays them? His big advantage is his run and carry – he did bugger all of that today. He has a beautiful long, raking kick – only three of those 13 disposals were kicks, and another three of those 13 touches came when the game was absolutely dead and buried in the fourth.
He may look good when he gets it and runs, but Shaun Atley is fast becoming someone that needs others to do the dirty work for him, and no team needs that. I heard someone say during the week he has the potential to have the same kind of impact on games as Andrew Gaff. I’m calling BS on that. He is one year younger than Gaff – you don’t want potential at 25 years old; you want results. Gaff is producing. Atley is still threatening.
It’s a funny thing – threatening. I was always taught never to fear the person who makes threats. You fear the person who just does things without threatening. They mean business. No wonder North are looking at throwing copious amounts of cash at Jared Polec.
It was a bit of a shame to hear Darcy Moore was out again – he just can’t get a good run at it this year, and showed plenty across half back last week.
Horrible mistake from Jamie Macmillan at half back, kicking out on the full under no pressure. His error led directly to a re-entry (and not the good sort) and a goal to Mihocek.
Speaking of Mihocek, he had a ripping first quarter, then completely disappeared for two quarters, only to bob up in the fourth as Nathan Buckley was about to issue a missing persons report.
Great “don’t argue” from Goldstein on Pendlebury in the middle in the first quarter. I thought Goldy had his moments today and more than held his own against Grundy. Overall, Grundy just wears his opponents down, as he has an enormous tank and has great second efforts, but Goldy provided some nice tap work today, and drew a few free kicks along the way against Grundy.
How good was Sidebottom taking the hit from Anderson (there were two heads involved and only one player left the field) and just continuing to go about his business!
Tremendous defensive pressure from the Collingwood backs and mids in the first quarter. For a five minute period, North could not get the ball past the centre.
You reckon Collingwood are pleased with Pick 6 in last year’s draft? Especially when they look at how Pick 2 is travelling in comparison? This is the first game I’ve seen Stephenson struggle with a knock or two. 11 touches and three goals is a nice return, even when hampered by a leg complaint.
At quarter time, 11 of the bottom 13 disposal tallies belonged to North players. Turner, Simpkin and Davies-Uniacke all had goose eggs next to their names.
Didn’t like seeing Morgan takes his eyes off the ball when contesting at ground level early in the second. As a result, Stephenson kicked a goal – glossed over by the commentators, but these little things – sure hands and keeping your eyes on the prize – mean a heap when a goal results to the opposition. I hope he learns from that.
I thought Majak took some nice marks today. If oppositions do not lay some sort of physical on him as he starts his run at the ball, there’ll be trouble. We often hear of basketball backgrounds in footy, but rarely basketball terms – how about “Put a body on him”?
No idea how Grundy stood by himself at 40 out for so long as the Pies messed around with the ball at half forward. It took Sidebottom to get things hurrying along, and Grundy saluted with a nice mark and goal.
You see some amazing connections between Goldstein and Higgins at centre bounces, but I am still waiting for Higgins to lower the eyes as he bursts from the clearance and hit a leading target. Too often I think he is happy to go long to Brown and Daw in hope.
The forward handball is such an interesting tactic. I felt today as though Collingwood were inviting North to handball offensively, only to put increased pressure on the player receiving. It is such a roll of the dice – if you intercept, as happened when Scharenberg grabbed one and hit de Goey in the last quarter, it’s a great counter attack, but if it gets through, as happened when Brown found Majak Daw in the second quarter, it can really hurt.
Josh Thomas is repaying the faith from the Pies. Loved his inboard kick to Cox in the second when 90% of players would’ve bombed to the goal square.
Here’s an interesting little thing I noticed. North did really well in the clearances, winning 34-30, but where the Pies were really good were in taking control of those stoppages with the second or third disposal. It was as though North players would get their hands on it (Higgins, Cunnington) but the pressure by the Pies was so good, that their disposals would be ineffective, and the next kick by a Collingwood player would be way more effective than the actual clearance. What would you call it – a secondary clearance? A true clearance? Anyway, if a stat was kept for it, I reckon the Pies would be way out in front.
Only five touches to Shaun Atley at half time. Terrible.
One of the best front and centre takes of the year belonged to Travis Varcoe today. I still reckon he doesn’t do much, but what he does do always stands out.
Not too sure about Majak’s holding the ball win over Grundy in the third. I thought the tackle slipped away.
There was a pretty good reason why the high contact free kick the commentators were screaming for to Kane Turner wasn’t paid in the North goal square. It was because it wasn’t actually high. Great decision by the umpire not to fall for it.
Loved Jeremy Howe’s crunching tackle on Dumont.
Interesting tactic by Sam Murray to try to tackle Levi Greenwood right in front of goals to hold the ball in. The ump was a wake up to it, too, and Ziebell goaled as a result.
Good to see Grundy out and running, having a bounce.
I thought Tom Langdon’s game in defence was very underrated today. Very steady all day.
The focus seemed to be on Dumont laying a shepherd early in the last, but the miscommunication between he and Marley Williams was poor. Williams handballed it right into his back as Dumont seemed intent on running interference for him. I don’t think it was an overly great day for Marley.
Not too sure about the idea from Chris Mayne to handball to the running Mason Cox at half forward with defenders hot on his heels. I get that he was trying to be unselfish, but there’s unselfish, and there’s selling your teammate into trouble.
And that’ll do us. REALLY looking forward to the big match up with the Tigers and Pies next week. It will be an absolute belter. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that Melbourne turns on a bit of nice weather so we can get a fantastic September preview. For the Roos… I really want them to make the finals but I worry about the bottom tier of players. They’re very hit and miss, but the need to play them to build for the future has to be balanced with the necessity of winning now. What do you prefer, North fans?
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