Collingwood v Essendon - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Magpies took on the rejuvenated Bombers in a clash that had the potential to solidify one team’s claims as a contender, or put the other right back in the mix for a finals berth. In the end, Collingwood ran out 16 point winners.

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

THE GOOD

The A-Grade captain

The last eight weeks, there has been no more important midfielder in the competition than Scott Pendlebury, and today in the last quarter, he was enormous.

Pendlebury took the game by the scruff of the neck and shook the life out of it in the last, compiling a spectacular 14 disposals to power his team over the line. Unless my eyes were deceiving me, at three consecutive stoppages in the fourth quarter, Pendlebury was the one to get first hands on it and get the clearance – not just a hurried kick kind of clearance, either.

At the start of the year, Mike Sheahan stated he no longer thought Pendles as an A-Grader. He may be right, because this game was A+.

The captain finished with 34 disposals, nine tackles, 11 clearances and 19 contested possessions. It was THE signature game of the year from Pendles, punctuated by a dominant last quarter. There is still plenty of miles left in the tank of the classiest Rolls Royce in the game, and it’s still as smooth a ride as it’s ever been.

De Goey worth every cent

As time ticks by, the deal Collingwood cut to keep Jordan de Goey at the club will look better and better, particularly when he drifts forward and plays the role of match winner.

De Goey owned three of the last ten goals of the game, and was the dominant force forward of centre after half time. He is a bull – a wall of force with legs and skilled on either side of his body.

There’s a funny thing about really good teams (note, not great yet) – they have surprise packets in years they break through, and players that take their game to another level. This year, Collingwood have unleashed Jaidyn Stephenson, have watched Matt Scharenberg grow before their eyes, and are witnessing Jordan de Goey morph into an absolute star of the game. Teams that do this often go onto big things in the year this happens.

But in honour of Louie the Lip… let’s not put the kiss of death on them just yet.

De Goey’s three second half goals came as part of 20 disposals, as he spent a fair amount of time in the midfield early on. However Collingwood got him to sign, it is working out brilliantly for both parties already.

Devon Smith almost gets a quadruple double

Being a bit of a geek, I got genuinely excited at three quarter time when I perused the stats and saw the following stat line for Devon Smith.

14 kicks, 11 handballs, 11 tackles and 8 marks.

Just two marks and Smith was going to do something only six others have been able to do since records of these stats have been kept – achieve the rare AFL Quadruple Double. And no, before you start, we’re not counting hit outs, or contested possessions, or one percenters. Just kicks, handballs, marks and tackles.

This has not been achieved in over three years, and Smith was so close today. Sadly, he didn’t take another mark for the game, so I had to put away my party poppers, stick my pencils back in my pocket protector and go and play some Baldur’s Gate to get my geek-fix.

On a serious note, he has to be leading Essendon’s best and fairest this season. He is a tackling machine, and runs his backside off all day for the Bomber cause. I don’t think there’d be one Essendon supporter questioning what they gave up to get him – he is a star, and he did his All Australian chances no harm with his performance today. 31 touches, and 13 tackles… huge game.

Read more about the AFL Quadruple Double here

Steele Sidebottom stands up

Just as his Captain did in the last quarter, the next Captain of the club followed suit.

In his 200th game, Steele Sidebottom dug deep and helped propel his Magpies over the line. I have to admit, when I heard at the start of the season that several thought that Sidebottom should take the reins as Collingwood Captain, I was a little sceptical. Pendles had the runs on the board and was such a great leader, but after watching Sidebottom ply his trade this year, I think 2019 may be the right time.

Sidebottom rose to the occasion in the last quarter, combining with Pendlebury to compile 25 touches between them (11 for Sidey). He kicked a telling goal after a 50 metre penalty which… hmmmm, we’ll get to that, and was both creative and patient with the ball in hand.

I wrote earlier about teams finding something special from young players in very good sides. Collingwood have done that, but they have also seen further improvement from their leaders as well. Steele Sidebottom should be an All-Australian in 2018, and will be the captain of the biggest club in the land in 2019. The time is right for both.

Check out Steele in our Rolling All Australian Team

Stephenson v Saad teaser

Does anyone else feel as though we may have been a little robbed of this match up when Saad was released from duties on Stephenson? I sure did, but I could see why Worsfold didn’t want Saad isolated on the young Magpie – Stephenson is a star in the making.

His ability to read the ball in flight, and get into the right position to capitalise on the drop makes him an absolute nightmare to man up on. Whilst Saad had him covered for speed, as we saw on the wing when he shut him down, Stephenson’s footy nous saw him notch six touches, four marks and a goal in the first quarter. That was enough for Worsfold to ensure that Conor McKenna had the rest of the game to subdue the young Magpie.

Saad was a little disappointing overall. He failed to get the run he usually gets off half back and was largely ineffective on a day the Bombers really could’ve used his run and carry. In the one instance he got loose and was able to get forward, he hit McDonald-Tipungwuti on the chest for a goal.

Stephenson faded from the game as well, but really should’ve had a couple of goals to his name.

Mason Cox belongs

The big fella goes from strength to strength. He had his old man there today, apparently, and his dad would’ve been extremely proud.

Cox has become a huge threat up forward. Not only does he provide a huge aerial target, he competes at ground level really well now, and takes the opposition’s best big defender. Today he got Cale Hooker and was able to split the points with him.

He took seven marks, with six of them being contested, making it one of the best contested marking games of the season by a forward, and his ability to bring the ball to ground even when out of position is proving to be invaluable to the smaller Pies around him.

Zerrett back to his best

He had a bit of a slow start to the season, but the Essendon resurgence over the past couple of months has gone hand in hand with that of Zach Merrett.

His last seven weeks have seen him average 29.28 disposals per game, which is getting back to the sort of numbers Essendon supporters were hoping for this season. He had 15 contested touches today as well as six clearances to lead his team in both categories.

The Bombers now sit two games outside the eight and will need similar output from Zerrett if their slim finals hopes are to be realised.

Brodie v Belch

I loved the ruck duel today. I thought Bellchambers had Grundy’s number early on. He was matching the current Mongrel All Australian ruckman around the ground and beating him at ruck contests, but part of Grundy’s appeal is his endurance, and by the end of the game, I had Grundy pulling ahead, and not by a small margin.

Grundy finished with 24 touches (14 contested) and 34 hit outs (13 to advantage) whilst Bellchambers had 15 disposals (7 contested), and 28 hit outs (12 to advantage). Grundy was also able to sneak forward and slot a goal.

THE BAD

50 metres… for that?

Well, I personally didn’t think the umpiring was as bad as the commentators were making out, today. The free kick count may have been 26-17 in favour of the Pies, but there weren’t THAT many instances where I thought it was a blatant miscarriage of justice (thank you Gorilla Monsoon). That said, there were a couple of iffy moments and they probably did fall Collingwood's way. Were the Bombers crucified? Probably not. Did the Pies get the rub? Hmmm, maybe.

That said, I hated… absolutely hated the decision to award Steele Sidebottom a 50 metre penalty after he got rid of the ball and Goddard took him to ground. The part I hate about it most was that it was completely correct.

If you dispose of it and are tackled to the ground after releasing the ball, and prevented from competing, you get a 50 metre penalty – it is a rule that is rarely applied, but there it was today, sticking out like the proverbial, and having a huge impact on the contest. It allowed Sidebottom to get within range and slot home the second of four goals in a row for the Magpies.

These types of decisions are killers in a tight contest. This was the last quarter, damn it. This is a do-or-die battle for Essendon… and we’re handing out 50 metre penalties for garbage like this? Again, I know it is within the rules to pay it. I know it was, in theory, the correct decision, but it is against the spirit of the game, it is over-officiating, and it is something that needs to be looked at.

These kinds of almost inconsequential acts should not be resulting in such harsh penalties, and definitely should not be determining factors in a game of this magnitude.

Rant over… for the moment.

THE UGLY

Non-dangerous tackles

OK, the rant isn’t quite over just yet.

This has been a bugbear of mine all season. A tackle is not dangerous if a player is able to let go of the ball to brace himself. I dont like the way its being adjudicated, and I don't like the way tackles are punished. Irrespective of what the rules state, I personally do not agree with it. Yes, yes... old man yells at cloud stuff, I know. 

I was dirty on the Naitanui suspension early in the year, as I thought Karl Amon opted to hang onto the ball, which meant he forfeited the opportunity to brace for contact with the ground.

Here we are, many weeks later, and it’s still happening. The game was well and truly in the balance at this stage, and Devon Smith – one of the best tacklers in the game – wrapped up Jack Crisp on the half back flank. He pinned one arm and took him to ground in a fantastic tackle. At any stage, Crisp could’ve let go of the ball and braced for impact with the ground with his free arm. He chose to hold onto the ball, and as a result, he was rewarded with a free kick because his head hit the ground. Smith was deemed at fault for Crisp not releasing the ball.

It is instinct to hold onto the ball and not give it up in a tackle. I don’t blame Crisp at all and i sure as hell don't blame Smith. I blame those instituting rules that are so grey that they are open to wild interpretation. It sets umpires up to fail.

This is becoming a huge problem. Last week against the Bulldogs, Patrick Dangerfield basically threw himself head first into the ground to try to milk a free kick. Players are aware that if they’re standing in a tackle, all they have to do is go with the momentum and there’s a chance it’ll be deemed dangerous. Some of them are dumb enough to risk their own safety for the sake of winning a free kick. To be completely up front… I would do that. The umps need to be smarter about it.

When a player decides to try to hold an opponent upright and deliver a “stand and hold” tackle as Danny Frawley likes because his daughter now plays footy and he doesn't like the thought of her being tackled, it affords the opponent a chance to drop it onto his foot, spin around in a complete 360, or fight to release his arms. In short, it gives the opposition a chance to get rid of the ball legally. Tackling isn’t about offering the opponent a chance. It’s about preventing them from having a chance. It is about taking the man to ground and stopping any influence he can have on the play. By penalising the player tackling another to the ground, you’re basically restricting an instinctive act. You’re never going to rule it out.

Devon Smith nailed Jack Crisp, and was penalised for it. It is against the spirit of the game.

OTHER BITS

Probably the best pure defensive game I’ve seen from Michael Hurley in a while. He was back to looking like an All Australian Centre Half Back today, zoning off at the right times to be a constant thorn in the side of the Collingwood midfield.

Dyson Heppell… I might be judging him a little harshly here, because the guy opposite him was clearly best on ground in the last quarter. Heppell added five touches in the last, to the point I was wondering where he’d gone. Pendles played a Captain’s last quarter, and Heppell, after going off to get his head bandaged, was a fair bit quieter than that.

I don’t think Jake Stringer has ever seen a tackle he doesn’t think he can break. His default response is to try to break tackles now before releasing. All well and good when it works, but it occasionally leads to very low quality releases to teammates.

How amazing was Steele Sidebottom’s sale of foot candy to Travis Colyer, and the resulting goal on the left from fifty? Bloody excellent sequence.

I finally saw what my Bomber friends have been whacking me over the head about for two years – the McDonald-Tipungwuti pressure. Maybe it’s just me, but most Bombers games I’ve seen this year, he hasn’t had the kind of intensity he had today. Was good to see.

I thought Heppell probably should’ve been rewarded for his tackle on Taylor Adams in the second. I thought he had him holding the ball and fell into his back after Adams illegally disposed of it. Could’ve gone either way… I just think it went the wrong way.

Plenty of the ball for Tom Langdon today off half back, but he was a little fumbly and a little too wasteful, for mine.

You know a player like Jeremy Howe has really turned into a top defender when I think about his highlights and the first that comes to mind is his excellent lunging spoil to prevent a Baguley mark.

Tom Phillips was a little quieter than I’ve come to expect, but his sell of the foot candy on Tippa was tremendous. Tipungwuti went flying by…

Was good to see Will Hoskin-Elliott return after twisting his knee. I thought he’d be done. The fact he was able to come back and kick a goal from close to 50 bodes well, to a point. The fact he grimaced following it and had two touches for the game bodes a little less well.

I really hate ruck free kicks. Basically, it’s a lottery. Grundy got one that was technically there for over the shoulder against Bellchambers, but they were both holding each other like they were trying to cop a feel and that’s OK? I mean, I’m as progressive as anyone, but… come on.

Jake Long had one highlight today, spinning out of trouble amidst a lovely chain of handballs by the Bombers on the wing. His efforts late in the game… errr, not so great. He was caught holding the ball three times today.

How great was the workrate of Brodie Grundy in the third? He hit Stephenson at 50 and kept running to receive again 35 metres out with Adam Saad trailing him. I’ll write that bit again, slower this time – WITH ADAM SAAD TRAILING HIM!

Cox gave Dyson Heppell a little lesson about dropping into the hole of the big forward in the third. Might’ve warranted a free kick in hindsight.

McDonald-Tipungwuti on the ball creates an interesting dynamic. I like his ability to win contests but his tank is a worry. Imagine him with endurance running as part of his arsenal?

Stats say only three intercept marks for Hurley today. Felt like more.

Devon Smith falling down after Jack Crisp pushed him was every bit as much of a staging effort as anything we’ve seen in the past few weeks. Went to ground way too easily, but hey… it worked. 50 metre penalty was awarded as a result. And the Oscar goes to…

Troubling signs for the Bombers on the wing when Mihocek was able to fly for a mark between three Bombers and take it… uncontested.

Two huge intercept marks in defensive 50 to Mason Cox in the third quarter.

The run of Jack Crisp through the middle was important on a couple of occasions. He has had some games with big numbers this season, and whilst he wasn’t at his best today, he still had an impact when he tucked the ball under his arm and took off. This is what Essendon was missing from Saad.

Both Hooker and Bellchambers would like their contest against Mihocek late in the third quarter back. Neither opted to punch in the marking contest and a goal was the price they paid.

Big call by the umpire forcing McKernan to play on as time wound down in the third quarter. They’re a little hot on this after Stringer’s blatant time wasting last week. It was funny at the time, right Jake?

Horrible turnover kick from Howe late in the third. It opened the game right up for the Bombers who saw Myer sand Stringer combine to hit Baguley deep forward for the goal.

No idea how the mark on the boundary to de Goey was not paid in the last quarter. Hurley was so late that de Goey had brought it all the way down to his stomach after taking it above his head before it was knocked out of bounds.

Taylor Adams has done some excellent work filling the shoes of Adam Treloar. His work in chasing down Long late in the game deserves recognition.

Overall, great win by the Pies. The Bombers came hard and looked to have their measure at one point, but they dug deep and wrested control back. It’s the sign of a very good side. Go on, Pies fans… call them great – I dare ya!

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