Collingwood v Port Adelaide - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Magpies used a blistering second half to place the season of Port Adelaide on a knife’s edge at the MCG.

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

 

THE GOOD

Taylor Adams

In case you missed it, we had a nice little column on Adams posted this morning – you can read it here.

I have to admit, I was pretty pleased to see him come out and have a blinding first half after we published such a glowing piece on him – how bad would it be if he’d had a stinker and there we are praising him?

Anyway, he had an absolute monster second quarter, compiling 16 touches and providing the kind of run and carry both from half back and through the middle that saw the Pies kick away. The foot really came off the pedal in the second half, but after a 23-disposal first half, you can excuse him.

He finished with 30 touches (the fourth straight week he’s had 30+) and counted 12 of them as contested. He had nine score involvements and two direct goal assists to add to his five clearances and seven tackles.

As we spoke about in our article, Adams has really stepped up his game in the absence of Adam Treloar. His work has overshadowed the dominating presences of both Pendlebury and Sidebottom in recent weeks. Think about that for a moment. Those guys are not chopped liver.

Tom Langdon

Imagine finding yourself standing at full back with 30 metres of space between you and a teammate, and right next to you is Robbie Gray? Scary huh?

But Tom Langdon handled it with aplomb. I made the mistake of leaving the commentary on for the first half, and I seriously could not believe what I was hearing. Apparently Langdon was playing Gray all wrong, according to them. He wasn’t good at stoppages and was allowing Gray too much room.

So let’s have a look at how Robbie made him pay, shall we?

Gray had 19 touches at 68% efficiency, but he spent plenty of his time in the midfield, particularly in the third quarter. But where was it that he was going to kill Langdon, according to whichever talking head saw a microphone in front of him and felt the compulsion to speak into it? Ah yeah, it was at stoppages. So you’d think Robbie would’ve got a heap of clearances, right?

He had one. So what does that tell you? Maybe Langdon wasn’t completely lost at stoppages. Maybe he actually knew what he was doing after all?

Langdon had 18 disposals of his own and went at 83% efficiency on the day. He had nine intercept possessions and made a few big spoils as the Power bombed it long. Ultimately, his job was to stop Robbie Gray from kicking goals. Gray had one goal for the day. Mission accomplished.

Grundy is my All-Australian ruckman

It really doesn’t matter to me what happens for the rest of the year – I’ve seen enough. Brodie Grundy is the best ruckman in the game.

He had a very interesting dynamic to contend with today, with Ryder starting quarters in the ruck and drifting immediately forward to have a presence there. That would leave Grundy to contend with Westhoff around the ground. So Grundy did what Grundy does – he worked hard.

He had 25 touches, nine tackles and slotted a goal late in the game in a close-to best on ground performance. He added a game-high eight clearances as well as 15 contested disposals to his totals.

There is one area that Max Gawn has the advantage over Grundy, and that is in taps to advantage, but playing in the ruck is more than just where you hit the ball. We saw last week Sydney nullify Gawn’s taps to advantage with some intense pressure around the ball. It’s hard to nullify the areas where Grundy is better, as he is better in those areas due to an amazing work ethic.

His goal in the last quarter came from a gut-run, and because no one could go with him. Whilst others blew up, Grundy kept running, and he was rewarded with a mark and goal. I’m not sure there was a goal all day that was more deserved.

The Hoff

I felt for Westhoff today. As the Power’s season crashed down around them, Westhoff looked like the only bloke who really gave a damn.

Matched up against Grundy, he worked hard both with and without the ball, and amassed 10 tackles, 11 contested touches and five clearances. His run-down tackle of Jaidyn Stephenson inside defensive 5 in the first quarter left no question as to his intent on the day.

He was instrumental in a couple of huge plays early on – one setting up Paddy Ryder for one of his three goals, and he sent the Power inside 50 on five occasions.

The relentless pressure

Many have compared Collingwood to Richmond, and you can see why. They push the ball forward with a sheer force of will at times, using deft taps and knocks, or just a wall of force, tapping, kicking and punching the ball their way. It can look at times like an irresistible force.

Sadly for Port, they were not the immovable object. Hey wilted under the early fourth quarter pressure of the Pies, and the wind completely left their sails after Motlop gave away a 50 metre penalty and Adam Oxley goaled in the third quarter (see below).

The Magpies capitalised on the Port malaise, and rammed home the advantage with the kind of ruthlessness that good teams impose on contests. There was no easy ball for Port from that point on. The Pies outworked them.

Travis Boak

I had his name down as a “good” in the first half, and I almost took it out half way through the last quarter because it looked as though every time he got the ball, he completely stopped the Power’s run and refused to move it along quickly.

That said, his first half was excellent. At half time he’d accrued 16 touches and a couple of goals and was looking every bit the Captain. He was poised when needed, desperate when required, and converted when the opportunity arose.

At times, in the wildly fluctuating world of an AFL contest, a bit of patience can be a godsend, however in Port’s case in the second half, patience wasn’t quite working. Boak needed to go just like he did in the first half. He didn’t. The Power paid for it.

Mayne v Polec

This was a very interesting duel.

Mayne was maligned for almost the entire season in 2017, but he has come a long way toward winning those fans over again this season.

He had 27 touches today, and added seven marks and five tackles. His 10 contested touches and late goal topped another solid game for him.

On the flip side, Jared Polec started like a train to be one of Port’s best early, and showed plenty of dash off the wing. His goal in the first quarter, starting with his distribution at half back, involving some gut-running and then some magnificent selling of the foot candy, was one of the better running goals of the season.

Mayne and Polec are such different players, and neither paid too much defensive attention to each other unless at a stoppage. Whilst Polec was up and about, Port looked good, but once Mayne started having an influence, the Pies took control. The game is bigger than these two, but their back and forth contest was the game in a microcosm.

As went the advantage between them, so went the game.

Brayden Maynard

Another of the Pies unsung heroes. Him, Langdon and Jack Crisp combine to give Collingwood hard-nosed defence as well as run and carry out of the backline.

I loved Maynard catching Jack Watts holding the ball. I loved his hustle to shut down Rockliff in the last quarter, and I loved the way he refuses to be out of a contest. He finished with 23 touches and seven tackles, and had eight intercept possessions today.

As an aside, some of you may like this. Some may not. Anyway… my misses thinks he looks like a “more solid” version of Pendlebury. She has this fantasy…. hmmm, not sure fantasy is the word I should use here, that she will one day write some AFL fan fiction and Pendlebury will assume the role of ‘Lord Pendleton’, a high class lad who has lowered himself to play this game with the riff-raff, and Maynard will play an imposter, who tries to supplant Pendleton in the hierarchy that is the land of AFL. Sounds good? It may not be, but it keeps her interested. Whenever he gets the ball she says “Maynard…” in a similar way to Jerry Seinfeld greeting his old pal Newman.

OK, it keeps me amused, too.

 

THE BAD

Tom Rockliff

This is not what Port were expecting when they signed Rockliff. They were expecting a hard-bodied mid who would run all day, be tough at the contest and someone who would be a leader of their club.

What they got today was anything but.

Cast your mind back to the start of the last quarter. The game is there for the talking and the long ball came forward where Rockliff and Brother Maynard were matched up. Rockliff had the better positioning, allowing him a little run at the ball. He got nowhere near it. He made little, if any body contact with Maynard. It was like he just forgot how to contest.

In my notes, I had written that “Rockliff looked all at sea against Maynard.” Looking back now, I was right (for once). He looks completely lost in this scenario.

Fast forward a couple of minutes and we see Tom Langdon beating Rockliff hands down as well. I know Rocky came into this season underdone. He went back to the SANFL to “find form” and then came back and had a few decent games, but what we saw today… this is something I really never expected from him at this stage of the year, in a game of this magnitude. In short, he looked terrible. He looked slow, he was second to the ball, and was nowhere near the Tom Rockliff I remember watching in Brisbane.

He went at 59% for his 17 touches, and added three clearances and five tackles for the game. It’s as though Port purchased a thoroughbred and got a draft horse for their money.

 

THE UGLY

The turning point

I don’t want to turn this into a Steven Motlop bashing session by any stretch, as I thought he was one of Port’s best for the day, and was definitely their best up until this point in time.

The Power had stormed back into the game in the third quarter, and were looking threatening. A goal to Robbie Gray would’ve put them in front, but he missed. Still, you could feel it – they were coming. And then, in one moment, you could almost feel the wind be removed from their sails.

Motlop, in a moment of stupidity, decided to try to test how the umpires would react to a gut punch. Not a powerful gut punch, or an effective one, but a swing toward the torso nonetheless. The ump reacted by awarding a 50 metre penalty, and in one fell swoop, the momentum changed as Adam Oxley wandered up to the 50 metre line and banged home a goal.

Now, I am in no way stating that had the 50 not been paid, Port would’ve won – far from it. I am more stating that it cost them momentum. In this game, momentum is a crazy thing. You can ride it like a wave and before you know it, you have four or five goals, or it can crash down over you, and you feel as though you’re drowning.

At this stage in the game, Port weren’t riding the wave of momentum, but they were paddling and getting ready to get to their feet. The goal to Oxley opened the floodgates and the Pies kicked the next seven goals.

Was it worth a 50 metre penalty? Probably not. There wasn’t much in it at all, and Maynard hardly flinched as Motlop connected. It was such a high price to pay in a game so evenly poised at the time. Power supporters will probably state that it cost them the game – it didn’t, but it did cost them momentum. That was too big a penalty in and of itself.

 

OTHER BITS

De Goey started like a bull at a gate. I really don’t know what that saying means, as I’ve never really seen a bull run at a gate before, but my Dad used to say it a lot, so why mess with tradition? Anyway, de Goey was a beast early on. He looked dangerous every time he went near the ball, and had a bit of an aura about him. Even when he didn’t get hands on it, he was drawing two or three defenders to his area.

Ryder’s leap looked like it would trouble Grundy, but that injury just won’t allow him to run around the whole game. Seeing a fit Ryder v the 2018 version of Grundy would be a sight to see.

Couldn’t help but notice that Jack Watts started well and then… gone. I have heard many times that the Power brought him in to give them polish, and that he’d be valuable in September. Well, they’re teetering on the edge of missing September all together. They’ll need to beat the Bombers next week, and then hope. I'm hearing Watts may have injured a knee? Might wanna check his heart while you're at it. Never played in a finals game before, and now on the verge of missing this year, too.

How good is Brodie Grundy’s tackling? It’s not often you see Robbie Gray get caught with the ball, but when Grundy wraps you up, you don’t get away easily.

Port Adelaide looked amazing early on, and they asked the question of Collingwood. When the Pies answered and asked questions of their own, Port answered. It was like a pop quiz between two relatively cluey kids. Eventually one was gonna get stumped, and today it was Port standing there scratching their heads as Collingwood kept getting pats on the back by the teacher.

Travis Varcoe was damaging early. He looked like he really wanted to make a statement in his 200th game, and his connection with de Goey inside 50 was very nice.

It’s not often you see Pendlebury with no touches half way through the first quarter, but we saw it today. I was surprised no one laid a couple of blocks for him here or there to get him a cheap one round the back to kick start him.

When I saw Boak and Gray playing kick to kick inside their 50 metre arc, allowing Boak to kick a goal, I actually thought it might be a day where the Pies’ intensity was a little off. Obviously, it wasn’t, but at that point I was a bit miffed as to how they were allowing such space inside 50?

As good as Mason Cox looks, it’s kicking for goal where you realise most that this is not a natural skill for him. I don’t know how he didn’t make the distance on one of his shots today, but I’m guessing it must take a hell of a lot of coordination to get those giraffe-like limbs all working cohesively, and sometimes, it just doesn’t pan out.

This is the first time I’ve seen Riley Bonner look like he really didn’t belong on an AFL footy field. He looked slow and indecisive today.

Pendlebury and Sidebottom had six touches between them at quarter time, yet ended up with 59 touches for the game.

Mihocek really benefits from having both Cox and de Goey floating around. He is the player that sees his man zone off to help others. If he can stay engaged and dangerous, it opens up the game for the other Pie forwards. He did that today in the second quarter, kicking a goal, but he could’ve easily had three.

Langdon was pretty stiff not to be paid a mark after taking a one-hander against Rockliff on the wing. This umpire needed to get into the spirit of the game – everyone was beating Rockliff! This was Langdon’s turn, damn it!

Varcoe’s gather below his knees, as well as his funny little sideways shimmy and hand off to Phillips set up a great goal in the second.

Once in a while Taylor Adams will turn the ball over in a huge way – you kind of just have to wear it if you’re a Pies fan. He did it today in the second quarter, and it was quite similar to the one Dyson Heppell committed last night. Heppell does it more than Adams, however, so I’m happy to say that in the second quarter, Adams committed an absolute Heppell of a kick that set the Power running and ended with a mark and goal (from a very tight angle) to Ryder.

Port got a little handball happy on a couple of occasions in the second quarter. They were running forward in waves, and I’m not too sure whether it was being too unselfish, or no one wanting to take responsibility for the shot at goal that was the problem.

Actually, that no one actually took the shot at goal on one occasion was the problem, with Boak being caught holding the ball, on the end of a handball chain, with each touch increasing the pressure.

Jack Crisp really flies under the radar across half back. As people rave about Tom Stewart at Geelong, they should check out what Crisp is doing this year – impressive.

Gray’s one hander against Langdon to open the third quarter was excellent, but sadly for Port supporters, it was the sole Robbie highlight of the day. Unless you count the ensuing kick from the goal square? I’d prefer to package them together as one.

I’m sure Jack Hombsch would like his one-on-one contest with Mason Cox on the half forward boundary back again. How can you fall over and let the 6’ 10” bloke step around you after gathering at ground level?

I was gonna throw this bloke into the bad category, but you can’t do it to someone playing just their fifth game. Jarrod Lienert had 17 touches today, but he had a few terrible moments. He looked a bit out of sorts and as though the pressure definitely got to him. He had eight turnovers and even when he didn’t turn it over, he sold his teammates into trouble. His little eight metre kick to Pittard saw him caught and the Pies go back inside 50 where de Goey marked and goaled. He’ll have plenty of chances to redeem himself, but I’m guessing his mum won’t be keeping a DVD of this game.

Grundy put his hand up for “don’t argue” of the round with a ripping fend off against Westhoff in the third quarter. Poor old Hoff… he ran into a buzzsaw named Grundy today.

One really intelligent thing I notice Collingwood do a lot – they put Mason Cox on the mark as someone kicks for goal. Why not make them kick over what is close to 10 feet when he jumps? Really smart move.

The crispness of the Collingwood handball in the third quarter was… ummm, very crisp indeed. Can I say they were like a fresh salada biscuit? Not a stale one – they tend to get a bit chewy. Anyway, their handball accuracy under Port pressure was sublime, and only Dan Houston’s touch on the long Pendlebury shot at goal saved that passage from being on highlight tapes everywhere.

Only three touches for Adams in the third quarter, but that was because both Pendles and Sidebottom really stepped it up.

I’m sure Ken Hinkley thought the move of Rockliff to full forward was a good one at the time.

This might be a bit harsh… but Jared Polec looks a bit like the kid from Mask… Rocky Dennis.

I would have loved to have seen Pendlebury go for home after a shrugging a tackle early in the fourth. He handed to Stephenson and nothing came of it, but he had one of those Pendles moments where he slipped the tackle, bought time, and I just wanted him to finish it off.

As Crisp sent the ball inside 50 to Cox on a re-entry, you could see signs that Port were done. The run stopped, the heads dropped and when the big American kicked the goal, the crowd popped. That was my effort at poetry – I hope you liked it.

I was actually glad to see that Gray’s knee injury was an impact injury after his collision with Levi Greenwood. Port have suffered enough with injuries and you’d hate to see them without their probable All-Australian in the last round.

That Josh Thomas was so ineffective, particularly in the first half (one touch!), and the Pies forward line still operated at a high level is testament to their structure.

Sam Gray’s goal on the siren was Port’s first since Ryder’s at the five minute mark of the third quarter. Long time between drinks.

 

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