The Pies and Giants, two teams decimated by injury all year, locked horns for the chance to knock the Tigers over in the Preliminary Final. It was the Pies who used an early last quarter burst to get a break on GWS, and they would not give it up.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
De Goey in the last quarter
Going into the fourth quarter, the game hung in the balance like a very unbalanced thing trying to remain balanced – see what happens when it gets late and I haven’t had much sleep? I can’t think properly. Luckily, I take notes.
In a five minute display of power football, the Pies put their collective foot on the throat of the Giants, with three consecutive goals to establish a very handy lead. Jordan de Goey played a vital role in two of them.
His gather and quick handball whilst running at top pace, delivering to Travis Varcoe to open the last quarter with a goal, was blistering. There are two things I love about de Goey’s game – the explosiveness and the clean hands, and they were both on display in this play. His ability to collect, control and dish to Varcoe was brilliant, and the follow up minutes later, where he expertly held Nick Haynes off (illegally, I might add) and milked the free when Haynes clawed at his arm to get back into the contest, was intelligent footy.
He had the chance to ice the game with a leading mark and shot at goal from 40 metres out moments later, but botched the shot. It’s a shame, because Luke Darcy did one of the worst forced calls of excitement when de Goey marked the ball, and it was kind of wasted when he missed.
De Goey has the ability to tear a game to shreds in a burst of brilliance, and it was on display tonight. You get the feeling that the Pies will need something special from him if they are to get over the Tigers. It’s something Richmond hasn’t really had to contend with – a player at his absolute peak, taking the game on and putting the team on his back in the process.
Cometh the moment, cometh the man.
Next Friday night, cometh the moment. Jordan de Goey, will you stand up when it counts most?
Whitfield v Phillips
Two of the best runners in the game went head to head, and early in the game, it was Phillips who had the ascendancy.
He seemed to be making space better and getting to the right spots to have an impact, whilst Whitfield was more like the Giants’ start in a microcosm. He took a while to get going, but Whitfield rallied beautifully, and finished the first quarter with eight touches to be amongst the best players on the park. Simply put - no one outruns Whitfield.
He built on his first quarter consistently through the evening, with his hard running and excellent work rate really testing whether Phillips had the tank to go with him. He finished with 31 touches and eight marks, running deep into defence to help GWS exit on eight occasions, then working hard to present at the next contest as well. That said, some of those exits from defensive 50 were pretty bloody poor.
Phillips was there to not only run with Whitfield, but to hurt him running the other way. He finished with 29 touches of his own, and seemingly played mostly between the arcs.
If I have to give the nod to one over the other, I’d give it to Whitfield. He is All-Australian for a reason, and sets the standard for the running half-back/wingman in the current game (along with Andrew Gaff). Phillips has come a long way, and will continue to get better. Of those who were in the running for the 2017 Rising Star award, it is Phillips who has continued to build on his game, leaving both Ryan Burton and Andrew McGrath in his wake this season.
But in their personal duel, I can’t go past Whitfield tonight. He is a running machine, and showed plenty of courage tonight as well. His willingness to run with the flight and draw a free kick early in the last quarter sent a clear message to his team, who responded in kind.
You know, I’ve never really looked at Whitfield as a leader, but tonight, watching him and the commitment and hard work he puts in, it’s not a bad example to follow.
Earlier in the year I wrote about Sidebottom being a huge possibility of taking over the captaincy from Scott Pendlebury next season and I got shouted down by Collingwood supporters thinking I was disparaging Pendlebury - I wasn’t. I was more looking at the role Sidebottom plays and the respect he is gathering in the group. Again tonight, he proved that he is more than ready should he get the opportunity.
He was the leader tonight, gathering an equal game-high 31 touches and looking cool under pressure as he worked all over the ground. Check out his stats – five clearances, six inside 50s and five rebound 50s. Sidebottom is no lazy bones. He gets on his bike and keeps moving until he gets into position to become a target for his teammates, and when it’s his turn to go, he goes.
Whilst he didn’t have a direct opponent (as in a tagger/run-with player) for most of the night, he comfortably handled anyone who found themselves on him, and he really looks like he has learned a lot from Pendlebury over the journey. His ability to buy time by cocking the handball whilst assessing and then looking for a better option is what the Pies’ skipper has been doing for years.
The AA-snubbed Coniglio with a blinder
I feel for Coniglio. He shows up, week after week and plays the kind of game you’d love from your on-baller. He drifts forward and kicks goals (something Shiel simply cannot do) and he is one of the most skilled players in the game.
His goal from the boundary in the second quarter reeked of absolute class. If class were water, Coniglio would be drenched. He had a complete game tonight. 30 touches, two goals, seven marks and six tackles are numbers any mid in the competition would be proud of.
For the first time, I started hearing rumours about him leaving the Giants too. I’m sure it’s just Victorian media or “celebrities” running their mouths, but personally I’d love to see him stay at GWS and build on what was a season from hell for the club, injury-wise. He’s done the hard work… let’s hope he can reap the rewards. He deserves it.
Brayden Maynard owning Toby Greene
We’ll touch on Toby Greene a bit later, but for the moment, let’s look at the person who deserves the credit – Brayden Maynard.
According to reports, he put his hand up for the job on Greene, and right from their first contest, where Greene slipped over and landed on his backside, allowing Maynard to take an uncontested mark, it looked as though this was the defender’s night.
Maynard had obviously steeled himself for this contest, and attacked the ball and the man with a measured ferocity. He had only 16 touches himself, but that’s inconsequential. What he did was take on one of the game’s biggest match winners, and beat him hands down.
How badly did he beat him? Put it this way – if tonight’s game were a game of billiards, Maynard would be watching Toby Greene do a lap of the table with his pants around his ankles. This was a beating by seven balls.
Things just seemed to go Will Hoskin-Elliott’s way this evening.
Not only did he collect 19 disposals, kick two goals, and take ten marks, but he also got one of the most absolutely charmed runs with the umpires that I have ever seen. I’ll get to that later.
Hoskin-Elliot has always been excellent overhead and is a nightmare if you’re caught in a one-on-one against him due to his excellent recovery and speed once the ball hits the deck. He often gets under the guard of the opposition due to be surrounded by talented teammates, but on any given day, he can play a huge role.
He has kicked five goals in his last two games against the Tigers, and the Pies will need that scoring output again next Friday night to support their big guys.
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Dylan Shiel’s disposal
Prior to tonight, I’ve been a bit critical of Shiel’s kicking for goal, which has been atrocious all year, but tonight, he took his poor accuracy to another level, continually missing targets by foot all night.
I actually feel a little bad having him in this category, as he has busted his backside for the Giants all year and in the biggest game of the year, he just continually hacked it. When he did have a bit of time, he overshot the leading player, or sat it on his head and allowed the defender to come in over the top to spoil.
As it stands, I am waiting for the AFL site to update their stats to reflect kicking efficiency for the game, but I am going to hazard a guess that he is well below 50% for the game. The app currently states his went at 50% disposal efficiency for the game, so it safe to assume that his kicking percentage will be considerably down on that.
There’s been a lot of rumours about the future of Shiel, and whether he’ll be headed to Melbourne for the 2019 season. I’ll tell you what – he had better be lowering his eyes, practicing his kicking, and getting a whole lot better at it, because under pressure, and on the big stage, his skills deserted him, and playing for GWS is possibly the only thing saving him from some intense scrutiny.
Edit – Yep, the stats are up and Shiel went at 44% via foot. Now factor something else in. If he kicks it 40 metres, that kick is considered effective by Champion Data irrespective of whether it goes to a teammate or not, so really, in terms of hitting targets, I’d say it would be well under that quoted percentage as truly effective.
Actually, there could be two things saving Dylan Shiel from scrutiny, and the second one is Toby Greene.
After a week where he was the centre of attention due to his penchant for raising a boot into an oncoming opponent (which I still think is fine as long as you’re not kicking at them), Greene was hardly sighted tonight.
It was the second year in a row in front of a big crowd at the MCG that he has gone missing. Against the Tigers last year, he was held goalless, but also spent a bit of time away from the forward line to get involved in the play. Tonight, it was as though he wasn’t involved in the play and Leon Cameron just kept him there, plonked inside 50 in the hopes “something” would happen.
Well, something did happen. The Pies ran over the top of the Giants and Toby Greene did nothing.
Readers of this site will know I am a big fan of Greene – he’d be in my top ten players in the league to watch, but he looked like a player out of form tonight. Amazing the difference a week can make. His nine touches and one mark rank as his worst game of the past two seasons if you discount the game in Round 20 where he was hurt.
Simply put, he picked a very bad day to have a very bad day.
Umpiring in the first half
Usually you can pick one or two decisions out of the mix that are real head scratchers. Tonight, the majority of the decisions in the first half left me wondering what the hell was going on out there.
There was no consistency, no sense that the umpires were in control of the game, and there was a genuine feeling that the umpires were trying to find decisions where there were none apparent.
The last minute of the first quarter was an absolute disgrace, with Chris Mayne awarded a free kick for too high on the wing where it was painfully apparent that he was caught holding the ball. The ball went inside the Collingwood 50 metre arc and Will Hoskin-Elliott was paid a free kick for hold… that simply wasn’t there. It was a terrible call, and it started to make you wonder what game the umpires were watching.
As a matter of fact, Hoskin-Elliott must have pictures of some influential AFL people. Twice he was caught holding the ball – these weren’t contentious; they were bloody obvious, and you could see the look on Dylan Shiel’s face after laying a tackle that dispossessed WHE on the Pies’ half back line told the story. It was a free kick – it wasn’t paid.
But it wasn’t just decisions that benefitted Collingwood. Levi Greenwood clearly got a handball away and was called for a throw, and Tyson Goldsack was called for holding the ball in an instance where he had the ball for all of one second. For God’s sake… please don’t guess at free kicks! If you see them, pay them! If you don’t see them, don’t pay them.
I really feel like the umps were chasing their tails to even up. Cox got a free kick for a push in a marking contest when Davis clearly was just better at using his body. The big American doesn’t hold his position well at all, and unfortunately, Davis was made to pay for it.
To their credit, the standard lifted significantly after half time, but as someone with no dog in this fight, I started to feel frustrated by the way the game was being umpired. I can only imagine how the respective supporters would’ve been feeling. I felt the Pies got a clear rub in the first quarter and that was reversed in the second. Two wrongs don’t make a right, however. I just don’t want to see confused umpires plucking free kicks out in one regard and missing obvious ones, but that’s what we got tonight, for the first half anyway.
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Okey doke… let’s get down to some nitty gritty.
It looked for a little while that the wasteful play by Collingwood in the first play would come back to bite them. At one stage it was 18 inside 50s to the Giants’ five, yet the Pies led by just a couple of goals. As the Giants worked their way back into the game, you could see Collingwood fans starting to feel a little unnerved by their earlier misses.
I don’t think GWS got enough from Callan Ward tonight. He really knuckled down in the second half against the Swans last week, and was instrumental after half time as the Giants got right away from the swans. He was nowhere near it tonight. He’s always hard at it, but just seemed a bit off it at times.
Only one GWS inside 50 for the first five minutes of actual game time.
The Grundy v Lobb clash was interesting, with Lobb getting his hands to plenty of taps, but seeing Grundy out and running , linking as part of handball chains and being involved as the Pies push forward… there’s just not that many big fellas that can do that kind of thing. Grundy had 11 of his 38 hit outs effective.
“Is that an Auskick mark?” Great question by Phil Davis after Mason Cox was awarded a mark in the first quarter. It wasn’t a mark, but it was probably a free kick for front-on contact, so I reckon that evens out a little.
Collingwood hearts would’ve leapt into their mouths when de Goey limped off in the first quarter. We didn’t really get much of an explanation as to what was up, but the fact he came back on and played so well probably indicate it was just a knock?
How poor was the Giants’ kicking out of defensive 50 in the first quarter? They just continually hacked it, and the amount of times, when they did get some time and space, that they’d kick it on a teammates head, allowing the spoiler to come straight over the top… I was quite shocked by how poor it was.
I’m not sure there is a better reader of the ball off packs in the AFL right now than Travis Varcoe. He hits those spillages in stride and his hands are so good that he makes it look easy. If you’ve played footy, you know that’s not easy.
Throwing Taranto onto Sidebottom just did not work at all in the first quarter. As Taranto struggled to fins the ball (one touch), Sidey gathered eight and looked a cut above his young opponent.
Best piece of commentary for the night from James Brayshaw – “Look at the spread of Grundy; the athleticism of this big man…” and then Grundy couldn’t bend over to pick the ball up and accidentally kicked it out of bounds. Nice work, James.
How great is it to see Jeremy Howe still taking screamers! I have talked with people many times about the league’s great marks, and how, had they taped every game Knights, Vander Haar and Barker played, we’d be singing their praises more. Surely Howe deserves to be spoken about with those guys now. He has an amazing array of spectacular marks over his career. But yes, old schoolers, I agree that he has the advantage of every mark he takes being recorded.
Lesson for Harry Himmelberg – when the ball comes to you in the forward pocket, take possession. His ‘cute’ knock on cost GWS a chance at goal. You have to take possession and you have to take the heat that comes with it. Only Jack Riewoldt gets away with this stuff on a regular basis.
I don’t understand the booing of Lachie Keefe by the Pies fans. Want to explain it to me? And then make the comparison between him and Josh Thomas.
James Aish was probably one I felt a little iffy about today. Did a couple of nice things, but under pressure, I think he’s still suspect. Then again, almost completely missing the ball with your fist whilst trying to handball kind of sours my opinion on players. Who does he think he is; Tony Jones?
Rory Lobb is such a tease. Can clunk pack marks with the best of them, but when called in by teammates to take the uncontested mark with the flight, he put it to ground and when de Goey is lurking, you just cannot do that.
Anyone else think Jeremy Cameron looks like Mr. Muscle, the cleaning product superhero?
The eye-test tells me that either Jordan de Goey is faster than everyone he played on tonight when the ball is kicked toward him, or he has the ability to read the ball off the boot just a split second quicker than his opponent. I’ll be taking close notice next week as to who plays on him, and whether they stand a few metres in front of him when there’s a stoppage outside 50.
It looked as though the Giants were deliberately trying to exploit when Mason Cox was standing the mark. The Pies put Cox out there often in order to make the opposition kick over him, but the Giants seemed to want to run around him. The other Pies in the area were a wake up to this, and what ended up happening was the Giants ended up with a rushed kick inside 50 as a result.
Quiet one again from the Rising Star, Stephenson. I think the three missed opportunities at goal probably made it feel more like a quiet one, come to think of it. He kicks those three goals and we’re going “Oh, Stephenson played well…”
Brodie Mihocek's goal look touched to me. Pretty clearly, too. If this had happened to any other team in the competition, there would be an uproar by now, particularly in a finals game decided by under two kicks. But because GWS has such a small fan base, and they aren’t located in Victoria, we aren't hearing much about it.
I thought the Pies did a great job taking the sting out of the game after their first three goals of the last. They just seemed to be able to keep the ball locked in and not allow any decisive ball movement.
When GWS did get a run and long kick into attack, Tom Langdon sat back there and simply ate up any long kicks. He had four intercept marks in the last quarter.
Speaking of Langdon, he has really surprised me this season. I thought he was just another of those top-knot wearing blokes who are more concerned with what’s happening after the game than whilst it’s going on (Hello, Nat Fyfe) but he is a bit of a warrior. 21 touches, ten marks and 12 intercept possessions. Nice day at the office.
Jeremy Cameron’s season in a nutshell? Gets rid of his opponent inside 50. Takes the uncontested mark 40 metres out. His team desperately needs him to kick a goal to keep them alive. He misses. 1.3 for Cameron at one end, and 3.2 for de Goey at the other end.
Last game of footy for Ryan Griffen. Was one of the best players in the game around 2013. Sad to see how far he’s fallen off, but he had a pretty good run.
And that’ll just about do. It’s late and I’m tired. If I were to pick my best five players on the ground
Steele Sidebottom – All class is the Sidebum. The next Magpie captain
Stephen Coniglio – Should win the Giants best and fairest. Another ripping year and one of the few to stand up when required.
Brayden Maynard – Took on the match winner, and shut him down.
Jordan de Goey – Game changer.
Lachie Whitfield – Hardest worker on the ground
And my worst?
Toby Greene – The challenge was there. He failed.
Dylan Shiel – Couldn’t hit the side of a barn with the side of another barn. I expect more from him.
Adam Tomlinson – A lot of running. Nothing to show for it.
Tim Taranto – Failed to contain Sidebottom, and wasted it when he got it himself.
James Aish – Looked the least likely to keep his spot.
So, the Pies set up a massive clash against the Tigers next Friday, which will go close to breaking records (assuming the MCC members turn up), and the Giants go home.
I feel a little for the Giants; they never really got a clear run at it this year, but in fairness, neither did Collingwood, which eliminates that as a reason/excuse. How the Giants react to this season will be interesting. They’ve been on the cusp of glory for a couple of years, but for a number of reasons, they went back this year. Their mids are highly sought after and will command a high price should they decide to part, but I think they have the collective talent to regroup and give it another shake next season. On their day, they are as good as any team in the game.
The Pies get a six day break, whilst the Tigers gets 14… sounds fair. Collingwood has been gearing up for this. they have pushed Richmond, but have fallen away late. They have to be harder for longer (sounds like a supplement ad… or so I’ve heard) and they need a star to have a huge night. The stage is set for de Goey to out-Dusty Dusty. I’d love to see it.
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