QF West Coast v Collingwood - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Eagles rode the wave of emotion from a rabid crowd to roll over the top of Collingwood and move into a home Preliminary Final in a fortnight.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of a ripping game of footy.

THE GOOD

The Comeback

Now, I might get a little excited writing this, as I got swept up in the emotion. Stick with me. You could feel it jumping through the TV – there was this wall of noise from the Eagles supporters at the ground, like a wave rolling in, which gave West Coast momentum they had no right to have.

Collingwood had been excellent, and established a ten point lead at the last break. THEY had the momentum. THEY should’ve been the ones walking out of their huddle with confidence. They’d done the hard yards and now they were in a position to put the Eagles away.

But it didn’t feel like that. There’s a quote I used to love from a former NBA journeyman, Michael Cage, who was talking about a young star at the time (who I believe would go on to be broke after fathering a heap of kids to different women and developing some habits of a costly nature) named Shawn Kemp.

He compared him to a storm on the horizon.

“This guy is like a hurricane. You see him coming a mile away. You can see a storm building on the horizon. You feel his breeze before he gets there, and when he gets there, he rains down on you.”

That was the feeling I got about the West Coast Eagles watching them as the last quarter started. You could see them coming a mile away. Collingwood could sense it. They prepared, and it didn’t matter – the Eagles rained down on them anyway.

An early goal to Josh Kennedy set the scene, and then Darling added another. De Goey was able to pinch the lead back for the Pies before Lewis Jetta kicked his only goal of the year to send the stadium into raptures.

Darling added another to make it a ten point game before Redden kicked one after the siren to inflate the margin. The Eagles had a great last quarter, and they outlasted a gallant Magpie outfit, but that crowd, at that venue… they’re worth a couple of goals at least.

Liam Ryan

Well, he disappeared for a while in the second and third quarters. As a matter of fact, I was wondering if he’d been injured. Turns out, he was just biding his time… waiting for that hurricane.

Ryan was on-song in the first quarter. He looked extremely dangerous and finished the quarter with two goals, nailing the tough one from 50 metres minutes after completely fluffing one from 35 out.

His only involvement in the second quarter was flattening Adam Treloar after a free kick had already been given away, which I have to admit, I kind of like in a player. He was hardly seen in the third, but in the fourth, he bounced back up, like he’d been hiding behind a goalpost for an hour or so, and made an impact.

He started to look dangerous, got his hands on the ball, tried to run through tackles, and looked lively in general. He didn’t add to his goal tally, and finished the night with just 15 touches, but his presence around stoppages and the way he moved with and without the ball just screamed of class.

If he can be a little more consistent, and string together games where he doesn’t fall off the radar, West Coast have a potential match winner in the making.

The Man of Steele

Whilst I think the commentators may have talked his game up a little more than warranted, there’s no mistaking that Steele Sidebottom is a cool customer under pressure. He drew the attention of Mark Hutchings the last time these two sides met, yet amazingly, the role Hutchings played today was nowhere near the hard tag he applied last time.

Sidebottom didn’t break the tag – it kind of just never eventuated. Hutchings went to him sporadically, but didn’t wear him like a cheap suit, which is normally his game style and his dress sense for after the game rolled into one. It makes you wonder why, right? Hutchings was by no means hurting Collingwood with his play around the ground. Why not use his greatest weapon – his accountability – to subdue a guy who is hurting you?

I guess we won’t really know what Adam Simpson was thinking, unless he said it in the post-match presser and I am too busy writing this to watch, but I suppose his reasons are why he’s the coach, and I’m the review writing kind of guy.

Anyway, back to Sidebottom – his little touches were good today. There was one in particular where he hit it with the side of his boot whilst running close to the boundary. It set up a chance for Brodie Grundy to run onto the ball, but a great chase from Lycett prevented his shot at goal.

Then there was his intercept mark under intense pressure at half back in the third quarter, with pressure coming from all angles. He took the mark casually, feigned the handball and took off through the middle to create another scoring chance.

Today, it was evident that Sidebottom is emerging as the leader of the Pies. I think we will see a changing of the captaincy in the coming off-season, with Pendlebury handing the reins over to Steele. It would be a wise choice.

Elliot Yeo

I’ll start by saying he could’ve used the ball a lot better than he did today. He was wasteful at times, and a little fumbly at points, but people… he had it 36 times and had 24 contested possessions. He was at the coalface the entire game and didn’t shirk the issue once.

Yeo pumped the Eagles inside 50 on nine occasions as he streamed through the middle, and laid nine tackles as well, once again proving that he is the kind of midfielder that works in both directions. I wanted to see him play a bit of an accountable role on Pendlebury, as he is strong, well-balanced and doesn’t allow his direct opponent much room to move, but it turns out he didn’t need to, with Pendlebury well down on what we’ve come to expect from him.

Yeo’s omission from the All-Australian team raised more than a few eyebrows in the West, and tonight’s game struck me as a bit of an FU to the selectors, particularly when someone like Dangerfield is not only getting selected, but getting the vice captaincy? Ugh…

Yeo’s tunnel-ball effort in the first quarter to create space for Dom Sheed was a thing of beauty, and yet another example of both him doing the team thing, and thinking outside the box. It’d be nice if his game was spoken about as glowingly as Sidebottom’s was, wouldn’t it?

The Buckley coaching acumen

I’ve got to give it to Bucks – he made some shrewd moves in the second quarter, and really changed the shape of the contest. His move of Mayne to McGovern was already covered to saturation level during the game, but the way he switched the defence around and pushed them further up the ground to prevent West Coast’s “chip and mark” game should be commended.

It’s a style that can’t be sustained for too long as it's extremely taxing, but in terms of breaking up the way the Eagles were playing, it worked a treat. To think he was under a lot of external pressure at the beginning of the year now seems far-fetched. His work with a depleted list and a defence with little in the way of key defenders has been excellent.

Yes, the Pies failed to win this game, but halfway through the first quarter, the Eagles looked like they might blow the Pies away. McGovern was marking everything and the Eagles were rebounding into wide open spaces. Buckley shut it down, and turned the tables. If only he had an answer for the West Coast hurricane in the last quarter…

The Gov’s first quarter

Yeah, I just covered the way Buckley countered it, but the way McGovern forced his hand was amazing. He was everywhere, manhandling opponents and muscling them out of the way with ease to take intercept marks… he was like a man amongst boys at times.

Eight disposals and seven marks to quarter time meant that Buckley had to change something, or McGovern was going to break another record.

Moments of Varcoe

You look at Travis Varcoe’s game and it doesn’t look like much. Nine touches and six tackles. That’s it.

But it’s not it. Given the week he had, it’s so much more. Varcoe’s goal was one dripping with absolute class. It was close to being perfect. Running to 50 on the boundary, he looked inboard and, after seeing nothing, went for home. The kick was perfect and sailed straight through for a goal.

But it was his run down tackle of Luke Shuey that made me jump out of his seat. It was an amazing piece of play late in the quarter that kept the Magpies in front both on the scoreboard, and psychologically.

Everything Varcoe did tonight had significance. In truth, he probably needs to do a little more, but given the circumstances surrounding this game, I’m more about celebrating what did happen in the game than lamenting what more he could’ve done.

Jack Redden

He continued his stellar year, and has emerged from the shadows of Priddis and Mitchell this season as the biggest beneficiary from their retirements.  He was excellent today, with 32 touches and 12 marks.

He has turned into a very good inside-outside player, filling either role with aplomb. His four clearances were accompanied by eight score involvements and some excellent run and carry. he has become incredibly reliable with the footy in hand, not panicking when heat comes his way, nor selling a teammate into trouble when he finds himself under pressure.

Redden continues to get under the guard of the opposition every week, averaging 25 touches per game this year.

THE BAD

Mason Cox

I know he’s had some wonderful efforts this season – we’ve covered quite a few of them, but under the intensity of finals, Mason Cox shrunk to the size of a normal player… and continued to shrink as the game went on.

At one point I remember thinking the Pies would get as much from a telephone pole out there as they were from Cox. The conditions were perfect for him, but the work of Tom Barrass, and the help from McGovern, made Cox a complete non-factor.

His final stats for the game were five disposals and two marks. As for his time aiding Grundy in the ruck? He knocked up one hit out. Yep, one.

What do you do with a 6’11” bloke who can’t get more than one hit out? I think we all know the answer to that.

Not enough from Pendlebury. Enough from Hurn

The Pies needed a Captain’s knock today, and I reckon they got it… from Sidebottom.

Pendles ran at 94% efficiency, and maybe it was him, and not Taylor Adams, who made way for Adam Treloar’s return to the midfield?

He had only 17 touches – ten down on his season average, and just one clearance for the game. He was uncharacteristically quiet, perhaps still suffering the effects from the illness that hospitalised him overnight last week.

If we’re looking at the games of the respective captains side by side, I have to give the nod to Hurn. He had the same amount of touches, but bailed out his team at times when he was needed. His intercept marks in the third quarter put the brakes on a Collingwood team looking to surge forward, and after Lewis Jetta decided to try to toe-poke the ball instead of putting his head over it at half back, it was Hurn’s desperation that saved the Eagles from paying for it. Jetta owes him about three coffees based solely on the times Hurn chopped him out today. 

THE UGLY

Brad Sheppard

We rapt this guy up in our game preview because I truly believe there is no defender as underrated as he is. Sheppard’s hamstring injury looked to be a nasty one. Sometimes you do them, feel the muscle go and you hobble off, but he was in a fair bit of pain on the bench as well.

Watching him, he looked like a man who knew his season had just slipped away from him. It was an innocuous little incident; a hack of the ball whilst under a bit of pressure, but you just can’t pick these things. After not missing a game in close to four years, he’ll now watch his team compete for the right to play on the last Saturday in September from the stands.

A damn shame.

OTHER BITS

Let’s get into the nitty gritty.

I can’t be the only one who thinks Adam Treloar faded badly, can I? Ten touches in the first quarter and 14 over the next three, including only three touches in the last quarter. This is what you risk when you play a bloke who is underdone. A healthy Treloar with game time under his belt has an impact in the last quarter.

Nathan Vardy is an interesting one. He really made Grundy work hard early on, playing with the sort of aggression required, but Grundy’s tank is huge, and he just outworked both of them. Combined, Lycett and Vardy had 23 touches and five marks to go with 28 hit outs. Grundy had 18 touches and two marks to go with the lazy 48 hit outs.

There is simply no way a ruckman with the talent of Lycett should be out-rucked 48-14. If he wants to head somewhere else and get some good coin, he’d better earn it.

Langdon on Darling was an interesting matchup. I was waiting for Darling to get deep one-on-ones against him, but with Kennedy back, Darling wasn’t the deepest for\ward anywhere near as often.

Speaking of Darling, his penchant for trying to get out the back for the easy possession is starting to creep into his game more and more. Contests where he would’ve been the focal point before his injury are now making way for him to sneak out the back to try to get the easy touch. It’s very Jarrad Waite of him. Whether you take that as a compliment or an insult largely depends on how you rate Waite, I guess.

So one ruck rule I find pretty clear is this – if you elect to take the ball out of the ruck and get tackled, and you don’t dispose of it, it’s holding the ball. Simple, right? Why then, was there no call when Vardy sidestepped the leaping Grundy, took the ball out of the ruck, and was then tackled by Grundy and the ball spilled out? This happened in the first quarter, for reference.

Chris Mayne’s falcon may be the best of the year. Was it that awkward a bounce? It just flushed him right in the head!

I like one thing that Mason Cox does do – stand the mark whenever an opponent shoots for goal from distance. Having him standing there means you have to kick from further back to clear him. It might make the difference in a big game one day.

Another solid outing for Taylor Adams, whose second half of the year has been spectacular. 26 touches and seven tackles again.

Loved the Rioli desperation to gain 50 metres with the kick off the ground on the boundary, but I hated that he clearly ducked into a tackle and was rewarded with a free kick. It was a pretty obvious one.

A bit of love for Tyson Goldsack here. I know a few people who were very critical of the decision to play him after his three disposal outing in the VFL last week. I guess he more than justified his spot, though playing on a bloke who had been out for a fair while himself, was probably a godsend.

Speaking of Kennedy, how many times did he get both hands on the ball in a marking contest and just couldn’t hold on. He was “almost there” several times before he started grabbing them in the second half.

I reckon Venables learned a bit about finals footy today. On a couple of occasions he didn’t give the first option, and he paid for it, with pressure coming his way immediately.

Willie Rioli was probably a little too casual goaling from the goal square after some clumsy, but hard work from both Venables and Darling to get the ball to him.

I can’t really explain why McGovern decided to handball the ball straight to Jaidyn Stephenson late in the second. I’m not sure he could, either. Maybe he was called out? Irrespective, it cost a goal.

I expected a big game from de Goey today, but the Cole-Barrass combination did a really good job keeping him under control.

 That’s the second time this year I’ve seen Yeo go to kick the ball, stop in the middle of his action, and just allow the ball to drop to the ground. Twice means that this action is now called “doing a Yeo.” I’m heading up to the park to practice my Yeo-ing tomorrow morning. It looks like a skill I could master pretty easily.

A fair bit of praise around for Will Hoskin-Elliott’s second half efforts, which, in comparison to his terrible first half (two touches) probably seemed amazing.

Very lucky that Adam Treloar didn’t have the free kick to Josh Thomas reversed after pushing Hutchings in the upper chest and neck area. Might’ve even made contact with the face. It would’ve been a contender for boneheaded move of the day had he lost the ball for his team. By this stage, Treloar was in the process of drifting out of the game, so he was probably frustrated. Still, frustration is no excuse for stupidity.

Not sure what else Yeo could’ve done when Adams barrelled into his legs early in the last quarter. It hurt both guys, but in the end, other than jump out of the way, I’m not sure Yeo could’ve avoided contact. If the bloke is diving I to the legs, isn’t it a free for taking the legs? Even if he uses his head? Stupid rule, anyway. The sooner they get rid of it, the better.

So, amidst the controversy of the ball hitting the goal umpire, and the score review, etc… something that was lost – why didn’t Vardy just kick the ball off the ground for goal? It was right there on the line. Just kick it! By the time he bent over, picked it up and dropped it toward his boot, the cavalry arrived for the Pies. Ah well, all’s well that ends well, I guess.

Looking at the game objectively, there were a couple of line-ball decisions that really went the Eagles’ way in the last. The mark paid to Kennedy was one, despite it hitting the ground was one. Another was the holding the ball decision against de Goey that gave him no prior opportunity at all at half forward. That was very quickly paid.

Loved Jetta’s goal to give the Eagles the lead back, but Langdon’s lunging spoil on Darling, which inadvertently set the goal up, was a cracker. It’s a shame such a great defensive act was punished like that, but that’s footy for ya.

An that’s a home prelim for ya, as well. Wonderful comeback by the Eagles. Credit where it’s due – they were on the ropes in the third and battled back manfully. Kennedy will be so much better for this run, and on their home deck, they will be incredibly tough to beat.

As for the Pies, they now get the Giants at the G. Can they fill the joint like the Tigers did last year? Probably not. Straight sets is something no club wants to hear, but both the Pies and Hawks are staring down the barrel of just that scenario. They need to defend their home ground, and they’ll need a lift from de Goey, Pendlebury and Cox if they are to do so.

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