Having strung two wins together for the first time this season, with Essendon in contrast dropping their last two games, expectations for ANZAC Day swung quite significantly from what they were only a few weeks ago. We looked to be building some momentum on the back of some encouraging team wide performances, carrying the expectation of favouritism into Friday’s contest.
Regardless of the occasion, we didn’t look switched on in the first quarter and to Essendon’s credit, their immense pressure resulted in the game being played almost exclusively in their forward half. The Bombers monopolised the ball for the first 10-15 minutes and applied an abundance of scoreboard pressure, holding us goalless as they skipped out to a six goal lead.
When Melksham bent one back around his body early in the second quarter, the lead jumped out to 37 points and things were looking dire. Essendon was always going to respond from the first bounce after being dismantled by the Saints last week and whether it was complacency or simply shock, we didn’t look up for the contest in the early stages.
To the team’s credit however, we managed to stem the tide somewhat late in the first quarter – despite not getting results forward of centre – before finally wresting control back from Essendon and building some substantial momentum of our own in a spine tingling second quarter.
The story from the game will likely be Swan’s return to his game breaking best; or Sidebottom’s second quarter heroics in bringing us back into the contest; but before getting into the obvious performers I would like to touch on those who were equally as important over the duration.
We would do well to acknowledge the work of Dayne Beams when the tide was against us early. Being carved up out of stoppages, Beams was about our only midfielder who looked capable of forcing another stoppage, if not winning the ball in tight himself.
He played an industrious game without any of the eye catching icing, racking up a team high 32 touches and coming second only to Goldsack with 9 tackles. As classy as Beams is when afforded some space or drifting forward, his contested work is an immensely important component to our success out of the midfield at the moment. He stood up to stem the tide when we needed him and soldiered on for the three quarters that followed.
Tyson Goldsack is another who warrants a ton of praise, putting together one of the most frantic defensive performances we’ve seen from an individual this year. Finishing the game with 10 tackles, it wasn’t just the quantity but the ferocity of all those that stuck — not forgetting the amount of chasing and harassing. Importantly, he was also crucial in providing a hit-up target along the wings as we worked our way on top in the second quarter, bobbing up for a nice goal on his non-preferred to get amongst the comeback party.
I’m perhaps most encouraged by the performance of young Tom Langdon, who after bursting out of the blocks in an otherwise awful night against Fremantle, had admittedly looked a little off the pace over the previous fortnight. I admit to being a little worried as to how he would hold up given the occasion, but his performance in terms of positioning and composure was, to be honest, quite astounding.
Not only did he find a bit of the ball, but he used it well and didn’t look overwhelmed by the occasion or the atmosphere. He held up admirably when our defence was under siege and as we started to get on top, he played a valuable role in constructing our play from defence. His run down the wing and lace out pass to Cloke in the final quarter was a very nice touch to cap off a terrific performance.
He should take a lot away from that game, above all plenty of confidence.
I had been a little concerned about Grundy in general play leading into our clash with Essendon, as he had struggled to impact proceedings beyond the ruck contest in recent weeks. He took a big step in the right direction on Friday however and appeared to be working that much harder to get into space and provide an option. He held the marks that were his to take and used the ball constructively when forming part of the chain.
Unfortunately, it does look like Grundy is set to be harshly marked by the umpires in ruck contests, not unlike we saw with Jolly during the latter stages of his career. Whilst I feel that many of the calls that go against him are harsh and at times completely unwarranted, he would benefit from being less conscious of his opponent, particularly at the centre bounce.
I feel that some of these calls are founded largely on perception, as the moment Grundy drops his eyes from the ball to his opponent the umpire is reaching for the whistle, regardless of what ensues. If he can just play the ball on its merits for a few weeks, he might be able to curtail some of these calls. This doesn’t explain many of the decisions that go against him however, nor why he isn’t rewarded in other instances, such as when he has assumed front position and been doubled over as his opponent sticks two hands blatantly into his back.
All the same, it was an encouraging performance by Grundy, who has shouldered an immense amount of not only expectation, but responsibility. That grab late in the last quarter and the lovely set shot from a difficult range and angle that followed is something that I’ll hope he carries into next week and beyond. If Grundy can get dangerous when resting forward, we’ll be that much more potent.
I felt his counterpart in Witts was also solid once more, although Fletcher did work off him quite a bit in the early stages and we looked a little cumbersome when we did get the ball within our forward 50. As the game wore on, he contributed well enough given his experience, racking up 7 tackles and getting involved in some important passages.
His attack on the ball and smart underground handball to Lumumba in the final quarter, who unfortunately failed to ice the game, was a very good piece of play that exhibited not only his competitive aggression, but also some good vision and smarts.
As for the notable heroes, Sidebottom was immense in the second quarter in turning the tide with his gut running and dangerous positioning as we made our charge back to level pegging. Two of his three goals in the second quarter were goal square sodas, but there was a reason why he was there, not to mention why he was also unchecked.
He’s an incredibly smart footballer who knows where and when to go, but above all he simply works harder than most. He didn’t hit the scoreboard after half-time, nor did he meet his first half productivity disposal wise, but he remained important in the third and final term in getting another number to the contest, steadying us down back, along with generating some forward entries.
Where Sidebottom dragged us back into the game, Dane Swan threw the team on his back and won it for us in the second half. His two goals in the premiership quarter were vintage Swan: his first coming after hitting the nitrous and slotting one cooly on his left from a tight angle; the second after exploding from traffic, dishing out a monstrous running fend off before shaping the ball perfectly at full tilt.
His final quarter left foot snap sealed the game, finishing with four goals and returning our midfield to its ominous best through his dynamic brilliance.
Pendlebury and Ball were important in close, but Pendles will rue missing two gettable shots for a player of his standard when we desperately needed a captain’s goal. His influence was curtailed by Melksham, but the quality player that he is he still managed to be productive over the four quarters.
Essendon did well to make Maxwell accountable, preventing him from having the same influence as he has enjoyed in previous weeks. Nonetheless, the skipper still bobbed up with some excellent defensive efforts, particularly a courageous mark after ghosting in front of an oncoming pack in the second quarter. It is a credit our current structures and how well our inexperienced backline is holding up that, despite Maxwell being collared, we still restricted Essendon to only 60 points, with the Bombers adding only 19 points after half-time.
That said, Essendon’s forward line has been dysfunctional in recent weeks as Thompson persists with Carlisle as a forward and Joe Daniher attempts to carry responsibility beyond his current size or experience.
All the same, we shouldn’t take anything away from our defensive group – particularly Frost and Keeffe – who along with Macaffer have been amassing more scalps than the Glanton Gang since being entrusted with our key posts down back. Keeffe in particular took another big step towards his best form, that little shimmy and goose step to throw off a harassing small on the wing before delivering perfectly on the left was amazing to watch.
He also combined with Toovey to feature on the highlight reel with two of the best desperation run-down tackles in the game: Keeffe in the third on Daniher and Toovey in the last on Carlisle. Frost may be looked at by the MRP for his shirtfront on Heppell, but even if he cops a week from the lottery that is the tribunal, I like the new physical edge that has been added to this team.
Nine times out of ten I would prefer Frost to have collected the ball, but we’re imposing ourselves in all facets of the game at the moment, particularly in the physical stakes, which is a necessity for teams aspiring to go deep into September. Even Clinton Young’s collision with Chapman – which may also result in a week or two off as the game is continually softened – was testament to the buy-in that exists amongst the team at the moment.
Young isn’t exactly renowned for being the most physical player, but he didn’t take a backward step in leaving the former Cat collecting himself in the goal square.
Barring a disastrous brain fade in the first quarter, Elliott put together another commendable performance as part of our forward line and midfield rotation. He’s a common feature assisting down back over the last month, showing some good poise in traffic to assist our defence in escaping. His goal in the final quarter was not only classy but clutch, the frigid ferocity of Frost at the other end of the ground only comparable to the ice that streams through Jamie’s veins.
Elliott’s numbers so far this year are quite remarkable given his stage of development. He came to the club as a top aged player (19 years old), but had missed a significant portion of junior football through injury. He has a maturity that defies his age and looks determined to improve his game. His work on the last line isn’t the most natural at times, but he has been important in winning the ball back and getting us going the other way.
I also suspect that opposition coaches are finding it difficult in devising ways to combat him on game day, as he’s covering a lot of ground and bobbing up all over the place. When he does find himself tethered or working back into the forward line, the opposition don’t always have an ideal matchup for him — with Elliott either shaking him further afield, or getting under the guard at the next centre bounce.
We once again generated a lot of goals from the midfield – Swan and Sidebottom doing the bulk of the damage – but also manufactured goals from extreme forward pressure and a swarm reminiscent of 2010. It wasn’t just a forward press however, as we also tackled with the same intensity and ran the ball in waves from the back line.
Jesse White was important once more in providing us with an escape option when kicking long out of defence, whilst also notching another two goals. He not only provides relief for Cloke, but also a point of difference as a big man who remains exceptionally dangerous at ground level for his size.
Of the not so good, Travis Cloke had another tough day at the office, missing the rare chances he had on goal although he was unlucky in one instance after slotting one from a near impossible angle. For the first time since its inception the score review conjured an angle that appeared to be in super slow motion and improved definition.
It was the right call, but deflating nonetheless. All the same Cloke needs to start nailing more of his opportunities, as doing so would improve our ability to put team’s to the sword immensely.
Lumumba played his worst game for the season after a month of very solid, albeit at times not so polished, football. He coughed the ball up by foot more often than not and really struggled to generate the same amount of run as he has provided in previous weeks. Most frustrating were some of his tackling efforts, as he often didn’t get his body behind the tackle and as a result, failed to prevent his target from dishing off.
I’m inclined to give Lumumba a chance to atone next week, as he has amassed some credits since the beginning of the year. With the loss of Fasolo and very likely the absence of Young, the dynamics of our team will change somewhat, starting down back. As a result, Heritier will need to stand up next week against Carlton to redeem himself.
A lot of credit belongs to the coaching staff also, who from all reports (most notably Beams after the game) kept their heads at quarter time and got the team back on the right track. We settled defensively and our midfielders started getting on top, playing the game on our terms and holding off the Bombers as they charged in the final term.
The fact that we were down to two on the bench, yet held off the Bombers and even extended our lead slightly in the final quarter, is also a credit to the team.
We’ll need to look deeply into what transpired in that first quarter and certainly don’t want to make a habit of such slow starts, but in another respect I’m somewhat grateful of how that quarter panned out. It tested the mettle of the playing group and given that in previous seasons the tendency for the team to drop its bundle became a major concern, Friday was most certainly another reassuring sign that we may have turned a corner.
It took a fair bit of fortitude to turn things around so drastically, so whilst the start was certainly concerning – Essendon well and truly jumped us – the team and fans alike would be able to take a lot out of such a dramatic reversal. It is something that could serve us should things get tough into the future, which they undoubtedly will from time to time.
It should also be remembered that whilst Essendon were missing some important players, our line-up contained seven players with less than 50 games experience – Grundy, Witts, Langdon, Elliott, Keeffe, Frost – with three of those belonging to the backline and two of those comprising our ruck department. Add in White and Young who are experienced but essentially new additions to the starting squad this year and you’ve got almost half a team of players who are still finding their feet in black and white.
Fortunately, from what we’ve seen over the last month they appear to be starting to build some chemistry. We remain a work in progress of course, but we’re getting results in the process and now find ourselves in the top four. I don’t think too many would have made that prediction after round one.
Funnily enough, our current standing is thanks to Carlton (not that I’m appreciative of anything coming out of that club) who we now have the opportunity to use as a means to consolidate our current position next Friday night.
Make it happen Collingwood, and thank you muchly for Friday — I do enjoy beating that mob.
Side By Side
99 thoughts on “Review: Collingwood vs. Essendon (ANZAC Day, 2014)”
I’m with you Disco. Knock off the Blues, freshen up with a week off, then we have a streak where we should win every game – Crows, Eagles, Saints, Demons, Dogs. 10-2 after 13 rounds then up against the Hawks ! The guys are playing with a spirit that for whatever reason was niot there last year. If we were 6 goals down against the Bombers last year we would have lost by 10. Competition for spots will only increase as we get blokes back, but on that – what about Reid – how bad is this bloody calf?? I can only hope they are being extra cautious before bringing him backs, similar to what they did with beams last year. That seemed to work as beams played superb footy from his first game back. I will be travelling over to the Crows game, can’t wait to see what the new Adeiade Oval looks like, and look forward to us continuing our good record in games in Adelaide.
Will be in transit so unable to follow game.
Confident of a solid win over the Filthy Smurfs.
CARN TH’ PIES!
The above articles certainly make a Collingwood supporter feel warm and fuzzy in side.
I would hope and am sure that a professional like Nathan Buckley would pay no attention to them and would just get on with the important job at hand. I think you guys know my view on the footy media (not including TV coverage) – they need footy more than footy needs them.
These articles are written for the adoring fans – and that’s OK. There is no doubt there is a marked improvement at Collingwood and it is looking positive. But I, for one, will hold my position for the pointy end of the season and in the meantime, will pay no attention to these types of articles.
I hope Collingwood coaches and players do the same.
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