AFL Premiership 2011: Round 14
Collingwood Vs. Sydney
ANZ Stadium, 25th June 2011
Collingwood: 5.5 / 7.10 / 11.15 / 13.21 (99)
Sydney: 4.3 / 5.5 / 11.6 / 14.9 (93)
Collingwood: 6 Cloke, 1 Ball, Swan, Pendlebury, Dawes, Wellingham, Sidebottom, Blair
Sydney: 4 McVeigh, 3 Goodes, 2 Bolton, 2 O’Keefe, 1 Mattner, Jack
Votes: 5 Cloke, 4 Ball, 3 Tarrant, 2 Pendlebury, 1 Swan
This is a somewhat belated review and as such, my recollection of the specifics – the play by play – is a little hazy. All the same, the frustration at our inaccuracy is easy to remember, but despite only winning by a mere six points I felt – as the scoreboard attests – that we could have easily won by more.
The Swans always play a hardened brand of football, they’ll never leave anything on the field in the contested stakes. Jude Bolton signalled their intent in the opening minute, when he poleaxed his own team mate Jack at the opening bounce. It wasn’t going to be Jack’s night, as he returned but sustained an ankle injury soon after, but his loss to the Swans was evened with Alan Didak being subbed off due to a calf strain.
The first quarter was a reasonably even affair and the Swans would have been satisfied with their efforts heading into quarter time. Travis Cloke looked ominous from the outset as he continued on with his dominant form, marking everything that came his way, leaving Grundy – much like Jared Rivers a fortnight before – flabbergasted at the prospect of trying to contain such a beast.
It was in the second and third quarters that our dominance stood out, controlling most of the play but squandering chance after chance in front of goal. Returning from suspension, Dale Thomas was one of the main culprits as he missed two very gettable set shots, as well as blazing wide on the run. Rhyce Shaw was given the run-with job on Daisy and although he was in his face reminding him of each miss, Thomas still managed to find plenty of the ball during the second quarter and shaped as a potential match winner during a five minute period.
Unfortunately, Daisy wasn’t wearing his kicking boots. His failure to convert will be a talking point, but he was still active and dangerous at times. Missing a fortnight obviously had an impact on his stunning form and he’ll hopefully be better for the run and will spend some time ironing out his goal kicking over coming weeks. Dale has never been a sure thing when lining up the big sticks, it’s the only missing piece to what is otherwise an incredible all-round game.
Our kicking woes continued in the third, with Dane Swan, Cloke and Dawes all missing opportunities. We haven’t really seen the level of inaccuracy that we exhibited last year during 2011, but it was apparent that it was infectious against the Swans. We could have held a commanding lead, somewhere in the 8-10 goal range towards the end of the third, but instead we never broke the six goal barrier. As a result, we always ran the risk of the Swans scoring a couple and building some momentum with the home crowd behind them.
Almost on queue, the Swans kicked the last few goals of the third quarter to bring the margin within single digits. They consolidated their momentum by kicking the first goal of the last quarter, challenging us in a manner that we haven’t encountered since our clash with Adelaide.
Whilst we didn’t respond in the same incredibly emphatic manner that we did against the Crows, the boys knuckled down and regained control of the match. Sharrod Wellingham – relatively unsighted for most the night – sharked an errant Kennelly handball before slamming one home to put us back in front. Travis Cloke marked shortly after on a tight angle, but stood up to cement his position as our match winner by kicking truly for his sixth of the night.
The Swans came again in the dying minutes, but we held them out to win in what could be considered a disappointing performance on the scoreboard, but a valuable experience for a group that haven’t really been tested in a while. Teams coming back from the bye have been rusty this year and this could possibly be chalked up as another example, although the coaching staff would be remiss not to find plenty of footage from Saturday night’s game to dissect this week.
Travis Cloke was by far our best performer and is without a shadow of a doubt our most important player structurally — and definitely one of our most important overall. It’s not only his contribution on the scoreboard, but his ability to take contested grabs all over the park. His huge pack grab on the wing during the final phases of the last quarter was worth a goal alone and lends further credence to arguments as to whether he is the best key forward in the league at present.
Our engine room wasn’t as influential as it has been in the past, but we still got good contributions from Pendlebury, Swan and especially Luke Ball. Ball was his usual warrior self and our second most important player on the ground considering the amount of grunt work he was putting in. A kamikaze type player like Luke Ball is critically important against the combative Swans and he more than met expectations, being a driving force in keeping us competitive at stoppages despite Seaby serving it up on a platter for his midfield.
Dane Swan looked to be moving a lot better and was more convincing than he has been in a while, but is still a few weeks away from his best. After watching Jolly and Macaffer in the VFL on the weekend, the early signs suggest that the trip to Arizona was a good idea.
As for our defence, Chris Tarrant warrants special praise for his efforts at locking down Jesse White and a few contests that were as valuable as Cloke’s influence up the other end. In the last term, Tarrant broke from his man with exceptional pace to not only spoil an open Swan, but direct the ball to a waiting Goldsack at half-back. It was as much a match winning effort as Cloke’s conversion at the other end. It was a testament to how valuable Tarrant is in his own right, not just as an inspired acquisition and fortunate replacement for the injured Nathan Brown.
Ben Reid continues his good form, keeping his younger brother in control over the four quarters. He let himself down with a couple of kicks forward of centre, but nonetheless returned good numbers and won his share of contests. Nick Maxwell is steadily improving; Alan Toovey completely blanketed the dangerous Ben McGlynn and was close to getting votes; Heath Shaw was solid and Leon Davis had a quieter game statistically, but still provided some memorable defensive efforts, with some of his quick long kick-ins setting us up on the rebound.
Cameron Wood had some good second efforts around the ground, but was once again well beaten in the ruck and missed a few important marks that could have balanced out his game. After getting through the VFL game on the weekend, Jolly looks extremely close to a return and Wood hasn’t done enough to this point to create a selection dilemma. None of Sidebottom, Blair and Wellingham returned more than 13 disposals, a disappointing result overall although they each had a few important efforts when the game was in the balance.
John McCarthy was subbed into the game earlier than expected due to Didak’s injury, but didn’t find a lot of the ball and critically, failed to lay a single tackle in what was a hotly contested game. J-Mac has been good during his run of games and I would be happy to persist with him, but with competition coming from below in the guise of Macaffer, Johnson and Fasolo, his spot – along with a few others – is tentative.
In the end, we were tested and once again prevailed. The scoreline flattered Sydney in the end and with all due respect to the Swans, we can ill afford to be as inaccurate against better sides. We had more than a few players whose contribution was well below their average, with the likes of Swan and Thomas returning from a two week layoff. Regardless of the margin, a win is a win and we have extended our streak against the Swans.
We next face the in-form and dangerous Hawks, a challenge that has been made a little easier due to their horrific injury run. With that said, the Hawks displayed on the weekend an ability to kick big scores sans Franklin and Roughead; albeit against an Essendon side that has fallen into one hell of a hole. We’ve pencilled in this period as the time where we’re hoping to hit peak form and fitness, so what comes next should be very interesting.
It’s a match many have been waiting for and in some ways, represents the starting gun for the race to September — or October, depending on how optimistic you choose to be. The cordite will scatter into the winds at the MCG next Sunday afternoon, in unison with the first bounce against Hawthorn.