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[VFL Round 4 Player Review] Collingwood Vs. Northern Blues

After a dismal showing against Carlton in the AFL, the lads representing us at VFL level gave the fans something to smile about, notching up their first win for the year against the Carlton affiliated Northern Blues.  Jarrod Witts and Trent Stubbs didn’t take the field this week, but we did see the return of Alan Didak for his first on-field appearance in 2012.

I’ll once again remind people that I didn’t get to the ground until quarter time, so I can’t comment on anything that transpired in the first quarter.

4. Alan Didak

Was used through the midfield, at times starting outside of the centre square from half-forward or a wing, but also spent good minutes as part of our centre bounce unit.  He struggled to get involved a little during the second quarter, but after half-time he seemed to find his feet and had some important involvements.

Dids started sharking the ball around a few stoppages to slam us forward in the second half, particularly in the final term when the importance of clearing the contest was huge.  Had an opportunity in the third term to kick a goal after collecting the ball 35 out and stepping around a defender, but his aim was a little off.  In the final quarter he got that sorted though, breaking forward of play to kick one on the run from 40 out, putting us in a commanding position.

It’s the same old Didak in terms of physicality, as he certainly doesn’t relish contact and does his best work outside of traffic.  He had the blind turn and pirouette happening yesterday, a move he employs not just when evading a would-be tackler, but when evading any sort of body contact – be it a shepherd or block around the contest.  He did put on some good tackles though, often assisting a team mate to bring a player down.

He’ll be better for the run, but after Friday night and the loss of Luke Ball, I don’t know if he’s a player we can carry around stoppages as part of the midfield group.  Given our struggles up forward, I’d hope that Didak can find his magic around goals and give us something from half-forward.  For his first game back, his kicking was reasonably good for the most part and should get better.

The loss of Krakouer and Macaffer has cost us up forward, hopefully Didak can get nostalgic and spark us there.  He can push up the field from half-forward and link up in play, using the space to his advantage.  If he gets his kicking boots back on, we’ll benefit from having him delivering to our forwards or just losing his man up the ground and pushing hard forward in transition.

Not next week though, as I’d give him another run or two before bringing him back.  A pleasing return all the same, getting through the match and playing an important hand in the second half to steer us home.

14. Luke Rounds

Struggled to influence the play again and had some moments that would have been as frustrating for him as they were for onlookers.  I’m not sure what’s happening with Luke at the moment, but he’s struggling to get clean ball and use it constructively.

He’s been thrown around a little, as last year he was used as a small rebounding defender in the Leon Davis mould and did string together some good performances in this role.  He’s been switched back to half-forward this year and hasn’t been able to buy himself space when he does have it, often just having to send the ball long to contests.

In one instance, he gathered the ball on the wing and had enough time to send us forward, but held onto it and was eventually hemmed in on the boundary before spraying it over the line on his left.  In the third, he was in prime position to intercept a centring ball with some open options forward, but the ball went straight through his hands and the Blues regained possession.

The one time he did have some space to operate in, he was robbed of the opportunity when the umpire didn’t pay the clear advantage, after the ball got over the top of a contest at half-back where Ceglar was pushed out.

I’ve been bullish about Luke’s chances as he does have some appealing qualities in pace, dual sidedness and not being shy of the physical stuff.  With that said, it hasn’t come together for him for any notable period of time since the first half of 2010.  I would maybe consider giving him a run on the wing where he’ll hopefully have more space to work in, because he needs to find a bit more of the ball.

16. Nathan Brown

A best on ground performance by Nate and a heartening sight for Collingwood supporters who did it tough the night before.  I thought it was a little generous that he was named in the bests last week, something of a forced feel good story, but he was a clear choice this time around.

Combined perfectly with Pendlebury to repel several attacks, spoiling strongly but most pleasing of all, marking solidly when the option was there.  He outpointed the much larger Warnock in the air on several occasions, denying the Blues the opportunity to exploit any size advantage forward.

Outside of the aerial contest, Nate was also composed at ground level, navigating his way through traffic to release a team mate when gathering the ground ball.  In the past he has had a tendency to just bomb the ball blindly out of the back line, but he was a lot more deliberate in his decision making this week and hit some valuable targets.

He looked a clear cut above at this level, at times treating his opponents with contempt when collecting the loose ball.  Like Didak, I wouldn’t rush him back despite our current injury woes, the last thing we need is to add to a growing list.  He’s missed a lot of football, but it’s still great to see how well he’s performing after such a long lay off.  If he gets through another week or two, we’ll see him back in the big league without a doubt.

25. Tom Young

He’s been a regular fixture in the midfield this year and as such, is collecting his numbers inconspicuously in close.  His inside game is a work in progress, but it’s an area that he does need to make gains in because he doesn’t possess the pace or damage factor on the outside.  He can be clean and creative in close, absorbing pressure to release team mates by hand, but he’s still susceptible to biting off more than he can chew.

One example was in the third quarter, when he collected the ball at a stoppage and despite being well covered by three or more opponents, still decided to take them on with his trademark raised arms.  The better option would have been to slash it quickly forward from the contest and he was pinged as a result.  On one hand you don’t mind a player backing himself in, but Young still needs to improve his awareness of when this is on and when it isn’t.

It’s been a steep learning curve after playing a much easier role in his unofficial first year at the club in 2010, but as our injury list mounts and with Sinclair failing to fire a shot in three weeks, Young’s opportunity is approaching.

26. Ben Johnson

Another solid performance by Johnson and his third game at this level in as many weeks.  For mine, he should be up for a return next week against Port Adelaide given we’ve lost Luke Ball and are in desperate need of an experienced head.  He didn’t rack up as many disposals as he’s capable of, but he’s hovered around the 20 mark for the last three weeks and has been important in putting the ball to our advantage by foot.

What was pleasing from yesterday was that he won some extremely important 50/50 contests by hitting it hard and either winning a free kick, or collecting and breaking away.  Not sure where he stands in the minds of the fitness department, but I wouldn’t keep him at this level for much longer.

27. Simon Buckley

Improved a bit more upon last week’s performance and credit where it’s due, I felt Buckley was good when the game was up for grabs in the last.  I wouldn’t consider it enough to earn a promotion, as he’s still susceptible to making some befuddling decisions, but as much as he’s frustrated us and is rightfully on thin ice, he did win some important contests and mopped up when the Blues were trying to mount a charge in the final term.

Marked an errant escape kick coming out of the Blues backline, lining up from 40 out.  It was a shot a player of his ability by foot really needed to slot and would have further increased the value of his game, but sprayed it right.

Still, had some genuinely good moments in the last where he won a few contests and followed up again to receive and find a target when rebounding.  Leaves himself open for criticism as he needs to work on his defensive efforts and not let his opponent get goal side as easily, absolutely has to take some of his better decision making from the last quarter yesterday into next week and beyond.

He was worthy of mention amongst the bests for his efforts in the last quarter, but at this stage he needs to perform like that over four quarters every week.

29. Jonathon Ceglar

A solid performance from Ceglar opposed to an AFL experienced and much larger Robert Warnock.  I mentioned in the match report that it was great to see a ruck who could leap at the ball after what happened in the centre on Friday night, and I stand by that.  Ceglar generally reads the ball well in the air at ruck contests and prefers to get off the ground to contest, rather than resigning himself to gravity.

Part of this is due to his lack of size when it comes to going body-on-body, but it’s good that he identifies this and compensates effectively.  Won his fair share of hit outs and also put in the second and third efforts once it hit the deck.  Doesn’t have the agility to become that extra midfielder like Naitanui or Kreuzer, but does what he can given his physical traits.

Had some good moments in general play, one in particular where he worked hard to smother a kick, collected it almost in the same motion as it hit the deck and sent us forward.  He should be able to add a little bit more size with a few preseasons, but his ability to leap and get his hand to it, along with the often deliberate placement of his taps, is a good sign.

33. Jackson Paine

I wasn’t far off naming Paine amongst the bests, as whilst Boland kicked six goals it was Paine’s willingness to lead hard up the ground to link up that enabled us to move the ball and provide Boland with one-out chances.  Paine’s presence alone meant that we could spread the defenders a little more, opposed to previous weeks where they could easily congregate around the likes of Witts and Ceglar deep forward.

His value wasn’t just structurally though, he took a good number of marks, often on the end of long searching leads.  He’s clean overhead, taking the ball out in front with it sticking on the first bite.  Put in the second and third efforts he displayed at senior level, winning a free kick as a result here and there or forcing a turnover.

Had an excellent moment in the third against the run of play, intercepting a handpass, drawing a player and creating the overlap that resulted in Gault’s first for the day in the goal square.  Does all the team things, hits every marking contest hard and butters up on the deck if he doesn’t bring the mark down.

One thing he needs to brush up on a bit is when to mark and give, as he sometimes does this automatically rather than consciously and sells a player into trouble.  I like that he looks to get the ball moving quickly, he just needs to sum up the situation a little bit better.  It’s not a huge issue though and something easily addressed when reviewing the tape.

We shouldn’t expect too much of him too early, but I’m confident in saying that we’ve got a player.  He looked to run out the game better yesterday, managing to put on multiple leads and remained involved.  A few trips to Arizona should go a long way to improving his tank, at which point he’ll be a very good option as a hit-up target, which would allow Cloke to play closer to home.

37. Kirk Ugle

Wasn’t as involved yesterday as in previous weeks, but applied the required pressure from start to finish and when things were getting stale for him up forward, showed that he was willing to push up ground and get involved.  Won some contested ball on a few occasions at half-back to get us moving the other way.

Has shown that he’s more prepared to kick this year than last, where he often went by hand.  This could be as a result of wise instruction from the coaches, as he is capable of being a 70 metre player when he has it through the middle.  He’s got good depth on his kicking and can cash in with this on the fast break.

He is playing predominantly forward, but I would like to see him find a bit more of the ball, especially when he’s not hitting the scoreboard.  Kicked one of the better goals of the day in the last, a long running shot from close to the boundary on the wrong side for a left footer.  We were threatening to take the lead again, but this was the one that really set us in motion.

He hasn’t replicated his performance from our clash against Geelong, but has continued to work hard all the same and has returned at least a goal in each match.  At this point, I’d try him out in favour of Sinclair if need be, since he applies himself just as admirably defensively and I would back him as a more reliable user of the ball.

38. Peter Yagmoor

Started down back in that mopping up role without really standing out.  Took a portion of the kick outs, usually finding a target or at least sending it to a suitable contest.  One thing that I did like about his game in the second quarter yesterday was that he worked to receive from players who had marked – he has the kicking ability to set us up nicely or get good gains in terms of distance, it’s good to see him recognise this and work to be that player.

Was moved to the wing in the second half, where he didn’t find too much more of the ball than he did down back, but made each of his touches count.  Ran hard to be an option when we were switching down back and spotted up some targets tight on the boundary line, where there was the smallest of margins for error.

His left calf was strapped up yesterday, so he may be carrying something at the moment.  He doesn’t quite have the size to win his own ball consistently at the moment, but with improved core strength this should come.  Plays a mostly outside game at the moment, but doesn’t hesitate to fly for the spoil and passed the courage test yesterday with flying colours, when a hospital ball saw him back into the oncoming contest (a contest featuring Nate Brown and his opponent) without taking his eyes off it.

I’d like to see him given the responsibility of the kick outs more often, perhaps exclusively, as it could become an important part of his game once he pushes into AFL level.  He has the tools, just needs to iron out his decision making through experience and repetition.

40. Paul Seedsman

After spending a couple of weeks at AFL level, albeit as a sub, Seeds returned to the lower grade and probably would have wanted to find a bit more of the ball than he did.  There were also a few moments, particularly during the second quarter, where I thought he let himself down defensively.  He has a habit at times of approaching the opposition ball carrier too quickly in a straight line, where the ball carrier usually just adjust his direction slightly and Seedsman ends up over-shooting the contest completely, taking a good 10 metres to pull up.

I have seen Seedsman stick tackles and put in defensively, in fact last year his chasing and tackling for such a slight player was a constant, so I’m not too concerned about some of those moments against the Blues.  He does do his best work on the outside, so it stands to reason that he should be looking to put himself in those positions more often than not, whilst going when it’s his turn.

Made amends in the last quarter when he covered a lot of ground at top speed to spoil a Blue on the wing. Had he not made it, they had an overlap happening with the next kick and would have likely gone from coast-to-coast.

When he did have the ball, he showed the composure and evasiveness that has a lot of people confident about his future prospects.  He doesn’t rush his disposal, content to hold it those extra few seconds to find the right target or just open play up.  The fact he’s capable of evading an opponent or two – and confident in doing so – also assists him in this regard.

Should be looking to rank amongst our leading ball winners coming from a wing in coming weeks.

44. Corey Gault

Was hoping that Gault would benefit from having Boland and Paine drawing the focus and whilst he was afforded more one-on-one opportunities, his lack of size prevented him from really capitalising.  At the moment, he just doesn’t have the bulk and strength to engage body-on-body, as he gets shifted and nudged under the ball at the moment.

He worked hard with multiple efforts at ground level though and managed to bob up with two important goals in a third term that was controlled by the Blues.  He has good pace for a player of his height and whilst we haven’t really seen it yet, I suspect his agility could be similarly respectable.  In one passage he collected a ground ball cleanly while on the move, put his head down and red-lined the tachometer to wheel around a few opponents, before sending the ball 40 metres directly up in the air.

The kick came as a result of adjusting his ball drop to avoid being smothered, but as comical as it looked he backed it up by contesting and getting the ball moving our way again once it landed.

His first goal for the day was a gimme over the top in the goal square, but his second was more noteworthy.  As the Blues attempted to break from defence, Gault screamed from out of the contest to mow down the would be rebounder and line up from 40 out on a 45 degree angle.  Contesting with the wind, Gault judged it perfectly and sent it through for his second.

He’ll have all of this year and next to build, has shown some reasonable early signs so far and might be able to hit the scoreboard more often with Paine and Boland spreading the defence.

46. Marley Williams

Not as productive as in his first two outings, but still showed some glimpses that will please the coaches and Pies fans alike.  Has spent a fair bit of his time as part of the midfield rotation and whilst I suspect his numbers were down this week, his work on the inside was a little more noticeable.  He loves the hard stuff does Marley and unlike previous weeks, he managed to get first hands at the stoppage a little more often.

Which is commendable, given the Blues had the likes of Ellard and McLean running around.

He hits every contest with velocity and for a reasonably small player, it takes a lot for the opposition to stop his forward momentum.  It’s become a regular sight to see Marley just will a ball forward at times, without actually winning a disposal.  Won some very good contests and clearances and is quick over the first 10 or so metres when breaking away.

In one passage, he gathered the ball at a stoppage and ducked and weaved to get out the back side of the contest, where through lack of options he decided it was better to be on the other side, so he just burrowed his way back through the same traffic.  Remarkably, he escaped once more but unfortunately was out of space by then and had to hack it forward.

Once he gains possession he does duck the head a bit to avoid tackles and misses out on being rewarded free kicks as a result, whilst putting himself in danger of being pinged.  Often this method allows him to slip free though, so it’s a gamble worth taking.

There will be a lot of talk about Marley and a potential elevation given the concerns on the quality of some of our fringe players, but as intense as Marley is he does need some polishing.  Likely because it’s fresh in my mind given his performance against Pendlebury, but I would maybe take a page out of Carrazzo’s development from wayward kicking midfielder to contributor who can run-with a premier mid, when thinking of a long term direction for Williams.

48. Caolan Mooney

Missed his first goal for the day in the opening term, but was there for his second, which was a very good snap from a tight angle and 30 metres out.  It bounced through truly and he had another snap in the third, although disallowed as Boland had been paid the mark, which also sailed through before being brought back.  In short, it looks like Mooney is starting to get the physics of the oval ball snap down pat.

Finished with two goals, but also had a few missed set shots after being awarded a free kick or marking on the lead.  For someone still new to the game, he’s managing to create plenty of scoring opportunities for himself.

No need to rush him though, as his game does still need a fair bit of work, but for such an early stage the signs are very good.  His chasing is a highlight, he tackles well and is quite solid overhead.  If he can start converting more of his set shots and get a little better at gathering and using the ball in congestion, he’ll give the selectors something to think about.

49. Paul Cribbin

Battled well throughout the day and was good at influencing some contests to hold up the Blues passage of play.  He seems to struggle a little at reading the flight at times, as he seems a lot better when he’s trailing an opponent to the ball, rather than when leaving his man to cut off another contest.  He tends to misjudge it a bit, as there were a few instances yesterday where he could have marked but got under it and let it over the top.

Throws himself into the contest with reckless abandon at times, coming off worse for wear in the last when sliding in head first to contest a loose ball.  Shook it off and saw out the remainder of the game.

He’s still rough around the edges, but always gives an honest account of himself.  Probably hasn’t come as far at this stage as his first few games suggested he might, but has had a few hiccups this preseason.

50. Shae McNamara

Really liked Shae’s game yesterday in terms of commitment, the very real prospect of a victory really brought the best out of him.  He gave us good minutes in the ruck as a back-up to Ceglar and even though his tap work can be over the shop at times, he gets a good leap at it and does enough to not make it a one way street for his opponent.

As I said in my report on Ceglar, it was just refreshing to see a couple of Collingwood rucks launching at the ball, rather than being step ladders. Importantly, he recovers and backs up quite well at ground level.

Guarded a man occasionally down back when not in the ruck and kept focused on the job at hand.  He’s also showing some signs of genuine improvement overhead, taking a couple of good contested marks, something I had once thought beyond him.  He’s judging it better and beginning to use his athleticism to his advantage in these situations.

Will probably continue sharing ruck duties if Wood remains at AFL level, if so then hopefully he’ll continue to build on this game.  The way our injury list is going, the prospect of Shae getting a game at AFL level isn’t as far fetched as it seemed a month ago.

One Comment

  1. Mungo Mulligan-Stewart Mungo Mulligan-Stewart

    G’day JB. As always, a great player review.
    Spot on about switching the bulbs with Sinclair and Ugle. The latter’s a genuine pocket battleship pimped out with shuttle booster rockets. Fast and powerful li’l sucker. Also has more tats than Swan – just in the abridged edition.
    I was also really taken with Mac and Mooney – despite their sounding like a really unhealthy fast food franchise. Interesting how these international rookies have such extremely high levels of athleticism. They’re also aggressively competitive young bucks. Testosterone levels off the chart. Yep. Neither Shae nor Caolan fool this old Pie with their “Aw shucks I’m just a country boy” routines. Both of these fellas would be prepared to arrange to become an only child in a Mormon family if that’s what it took to get into the 22. And as for agility, speed and overall ability, both of these guys can out-jump an equivalent sized flea, burn off a roadrunner, and still have more moves than a tin of worms. On the downside both of their accents do require that you read their lips during play so that you’ll know if they’d like you to pass them the ball.
    In conclusion, things are looking up. So much so that, I’ve decided to disconnect the garden hose from the exhaust of our trusty Land Rover and stick around to see how our Pies fare over the rest of the season.
    Cheers.

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