On Friday night Collingwood will play Richmond. About 90,000 people are expected to be there. It is uncertain which 22 from Collingwood show up.
We know which 22 from Richmond will be there, they turn up weekly, the numbers on the backs vary but 22 routinely show up with the same game, mentality and energy. Now even the numbers on the backs are becoming more regular and looking more comfortable with one another.
Outgunned: Collingwood, and Mason Cox, could be in for a tough game against Richmond this Friday.Credit:Wayne Ludbey
The pieces are returning to the team but also the mechanics of how those pieces slot together looks better by the week. Against Port on Saturday Richmond looked as sharp, cohesive and threatening as they have all year, indeed as they have for nearly two years.
The Tom Lynch-Jack Riewoldt pairing established the sort of synergy hoped for when the former Suns captain was recruited. Lynch has taken his time to get fit and is now holding marks, Riewoldt taken just his time not to be injured. This was the first we have seen of both looking fit and with touch and form.
Then there is the more unsettling arrangement when Dusty Martin goes to the goal square and pushes the other two away from goal. Bizarrely, this renders Riewoldt the third most immediate concern in the forward line. A concern in itself.
The Richmond attack looked as balanced, multi-pronged and dangerous as the GWS Giants.
Wrapped up: GWS defender Lachie Whitfield tackles Mapie forward Jordan De Goey.Credit:AAP
Collingwood played the Giants on Saturday. It didn’t go well. Collingwood lost the game in the first quarter on Saturday, or perhaps earlier than that. Maybe they lost it on Thursday night. At selection the Giants went big and Collingwood went small. On Saturday big belted small.
The Giants loaded up with tall forwards and Collingwood had nothing to match them. Without Darcy Moore (hamstring) they had Jordan Roughead for height, Jeremy Howe for leap and a collection of flankers for run and pressure. It was not enough. The Giants played through poor Flynn Appleby’s opponent and within a quarter had a seven-goal lead. This time last year Tyson Goldsack came in and helped hold a backline together. Matt Scharenberg was dropped after the Hawthorn game this year after his forays back from another knee reconstruction.
It remained perplexing that neither Goldsack or Scharenberg were brought in for the Giants.
Collingwood is suffering from something Richmond never quite suffered from during its injury run. Their good players have fallen horribly out of form.
When Richmond had injuries in large part many of their better players still maintained their form. Dion Prestia, for instance, has been outstanding and of course much has been written of the young and emerging talent unearthed as a result of injuries.
Conversely, the Pies have struggled to maintain form. Their midfield was again beaten for pace and run on Saturday. The numbers say they had more inside fifties than GWS so, yes, they managed to have a look at the ball forward, but there was a significant difference in the way the Giants moved the ball into their forward line.
Partly that was because the Giants had targets to kick to that would mark the ball. Collingwood had Mason Cox. He is keeping a position in the team on the basis of an absence of alternatives who can second ruck. It can only be hoped that playing Richmond on the MCG reminds him of his career-high water mark and not the drowning efforts since.
When Collingwood were good they had a forward line like the Giants and Richmond that was multi-faceted. Previously when they took it into attack the forwards spread and there was a rotating option of Jaidyn Stephenson, Jordan De Goey or Will Hoskin-Elliott before thoughts turned to Cox or Brodie Mihocek.
Lion king: Jarryd Lyon led the way for Brisbane against North Melbourne.Credit:AAP
Plainly he is a better player in a good side. His kicking is not great but the Suns still made an error with his trading, it’s just probably not the howler it first looks. He was on about half a million a year and bizarrely, given their lowly status, the Suns had salary cap pressure.
They also had young mids like Jack Bowes, Brayden Fiorini and Will Brodie coming through and still had Touk Miller and Dave Swallow there. Trading him was a mistake, but not a fortune changer.
The most effective thing David Teague did as new coach was to move players like Ed Curnow and Marc Murphy into their most damaging positions on the ball.
It was smart but also not crazily innovative. What was not so obvious was the idea of turning Matt Kennedy into a forward. The big-bodied midfielder had struggled on the ball to cover the ground he needed.
Teague has swung Kennedy where the simplicity of running in a straight line at the ball and using his power and strength to mark and pressure has been a revelation. He booted four on Saturday against the Suns.
Kennedy is 190cm so he has the size to be a third tall marking option behind Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay and he is a very good goalkicker. He is still not quick but he is powerful so as long as he can mark or trap it at ground level and not be run off he can be that awkward-to-match-up-on third target. Quite clever from Teague.
Hawks take flight
In the past month Hawthorn have beaten teams sitting first and second, lost by a goal to another in the top four at the time and lost a game they should have won against Fremantle. That is the brief history.
The persuasive thing is the measured and disciplined way they have pulled those top teams, Geelong and Collingwood, apart. It is from the same blueprint: they slow the opposition, force them into patient ball movement and try to push them out of the corridor as often as possible and ask them to kick long up the wings.
Cutting a swathe: Hawk Jaeger O’Meara breaks past Tim Kelly (right) and Patrick Dangerfield of the Cats.Credit:AAP
There is nothing especially innovative about this. The surprising thing is that these best teams have been drawn into a lack of adventure and Hawthorn have been so punishing when they win the ball.
The Hawks play to their strengths and get diligence and discipline from their role players and midfield runners (none more so than James Worpel’s job on Gary Ablett in Sunday’s win).
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