COLLINGWOOD'S tackling pressure appears destined to return to the fanatical levels of 2010-11 after a strong NAB Cup win over West Coast at Patersons Stadium on Sunday.
On the road and with up to half of their best side missing, the Magpies were ruthless in the pressure they applied to a more experienced West Coast team, winning by 20 points – 3.10.9 (96) to 1.10.7 (76).
Souring an already disappointing performance for West Coast was a low-grade right hamstring injury to veteran Andrew Embley
, but coach John Worsfold was confident the 31-year-old would be available for the round one derby clash with Fremantle on March 23.
Collingwood key defender Ben Reid jarred his right knee, but coach Nathan Buckley said he had escaped injury and was substituted as a precaution.
"We weren't going to take any [risks] tonight and we just put him on ice," Buckley said of Reid.
"All reports are that he's going to be right."
Practice makes perfect: Buckley
The Magpies were missing key players Dayne Beams, Darren Jolly, Dale Thomas, Luke Ball and Alan Didak, but their depth was revealed in a disciplined performance that will spark welcome selection headaches for the Collingwood match committee.
Small forwards Ben Sinclair, Jamie Elliot and Jarryd Blair applied excellent pressure as the Magpies set up a stifling press reminiscent of the club's 2010 premiership campaign.
Buckley said tackling pressure and having 18 players on the field defending was "absolutely critical" to how the Magpies would play in 2013.
"We weren't perfect tonight, but up to three-quarter time I think the Eagles only had 22 inside 50s, which was a sign that we were controlling territory," Buckley said.
"We were also able to move the ball effectively into our forward line and get field position.
"We took a big step in NAB one with that pressure and it was good to see that tackling intensity there tonight."
Collingwood was also dominant in the midfield, where Scott Pendlebury tuned up for round one with 27 possessions (12 contested) and five clearances in a best-on-ground performance.
Brownlow medallist Dane Swan (23 disposals) and half-back Heath Shaw (25) were also impressive, while Paul Seedsman pressed his claims for round one with 18 possessions, eight inside 50s and a 55m supergoal.
LeCras delights Worsfold
While beaten in the midfield, West Coast would have been pleased with the return of ruckman Dean Cox, who played his first game of the pre-season after suffering a finger injury.
Star forward Mark LeCras also improved after his return from a knee injury a fortnight ago, kicking four goals, including a classy snap roving to Cox's ruck work.
Coach John Worsfold said he was disappointed with aspects of his team's performance, adding the Eagles had plenty to work on ahead of round one.
"On one hand we're rapt that Collingwood were able to do that [to us]," he said of the Magpies' pressure, which forced repeat turnovers bringing the ball out of defence.
"It just shows us where we need to get better and we know we can move the ball better than that. We were a bit slow and rusty."
Former Eagle Quinten Lynch made a subdued return to Patersons Stadium after crossing to Collingwood as a free agent, rotating between the forward line and ruck and being held goalless by West Coast captain Darren Glass.
The Eagles were without midfielders Daniel Kerr (knee) and Sharrod Wellingham (ankle), who are in a race to be fit for round one, while ruckman Nic Naitanui (groin) and All Australian defender Beau Waters (hip) also missed.
What it means:
Collingwood's depth is set to be a major strength in 2013, judging by the performances of Paul Seedsman, Jamie Elliot, Caolan Mooney and Josh Thomas on Sunday. Recruiting proven players Quinten Lynch, Clinton Young and Jordan Russell is also going to strengthen the list during a premiership charge. While the tackling performance from Collingwood made West Coast look second-rate, it is unlikely the Eagles would turn out a similar performance come round one. Expect the Eagles' ball movement coming out of defence to improve when backline general Beau Waters returns against Port Adelaide next week.
What they said:
“There's a [selection] squeeze that's going to go on. We've recruited some experience and we've got some exposed AFL talent that's come in and automatically added to our depth." – Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley
"We've had a pretty intense week in terms of our training and we would rarely go into a game having trained as hard as we have this week – especially with some of the heat we've had. That's part of our program. We wanted to get the work into our players this week and next week, and then they've got a big build up for the season." – West Coast coach John Worsfold
While they were beaten in the midfield on the day, young West Coast on-ballers Chris Masten (113 Fantasy points), Scott Selwood (111) and Luke Shuey (91) proved they will be excellent picks in AFL Fantasy. Masten has set new benchmarks during the Eagles' pre-season and his work-rate was underlined by nine tackles. Selwood and Shuey won 13 contested possessions each, while Masten had 12, all proving they can win their own ball and should be consistent scorers this season as they enter their prime.
COLLINGWOOD 1.2.1 2.4.5 2.7.8 3.10.9 (96)
WEST COAST 0.4.3 0.7.3 0.8.6 1.10.7 (76)
Swan, Seedsman, Cloke
Elliot 2, Mooney 2, Sidebottom 2, Blair, Cloke, Dwyer, Sinclair
LeCras 4, Cox, Cripps, Hurn, Kennedy, Priddis, Lycett
Pendlebury, Shaw, Toovey, Swan, Seedsman, Blair, Elliot, Sidebottom
LeCras, S. Selwood, Gaff, Glass, Shuey, Cox
Reid (right knee)
Embley (right hamstring)
Farmer, Margetts, Dalgleish
14,237 at Patersons Stadium