Main content

After the siren: Magpies' cup three-quarters full

For most of the match, Collingwood showed they could mix it with the Tigers - AFL,After the Siren
For most of the match, Collingwood showed they could mix it with the Tigers

IN THE various stories told about Hawthorn's upstart 2008 premiership win over Geelong, Hawk insiders place great store in the round 17 clash between the two clubs played a few weeks out from the finals.

Raging favourites Geelong narrowly won that game played in front of more than 86,000 frenzied fans, but the Hawks came away privately convinced that they were every chance to turn the tables if they were to meet again.

Which proved to be the case.

Fast forward 10 years and Collingwood people are wondering whether what was served up against the rampant Richmond at the MCG on Saturday, certainly for the first three quarters, would be good enough if the clubs were to meet again in September.

TIGERS OUTLAST PIES Full match coverage and stats

At three-quarter time on Saturday in front of a heaving, 88,000-strong crowd, the Pies expected to win, trailing the Tigers by four points. Never mind that they were short two rotations with defenders Jeremy Howe concussed and the luckless Matt Scharenberg staring down the barrel of another ACL rupture.

But they held the clear edge in clearances and contested possessions and had kept Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin reasonably in check. They had, according to skipper Scott Pendlebury, "carried out the basics" really well.

Then the Tigers found another gear and three quick goals put the game out of reach for the Pies. But not the season.

"I'd like to have another crack at them," Pendlebury said afterwards. "Elements of our game stood up really well, but we're disappointed we didn't get the job done and we're not happy just getting near them. 

"I'm not in the business of honourable losses."

Pendlebury, who was outstanding, did not want to dwell on the ifs, buts and maybes of how the Pies might go next time around with more weapons at their disposal. But the likelihood is that in September, Adam Treloar, James Aish, Ben Reid and perhaps even miracle man Tyson Goldsack will be available. Howe won't be off nursing a concussion.

Bachar Houli might be the only significant inclusion for Richmond.

Pendlebury also noted how well his younger teammates handled the occasion. There is no shortage of big games when you play for Collingwood, but this was a blockbuster earned by performance and ladder position, not marketing considerations.

"I loved it," he said. "Everyone asked about the young kids and it was good for them, but I loved being back on the big stage myself. A big game in round 19, they're good to play in and the fans made it so much more enjoyable. It was good for our players to play in front of that and get that exposure."

The Pies might be the one team not overly spooked by facing the Tigers at the MCG. Richmond has now won 18 straight games there, a remarkable streak considering it's a shared home ground.

Geelong won 29 straight games at what is now GMHBA Stadium between 2007 and 2011, but what the Tigers have achieved now equals Brisbane at the Gabba between round 10, 2001 and round 13, 2002, and West Coast at Subiaco between round eight, 2004 and round 20, 2005. The Tigers just went past the Swans, winners of 17 straight at the SCG between round nine, 1996 and round 17 the following year.

It is a formidable effort by the Tigers. Pendlebury noted on Saturday that the Tigers play with the same self-assuredness as the Hawks and Cats did when they were regularly winning flags. They can be beaten, but at the MCG it is that little bit harder.

Buddy blow puts Swans on the rack 

The most amazing morsel to have come out of the weekend was the admission from Sydney coach John Longmire that superstar Lance Franklin had trained for perhaps 20 minutes this season.

It is quite remarkable then that Franklin's key numbers in 2018 – 15.2 disposals, 6.6 marks and 2.9 goals a game – are stacking up well compared to his career averages. He is getting by on talent and willpower alone.

He usually torches the Bombers, going back to his Hawthorn days, but on Friday night he lowered his colours to Michael Hurley and finished with two goals from just seven possessions. That was never going to be enough for the Swans against a defensive unit as well organised as the Bombers.

WATCH Hurley v Franklin heavyweight duel

The constants of finals footy this century have been price gouging, Mike Brady and Sydney. But the prospect of the Swans missing these finals has become very real and they are showing signs of a side for whom that might not be necessarily such a poor outcome. With Collingwood, Melbourne, Greater Western Sydney and Hawthorn to come, the prospect of them not getting back into the eight this year is very real.

The fear for the Swans is that they can't afford to bottom out in such a competitive sporting market. You'd like to think however that there are enough realists among their 60,000 members and hundreds of thousands of supporters to understand even their team can have a lean year.

Michael Hurley dominated Lance Franklin on Friday night. Picture: AFL Photos

Franklin is sore, Josh Kennedy is banged up and their youngsters are, well, young and streaky from week to week. You hate to write off the Swans, as consistent as they are at being consistent, but it just might not be happening for them this year. 

It might also be the best thing for them.

Another Saturday MCG blockbuster beckons

The Swans were exposed for run by the Bombers, who have morphed into just about the most watchable team in the competition. Adam Saad and Conor McKenna off half-back, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Orazio Fantasia and Devon Smith closer to goal, it is the little men with speed who are getting the job done for the Bombers and it doesn't seem to matter key forwards Joe Daniher and Shaun McKernan aren't playing.

You wouldn't want to play them at Etihad Stadium, but the MCG is a different story. They're 1-5 there in 2018 and they'll be stretched structurally more at the MCG on Saturday than they have been at Etihad.

The footy world got itself into a lather ahead of Saturday's Richmond-Collingwood clash, in a traditional timeslot at a traditional venue and the game largely lived up to the billing. Hawthorn versus Essendon, seven days later also at the same time and place, is something worth getting excited for as well. The Bombers need to keep on winning to make the finals, while a win to the Hawks will have them knocking on the door of September and perhaps put paid to a hated rival at the same time.

Get there, people.

Finally, Demons look to September

The best win of the weekend? That might have belonged to Melbourne.

Who knows what demons might have afflicted the Demons had they dropped Saturday night's clash with Adelaide after the shattering loss to Geelong the week before.

But their seven-goal third term, which included a withering burst of five goals in 15 minutes to set up the win, will add steel and belief to a side growing before our very eyes. 

It was a win they deserved if for nothing else than Jordan Lewis' 300th game and if you weren't sure how special the win was, check out the post-match victory circle of which everyone including the bus driver seemed to be part. 

They keep their fans on their toes do the Demons, but a sober examination suggests that the progress being made each season is steady and is real. Melbourne will play finals this year and given where the club has come from since the Paul Roos makeover of 2014, that is on time and on schedule. 

Nevertheless, it will be a significant milestone.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs