THE BLUES and the Pies can't help choosing each other for their big occasions. Mick Malthouse, then coaching Carlton, chose the Pies for the game where he became the longest serving coach in the AFL. And the Blues were thrashed.
And then at the MCG on Saturday, amid much pomp and ceremony, Collingwood took on Carlton as its hand-picked opponent for the game to mark its 125th birthday celebrations. The result turned out the same as the big night back in 1992 when the Pies celebrated their centenary but the game delivered a win to the Blues.
The Pies were in a bit of trouble when Travis Varcoe missed because of injury. And when Daniel Wells was withdrawn pre-game then they were in real strife. Nathan Buckley was right when he said that Wells would soon become one of Collingwood's more important players and he is right. The Pies have plenty of ball winners, but not much in the silk department and that was evident on Saturday as the same old mistakes – too much handball and dreadful conversion – haunted them.
There can't have been too many laughs at the gala celebration that followed on Saturday night. Losing to Carlton just doesn't sit well with the Magpie faithful, nor does having not come ready for the contest on an important day for the club. Amid all the hoopla on Saturday night must have been the realisation that this shapes as another wasted season for Collingwood.
As for the Blues, the narrative after all three of their wins has too often been about the losers and yes, the Pies will be in the frame again. But this was a good win, set up by an excellent defence and a midfield that played the conditions better.
The Blues don't mind it a bit wet and greasy. They were better against Essendon in round three and on Saturday, when goals would be at a premium, they got on the board early and made the Pies chase them. This is a well-coached, well-drilled side.
Memo to the Rising Star selection panel: Sam Petrevski-Seton is your man this week. And if Dale Thomas did make it to the aforementioned Magpie function, surely the beer would have tasted extra nice.
Tale of two tackles sets tone for upsets
Two tackles. Two magnificent tackles – one rewarded and one that was not – set two clubs on the path to magnificent victories on what turned out to be an eye-popping weekend of football.
St Kilda captain Jarryn Geary's tackle on Greater Western Sydney forward Jonathan Patton was enormous. It only led to a ball-up but it was inspirational all the same.
It served notice that the Saints were up for the fight in their first Friday night game for more than two years and it would turn out to be their first Friday night win since August 2011.
The next day at the MCG, Carlton crashed Collingwood's 125th birthday party. Just seconds before half-time, Blues defender Alex Silvagni set out to chase Magpie forward Will Hoskin-Elliott. It started out as the tortoise versus the hare, but the Carlton man persisted and dragged Hoskin-Elliott down and did get the free kick.
The Blues took the advantage and moved the ball quickly to Jacob Weitering, who strolled in for the goal that put the Blues 18 points up at the long interval. The Blues never appeared threatened thereafter.
That sort of effort is par for the course for Geary, not the most fashionable captain in the AFL but one who fits the bill perfectly for his club. But Silvagni was almost an afterthought for the Blues, drafted by the Blues to their rookie list after 53 games in seven years for Fremantle.
But in two just two games in navy blue he has done the family name proud. He started off with a blanketing job on Lance Franklin, followed the next week by an inspirational act that brought the MCG, or at least the Carlton part, to its feet.
Young Hawks cushion heavy landing
CONVENTIONAL football wisdom is that Hawthorn is falling off a cliff. Too old, too slow and with no kids coming through.
The Hawks got the win, a wobbly one in the end against the fast-finishing Melbourne on an entertaining afternoon at the MCG. And a glance at the best players and the goalkickers would suggest the old guard got the Hawks home. Jarryd Roughead, Shaun Burgoyne and Ben McEvoy were all prominent.
But the key takeaway was some of the younger Hawks. The Demons were beaten at both ends of the ground and some of that was due to the great work down back of Ryan Burton and Blake Hardwick. Burton's praise has been sung in this column before and he has a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in his pocket, but the Hawks have turned Hardwick, the leading goalkicker in the TAC Cup two years ago into a half-back, with coach Alastair Clarkson noting afterwards that he is a natural for that part of the ground because he is an elite kick and an excellent mark.
Tim O'Brien dominated early and took five contested marks. Dan Howe was scratchy early but settled late. Will Langford played one of his best games since his brilliant 2014 finals series and Billy Hartung, for at least one afternoon, made supporters not pine for the departed Bradley Hill.
At 2-5, let's not get too carried away with Hawthorn. There is plenty more pain to come. But the landing might be softer than anticipated in the knowledge that perhaps a few of the kids can play.
It was a disappointing loss for Melbourne and while he wouldn't say it outright, the suspicion was that coach Simon Goodwin regarded this as their worst defeat of the year. They played an ordinary first half, finally got the game on their terms in the third term and played some great footy, and couldn't deliver the knockout blow in the last.
Jordan Lewis did his level best against his old side with 31 possessions and Jack Viney was herculean, but Sam Frost excepted, they had few winners down back. Jesse Hogan was good in the third term, but after a difficult week didn't have a whole lot more to give.
We wrote last week that the Demons will likely battle Richmond and St Kilda for a place in the bottom part of the eight. We now add Port Adelaide to that after a sorry loss to West Coast. But at 3-4 and with a chastened Adelaide to come, the Demons have some work to do.
They made their lack of a ruckman work to their benefit against Essendon a week ago, but despite the edge in clearances against the Hawks McEvoy and O'Brien did too much damage all over the ground. Now it's Sam Jacobs at the Adelaide Oval that they need to contend and it is hard not to think that until one of Max Gawn or Jake Spencer are back, the Demons will not be much better than an even money chance most weeks, no matter who they're playing.
Depth test looms for wobbly Giants
Don't go handing the premiership to GWS just yet, at least not this year. While the Giants have elite talent across every line, their depth is being seriously tested.
They went in on Friday night without Brett Deledio, Lachie Whitfield, Nick Haynes, Matt Buntine and Ryan Griffen, all injured. Toby Greene was suspended and then Adam Kennedy and Jacob Hopper were injured during the game. We won't see Kennedy until next year following the diagnosis of a torn ACL, which brought skipper Phil Davis close to tears in a post-match interview.
Most of the Giants' depth players of the last few years are running around for other clubs. GWS can't keep them all and are not good enough to keep winning week after week with six to eight senior regulars watching on.
Lachie Whitfield returns from his suspension this week and you would think he will come straight back in. He has a huge training block behind him and while match hardness might be an issue, the Giants don't appear to have much choice but to pick him.
There are other issues with Giants and there was a touch of the 'playing like millionaires' about them at times on Friday night. The game tape won't make for the best viewing on Monday and another factor to consider as they make their long overdue return to Spotless Stadium on Saturday is their 0-5 record against Collingwood.
Crisis period? No. Challenging times? Absolutely.
1. It is hard to believe a team with Lance Franklin in the side took seven weeks to muster its first win of the year. The combination of a rare poor outing last week and no obvious match-up for Franklin made a Sydney win a near certainty and that's how it turned out. His bag of eight goals – the 11th time in his career has kicked at least that much – helped the Swans to break their duck. They're coming from miles back are the Swans, but those who backed them for the eight won't be tearing up their tickets just yet.
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2. That's 12 losses for Essendon from the last 15 trips to Perth. The Bombers led until three-quarter time but were swamped in the last as the Dockers kicked 6.4 to 0.1. They ran out of legs for the second straight week and that is perhaps due to the lingering effect of playing on Anzac Day. The story for the Dockers might have been the barnstorming finish but how about the seven contested marks and four goals from Matt Taberner? Maybe, just maybe life after Matthew Pavlich is starting to take shape for Fremantle.
3. Jayden Short? You were robbed, to almost paraphrase a former Richmond assistant coach. In instances like this, why can't boundary umpires have the authority to tell the field umpires what they have seen? That would be a commonsense move, something we haven't seen enough of with these 'insufficient intent' decisions in recent weeks.
4. The DVD collection of great Gold Coast wins isn't exactly a burgeoning collection. But the 25-point win over Geelong on Saturday night at Metricon was a good one. The Suns were challenged often, including the final term when the Cats got to within five points, before the Suns kicked away again. It can't be overstated just how important Steven May and David Swallow are to Gold Coast. The Suns have also played better footy since Jarrod Harbrow has been back adding some run from half-back. The Suns are 3-4 and now head to China for the Port Adelaide game. The $500,000 or so they will receive for selling the home game is nice, but where do you think Rodney Eade would prefer to be playing just as his Suns are starting to build some momentum? They're not your every day match committee meetings when you have to take asthma and 20-hour flights into consideration.
5. Is there an AFL venue where the weather conditions can play a greater part in the result than Blundstone Arena? North Melbourne kicked with the strong wind in the first quarter – worth six or so goals – but not 10. The 10.4 to nothing scoreline at quarter-time was the third highest first-quarter score in AFL history when one team was left scoreless, and once the rain kicked in and the wind died down, North's lead was insurmountable. The end game the Kangas were hoping for when they made some major list changes at the end of last season was a forward line of Jarrad Waite, Ben Brown and Mason Wood. They played together for the first time and kicked 10 between them, with Waite the standout with six. But as almost always with Waite, there was drama and he may face the wrath of the Match Review Panel for a tackle that left Tom Lynch concussed and off the ground.
6. Poor Adam Simpson. At every stop, the Eagles coach gets asked about the "flat-track bully" tag and he has to think of an inventive way to answer. But it is not Adelaide Oval that is a problem for the Eagles. They're now 5-1 at that ground and 3-0 against Port. It was an important win for West Coast as the gaps in the top eight start to contract.
7. The five-point win by the Western Bulldogs over Richmond on Saturday night was widely hailed ... because it got many of us off zero tips for the weekend. It was a brave win by the Dogs, who finished the game with two on the bench, but it reinforced once again that they just know how to find the finish line – the hallmarks of the really great sides. It was an interesting game from a tactical perspective – Marcus Adams playing forward then back, Lin Jong in the ruck. The Tigers will have been disappointed to have lost two straight, but they were far, far better than the week before against Adelaide and can comfort themselves – to some degree – in the knowledge that both their losses to date have come against two of the flag favourites.
8. This column picked three winners out of nine for the round. At the end of an incredible weekend in which every match was won by the lower-placed team (for the first time since 1975 and just the 11th time overall), that is a result almost worth beating our chest about. Footy tipping really is a mug's game.