Got you: Collingwood’s Brent Macaffer wraps up Docker big man Aaron Sandilands.

Got you: Collingwood’s Brent Macaffer wraps up Docker big man Aaron Sandilands. Photo: Pat Scala

Collingwood will win a premiership within the three-year life of coach Nathan Buckley’s contract, according to its chief executive Gary Pert.

On the evidence of the first match of the season, his opposing coach Ross Lyon may not require that long. Lyon’s Fremantle side looks very, very likely to be there again this year and on the evidence of this game looks better equipped when it does get there.

The evidence of this first match also suggested this was not the side Buckley would expect to win a flag with.

Michael Johnson gets his kick away despite pressure from Jack Frost. Click for more photos

AFL Collingwood v Fremantle

Michael Johnson gets his kick away despite pressure from Jack Frost.

Time
FT
Team
COL
Score
5.16.46
Team
FRE
Score
17.14.116
Collingwood versus Fremantle
View Match Statistics
Players Young (1.1), Elliott (1.0), Macaffer (1.0), Pendlebury (1.0), Swan (1.0), Sidebottom (0.3), Ball (0.1), Beams (0.1), Grundy (0.1), Sinclair (0.1), Witts (0.1) Scorers Ballantyne (3.1), Walters (2.2), Pearce (2.1), Crowley (2.0), Mundy (2.0), Pavlich (1.4), Fyfe (1.1), Hill (1.1), Barlow (1.0), Mzungu (1.0), Sheridan (1.0), Mayne (0.2)

This was a match that always favoured the side that played in last year’s grand final, but selection made a certainty of that. Buckley would not expect to beat many sides, let alone win a flag, without a functioning forward or back line.

Ben Reid and Jesse White coming back in, Marley Williams potentially returning, Alex Fasolo, Paul Seedsman and Josh Thomas coming in, along with the Magpies’ first-round draft picks will no doubt make them better. Surely Lachie Keeffe would also find one of the key defensive posts.  But that is later: right now they look terrible.

Twelve unanswered goals. An hour of play between scoring a goal. Booting just three goals for three quarters yet conceding goals with a speed that out-paced even last year.  An uncountable number of fumbles. Tackles broken more often than they stuck. Missing four times as many shots at goal as hitting. Suffice to say it was not the best first game.

Five goals is the equal-lowest Collingwood goal tally since 2007 – the two previous miserly matches were also against teams coached by Lyon.

Having spoken of spending the summer doing more goalkicking than of wanting to improve accuracy by 10per cent on last year, Collingwood revealed it still has ample work to do.

For a quarter, Collingwood went frenetically about its business, releasing a summer of expectation and offering the Dockers a comparable game of brutal hardness. The Pies led at quarter time by a point.

But they could not sustain it. Not when Fremantle’s midfield got on top and the back line was assailed. A back line that boasted Jack Frost in his fourth game, Tom Langdon in his first, Ben Sinclair in his first game as a defender, and Nick Maxwell playing in his last season of games.

Not when they played a game that offered those raw defenders so little help. Twice Fremantle moved the ball uninterrupted goal-to-goal.

The goal kicked by Ryan Crowley – who did a good job on Scott Pendlebury – when he was able to mark in the goal square in the third term was a case in point. By this time the match was safely over as the Dockers had already kicked 11 unanswered goals, but this one not only reinforced victory, it reinforced a difference.

The ball had begun with a boundary kick in at the Fremantle half-back line. Every player was ahead and down the wing, so the play was transferred predictably across half-back, where Michael Johnson was able to sag away and run unchallenged, patiently find a teammate who just as patiently found Crowley, who was able to find space. There was no evident plan to run to fill space and combat the obvious attack.

 This was the Fremantle slow attack. Broadly it moved the ball far more quickly than last year, aware of the criticism that its game lacks the firepower to be ultimately successful.  

Nat Fyfe turned the game in the second quarter and despite being subbed out in the last quarter, was best on ground. Quite who was playing on Stephen Hill remains a mystery, no one seemed to have the stomach for the odious responsibility. Danyle Pearce ensured Marty Clarke was given the red vest, Tendai Mzungu and David Mundy made Collingwood’s midfield look small.