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Big problem for Collingwood; times two

Opposing styles: Magpie ruckman Darren Jolly has problems with the leaping style of the Eagles' Nic Naitanui.

Opposing styles: Magpie ruckman Darren Jolly has problems with the leaping style of the Eagles' Nic Naitanui. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

RECOVERY SESSION

THEY are one and three on the ladder and as likely as any pair of teams to find themselves facing one another in the grand final.

So what are the issues for the Eagles and Pies?

The ruck dilemma - what to do about Cox and Naitanui?

This isn't a Collingwood problem, it is a weekly football problem. Still, it looms as match defining.

Nic Naitanui had a career-high 25 possessions and 31 hitouts last week, including the effortlessly spectacular highlight he manages each week - a shot at goal that had it been on target would have rivalled Buddy's run for the sort of display that re-calibrates the parameters of the idea of the possible on the football field.

Collingwood has no one to go with Naitanui, for the simple fact that no one has someone to go with Naitanui.

The tag-team with Dean Cox means there is no respite in the middle and raises the idea of whether an opponent likewise requires two elite rucks. The answer would be yes - if you had two elite rucks of similar style. Collingwood don't.

Cameron Wood could play along with Jolly but is extremely unlikely to do so. Nathan Buckley said pre-season he favoured one ruck and the evidence of his sides to date is that he is true to his word.

So they will likely go with their preferred mix of Darren Jolly with Chris Dawes cameos. By his admission Jolly prefers to body against a ruck and wrestle, and dislikes the players who play a game the opposite of his, such as the high-leaping Naitanui. The fact of Ben Reid coming back into the side adds flexibility to the other Collingwood talls, but also means they would be even more loath to add an additional ruck such as Wood to the mix and thus reduce their quota of running players.

How will Collingwood handle Ben Reid, Nathan Brown and Chris Tarrant playing together?

Incredibly this will be the first time Collingwood has had this problem since they recruited Chris Tarrant back to the club. It was mooted as a problem when he was brought back, but was made to look like prudent list management as key defenders suffered long-term injuries.

Against West Coast, even a West Coast without Josh Kennedy, the three tall defenders is not the burden it could be against others. A likely mix works with Tarrant going to Darling, Reid to Lynch and Brown minding the resting ruck Cox or Naitanui.

What about the other end of the ground?

West Coast will lack for Will Schofield's run but normally look to Eric Mackenzie to Travis Cloke and Darren Glass on Chris Dawes.

What about Luke Shuey?

The world saw the hit Luke Shuey took to the ribs against Carlton on national television. It is a tough argument to convince that he plays, but if he does he would be very tender.

Who does Scott Selwood shut down?

Last week on Chris Judd was the model of what a coach could ask of a tagger - stop one of the best players in the competition and hold him to a game among the worst of his career (12 touches) and get it 33 times yourself.

He had a bit of help from his big brother but it was a hell of an effort.

This week's choice of opponent is narrowed by Scott Pendlebury remaining out with his fractured leg.

So Dane Swan would be the obvious choice to tag, though the thought might be entertained of tasking him to Steele Sidebottom.

The young midfielder has a Kade Simpson-like ability to wound sides with his run while attention is focused on others.

Dale Thomas would be the other obvious thought, but Thomas himself has been given the head-to-head tag roles lately so the question could as easily be asked of Thomas:

Does Daisy go head-to-head with Kerr, Priddis or Shuey?

The answer would likely be probably not. Strictly inside players are not Thomas' preference. He needs to be used in a role that allows him to spread and not be sucked inside the packs for too long.

Winning in Melbourne?

This is the legitimacy test for West Coast. They have a lengthy injury list and have yet kept winning so they are a team demanding respect.

But they still need to erase the asterisk against them sitting on top of the ladder that they must win against good sides in Melbourne.

This is the classic eight-point game in football and for teams vying for home finals where the difference between hosting and visiting is so dramatically different the result becomes incredibly important.

16 comments

  • and the point is? it is half way , still lots of footy left.

    what if cox and nic get an injury?

    at the end of the day we bend over for the pies , wipe the tears for them.

    so must be only the pies with problems and no other team in afl

    Commenter
    dom
    Location
    melb
    Date and time
    June 19, 2012, 10:11AM
    • the point is if they didnt write articles like this, all you'd get each year is a GF summary dom. so don't bag the articles!

      the real question is if it rains, will eagles lose their aerial advantage due to the monsters they have - very quickly people like lynch, darling, cox, natanui all become 50% effective in the wet.

      Commenter
      matty
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      June 19, 2012, 10:20AM
    • I think 'bend over for the pies' is a long bow to draw. Most/All clubs want to play Collingwood at the MCG to benefit from gate and the AFL love the big attendance numbers. The Pies travel very well and usually play the best teams twice each year. This notion that other clubs go out of their way for Collingwood is a narrow view that just doesn't stack up. Other clubs and the AFL benefit greatly from the Magpies.

      Commenter
      TC
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      June 19, 2012, 11:03AM
  • It makes no difference. Regardless of whether or not the Eagles win or lose they had/have quite possibly the softest draw of the year compared to the other teams in the 2011 top 8 and will almost guarantee them the top spot on the ladder come round 23. Add to that 14 Home Games for the year when its a proven fact that they don't play well away from Patersons stadium only highlights this further.

    Don't get me wrong the Eagles are an awesome side, however when an awesome side gets an easy run I would hardly call that fair on the other 17 teams in the comp. When, and only when, the AFL gets their act together and comes up with a fair and consistent draw FOR ALL TEAMS will the best team rise to the top.

    Commenter
    Rob
    Date and time
    June 19, 2012, 11:02AM
    • Rob, people said the Eagles had an easy draw last year too. Then its ducking and free kicks. The fact is the draw works itself out over a few years. All teams work free kicks to their advantage and, if they have a large supporter base, get a good home ground advantage (Pies at MCG for example). The Eagles and the Dockers have the most difficult travel schedule of any teams in the comp every year, even being forced to fly from Perth to Tasmania to accommodate the Hawks. Collingwood gets numerous advantages with the MCG and all GF's regardless of who the best team was, are played at the MCG. We could also go on about the old father son rule too. The reality is the advantages are heavily in favour of Melbourne based teams. Although agree the Eagles draw so far has been quite light.

      Commenter
      Dsvid
      Location
      Expat
      Date and time
      June 19, 2012, 11:43AM
    • @Rob
      I sincerely hope you are not a Collingwood supporter becuase talking about another side having a soft draw if you do follow the Pies is just a little bit hypocritical.

      Commenter
      Ron
      Date and time
      June 19, 2012, 1:50PM
    • Yeah, they should make West Coast travel out of Perth as much as the Pies travel out of Melbourne, that would make it fair. Oh wait.... And how is our draw easy, we don't play GC or GWS twice and play premiership favourites Collingwood and Hawthorn twice.

      Commenter
      Nick
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      June 19, 2012, 2:07PM
  • Steele Sidebottom has a "Kade Simpson-like ability"???

    What an insult to Steele Sidebottom! He has well and truly passed Kade Simpson's level of ability, and is currently playing at a level that Kade Simpson will never reach.

    Commenter
    nardz
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    June 19, 2012, 11:12AM
    • Kade Simpson has a good game every 6-7 weeks. Sidebottom is finding consistency Simpson could only dream of.

      Go EAGLES

      Commenter
      Jimmy
      Location
      West Coast
      Date and time
      June 19, 2012, 12:38PM
  • So the headline says "Big problem for Collingwood; times two". That suggests to me that the article is probably going to mention Collingwood in some way. Nowhere in the article did the writer suggest "at the end of the day we bend over for the pies , wipe the tears for them. so must be only the pies with problems and no other team in afl". Dom's comment is him getting upset about reading an article about Collingwood. If Dom had have read the article properly he would have noticed the 4th sentence:

    "This isn't a Collingwood problem, it is a weekly football problem"

    If you don't care about Collingwood, don't read about them!

    Commenter
    Tony
    Date and time
    June 19, 2012, 11:13AM

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