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Leaky defence the key to Magpies' woes

Magpie Dane Swan .... 'Some at Collingwood laugh at Swan's lack of accountability.'

Magpie Dane Swan .... 'Some at Collingwood laugh at Swan's lack of accountability.' Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

It's hard to know what to make of Nathan Buckley's Magpies. It is the only team to have beaten the classy Cats this year, yet looked awful last week against Sydney. Along with five other teams, it has posted five wins so far, but sits 11th on the ladder because it has such a poor percentage (91.6 per cent).

The much-heralded Magpie defence of yesteryear is now leaking goals. The average score against Collingwood this year is 101 points a game. In the grand final years of 2010 and 2011, it was 73 and 71 points respectively. It is a major blow-out.

I believe there are three main reasons for this.


During the grand final days, the back half was settled. Harry O'Brien, Heath Shaw, Nick Maxwell, Ben Reid and Alan Toovey were the constants. Giving support were the likes of Nathan Brown, Chris Tarrant, Leon Davis and Ben Johnson. Under Mick Malthouse's coaching, he preferred to play with an extra man in defence. That player was either Maxwell or O'Brien, and they relished the freedom. That's not happening under Buckley and both players have struggled to beat a direct opponent in one-on-one contests in the back line. As a result, O’Brien has been pushed to a wing.

Newcomers to the back line are Jordan Russell (ex-Carlton), Marty Clarke, who had a two-year break in Ireland, and Paul Seedsman, who is just into his second season of senior football. Russell’s lack of self-confidence suggests he will struggle to help the Pies. Clarke’s lack of accountability and dodgy kicking make him suspect. Seedsman with his dash and quality delivery will prove to be good value.

Injuries haven’t helped Buckley's cause. Dale Thomas was set to play across half-back to add some bite, but ankle problems have quashed that plan. Toovey did a knee in round three and is done for the season.  Heath Shaw has missed games with a crook back and round girth. Ben Reid has been worked out. He takes a lot of intercept marks. To stop that, his opponents are leading him up to the wing to get him out of the way, thus exposing Russell, Clarke and Seedsman to extreme pressure.


It was Scott Pendlebury who, early in the season, said that some of his midfield mates were "cheating". That is, not working hard enough to defend. Pendlebury and Dane Swan have carried the Magpie midfield in recent years and are doing it again. The Pies don’t have the depth of gut-running midfielders that Sydney, Geelong and Hawthorn boast. The unavailability of Dayne Beams and Thomas hurts.

Luke Ball is back but his value is in close at the stoppages, not the fast break plays that are defining today’s better teams. Now that Collingwood is struggling, Steele Sidebottom and Swan need to change their ways. When the Pies were hot Sidebottom took great advantage, because he reads the play far better than most and positioned forward of the play to receive. That’s not happening now and he needs to push back more to help his defenders.

Some at Collingwood laugh at Swan’s lack of accountability. They say he wouldn’t have a clue as to who his direct opponent is. It’s funny when they are winning, not so funny now they’re losing.

Buckley is trying to get some midfield tightness into the team by teaching Brent Macaffer  to tag. Last week he did a good job on Sydney gun Josh Kennedy, the week before he ran with Joel Selwood. It is a step in the right direction.


In 2010 and 2011, the Pies were the best at locking the ball in their forward half. This made it much easier for the Collingwood defenders to defend; one, because the ball wasn’t in the opposition’s scoring zone; and two, when it did get there it came in slowly, allowing Shaw, O’Brien and Maxwell time to set up their defensive strategies.

Now, the Pies are ranked 12th for the time the ball spends in their front half. Their forward press is faltering. The ball comes out too often, too easily, too quickly. Playing a third tall in Jarrod Witts hasn’t helped. But Buckley needs to get game time into the 208-centimetre ruckman as Darren Jolly nears the end.

In the absence of Thomas, Toovey, Krakouer, Ball, Beams and the departed Sharrod Wellingham and Leon Davis, the tackle count has fallen. In the grand final years, the average number of tackles a  game was 74. In the past two seasons, it has dropped to 64.

The day after last week’s shocker against Sydney, Buckley spoke about the ‘‘next evolution’’ at Collingwood. That was, putting together a group of players, plenty of them young and experienced, to learn to play a brand of football that would take Collingwood to a premiership. A major component of it was to have hard-running rebounders, who would have the speed and kicking skills to create scores. And they needed a strong mindset that would will them to turn around quickly to run back into defence to help out. Think Kieren Jack, Dan Hannebery, Ryan O’Keefe and Jarrad McVeigh at Sydney.

Throughout this week, Buckley has spoken about the focus being very much on defence in Friday night’s game against the Brisbane Lions. In a struggling, evolving team it will be interesting to see if Swan and Sidebottom in particular can change their ways.


  • At Richmond we still laugh at your coaching ability

    Tones jewels
    Punt road
    Date and time
    May 30, 2013, 7:22PM
    • At Collingwood we laugh at your finals form. Oh wait...

      Magpie Mick
      Date and time
      May 31, 2013, 9:08AM
  • I'm not sure if anyone at Collingwood gives any credence to what Robert Walls writes. I certainly don't.

    Date and time
    May 30, 2013, 7:30PM
    • It's his guess to why the pies are out of the eight and not where most people think they should be with the team they have.

      No excuses for playing young kids are injuries. Freo has worse injuries and the hawks and cats are playing lots of first gamers in the past 2 years and both are in the top two.

      It's his guess, I would of said that the studs the pies have are still top of the game but its mid to bottom players aren't good enough.

      But it's great to see them out of the eight.

      Date and time
      May 31, 2013, 7:03AM
  • Thank you Robert for pointing out some dynamics that have been going on for the last 18 months. One has to ask, what is the coach doing about this, although to be fair these issues started creeping in during the second half of 2011.

    One other thing is disposal efficiency. In 2010 our kicking was precision. Over the last 18 months its been woeful. Adding people like Marty Clarke (as a Leon substitute) has not helped! But people like Swan, Harry and Shaw have been coughing it up too often as well. How many times have we seen turnovers in our forward 50 or balls being kicked over Cloke's head?

    The mystery is how all of this can be temporarily rectified for one game (Geelong) with such efficiency?

    Date and time
    May 30, 2013, 7:39PM
    • I think the Wobbles problems were not so much rectified as not really needed in the game against Geelong. The Cats were bloody awful, their midfield was non existent and they had little system. Geelong played one quarter and lost by 6 points.

      Date and time
      May 30, 2013, 11:40PM
    • The Pies relentless pressure against Geelong was so intense and effectively sustained throughout much of the game, that the Cats were forced into uncharacteristic errors by real and perceived threats. Whilst injuries to key players are obviously an overwhelming consideration for the Pies, you have to wonder about the coaching ability of a wanabee who declares Cameron Wood to be a future 'elite ruckman' and strives to return one of his favourites [Clarke] to the list; despite his obvious lack of accountability, kicking and basic decision making skills.

      Date and time
      May 31, 2013, 9:29AM
    • Agree with Kel.

      Geelong lost. But they would have been pretty happy knowing that by playing just one quarter they matched Collingwood.

      Date and time
      May 31, 2013, 1:11PM
  • If the real and only black and white stand proud as one team, then they should be inspired to get the victory they really need during this troubled time. Any lesser achievement would lend itself to a fallacy of commitment on many levels. It's amazing how adversity can motivate a team to succeed, so hopefully that will occur in their next match.

    Date and time
    May 30, 2013, 8:03PM
    • Collingwood fans: stay calm, we need to stay as united as essendon fans have. Keep the faith

      Date and time
      May 30, 2013, 10:01PM

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AFL 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
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Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
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Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
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Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
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Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
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Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
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Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
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Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
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Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
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Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
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Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
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Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
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Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
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Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
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Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
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Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all

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