JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

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

More comments

Comments are now closed

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 119vs ADE 80 Report Stats
BRI 130vs WBU 122 Report Stats
PTA 122vs FRE 53 Report Stats
HAW 113vs CAR 56 Report Stats
SYD 127vs GCF 64 Report Stats
WCE 125vs STK 30 Report Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL 103vs GWS 77 Report Stats
COL 92vs ESS 95 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
WCE 96vs HAW 64 Report Stats
Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 69vs SYD 60 Report Stats
WBU 102vs ADE 109 Report Stats
Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 88vs NTH 105 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 135vs ADE 61 Report Stats
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 51vs NTH 77 Report Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 67vs HAW 94 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
WCE 80vs NTH 55 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
HAW 107vs WCE 61 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 22 17 5 0 118.73 68
West Coast Eagles 22 16 5 1 148.22 66
Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
Sydney Swans 22 16 6 0 127.12 64
Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
View all

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers