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Magpies land Tarrant bonus

Up in arms: Chris Tarrant celebrates a goal.

Up in arms: Chris Tarrant celebrates a goal. Photo: Getty Images

THE CONNOLLY REPORT

THE AFL weekend provided no shortage of drama and its share of good news stories, too. Karmichael Hunt's match-winning goal in Cairns was the pick and Scott Gumbleton's successful return for Essendon another crowd-pleaser.

But the beginnings of another heart-warming tale were also written at the MCG on Saturday night, this one with potentially far more important ramifications in terms of this year's premiership.

Collingwood had plenty of better performers than Chris Tarrant in its efficient 31-point dismissal of Geelong, but it's doubtful any Pie delivered a more significant game.

For while the rebound of Heath Shaw and the prolific ball-winning of Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury and co is these days a given, it's the 31-year-old veteran who might just prove the structural key to a third grand final and second flag in three years for the Pies.

While they've been impressive enough already in 2012, there's been perhaps two chinks in the Magpie armour, namely their scoring power and their flexibility. Tarrant's presence on Saturday night in only his third senior appearance of the year did much to solve the former issue, and his versatility is a huge ace up coach Nathan Buckley's sleeve on the latter count.

Tarrant's 2.2, one score assist and 11 possessions certainly weren't match-winning, but in light of Travis Cloke's complete shutdown by Geelong defender Tom Lonergan and Chris Dawes' form issues and continued use as a part-time ruckman, the old Magpie offered a genuine target. His repeated hard leading up the ground gave the opposition defence a lot more to think about.

Geelong's defence was spread further, unable to team as effectively as it has for so long now, and the chance to create more contests caused more spills. The likes of Dale Thomas, Alex Fasolo and a very handy defensive forward in Tyson Goldsack were the chief beneficiaries.

On a miserable night, 17.8 was a very handy return for Collingwood, and significant, given the Pies, ranked first in the AFL for scores last year with 118 points a game, have so far this season ranked only sixth with 98.

Almost as significant was the growth in Dawes' confidence the longer the game progressed. The big man has had a miserable year, but clearly enjoyed having someone else take some of the forward line heat.

In terms of flexibility, Tarrant can be the man who fills the role the retired Leigh Brown played so well for the Pies, minus the ruck duties.

As good as Collingwood's back line was on Saturday night, with Shaw and Harry O'Brien back to their rebounding best and key-position men Ben Reid and Nathan Brown holding up well enough, Tarrant can still play a critical role there as well.

You don't necessarily want to mess around too much with a defence that's stable and already functioning well, but Buckley and co mightn't have too much choice come finals time if, say, West Coast bobs up with a forward set-up containing the names Darling, Lynch, Cox and a returned Josh Kennedy, or Hawthorn takes in Franklin, Roughead and Hale.

Even without that array of height, Collingwood could still use Tarrant to take a medium-sized forward, as he has done regularly in the past thanks to his agility.

Maybe Tarrant's emotional worth to the Magpies shouldn't be underestimated, either. He is the one-time problem child who grew up, in every respect, in his four seasons with Fremantle, returning to his original club a far more mature person and certainly a more rounded footballer.

A story that might several times have been primarily about unfulfilled potential now reads a lot differently, the sense of Tarrant's obligation to the Pies obvious in his fine return last year, one good enough to earn him 10th spot in the best and fairest.

You got a sense of how much Collingwood appreciated that commitment in former coach Mick Malthouse's pre-match address to his side on grand final day, when he compared Tarrant's journey to that of relative newcomer Fasolo.

''His has been longer, and a bit harder, and he's had to go through a lot more emotions . . it's been a lifetime coming, hasn't it 'Taz','' the coach acknowledged in front of the team. Tarrant's third grand final appearance had come a full eight seasons after his first two. Sadly, his personal score at the end of that afternoon was 0-3.

Collingwood is already good enough to win this year's flag. But after a year ruined by injury, Tarrant's addition to the mix, with his capacity to play a variety of roles, might just have bolstered those chances again. And fourth time lucky for him would be some sort of premiership story.

14 comments

  • Good call Rohan, the Pies have been waiting all season for the Leroy Brown replacement. Dawes has tried to cover the second ruck and number two banana up forward ala Leroy the last few years but the media has been too quick to judge. With Tarrant the Pies have got back that versatility and can stretch most defences..

    Commenter
    kcabotkcab
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    July 16, 2012, 12:20PM
    • Oh please.... Collingwood will not even be in the top four much less get near a premiership.
      Tarrant is a solid ordinary player but not a match winner...

      The swarm is long gone.... and they still have no backup to Jolly.

      My pick is a Syd/Hawks GF with the Hawks to win.

      Commenter
      Brian`
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 16, 2012, 12:36PM
      • Oh please, yourself, Brian. If you bother to read piece, never claimed he was a matchwinner, it's about the flexibility he gives their structure and support for other two key forwards. And pretty big call to suggest a side which won 10 straight and is equal top on points won't even make the top four. Must be a good hunch, because it sure ain't based on logic!

        Commenter
        Rohan Connolly
        Date and time
        July 16, 2012, 12:43PM
      • Oh please, please....The argument that the pies will struggle to maintain 4th is based on percentages. If they don't maintain a game clear of Hawks/WC/Ess then they are cactus, they have pathetic %. They play Hawks this week. It will be interesting, but given the Hawks form, and the pies lack of interest against the blues I can't see them winning. If WC can beat Adelaide.. a big call I know, then they might end up 6th.

        I say it again... where is the swarm? and who can cover when Jolly is tired/injured?

        Commenter
        Brian
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        July 16, 2012, 2:06PM
      • I don't know Brian I think the pies pressure in the first q on Sat night was swarm like. They coasted a bit after that. They will beat the Hawks this week. As for Jolly, of course he would be a huge loss if he went down. However Wood does an ok job if he just needs to rest for a week.

        Commenter
        mh
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        July 16, 2012, 2:34PM
    • Great article Rohan and I can see the dilemma Bucks is facing in keeping Taz in the mix. I certainly don't agree with dropping Dawesy. We have no second ruckman a la Leigh Brown - well documented - and can't see anyone else stepping up for that role. Do you think Bucks may look at dropping Harry O at all?

      Commenter
      Caffabee
      Date and time
      July 16, 2012, 1:07PM
      • Wouldn't have thought so. I thought he was terrific on Saturday night, gave him votes.

        Commenter
        Rohan Connolly
        Date and time
        July 16, 2012, 1:09PM
    • Another well considered piece from Mr Connolly!

      Tarrant could easily be the most important piece of the Pies finals jigsaw puzzle. At last we have the flexibility to allow Dawes to take the part-time ruck role. I was worried we'd have to bring in Cam Wood who is a solid trier but lacks around the ground skills.

      Let's hope that 31 year old body can hold up.

      Commenter
      Panther
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 16, 2012, 1:25PM
      • They will need Tarrant down back when teams can be bothered giving Harry O someone to man.
        I've seen Bombers and Freo blow games by levaing him loose for a qtr or two. Both games changed when they bothered manning him up.

        People can knock Carlton (and as a Bomber fan i'm quite happy to) but their use of defensive forwards against Pies should be used as a blueprint.

        Commenter
        Lou
        Location
        Hoppers
        Date and time
        July 16, 2012, 1:37PM
        • Maybe Lou - I think the key thing that we saw in the Blues Pies game was that the pies just didn't come to play, Carlton won the ball time and again from around the packs and the pies just time and again didn't want to commit thier bodies into the fray - I still think the pies are a good chance this year, but obviously...it a crazy open year for the top 6 teams - it'll boil down to the next few weeks and how the match ups for the finals pan out i.e pies dont want to play the hawks 1st week of the finals and I doubt Sydney or Adelaide would want the pies (even away... maybe more so lolol).

          Commenter
          The boy who cried wolf
          Location
          Planet Earth
          Date and time
          July 16, 2012, 2:00PM

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