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Plans will change for Magpies and Eagles

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Chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age

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BEFORE the game, the guessing game. Having lost cornerstone players ahead of their no-tomorrow semi-final on Saturday night, Collingwood and West Coast each must amend their plan, simultaneously trying to anticipate the other's adjustments.

For Collingwood, the task of collaring West Coast's super-sized forward line has been made slightly easier by the suspension of Quinten Lynch, but harder by the suspension of Nick Maxwell, and will become harder still if the Eagles successfully appeal Lynch's ouster. They can lose nothing by trying.

Less shielded by the midfield than in previous seasons, the Magpies' defence has been brittle this year, and buoyant West Coast will be out early to establish its breaking point.

Against tall forward lines, Maxwell specialises as a ''third man up''. Ordinarily, the Magpies would re-assign the role to the athletic Tyson Goldsack, a defender until this season, best described now by that old-fashioned description, utility.

But Goldsack did not play last week because of an ankle injury, and is not certain to return this week.

Maxwell aside, Ben Reid is the best reader of the play, and the best mark, and the Magpies would be loath to limit him to a containing role. He was second only to Travis Cloke as Collingwood's best last Friday.

Last week, Heath Shaw, another career backman, ranged forward, took a pack mark, kicked a goal. He could be repatriated to the backline, but it would be with fresh instructions from the Collingwood hierarchy to mind his man. Their fingers would be crossed under the table. Tightening up is not Shaw's forte.

Chris Dawes' lack of form this season is not a state secret, but against the sublime Cox/Naitanui ruck duumvirate, the Magpies cannot afford to play a makeshift, and Dawes will keep his place.

But the Magpies might decide to bring in Jackson Paine, a late withdrawal last week, in an effort to stretch the Eagles' defence as its own is being stretched. It would be speculative to say the least; Paine has played just six games. But AFL finals are replete with such tales of opportunity knocking. In any case, expect Darren Jolly to ghost forward if he can, and Cox and Naitanui to ghost forward because they can.

If not Paine, and if Goldsack fails to prove his fitness, the Magpies are likely to recall the diminutive Jamie Elliott, like Paine a first-year player who has made a big impression. He specialises in harassment.

On balance, West Coast has been less hard-hit than Collingwood. The imposing pair of Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling have made the Eagles' forward line their own, and an in-form Lynch is a bonus. West Coast has a money-back guarantee at the tribunal, since Lynch, unlike Maxwell, does not risk a longer suspension by appealing. Freed, he would make the Eagles formidable indeed.

The loss of Beau Waters, vice-captain and hard nut, from the backline, is more problematic. But Jacob Brennan acquitted himself well as sub for Waters on Sunday, and on the sidelines, Matt Rosa and Mitch Brown are both - if not rubbing their hands - cooling their heels. Even without Waters, still the Eagles run deep.

All this presumes that Saturday night's match conforms to expectations. As the finals already have proved, they can be confounding. In Hawthorn's defeat of Collingwood, small forwards kicked lead-up goals. And West Coast's thumping of North Melbourne was largely a case of beating the opposition at its own game. Compelled to remake their teams, the Magpies and Eagles will lay their plans as best they can - and be ready at a moment's notice to tear them up.

4 comments so far

  • Lynch will be devastated if he gets a weeks suspension TV does not give you a true picture of what happened Both players were in a marking situation but a misskick coming their way dipped at the last moment and fell short for Lynch once committed to pull out in midair If one was to check a mark later in the game taken by Lynch one could see that the situation was almost identical but this time the incoming ball sat up for him If Lynch had intended to do some damage the first time he certainly did"t show it

    Commenter
    plaka
    Location
    nedlands WA
    Date and time
    September 11, 2012, 4:17AM
    • Can somebody explain to me why Maxwell's hit was rated at 325 points but Brent Harvey's hit on Adam Selwood was rated at 225 points. Both were described as reckless, medium impact and high contact. Why are they allocated different points ?

      Commenter
      Aussie in France
      Location
      France
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 7:30AM
      • its simple he plays for collingwood and the AFL want Sydney to play in the grand final , compromised draw (event not competition), comprimised draft,comprimised fixturing of games ,biased umpiring and inconsistent tribunal mrp decisions . watch the 2002 grand final and you can see it all roccas goal , tarrants goal 60 meters out post high but touched on mark (yeah right) the goalline back to the ball tackle by ashcroft in the marking contest and of course lynch giving away 3 to 4 free kicks not paid.
        The current administration has destroyed our game , how many now dont go ,how many more games than vfl days and how much larger is our population.in proportion to attendance , If you take Collingwood , hawthorn and essendon attendances out , whats left vfa attendance numbers ,sickof it

        Commenter
        open thy eyes
        Date and time
        September 11, 2012, 10:19AM
      • Maxwell gets another 100 points because he plays for Collingwood. And Harvey will probably get a further reduction when he goes to see his best mate, Schimma.

        Commenter
        Ross
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        September 11, 2012, 2:14PM

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