After last week’s dramatic one point victory over last-season’s minor premiers, the Magpies were sent crashing back to Earth with a demoralising defeat to the Saints.
Sunday’s defeat was a mix of poor, lethargic and ultimately appalling football from Collingwood which has in all summed up their 1-3 start to the season.
When the siren sounded, Collingwood fans left in disgust as the majority of the game was met with groans, slamming of chairs and profanity that can’t be repeated on a public forum. However, it is this frustration that has been building since Buckley’s first season in 2012 that is leaving the ‘Magpie Army’ even less inspired after each passing week.
This time last week, Collingwood fans had something to cheer about. Coach Nathan Buckely also came out in mid-week and stated that the Pies had ’45 out of 47 fit players’ playing across both levels this weekend. This left Collingwood fans with a feeling of excitement as the Pies could finally boast a fresh injury list.
A resounding pressure performance against the Swans saw Collingwood put the clamps down on one of the AFL’s best. The Magpies applied 115 tackles and were relentless in hunting down the Swans.
This was coupled by only allowing Sydney inside their forward 50 twice in the first quarter and if it wasn’t for woeful kicking late on, the margin would have exceeded three-four goals.
This week, the tackles were down to fifty-five and were beaten in that stat (Saints recorded eighty-five) which largely led to turnovers from the Magpie players.
It wasn’t just the pressure acts, it was the same old problems that has plagued Collingwood all season – poor kicking inside the forward 50. Collingwood boast one of the league’s best midfields but are struggling to convert their large amounts of inside 50s into goals as Collingwood have still not kicked a score higher than 100 in each of their four games all season.
Darcy Moore, their young superstar has kicked one goal in four games and has struggled against the best defender from each side. Alex Fasolo has kicked eight goals this season but his inaccuracy has cost him dearly.
Jamie Elliott has just returned after over 500 days on the sidelines. Jesse White continues to work hard around the ground and receives the ball too far from goal. While, Chris Mayne languished and saw himself dropped to the VFL after three uninspiring performances.
Nathan Buckley stated in his press conference yesterday that “none of our forwards have really looked dangerous at any stage this year” which ultimately rings the bells of changes needed.
Uninspiring performances from Jackson Ramsay, Jarryd Blair and Jack Crisp has certainly increased the pressure on three of Collingwood’s usual ‘shoe in’s’ each week. With in-form youngster Tom Phillips set to return after being withdrew due to illness, Matthew Scharenberg and Josh Daicos playing solid footy at VFL level and Daniel Wells set to return after a class performance against Coburg.
These changes for Collingwood are all but certainties heading into Anzac Day.
After playing only 70-75 per cent game time in his first VFL run-out, the 32-year-old was superb around the ground with clean possession and much-needed poise around the ground. He was the league’s best score assists player last season and his entries inside 50 is something Collingwood are crying out for.
With Collingwood having nine days to prepare for Anzac Day, his name has to be surely thrown up on the selection table as he could be a game-breaker in this season-defining match.
Nathan Buckley has lacked a Plan B during his tenure as Magpies coach and it is time for experimentation in order to defeat the Bombers on Anzac Day. Ben Reid has been solid down back, but the superb VFL form of new recruit Lynden Dunn has to be considered.
Dunn tallied thirty-one touches along with twelve marks from full-back against Coburg this weekend and his kicking has been one of his greatest traits throughout his career.
Reid could be thrown forward to alleviate some of the pressure off Moore as Dunn and Henry Schade take the key defensive posts. Collingwood’s defence has held its own against tall forward’s this year and with the help of Tyson Goldsack and Jeremy Howe, the Magpies should have enough defensive weapons to curb the Bombers’ attack.
This would allow for White to continue to push up the ground and play his supporting Centre-Half Forward role as Moore and Reid work their way around the forward line to try and work a score for the Magpies. Throwing Reid forward would lead to the Bombers’ best key defender in Michael Hurley to take Reid as Moore goes back to roaming and gets the second-best defender as a result.
Other options include Mason Cox and Lachie Keeffe but has a high risk, high reward feel to it. Cox struggled in Round 1 and his performances have not inspired greatly thus far. Keeffe hasn’t played since 2014, but is mobile around the ground which could be an x-factor for the Magpies.
It all comes down to Tuesday week for the Magpies. Their 2017 season, their coach’s future and their own legacy on the year come down to arguably their biggest game of the home-and-away season. With Essendon being 2-2 and coming off a thrashing by the Crows, the pressure is insurmountably high on both sides.
With a fresh list, a nine-day break and a chance on reflection, us Magpie fans expect a change. Buckley has promised a ‘rejig’ of the forward line and now it is time for the execution. If Buckley wants to keep his job he has to be daring and take measures with a fresh list to experiment new ideas. If that includes dropping key players and giving others opportunities, it must be done.
This side is by no means done for the season but if they can find that extra gear once more. The 2017 season may not be over just yet and their coach may have a job come the summer of 2017-18.