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It could be a season-defining AFL match for both sides tonight, as Geelong takes on Collingwood at the MCG. Join our live blog from 19:30 AEST.
Many fans have remained lukewarm on Collingwood, even as last year’s grand finalists compiled a 10-game winning streak. The Magpies then stumbled badly last week against Carlton, to hand the Blues their only win in their last six starts.
Tonight Collingwood will be keen to set the record straight, anointing themselves as genuine premiership contenders with at least one night on top of the ladder.
The Cats are in a somewhat comparable position – five wins (and so very nearly six) from six, but leaving many viewers unconvinced with their creaky victories over low-ranked sides.
Nonetheless, they’ve tended to raise their game against better sides this season, with final-minute losses to Fremantle in Perth, Sydney at the SCG, and Collingwood last time around. Reverse those results and the Cats would be four points clear in first.
But looking to the past won’t help them. They need wins in the next few weeks, in a vicious run that includes Hawthorn, Adelaide, Essendon, and the Eagles in Perth. Tonight is the best place to start.
Geelong was leading recent contests between the sides 8-2, including two season wins and a grand final last year, but Collingwood finally got one back with a close one earlier this year.
Scott Pendlebury was the difference with 30 touches and four goals. The Pies will be glad to have him back, but after five weeks out he may have some rust to shake off. They also welcome back experienced defenders Nathan Brown and Chris Tarrant.
Geelong, in contrast, are bringing in their ninth and 10th debutants, with 196cm Josh Walker named at full forward, and mature-age midfielder Jackson Sheringham on the bench. They also bring back plenty of experience, with Steve Johnson back from injury and Harry Taylor returning after the birth of his daughter.
The crucial out for Geelong is the loss of Jimmy Bartel to suspension. Bartel and skipper Joel Selwood have been the difference in so many matches this season, willing their team over the line when they’ve been flagging. Without the Brownlow medallist, tonight could be a bridge too far.
But, while the Cats have looked flat at times this season, they’ve rarely looked flustered. Two experienced teams who’ve been there and done that, both desperate for some sort of momentum going into the crucial last weeks of the season.
Should be a cracker. Leave us your thoughts below.