The Roar
The Roar

AFL
Advertisement

Stop talking yourself up Collingwood, second is the first loser

Expert
11th July, 2015
31
2436 Reads

I know this will take most of you readers out there by surprise, but no one hates Collingwood like Collingwood supporters hate Collingwood.

Sure, you might think you hate the Magpies. You might look at the Black and White (anti) Social Club behind the sticks at each game and feel strong feelings of antipathy.

You might get on comments boards and troll their supporters. You might scream abuse at their players and no doubt you feel superior to all of the above.

But your level of hate does not even come close to that which beats in the hearts of the hard core Collingwood zealot, because in order to truly hate something you must sometimes also truly love it.

I know because I am one of those zealots.

There is really no such thing as a fair-weather Collingwood supporter because there has been so little fair weather. Add to that the unbridled hatred that you cop from all opposition supporters. Lots of it is easily as vile and classless as my mob are accused of dishing out.

When it became clear in the fourth quarter of the 2011 grand final that Geelong was going to win my phone started going off with messages from people I knew – some only vaguely – telling me how much pleasure they were taking in Collingwood losing.

The majority were from Carlton supporters, one of whom informed me that he probably enjoyed watching Collingwood lose a grand final more than he enjoyed watching Carlton win one.

This sort of thing creates a siege mentality. It’s not just a game. It’s us against them. Side by side.

Advertisement

To be part of Collingwood is to be part of something bigger than yourself. That especially includes the players. They have the honour of playing for us, not the other way round.

No one is harder on our players than us. You could scream the type of abuse at them that would see Adam Goodes call in the army and professional hit men to sort out and they wouldn’t flinch. They get far worse from their own. And right now they thoroughly deserve it.

I’ve now sat through three consecutive defeats in which they have solicited praise for their narrow and hard fought losses: Seven points to run away ladder leaders Fremantle in the west; Ten points to premiers Hawthorn and just three points to Port Power in Adelaide.

Bollocks to praising that rubbish. You can take that condescending and patronising tripe and shove it. I only see three games that could have won but weren’t. Second is the first loser.

To paraphrase William Shakepeare’s Julius Caesar: I come not to praise Collingwood but to bury them.

The Magpies in 2015 are not contenders. Dane Swan may have come out and declared that the Pies were contenders for the flag in the medium to short term but right now, like last year’s fade out, I reckon we’ll be lucky to make the eight. We are missing a number of elements that make the essential difference between winning the tight ones or listening to the oppositions song.

And I’m here to tell you what they are.

1. Learn to kick and catch
This may seem like a no brainer but it is seriously one of the Magpies’ key shortcomings. Shortly before I kicked the crap out of my HD LCD in furious anger (and went and watched the cricket on the bedroom telly that is mounted too high for my ageing hamstrings to stretch to), I watched the Magpie players make a succession of schoolboy skill errors that gifted Port Adelaide the ascendency:
• Jamie Elliott dropped an uncontested mark on the forward wing. Instead of being able to launch an attacking raid, the result was the ball spilled to Port and they went down the other end and scored a goal. Jamie, I’ll trade all your spectacular marks for just taking the gimmees.
• Steele Sidebottom handpassed directly to a Port player and the flow on was another goal to Port.
• Jordan De Goey and Tom Langdon kicked directly to opposition players.

Advertisement

These are just the specific ones I can remember through the red haze of rage that built inside me and led to the violent demise of my 40 inch Samsung.

There were basic skill errors to burn. Say what you will about Bucks: his skills were sublime. He could land a ball on a coke can 60 metres away. He needs to focus on teaching his charges some of those skills.

The players recess and lunch must be cancelled for the next month so the boys can learn to kick and catch. I want them sleeping with a Sherrin. I want them wearing balls for shoes. I want them to eat the red leather at every meal. I want our army of supporters to pop up constantly and throw footys at the players at all hours of the day and night.

2. Get on the ground and get the damn ball
There aren’t many similarities between the 1990 and 2010 Premiership sides but one key thing was that both sides featured players whose natural habitat was at the bottom of the ruck fighting for the damn ball.

Tony Francis had no thought for his own safety. If the ball was there to be gotten the little ferret was straight down onto it and then trying to get it out to advantage. He was a key part of that drought breaking premiership side.

I am not what you’d call the biggest Ross Lyon fan but there is a poster of him in my darts room because he gifted Collingwood one of my favourite ever players: Luke Ball. Words can barely express my love for Ball. I’m tearing up right now just thinking about him. His superb determination, skill and leadership.

Best of all was that Luke had a fever and the only remedy was red leather. If there was a ball in contest he wanted it bad and he’d be throwing his body at it regardless of the risk.

In the first quarter against Port Adelaide what I saw was a whole bunch of black and white bystanders watching as Power players desperately dived on the ball and won possession.

Advertisement

Were the Magpies worried about getting mud on their new tatts or messing up their hair? That’s what it seemed like to me. The result: Port won masses more ball and jumped out to a four goal lead. That was invaluable before the driving rain came. Port won by just three points.

They key thing that illustrates this point is Cyril Rioli’s one percenters for Hawthorn the week before. On three occasions with the ball to be won the Hawk superstar threw himself at the ball and got it out to advantage.

One of them was a four-on-one and Cyril was the one. It won the match for Hawthorn. Champion sides win the ball and you can’t win the ball unless you want it desperately. Right now Collingwood need to get that desperation into their play. Get on the ground and get the damn ball.

3. It’s time for Travis to change role
Before I go on, let me make it clear that I am a Travis Cloke fan. However, let’s look at some damning stats:

Full Forward Goals to Behinds percentages (100 goals minimum)
Charlie Dixon 67.8%
Jeremy Cameron 65%
Tom Hawkins 64%
Josh Kennedy 64%
Jack Riewoldt 63.5%
Matthew Pavlich 62%
Nick Riewoldt 61%
Drew Petrie 61%
Jarryd Roughead 61%
Travis Walker 60.75%
Buddy Franklin 58.4%
Jesse White 58%
Chris Tarrant 57%
Travis Cloke 55%

In 2011 Travis Cloke was a behemoth, almost getting the Pies to a consecutive flag, but for the champion side from Kardinia Park. However, in arguably his best season to date he had a percentage of goals to behinds of just 59 per cent.

To say Travis is an unreliable kick for goal is like saying water is wet. He is Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you never know what you are going to get.

As you can see from the above list, Cloke’s career percentage of goals to behinds is the worst of all of the current full forwards. He kicked 1.4 against the Hawks, one of which was a complete shocker and gave his opponent Brian Lake cause for mirth – although Travis otherwise threw him around like a ragdoll. Make that 3.2 and the Pies win.

Advertisement

The stats are consistent and overwhelming: inside 50 Travis can’t kick straight. However, outside 50 he’s about as good as you can get.

He kicks like a mule and is pretty damn accurate. The main thing he has going for him is his size and speed. One on one I’ve rarely seen his colours lowered.

Lonergan and Taylor are the only ones I can remember doing it. The bloke is a marking machine and the best contested marker in the AFL. In fact, he ranks as the sixth-best contested marker on average in AFL history. This season he is once more the leading contested marker in the AFL. Have a look at these stats for current forwards:

Average contested marks per game Average marks per game
Travis Cloke 2.11 / 6.87
Nick Riewoldt 2.01 / 8.69
Tom Hawkins 1.85 / 5.41
Buddy Franklin 1.59 / 5.31
Jack Riewoldt 1.55 / 5.37
Drew Petrie 1.44 / 5.48
Matthew Pavlich 1.39 / 5.89
Josh Kennedy 1.34 / 5.92
Travis Walker 1.22 / 5.49
Jarryd Roughead 1.14 / 4.73
Charlie Dixon 1.12 / 3.05
Jeremy Cameron 1.08 / 4.92
Chris Tarrant 1.06 / 5.56
Jesse White 0.84 / 3.66

I believe there are two places that Travis could be of far better value for the team:
• Centre half forward or
• Centre half back.

At centre half forward Travis will actually get more involved with the play and it would be better suited to his long range kicking.

Alternatively, he might go to centre half back. Just like how Mark Harvey rebuilt the woefully inaccurate Chris Tarrant as a backman, Travis’ speed and body size mean that there aren’t any centre half forwards who would be happy about going up against him.

Further, his 70-metre kicks coming out of defence could be quite handy and it wouldn’t matter as much where they actually go.

Advertisement

I guess the other option is to get Matthew Lloyd – who had a goals to behinds percentage of 68.6 per cent – in to work intensively, for the long term, to fix Travis’ kicking for goal.

Until Collingwood properly address these three basic issues they will be making up the numbers and many more innocent televisions will suffer the consequences.

close