Collingwood and Carlton might be the oldest of foes, but their rivalry has been a bit of a fizzer for going on three decades now.
Since 1990, the Magpies and Blues have met 54 times – never in a final – with just three of those games decided by fewer than 10 points and an average margin of about six goals.
The rivalry still means plenty to the fans of each team – which is why the average crowd since 1990 is pushing 69,000 – but for the rest of us tonight’s match feels less blockbuster than mockbuster.
That doesn’t mean the stakes aren’t high. Both sides are unsurprisingly winless after two rounds, so the heat is going to be turned up on the loser.
Should it be though?
The Blues seem to finally have a pretty good grasp on where they are in their development and what they’re building towards. An 0-3 start for Carlton doesn’t – or at least shouldn’t – change much.
As for the Pies, haven’t we been here before with Nathan Buckley?
It’s an open secret that the Pies aren’t much good, so the obsession with the hot seat under Buckley is becoming tedious. Let’s get to the game, shall we?
Collingwood won plenty of admirers for their performance against the Giants in Round 2. Unfortunately they lost not only the match but also, perhaps more significantly, Darcy Moore with a hamstring injury.
Moore’s absence will be felt immediately as he’s about as good a match-up for Carlton young gun Charlie Curnow as you’ll find.
The game’s best key forwards often jump a level in their third or fourth season, so there’s a good chance what we’ve seen from Curnow in the opening rounds of his third year is a decent representation of the player he is now, and for Collingwood, that’s a problem.
Lynden Dunn lacks the agility to go with Curnow, and Buckley might prefer Jeremy Howe to roam and float as he does best. The could leave Matthew Scharenberg as the best option. That’s a fun match-up.
Things are no less interesting at the other end of the ground where the Blues have their own decisions to make. Liam Jones’ transformation is a good story, but he’s not a good key defender. Jacob Weitering is.
Brendon Bolton said the 2015 No.1 pick would return to the end of the ground where he’s more comfortable after a couple of inconspicuous weeks in the front half, that’s good news for Carlton assuming Weitering and Jones can co-exist in a back six that already includes Caleb Marchbank and Lachie Plowman.
I have my doubts about how all of those pieces fit and would feel better about it if Jones was playing in the VFL this week.
Working in Carlton’s favour is that scoring hasn’t come easy for the Pies in the opening rounds with scores of 67 and 79. Medium forward Ben Crocker is their leading goal scorer so far with three.
It’s likely going to take a team effort and a good spread of goalkickers for the Magpies to kick a decent score. One of the bright spots in their loss to GWS was the play of Adam Treloar in the forward line.
Treloar jagged a couple of goals against his former side but it was more than that. All of the things that make him a very good onballer – speed, acceleration, ability to win ground balls and break from congestion into space – make him a dangerous player with and without the ball inside-50. If the Magpies can afford to do without him in the midfield for chunks of time (hint: they can), Treloar offers an attacking spark they so sorely lack.
Ben Reid is hit or miss as a forward but at least offers Collingwood a solid target and is dangerous enough on the lead and in the air to demand respect. He could also be called on to quell Curnow the young Blue gets his confidence up, which would be a double-win for the Blues. Mason Cox is just a guy.
The midfield is where things are tastiest in this match-up. Patrick Cripps continues to develop into the evolutionary Josh Kennedy and he has able support from the ever-underrated Marc Murphy and smooth Sam Petrevski-Seton. Ed Curnow has had the quietest 67-disposal fortnight I can remember.
For the Pies it’s former A-grader Scott Pendlebury (that’s a joke), Steele Sidebottom, Treloar and Taylor ‘The Butcher’ Adams doing the heavy lifting.
Brodie Grundy gave Rory Lobb a bath last week but will find things much tougher against a returning Matthew Kreuzer. Nonetheless, Collingwood looks a little stronger around the ball.
How the Blues attack will be fascinating. Throughout the preseason we heard and saw that Carlton wanted to play faster. In the opening round it paid off somewhat. While Carlton scored more freely – especially in the opening term – they also got cut to pieces.
Richmond scored 94 points off Carlton’s turnovers, which is more than the Blues conceded in any game last season. Their attacking mindset compromised their defensive integrity.
Do they take the game on again and bet on Collingwood being unable to punish them as the Tigers did, or play it more conservatively and try to grind it out? The former would be more entertaining even if it might not be the wisest move.
Neither of these sides are much chop and it’s far from the tastiest Friday night match-up, but that’s not to say it’s not an interesting one. There are enough stars, subplots and Sidebottoms for something fun to break out.
I don’t know if it’ll be any good, but I think it’ll be close. I’m tipping Collingwood by 10 points.
That’s my Friday night forecast. What’s yours?