This early review is all about the Friday night game and what Collingwood’s one-point win over the West Coast Eagles really means.
My brother taught me early in life that if the final margin in a game is less than two goals, it has been decided by luck, circumstance, pivotal moments and factors like momentum, flukes and others.
This may be the case in this game, in which both teams finished equal at the end except for a point – but Collingwood were the winners in more ways than one. It was an away game, their form had been dismal and they were rank outsiders. They had introduced a debutant, the second in two weeks; they regained second position on the ladder; and, most importantly, they had restored faith in their game plan.
They also had six more scoring shots and came from behind halfway through the final quarter to totally outlast the Eagles with more inside 50s.
If the finals were played next week, they would be on a high and brimming with confidence.
However, the finals are still six weeks away and it will be a big six weeks for those clubs still in with a chance to make finals.
Both teams had a number of their top 22 missing and player management from here on will be important. Both teams lost a critical player early in the match, which is a different proposition to not having a player available for selection as it upsets the game planning, the aerobic management of his teammates and the balance of the team overall.
For the Eagles, Jamie Cripps, a high-possession player and regular goal contributor, suffered an adductor strain. For Collingwood, Darcy Moore again injured his hamstring. Of the two Cripps would have been marginally more important.
After a brilliant first quarter in which six goals were scored by each team, only 11 more goals were scored for the game, with Collingwood hanging on for three quarters in which they were outscored by two, 11 and three points before storming home to outscore the Eagles by 17 points in the final term.
Josh Kennedy appeared to still be suffering from his illness and was the lowest possession getter of the players who lasted the game, while Nic Naitanui was used sparingly in the battle with Brodie Grundy.
A worrying sign for the Magpies would have been the underperformance of Mason Cox as a second ruckman, although his marking and performance around the ground, which included three goals, was much improved, though with plenty of scope still for improvement.
In a tough final quarter the young bodies on both sides faded, and it was left to the old hands to fight out the finish.
All in all it was a great game of football, nearly as exciting as last year’s grand final but with a different result – one that augers well for a great finals series.
For the Eagles, Elliott Yeo equalled the goal kicking performance of Michael Braun, and Liam Ryan climbed higher up the top 100 ladder.