Well, hasn’t this been an eventful footy season so far!
Just about all logic has gone out the window, and it seems that just about everything we knew from 2019 – and even the first round of 2020 – is no longer relevant.
It certainly makes analysis, tipping and predictions incredibly difficult, but let’s give it a go anyway.
Tonight we have the 2019 preliminary final rematch between the Giants and Pies, and I just hope that this actually lives up to its potential. A lot of highly anticipated fixtures so far this season have been total fizzers, like Collingwood vs Richmond and Geelong vs Hawthorn in Round 2 and Brisbane vs West Coast last weekend.
There’s no doubt this game has the potential to be a cracker, but it comes down to both sides and what they each bring to Giants Stadium tonight. Because in this dragged-out season so far both sides have brought clean, quality football to the table as well as some pretty ordinary stuff.
So how will the game play out?
On first glance you’d say Collingwood should easily be able to get the job done.
The Pies have been widely considered the in-form team of the competition at the moment, mainly because they’re in second spot on the ladder and also because few are willing to judge ladder leaders Port Adelaide on victories over three ‘below-average’ sides.
To talk about the Pies as the competition pace-setter is fair, but it’ll be interesting to see how they match up against the Giants tonight in what is Collingwood’s biggest test so far this season, mainly because of their recent history, with GWS defeating Collingwood in three of their previous four encounters.
In theory – and in recent history – this is an opportunity for the Giants to take advantage of.
With their backs up against the wall and with a string of key players underperforming, right about now we would see the Giants rise to the moment and win the game.
It’s exactly what the Giants did in this fixture last season.
After losing three successive games between Rounds 15 and 17 in 2019 the Giants thrashed the Pies in Sydney by almost eight goals to get themselves back in the groove.
But that was then and this is now.
So on recent form and face value you’d go for the Pies.
They’ve definitely been impressive in recent weeks and their biggest strength is the even contribution across the board.
Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom and Taylor Adams are three of the hardest-working players in the competition and are constantly creating opportunities for their team as well as contributing to the scoreboard.
Up forward there’s a great spread of talent too.
Jordan De Goey, Jaidyn Stephenson and Brody Mihocek are all great players and create opportunities for themselves. Callum Brown is also developing nicely.
It’s a shame they aren’t complemented by a decent key forward. Mason Cox just doesn’t do it for me and probably doesn’t do it for the Pies.
I didn’t mind what Darcy Cameron had to offer, but he couldn’t hit the scoreboard, which is a bit of a problem. Sure, he’s played only three games, and if he’s the man for the Pies going forward, it’s a longer-term project. But even that is up in the air at the moment.
However, it’s better than having one of the game’s best key forwards in your side and he cannot get his hands on the footy.
Last Friday, for the second week in a row, 2019 Coleman medallist Jeremy Cameron had a single-goal game.
That isn’t entirely his fault, because once the Giants midfield gets into the hands of their forwards they can usually make the most of it.
They are currently third in the competition for efficiency inside 50. The problem is they’re barely getting the ball in there. The Giants are 16th in the competition for inside 50s after three rounds.
Collingwood isn’t far behind them – they’re ranked 13th in the competition for inside 50s – but the difference is the Pies aren’t letting their opposition score. They have kept their opponents to 34, 36 and 37 points so far this year.
Collingwood’s great start to the season is largely thanks to their hard work in the middle of the ground. Currently first in the league for disposals, first for disposal efficiency and sixth for clearances, it’s no wonder many are looking at them as the competition benchmark.
So how can the Giants turn this around? By beating the Pies at their own game, something they are absolutely capable of doing.
Last season the Giants ranked second in the competition for clearances and sixth for disposals. They just need to get their hands on the football, particularly in the middle of the ground, to give their forwards first use. Cameron’s accuracy in front of goal isn’t the problem (71 per cent); he just isn’t getting an opportunity to line up.
With all the above considered, I will tip Collingwood this evening by a margin of four goals.
But if a rejuvenated Giants side came out to play and took the four points at home, I wouldn’t at all be surprised.
I don’t think they’re done with just yet, but time is ticking.
That’s my Friday forecast. What’s yours?