Only two teams have bowed out in ‘straight sets’ since the modern day finals system was implemented. History is against a red hot Eagles outfit, however tonight has a feel about it which just might see Collingwood be third-time-unlucky. Bookies are sensing it, fans too.
West Coast’s demolition of the 8th finishing North Melbourne was nothing short of spectacular to watch. They were dominant, fast, ruthless and oh so good. To be fair though, North only showed up for the third quarter which saw them outscore the Eagles with 6 goals to 4, but the Eagles snapped back in an almost petulant fashion.
Collingwood finished fourth on the ladder, and by all means have earned the double chance. However this year saw yet another tight dash for the top four placings. The Eagles only missed out by one game, and their percentage at the end of the regular season was significantly higher than the Pies.
In their round 22 meeting at Paterson’s Stadium, West Coast gave Collingwood an almighty reality check.
They won by 49 points that day, and sent the Magpies momentarily tumbling out of the top four. Naitanui was brilliant with 31 hit outs, and Kerr dominated proceedings in the middle with 36 touches. What was ominous about the Eagles that day was their spread of goal kickers. They had fourteen, with Luke Shuey kicking the only multiple basket for the Eagles. Fasolo kicked 3 for Collingwood.
Earlier in the year, Collingwood had the chance to host West Coast. This was in round thirteen, where the two sides sat first and second, and it was the Magpies that were victorious in a tussle that proved worthy of the prize- first place on the ladder. More than 62,000 people saw the Pies edge out the Eagles at the MCG. Cloke kicked 5 goals, Dane Swan had the ball 38 times and Dayne Beams had it 34.
This do-or-die semi final has the makings of a classic. For the third time, these teams meet, with the victor going one-up on the other, only this time it’s for keeps.
The Pies look to be under the pump, and are without Nick Maxwell, however buying in to the bookies love fest of the Eagles might just prove bad for business, and bad for Eagles fans. Hawthorn deserves to be Premiership favourites. They are the team to beat this year, and Collingwood served it up to them in the first half-and-a –bit of last Friday night.
There are positives. First, the match is at the MCG. During the regular season, are they seen playing anywhere else? West Coast played at the MCG just twice this year, both matched were losses. They also haven’t beaten Collingwood at that venue since 1995. The Eagles not only have to traverse across the Nullabor, but they are also coming off a six day break. This may prove costly.
Travis Cloke is in good form, he kicked six goals in a losing outfit. Andrew Krakouer who has relatively fresh legs kicked four.
These two will be the X-factor for the Magpies. Everyone knows that Swan, Beams, Pendlebury and company will have good games. The Pies midfield is top notch; however their forward line can be a bit hit-and-miss. Not to mention their defence gave away 134 points against the Hawks.
The Eagles kicked 162 points against North Melbourne, again, with a wide array of contributors. Will the Magpies be able to curb the attacking flair from the likes of Embley, Shuey, Cox, Naitanui, Kerr etcetera? The midfield of Collingwood will have to be able to sweep back defensively, as the Eagles run-and-carry on wide expanses in phenomenal to watch.
The ruck contest will be interesting to watch. Last time these two met, Darren Jolly was an absence from the Collingwood side, and hence the Pies got smashed in the hitouts and first use of the ball. It is still expected that Cox-anui will win, however Jolly should be able to contest and give his dynamic midfield some first use of the football.
Chris Tarrant, Harry O’Brien, Ben Reid and Nathan Brown will have a big job attempting to negate Jack Darling, Andrew Embley, Quentin Lynch and Josh Kennedy, all who fired well last week. One of the Pies will also have to try and quell either Cox or Naitanui as they lumber forward for a break during the match.
The tragic death of former team mate John McCarthy could also play a part in the Magpies mental preparations for the week. Whilst unsure of the effect being a negative one or otherwise, the Pies will have had to have overcome that as well during the week.
History is against the Eagles; they lost by just three points when these teams met at the MCG earlier in the year. The Eagles are full of confidence, whilst the Magpies are not. The Eagles’ talls look to provide too many headaches for the Pies, and if the Collingwood midfield cannot get first use, expect Cloke, Dawes and Krakouer to have a quiet game.
West Coast by 15 points.
Matt Walsh is an eager ‘go-getter’ looking to make the journalism world a better, more honest, and happier place. See his other work, and personal musings on his delightfully entertaining Twitter: @MattWalshMedia