AFL greats have debated Collingwood’s biggest concerns ahead of Saturday’s Grand Final at the MCG.
Gerard Healy, Paul Roos, Garry Lyon and Jonathan Brown broke down four crucial points on Fox Footy’s On The Couch ahead of the 2018 Grand Final between Collingwood and West Coast.
From a selection conundrum around some vulnerable defenders to curtailing two elusive Eagles, these are the big questions facing coach Nathan Buckley and the Pies.
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STOPPING THE EAGLES’ FORWARD LINE
Melbourne great Lyon suggested the challenge for the Pies was curbing Eagles forward Josh Kennedy’s output.
“The challenge now, and I know the (Tyson) Goldsack story is beautiful … but as this game (qualifying final) wore on, Josh Kennedy started to find his timing and started to get on the end of it. He kicked 2.4 in the end and Tyson Goldsack was magnificent,” Lyon said on Fox Footy’s On The Couch.
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“I don’t want to be the Grinch in all of this, but by the end of it he had his work cut out. That’s the generous way and then he went in a game that was absolutely dominated by one side and he had one guy kick five goals.”
Lyon was content with the Pies’ starting 22, but pondered whether Buckley should re-call Ben Reid or Darcy Moore.
“I don’t think they’ll make a change,” he said.
“With Howe as a question mark, I think the discussion will have to be had about Reid and Moore, whether or not they need to take one of them as back-up for Goldsack or a proppy and injured Howe.”
The Eagles’ small forward line could also cause concern for the Magpies, with dangerous duo Willie Rioli and Liam Ryan combining for 47 goals this season.
“They pushed right up the ground and Neville Jetta and at times Jordan Lewis were left in no-man’s land,” Healy explained.
“It’s the complete reverse of the ‘Weagles Web’, where they wanted the ground to be small. This is big, this is wide.”
Lyon believed the pair’s movement up the ground would leave the Pies coaches pondering the best approach.
“Willy just took off and Ryan takes off and gets behind the footy. All of a sudden as a defender you go ‘do I go high with him or do I wait back?’ If you wait they’re going to get used,” he said.
“The decision is do we go high when Willie goes up and Ryan, therefore opening it up for Darling and Kennedy? Or do we sit back and run the risk of them going straight past us?”
Brisbane Lions great Brown expected All-Australian Jeremy McGovern to be a “major talking point” for Collingwood in the lead up to the Grand Final.
“His intercept marking does a lot of damage for sides,” McGovern said.
“Melbourne on the weekend had problems with it, a lot of the sides admittedly do have problems with it. It would be a major talking point in the Collingwood selection, certainly they’re planning what they do with him — they’ve had their challenges in the qualifying final. He had his challenges in Round 17 at the MCG, he just manhandled (Brody) Mihocek.
“Chris Mayne went to him after quarter-time, I thought that move went really well.”
Brown suggested he would have Mihocek play on McGovern, first — but Mayne would be another option.
“I’ll have Mihocek try and do the job and you know Mayne is there. You’ve got Mayne there, use Mayne on the wing — they’ve got the joker up his sleeve,” Brown said.
Brown also believed West Coast wouldn’t send the star defender to Mason Cox, despite the 211cm tall dominating the preliminary final.
“I think they would be more confident he could get off Mihocek and support the (Tom) Barrass-Cox contest for mine, so I think that’s the way they will set up,” he said.
STOPPING THE EAGLES’ BALL MOVEMENT
Premiership coach Roos explained that Collingwood needed to find a way to shut down the Eagles’ fast ball movement — something which Melbourne couldn’t do on Saturday.
“I think Collingwood are clearly going to have a look at how the Eagles exposed Melbourne,” Roos said.
“Melbourne are a little bit similar around the contest to Collingwood, really good around the ball.
“They (West Coast) move and go, they roll and go. They’re not a slow ball movement team, they’re more of a kicking team now. And I think that gets you out of the contest area that Melbourne are so good at and Collingwood are so good at.
“Don’t forget Melbourne only had 31 tackles, Collingwood are a great pressure team around the ball. So that ball movement, they’ve got to find a way Collingwood to shut that down. Melbourne couldn’t shut that down last week.”
HANDLING THE HEAT
Healy described how pressure would impact the result, but both sides are coming off games where they had smashed their respective opponents.
“I think handling the heat is something you can attribute to both clubs. Both just assaulted their opposition in the prelim finals. This was something that Melbourne hadn’t witnessed,” Healy said.
“Collingwood brought that same heat against Richmond and just smashed them into submission early in the piece. And as much as anything, it’s about bringing the heat, as much as handle the heat.”
Brown expected the team that has the “best pressure” on Saturday would win the Grand Final.