After finishing 2nd in season 2018 after losing a very close Grand Final, surely 2019 was time to step up and bring home the flag. So surely losing an expected Preliminary Final to GWS must go down as a failure. However half way through the season, with little momentum, Collingwood looked like they might even miss the eight so bad was the slump. Results will show in 22 home and away games, Collingwood put in only two complete performances against Brisbane in Round 3 and against Adelaide in Round 22. In every other game Collingwood was seriously challenged and relied on single quarters of brilliance to get them into a position to have a serious tilt at the Premiership.
What went right?
Brodie Grundy went right – clearly now the best ruckman in the competition. He wins centre bounces, he wins his own clearances and is dominant around the ground. Jordan Roughead, a bargain basement last minute top up player taken at pick 78 filled the key defensive post left vacant by Lynden Dunn’s knee reconstruction.
The midfield was consistent all year if not dominant – touted by many as the best midfield in the year, teams were able to break even too often and Steele Sidebottom was found to be taggable.
Collingwood were able to get out of a few scraps against lower teams with patchy performances, including wins over Carlton, St Kilda and Essendon.
What went wrong?
It doesn’t take much to derail a season at Collingwood, or at least make the wheels wobble a bit. Jaidyn Stephenson’s ill-advised trip to the punt and the subsequent ten week suspension hurt for so many reasons: It took the focus off football, it made for controversy on both sides of the argument – was the suspension too long or too short and how convenient that he be allowed back for finals. On top of all that, it robbed Collingwood of a fast, smart forward option in a forward line already devoid of key forward options. It made the forward line more predictable and it showed on the scoreboard.
In a devastating six week spell after the bye (which coincided with Stephenson’s suspension) Collingwood were 2-4 with a percentage of 77.4% and fell from 2nd to 6th. Only a favourable run home and an end of season gift from the West Coast Eagles saw the Pies sneak back into the eight.
Other things went wrong – there were long term injuries to Jordan DeGoey and Darcy Moore, Mason Cox couldn’t find a mark in a German Bank, the midfield looked fallible, returning big gun Dayne Beams had injury and mental health issues. The loss of a second year player however outweighed all.
A depleted, out of form Collingwood side headed West in July to take on the in form reigning premiers West Coast. West Coast held sway for most of the first two and a half quarters but inexplicably they stopped, or more, Collingwood stopped them. West Coast led by 13 points at the half, and sixteen points at three quarter time, yet Collingwood was able to eke out a one point win. The consequences of a loss here were dire and despite losing the next two games to the eventual grand finalists, Collingwood squeezed back into the four on the back of four consecutive wins and a huge favour from West Coast.
Stand out performer
Brody Grundy – all Australian honours for Grundy in 2019. He carried the Collingwood rucks with little help once Mason Cox, already fortunate to hold his spot was left out with injury. Ben Reid and Jordan Roughead provided something of a chop out but it was largely all Grundy. Collingwood looks to have tied Grundy up for seven years now which they had to do. Ruckman tend to mature slowly and with Grundy only 25, his best could still be ahead of him – scary.
Possibly a B-
This wasn’t Collingwood’s best work. Even the 44 point win over Richmond was won on the back of a scintillating last quarter with Richmond only 12 points down late in the 3rd. Essendon (twice), Carlton, St Kilda and Sydney all challenged for long periods in games Collingwood were expected to win – Fremantle and Hawthorn both stole wins.So in a season where Collingwood were expected to be knees deep in September, and indeed they were, this was managed more by good luck and a short but damaging attention span when focussed, just ask Geelong.
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