2012 AFL PREMIERSHIP SEASONROUND 15COLLINGWOOD VS CARLTONMELBOURNE CRICKET GROUNDFRIDAY 6TH JULY 7.50PMTV/Radio;http://www.afl.com.au/broadcast guide/tabid/9451/default.aspx#locd=VIC - Melbourne&round=Round 15Note; As always please refer to the quote from "Chief" re streams at the bottom of this post. Weather;Forecast; http://www.bom.gov.au/vic/forecasts/melbourne.shtmlRadar; http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDR022.loop.shtml#skip Preview (Dave86);http://www.collingwoodfc.com.au/newsfeatures/news/newsarticle/tabid/5586/newsid/140482/default.aspxTicketing;http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=COLLI1512My Thoughts; FRIDAY, THE 13TH OF APRIL, 2012 will go down as one of the worst moments in recent history for the proud Collingwood Football Club. On that night almost 3 months ago, Collingwood were embarrassed by their arch nemesis, the Carlton Football Club by a margin of 60 points (ten goals), and to make matters worse they lost their inspirational inside midfielder Luke Ball for the season to an ACL knee injury. It was a night that saw Carlton installed as premiership favourites, and Collingwood written off as a genuine premiership threat, and at the time they seemed like accurate predictions. How things change though, and how wrong those predictions were, because, after just 85 days since that fateful night at the MCG, this Friday the two sides will meet again, with Collingwood sitting on top, undefeated since round 3, and Carlton, sitting way down in tenth, having won only three of their ten fixtures since April the 13th. Collingwood are now the premiership favourites, or at least equal favourites with the rampaging Hawks, while Carlton are now outsiders not only to make the top four, but to miss the finals altogether, my how things have changed. Injuries have played a massive part in the turnaround for both clubs, and while injuries to key players at Collingwood has unearthed a group of youngsters and fringe players who have more than held their own, Carlton's lack of depth and poor recent recruiting has become even more apparent as the likes of Murphy, Waite and Carrazzo have faced extended periods on the sideline. The gulf between the two sides recent performances has been none more obvious than over the past few weeks as Collingwood has been tested by the likes of Adelaide, West Coast and Geelong, and come out on top in close games, while Carlton has had losses to non contenders like St Kilda and Port Adelaide, while not being competitive when it has faced tough opposition, with the Hawks dismantling the Blues outfit with ease last Friday night in a 50 point drubbing that has left Carlton teetering on the edge of irrelevance for 2012. The rivalry between these two massive football clubs is the stuff of legend, and dates back to the formative years of the VFL, and no matter where the two sides are on the ladder, you can all but be assured of an 80,000 + crowd at the MCG as the two greatest of old foes go head to head. The moment's that have defined the rivalry are the stuff of AFL/VFL legend, from 1910 to 1970, and the infamous 1979 and 1981 Grand Finals between the two sides, there is plenty to draw on for both clubs leading into this game. That’s why that round three loss hurt so much for the Pies as a club and as a supporter group, many have been quoted in the past as saying “There are only two games you have to win each year, and they are both against Carlton”, and to go down in a heap against the Blues of all teams hurt the soul of the Collingwood Football Club deeply. But out of the ashes of that night arose a new Collingwood, led by their inspirational new coach Nathan Buckley, who stood firm amid the centre of a media storm, and simply said that the club would start to resurrect it's season the following week against Port Adelaide. The players also got together and decided enough was enough, and from that moment on the men in Black and White stripes have not let their club, their team mates or their supporters down since. Last weekend against Fremantle, a side who themselves are fighting for those final few positions in the eight with the likes of Carlton, Collingwood started on fire, kicking the first six goals to all but ensure victory before the second quarter had even reached it's half way point. It wasn't the most impressive of performances by the Magpies team, but they never looked in doubt of winning, and despite the Dockers not missing a shot at goal in the second half and kicking 10 goals straight, the Pies rain out 29 point victors to extend their winning streak to 10 games and maintain their position atop the AFL ladder. Dane Swan was his brilliant self, collecting over 40 possessions once again, and waddling into a few open goals at times in a manner that only he can, but it was once again the performances of some youngsters that ensured Collingwood kept winning. In just his fifth game, small forward Jamie Elliott backed up his impressive last quarter effort against the Eagles in the previous round with a game high, and maybe a season high for the league of 15 tackles, with 10 of those tackles coming inside the Pies offensive 50 metre arc. It was a remarkable defensive effort from the little man wearing the famous 35, and in the last quarter he was joined up forward by live wire Irishman Caolan Mooney, as the quickest player at the club made his debut coming off the subs bench and having a hand in two vital last quarter goals that sealed victory. The player who might have really bought a smile to the coaches face though was Darren Jolly, as the veteran ruckman racked up a season high 43 hitouts as he dominated the ruck in the absence of Aaron Sandilands, in a performance that dismissed all doubt about the importance of the two time premiership ruckman to this football club. It was the 10th straight win, meaning that Collingwood now sit alone on 11-2 at the top of the ladder, and things may even get better this weekend. Collingwood was thought to have a selection dilemma this week, but in the end have only made the one change, with Ben Sinclair returning for Caolan Mooney. The absence of Pendlebury, Tarrant and Didak still makes Collingwood a little more vulnerable than they would like, but the side they will field on Friday Night is still a very strong outfit indeed. Opposition Analysis. The Carlton Football Club started the season as good as it has in recent history, getting off to a 3-0 start, and after the win over Collingwood they were talking premierships at Princes Park. But since then the club has endured a run with injuries that has seen it's lack of depth exposed and they have only managed 3 wins out of 10 games, in a stretch that has ensured the word premiership won't be spoken at Carlton again until the beginning of next season. And while in a normal year blaming injuries would be a valid excuse, this season just about every club has been adversely effected by injuries and it's been the sides that can cover those injuries that have excelled so far. There is immense pressure building on Brett Ratten, as the Carlton board and it's supporters get impatient with a long run with a lack of any success, and it may only get worse if Collingwood hand them a beating as most expect on Friday Night. Carlton will still select a team though, and you get the feeling this may be their last stand, where with their backs against the wall they finally come out and give four quarters of consistent effort, which has also been lacking in recent times. Carlton's midfield is still it's strength, even with the absence of arguably their most dangerous mid, Marc Murphy. They still have their captain Chris Judd leading a group of talented players, with the likes of Simpson, Carrazzo, Robinson, Scotland, Mclean and Gibbs rotating through the middle and keeping them competitive in an area that is so crucial in today's game. Carlton's tucks are also still maintaining a decent effort of output, with Warnock leading the way, ably assisted by Kreuzer and at times Hampson (mainly up forward though), the Blues sit second on the AFL list for total hitouts. The Blues clearance statistics also stack up pretty well, with the club only sitting fourth behind the Pies, Crows and Dogs. But something is amiss, because the influence this midfield is having on games seems to be diminishing every week, especially considering the way the Hawthorn in and under mids like Sewell, Mitchell and Lewis dominated for large patches of the game last week. Yes, they are missing Murphy, but without him that midfield looks a shadow of the one that tore Collingwood apart in round three, that's for sure. The Carlton backline has actually performed quite admirably in my opinion, despite the losses, and at times it has kept the Blues in games for longer periods because of it's grit and effectiveness. But last week it seemed to meet it's breaking point, as Franklin, Roughead, Gunston and Bruest all kicked multiple goals as the Hawks ran away with an easy win. Prior to last weekend, the Blues defense wasn't conceding high scores though, with the Eagles unable to break the 80 point barrier and the usually high scoring Cats not even breaking the ton under the roof at Etihad. Carlton's defense reads ok on paper, with Jamison, Duigan, the young and promising Watson and the Irishman Tuohy all playing their roles down back, and it's one area that coach Brett Ratten wouldn't be as worried about as others, although the fitness of Jamison and the condition of the shoulder he injured last week may be a massive concern, with only Paul Bower as a likely replacement to take Travis Cloke if Jamison doesn't pass a fitness test later in the week. Carlton's biggest problem is it's forward line though, with an unhealthy reliance of small forward and midfielders to score the amount required to win most games. It's a clear indication of a teams struggles when the two leading goal kickers at a club after 13 games are small forwards, with Eddie Betts leading the way on 25, and Jeffrey Garlett sitting on 15, all be it tied with Shaun Hampson on that number. It's been the lack of an effective tall forward option that has hampered the Blues in recent weeks, and ever since the loss of Jarrad Waite to a back injury, the Carlton forward line has lost it's ability to look dangerous at all against a top class defense. Betts has been great for Carlton, that can not be argued, but he needs help, and while Hampson looks like a good second or third tall forward option, he alone can't be relied upon to lead a forward line screaming out for a contested marking leader. And this week they face up against the stingy Collingwood backline, who is just stating to fins it's form in 2012. Carlton need to fire up this week, and one would suspect they do, history suggests that Carlton treat these matchups with more importance than Collingwood do, and while the Blues have a ton of problems both on and off the field at their club their fans will be expecting a much better performance this weekend against the old enemy. Jamison has passed his fitness test and has been named in the lineup, while Curnow, Collins and debutant Andrew McInnes have been included at the expense of Warnock, Bootsma and Ellard. Key Matchups; Carrazzo vs Pendlebury If Pendlebury returns, Carrazzo has to go to him you would think, especially after the tagging job hi did on him in round three, when the Collingwood superstar was held to just 15 possessions in a contest that went along way to providing Carlton with it's dominance on the night. Some may say Carrazzo should play an attacking role in the absence of Murphy, but if Pendlebury and Swan are allowed to run free, Carlton can't win, or even get close, so Carrazzo has to go to Pendlebury, and the rematch should be fun to watch. Jolly vs Hampson/Kreuzer The veteran ruckman for the Pies is coming off a season high 43 hitouts against Fremantle, and this week he'll face up against one of Carlton's only remaining strengths, it's ruck duo of Kreuzer and Hampson. Dawes will be asked to assist, but just like Jolly did against Cox and Natanui a few rounds back, he will be asked to carry most of the load as the Pies look to dominate the midfield and put a stamp on this game early. O'Brien vs Betts Harry O'Brien started the season terribly, and there was no more proof of this than the round three matchup between these two sides when Eddie Betts basically tore him to shreds. In that game Eddie kicked 5.2, with the majority of those goals coming against O'Brien in one on one situations. Since that night, Eddie's form has been consistently good, while Harry has slowly but surely returned to some of his best form, and will be looking for redemption against Carlton's leading goal kicker. Judd vs Thomas I like this matchup for so many reason, and not only because Thomas has a history of being competitive against Judd in the past. Last season Thomas tagged Judd and actually outplayed him in one game, and if the Pies can nullify the influence of the Blues captain, it will go a long way to ensuring they post their 11th straight win. Judd is a proud footballer though, and despite many questioning both his fitness and whether his best football is behind him, those who were at the ground in round three saw how dangerous he is in full flight, so the Pies will have to pay close attention to him, that's for sure. Teams; Tip. Collingwood will have revenge on it's mind this weekend, and in an AFL world where emotion seems to be avoided pre game, this week it has to be ever present in the hearts and minds of the Collingwood players as they go into battle at a chance to redeem themselves after that season low effort in round three. Carlton also has to draw on emotion for this clash, they have to draw from the rivalry and also the fact their season is on the line, and they have to come out fired up in what just may be their last chance to keep their slim finals hopes alive. If Collingwood welcome back as many as 5 of their best 22 from injury and the VFL this week, you can't see Carlton getting close though, although selection may well be the best guide as to how big the final margin may be in this game. Jamison is a key in for the Blues also, as without him they will struggle to contain the man mountain that is Travis Cloke, and even with the controversy continuing around the big Pies forward's contract renewal, he showed two weeks ago against the Eagles what he can do if his midfielders deliver the ball to him correctly. Ultimately, Collingwood will win this game, and while they have harder games to come over the next few weeks, the Magpies players and supporters have been waiting a while for this one, and their talent and determination will see them come out with their eleventh straight win to maintain top spot on the ladder, for one more week at least. Pies by 36 points. VFL After a rare victory last weekend over Frankston, the Collingwood VFL team ventures out to a familiar place, as they face the side the club used to be aligned with, Williamstown. The game is being held at Burbank Oval (Point Gellibrand) in Williamstown and is scheduled to start at 2pm on Sunday. GO PIES.