Where and When: Melbourne Cricket Ground, Saturday June 23rd, 4:40pm
Weather: Min 4, Max 12 – Cloudy. Scattered showers until evening. Winds northwesterly 20 to 30 km/h.
Last Time: Qualifying Final 2011 – Collingwood 12.10.82 d West Coast 9.8.62
TV and Radio: Fox Footy, SEN, ABC 774, 3aw & Triple M
A few times a year a game comes along that just has that feeling about it. A feeling of anticipation throughout the footy world, that can only be galvanized by two sides with top class talent across all lines on the team sheets. A vibe of excitement in that we all feel we are about to witness two football clubs that have been eyeing each other from a distance for quite some time, who finally get the chance to do battle.
This Saturday at the MCG, there is a game that carries that feeling. First versus third with both sides currently 9-2, in what many expect to be the grand final preview between West Coast and Collingwood.
Make no mistake, West Coast are aiming for very big things in 2012 and have been looking at this fixture for some time. Their first game for the season at the home of football, and their first opportunity to test themselves against the Magpies since their loss in the qualifying final last year: a final in which they failed to capitalize on their chances when they counted most, and ultimately fell short by 20 points.
On the flip side Collingwood are legitimately a champion side, who are used to absorbing the pressure applied by sides that set themselves for a shot at the big boys. They have beaten West Coast in six of their past seven encounters, and are on an eight game winning streak.
Possibly the most impressive characteristic of both clubs this year is their ability to cover injuries to key players. Most weeks we’ve seen multiple forced changes at the selection tables, yet both still sit in the top four with a more than realistic chance of obtaining the double chance in September.
The Pies have temporarily lost their best player Scott Pendlebury, yet welcome back Heath Shaw, Ben Reid, and Alan Toovey. This will be the first time this year that Collingwood will have their three first choice key defenders in Chris Tarrant, Nathan Brown and Reid all playing at the same time.
West Coast have had to cover Adam Selwood and the in form Will Schofield, yet have very handy replacements in Beau Waters and Mitch Brown to fill the void.
As is often the case when two quality sides match up, there is no shortage of talent set to face off in the midfield.
The West Coast midfield is a dynamic mix and well balanced. Dean Cox and Nic Natanui are simply the best ruck combination in the league, and are spoilt for talented options at ground level. Matthew Priddis somehow remains under rated by many on the east coast, and he along with the combination of Daniel Kerr, Matthew Rosa, Scott Selwood, Luke Shuey, and Andrew Gaff provide a great mix of speed, strength, creativity and flair.
The Pies of course have Brownlow medallist Dane Swan in the middle, fresh from 42 possessions against Melbourne a fortnight ago. Dayne Beams and Steele Sidebottom have lifted their game a notch to fill the void left by early season injuries, and have Sharrod Wellingham and Dale Thomas rotating through as well.
Darren Jolly arguably has the biggest task of any player for the afternoon as he tries to match Cox and Natanui, and will ultimately go a long way to determining Collingwood’s fortunes.
The other area to get the football purists talking will be the action in the West Coast forward zone. After five rather uninspiring seasons at the Western Bulldogs, Josh Hill has found his mojo in his first year with the Eagles. His defensive efforts have been first class, and he currently shares the West Coast goal kicking honours with young star Jack Darling with 21 goals apiece.
Big Quinten Lynch plays his 200th game this weekend and is always a threat, and Cox has proven more than dangerous when under the long ball inside 50 this season.
Watching Brown, Reid and Tarrant match up the tall timber should be a treat to watch regardless of with order they line up in, along with the run from Heath Shaw, Harry O’Brien and the defensive efforts of Nick Maxwell.
Scott Selwood vs Dane Swan – Scott Selwood took Chris Judd to the cleaners last week, restricting the champion to 12 disposals whilst gathering 33 of his own. However Swan has been running much harder than Judd of late, and we are sure to be treated with an intense match up between these two.
Darren Glass vs Travis Cloke – Yet another pairing to get excited about. The West Coast captain is one of the only defenders in the league who can realistically match Cloke for strength, and reads the ball better than most in the air. Cloke will undoubtedly attempt to run Glass further afield in an attempt to capitalise on his superior endurance, but it will be his ability to win possession in more dangerous territory that will most worry the Eagles.
Chris Tarrant vs Jack Darling – Darling is only in his second year, yet has already shown himself to be a consistently dangerous forward with a great footy brain. Tarrant will be the first assigned the responsibility to keep him quiet, and will be relying on help from O’brien and Maxwell when the long ball is headed their way.
The football public will be looking to get a read on how these two will match up, with a view to how it will play out in the finals. Expect a high intensity and highly entertaining game, but don’t be fooled into thinking this game will mean much at all by September.
West Coast by 14 points.
B: Heritier O’Brien, Nathan Brown, Chris Tarrant
HB: Nick Maxwell, Ben Reid, Martin Clarke
C: Simon Buckley, Dale Thomas, Jarryd Blair
HF: Alex Fasolo, Chris Dawes, Heath Shaw
F: Dayne Beams, Travis Cloke, Tyson Goldsack
Foll: Darren Jolly, Dane Swan, Steele Sidebottom
I/C: Alan Toovey, Sharrod Wellingham, Jamie Elliott, Marley Williams
Emg: Cameron Wood, Tom Young, Kirk Ugle
In: Heath Shaw, Alan Toovey, Ben Reid
Out: Alan Didak (Adductor), Ben Sinclair (Ankle), Tom Young
B: Beau Waters, Darren Glass, Patrick McGinnity
HB: Shannon Hurn, Eric Mackenzie, Jacob Brennan
C: Andrew Gaff, Matthew Priddis, Matthew Rosa
HF: Josh Hill, Quinten Lynch, Chris Masten
F: Nic Naitanui, Jack Darling, Daniel Kerr
Foll: Dean Cox, Scott Selwood, Luke Shuey
I/C: Mitch Brown, Brad Sheppard, Ashton Hams, Thomas Swift
Emg: Sam Butler, Koby Stevens, Lewis Stevenson
In: Beau Waters, Mitch Brown
Out: Adam Selwood (Illness), Will Schofield (Hamstring)