The SportingJournal

Magpie era not over yet

After seven consecutive finals appearances, one could be forgiven for believing Collingwood’s golden era is not far off collapsing.

NOTE: If you are one of the aforementioned people, it might be best to think again.

A severely undermanned and inexperienced Magpies outfit outlined their squad’s depth with an invaluable 16-point win over North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Missing a host of key players to injuries, the ‘Pies were forced to rely on a number of their fringe to get the job done, with three debutants helping to fill the void.

Josh Thomas (18 possessions, seven clearances) and Jack Frost were joined by half-time substitute Sam Dwyer in pulling on the black-and-white guernsey for the first time, and managed to hold their own against a near-full strength Kangaroos line-up led by their typically crafty skipper Andrew Swallow (34 possessions).

The inclusions of Jamie Elliott (14 games) and Ben Sinclair (15 games), along with new recruits Quentin Lynch and Jordan Russell, only served to compound Collingwood’s inexperience together, but the Magpies’ performance showed their fans have a lot to look forward to in the year ahead.

Forced to overcome two mid-match injuries sustained by Ben Johnson and Ben Reid, the ‘Pies demonstrated plenty of class and patience as they managed to stem a late fight-back from the ‘Roos – who clawed to within 11 points late in the final term after trailing by 36.

Thankfully, for Collingwood, there’s plenty of mature, older heads for the fresh-faced young lads to learn from.

Down in defence, Nathan Brown showed the kids how it is done, managing to keep the dangerous Drew Petrie goalless right up until time-on in the last quarter.

In the middle of the ground, Dane Swan (31 possessions, one goal) and Jason McCartney Medal-winner Scott Pendlebury (30 possessions, one goal) demonstrated why they are considered two of the favourites for the Brownlow Medal this year.

While, up in the forward line, Travis Cloke put a mediocre 2012 season behind him, presenting well and finishing the game with a respectable 4 goals.

The victory over North Melbourne is sure to serve as a big morale boost for the Magpies ahead of their grudge match against Carlton this weekend.

With injury clouds continuing to hang over the heads of Heath Shaw, Dayne Beams, Luke Ball and Dale Thomas, Collingwood may, yet again, be forced to field a young and inexperienced outfit against the Blues.

However, if Sunday’s triumph is anything to go by, Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley need not worry.

The youthful Magpies proved they have what it takes to step up to the plate against a quality opponent.

With a number of stars set to return to the squad in the coming weeks, and the competition for berths in the starting 22 sure to heat up, the signs are certainly looking ominous for any side facing up to the black-and-white army this season.

 

THREE KEY POINTS:

– The Kangaroos will be sweating over how the Match Review Panel interprets Lindsay Thomas’ third-quarter bump on the Magpies’ Ben Reid. Thomas appeared to be attempting to provide a shepherd when he made heavy contact with Reid’s head. The Collingwood defender was floored by the hit, and had to be taken off the ground with visible bleeding from his mouth. A suspension for Thomas would serve as a huge blow for North Melbourne, with the nifty goal-sneak booting four of the side’s 13 goals on Sunday.

– The Magpies must be over-the-moon about Travis Cloke’s decision to stay on with the club in 2013. Speculation was rife throughout last season that Cloke – a free agent – would be packing his bags and heading away from the Westpac Centre. In hindsight, the off-field distraction probably proved a factor in a season many determined as below his best. With the key forward now signed to a five-year deal to remain with the ‘Pies, there will be no such excuses this year. Indeed, today’s outing of 8 marks and 4 goals suggests there might not be a need for any excuses at all.

– Collingwood was without a vast array of attacking players for the match against North – such as Alex Fasolo, Dale Thomas, Alan Didak, Andrew Krakouer and, even, former Hawk Clinton Young – yet still managed an impressive 28 scoring shots (15.13). Aside from the four goals booted by Cloke, there was an even spread of contributors for the Magpies, with the likes of Steele Sidebottom (3 goals), Tyson Goldsack, Quentin Lynch (2 goals), Jarryd Blair, Brent Macaffer, Swan and Pendlebury (1 goal) each managing to put the ball between the big sticks in the absence of teammates.

By Rusty Woodger 

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