Match Preview: R3: St.K v Collingwood

Apr 7th, 2010 | By | Category: AFL Match Preview, Lead Article

By David Natoli
Aka DaVe86

Season 2010 is well and truly underway, and the ladder is already starting to take some shape. There have been a few early surprises with Fremantle and Port Adelaide getting off to fantastic starts, and Adelaide yet to win a game. Yet, a very familiar and ominous side sits at the top of the table. After a 104 point thumping of North Melbourne, St.Kilda looks to be back to playing its best football.

On the other hand, Collingwood enters its Round 3 clash a little unsure of itself. After a resounding victory in Round 1, the Pies nearly fell victim to last year’s wooden spooners, but managed to find a way to win by only 1 point. Though it was a victory, it left a very hollow feeling in the stomachs of most Magpies supporters. The win was not deserved, and a number of key players were horrible on the day. The problem for Collingwood is consistency, and finding a forward structure that is going to work. Perhaps it is simply a case that Collingwood prefers being the underdog, and will take a much tougher approach to Round 3’s clash against the Saints.

St.Kilda host Collingwood at Etihad Stadium this Friday night. It is a battle between 2 undefeated sides. The obvious other interest in this game is the fact that former St.Kilda captain Luke Ball will line up against his old team for the first time in a home and away match. There was a lot of tension between the 2 sides following trade week, and it is obvious some bitterness still exists between players and fans. Nevertheless, 4 points are up for grabs and it should be a thrilling battle.

Recent History

The Saints have won the last 3 games against Collingwood. 2 of these games were finals, the other was an 88 point pummelling on a Monday night game. Collingwood has really struggled to score against St.Kilda lately, as most teams have.

Going back to the Qualifying final last year, which was the last time these 2 sides met, the Saints won by 28 points. Collingwood only managed 7 goals. The Saints absolutely smashed the Pies in every facet of the game. They had 4 players who had more than 30 possessions. Sam Fisher had 42 and took 16 marks. Collingwood’s highest possession winner was Dane Swan who had 24. Nick Riewoldt was amazing with 5 goals and 10 marks.

Their midfield dominated, having a whopping 165 more disposals than Collingwood. Despite this, the Saints still managed to have 5 more tackles. They had 15 more inside 50’s.

However, I think Collingwood can look at this game in a positive light. Despite these amazing statistics in favour of St.Kilda, the Saints only managed 20 scoring shots to 17. And the Pies were in the game right up until midway through the last quarter. A 28 point margin does not represent how badly Collingwood were beaten, yet if the Pies kicked a bit more accurately they could’ve been even closer. Ultimately, the Saints were restricted to 12 goals, and had a total of 80 points.

So defensively, Collingwood were actually quite good. The Pies would think that if they could hold the Saints to 80 this time around that they would be a real show.

At the Selection Table and Team News

Starting with St.Kilda:

Justin Koschitzke will miss through suspension, whilst Sam Fisher is unlikely to be right for another few weeks.

Raph Clarke will come into contention as he recovers from his pre-season hamstring injury.

Coming off a 104 point victory, you would not expect many changes from the Saints. However, I think Lyon may re-consider how he replaces Koschitzke this week. Last week, he brought in Pattison, meaning the Saints had 3 big ruckmen. McEvoy, Gardiner and Pattison all rotated up forward, but none had a big influence.

Therefore, I think Lyon will strongly consider giving Rhys Stanley his debut. He had a terrific pre-season, is lightning quick (he won the Grand Final sprint last year) and is 200cm tall. He is skinny and only 19, but has already showed plenty, and I would think Saints fans would be very keen to see this guy play.

In: Stanley, Out: Pattison.

Most likely however I think we’ll see no change.

Turning to Collingwood:

Ben Johnson received the good news that he has not ruptured his ACL, however he will still miss around 6 weeks with a dislocated knee cap. That is Collingwood’s only real major injury concern to date; however it does leave the Magpies short of a bit of pace and a tagging option.

Shane O’Bree and Simon Prestigiacomo should be available for selection this week after they were late withdrawals last week. Presti is apparently less likely to play, but he has trained well throughout the week.

The other major concern for Malthouse is what to do with his mis-firing forward line. Cloke, Anthony and Leigh Brown have shown very little in their first 2 games. Brown was serviceable against the Bulldogs, but went missing against Melbourne. Cloke and Anthony are simply non-existent at the moment.

At reserve level, Chris Dawes is playing well. He kicked 4 goals in the 3 quarters he played last week in a losing side. He also kicked 7 in the last VFL practice match. So he is going to come into strong consideration.

I highly doubt Malthouse will make sweeping changes to the forward line so early, but I truly think that Cloke and Anthony should be on warning. A poor game this Friday night and they should be dropped. I think Dawes and perhaps Nathan Brown could be good alternatives, and Sean Rusling is progressing well in the VFL. I also think Leigh Brown is best suited to Centre Half Back against the monster forwards. This week, I think he should go back into defence as the Saints throw their ruckmen forward.

The changes I’d make:

In: O’Bree, Prestigiacomo, Dawes
Out: Johnson, Reid, Fraser

Realistically, Fraser isn’t going to be dropped and Dawes will not be brought in. But given Jolly’s form, I think he needs to ruck alone and prove his worth. I also want to give Dawes a run and don’t want to be too top heavy. Both Jolly and Fraser have been average, but Josh only had the 6 disposals last week and offers little in the ruck.

Reid I thought was OK last week, but will be exposed by St.Kilda. I don’t think he is ready for Riewoldt yet, and will have no other matchup. Although, I would have him on standby incase Stanley is named.


I think this will be the game where Collingwood gets some value out of Luke Ball. He will bring intimate knowledge of the St.Kilda game-plan, and will be well suited to the contested style of game they play.

There is a theory going around that Collingwood cannot play Etihad. I think that is well and truly blown now after the first 2 rounds. The smaller ground and tighter wings means the Pies do not get forced as wide as they do at the G. It allows them to play quicker and more free-flowing. Whereas I think the open spaces of the MCG perhaps exposes a lack of foot-speed at times.

I think Collingwood has to play daring at times and try and use the corridor. But St.Kilda is well drilled at protecting it. The key for Collingwood will be the clearances. If the Saints want to force a lot of contested footy, then the Pies have to beat them in this area. They can’t just break-even, they have to win around the stoppages. A guy like Cloke has to stand up as well and take contested marks. If there is no target to go to, the Pies will be forced to over-possess which is just what the Saints want.

Obviously, the Saints are without Fisher. This is a huge bonus for Collingwood as Sam Fisher has been one of the most damaging players in recent encounters. The Saints have relied on Dawson and Blake to take the main matchups, and they have still been able to use Gilbert as a loose man. Gwilt has come into the side in Fisher’s spot.

Blake and Dawson are honest footballers, but they can be exposed. And the obvious key is to make Gilbert accountable. This is why I suggest bringing in a 3rd tall up forward. If Josh plays, maybe he can be used as that 3rd tall. My preference would be Dawes. With only the 2 tall defenders, it will force Gilbert to take a man or can expose Gwilt.

Then, I think Collingwood should spread the defenders. Cloke runs one way, Anthony the other and Dawes can stay in the goal-square. Or alternatively, whoever gets Gilbert stays closer to goal. Try and expose Dawson and Blake higher up the ground. Blake usually goes to Cloke, and Cloke probably got on top of him last time with 14 marks.

The other dilemma for Malthouse is what to do with Clinton Jones. He is most likely going to Swan first up, and will probably rotate through Didak, Pendlebury and Ball. He shut Harvey completely out of the game last week.

What to Do with big Roo

The Saints will look at Collingwood’s forward line and see no real matchup for the in-form Riewoldt. He is coming off a 7 goal game and looks as fit as he has ever been in his career. Presti got the job on him last year but was beaten. Presti has good closing speed, but Riewoldt simply leads too high up the ground for Presti to keep up. Riewoldt makes multiple leads and has a bigger tank than any defender can match.

I think Collingwood should rotate a number of matchups through Riewoldt. Nick Maxwell played briefly on him last year and was quite good. Harry O’Brien can probably match him for footspeed, but will be exposed in marking contests. But all should be a go.

Without Kosi, the Saints went predominantly to Riewoldt last week. Nick Maxwell will no doubt look to zone off his opponent. So St.Kilda should be looking to make him accountable. I think guys like Maxwell and Shaw will be told to zone off their opponent and expect the ball is going to be kicked to big Nick.

Saints on the other hand should look at this as an opportunity. Collingwood defenders pay little respect at times to their opponents. Melbourne was able to utilise these free men. Petterd exposed Shaw, and Green did O’Brien. The Dee’s really spread the Magpies defence, meaning they were not able to help each other out.

So if Riewoldt is getting triple teamed, the Saints should be lowering their eyes to find the loose targets.


St.Kilda Forward line:

Riewoldt v Prestigiacomo – The big matchup of the day. As I said earlier, Riewoldt’s 5 goals against Collingwood in the final last year was the difference. Hold him to less than 5 and the Pies will fancy themselves. If Presti does not play due to his fitness concerns, then maybe Reid gets his first real big test as a defender.

Milne v O’Brien – Malthouse usually goes with this matchup. In the past, O’Brien usually does quite well, but allows Milne off the hook for a 5 minute period where he kicks a few goals. Along with Riewoldt, he is the Saints other big scoring option. If the scoresheet reads that he has kicked 3 or 4 goals, then the saints have most likely won comfortably.

Peake v Toovey – Peake has made a mark early. The Saints have recruited speed, and without Lovett he has proved a viable option. He kicked 3 goals last week. I have never overly rated him, but at a good side he is very dangerous. Toovey should watch him closely and is the only defender with the footspeed to go with him.

McEvoy/Gardiner v Leigh Brown – As I said earlier, I think Leigh should play defensively this week. That is because the Saints use their ruckmen forward, and the Magpies defenders are too undersized to go body on body with these guys. Brown offered little up forward last week, and I would much prefer Dawes or Fraser play as a permanent forward. Brown can swing up forward from time to time as well. Gardiner looked sharp in the first half last week, whilst McEvoy is constantly improving.

Schneider v Shaw – Johnson would have got the matchup, but now it has to go to Shaw. Schneider is a very dangerous player and is looking really fit this year. Shaw is coming off a poor game where he let Petterd get on top of him. So it is important he plays tighter this week. Shaw will no doubt look to run off, so it is important guys like Maxwell are there to cover for him.

Goddard v Maxwell – Goddard has been starting forward lately. If he starts there, then Maxwell should get the matchup. If Gilbert is made accountable, then Lyon will probably swing Goddard into defence and try and get him loose. This will leave a big decision for Malthouse. Do you allow him loose, meaning Maxwell is also loose and can double team Riewoldt? I think the answer is no. Goddard is too dangerous to leave loose.


Swan v Jones – As I said, this is very important for Collingwood. Swan is going to rotate heavily, which means Jones will move onto other players. But it is so important Jones is not able to shut down Swan because he is the catalyst of most forward thrusts. Swan may even swing into defence to try and get a bit of the ball, or move forward to get Jones out of the play.

Ball v Armitage – I think this will be a beauty of a matchup. Armitage is Ball’s replacement. Ball is under the pump after a shocker against Melbourne, and he’ll face the jeers of the St.Kilda crowd who are likely to give him a tough reception. The clearances are going to be essential, so Ball becomes vital for Collingwood. I expect this matchup to be head to head, so each could have a lot of the ball.

Montagna v Wellingham – Montagna is a class act, and was close to best on ground against North Melbourne. His speed is a concern, which is why I suggest Wellingham move on to him. Sharrod has had a terrific start to the year, and has done some fine defensive jobs already. Ensuring Montagna is held accountable is important, because his run is heavily relied upon.

Hayes v O’Bree – The 2 real extractors of their respective sides. Hayes has a motor that can run all day, but he had a limited pre-season and doesn’t look to be back to full fitness. So O’Bree should be able to run with him. When you talk about St.Kilda, you have to look at Lenny Hayes because I think he is the most underrated player in the comp.

Dal Santo v Thomas – Dale has been used much more defensively lately. He did a brilliant job on Griffen, and I think he should do a similar job on Dal Santo. Dal Santo when left loose is one of the most damaging players in the comp. Thomas must be used defensively again to shut him down, but in attack he should really try and expose Dal. Thomas was perhaps Collingwood’s best last week with 25 possessions and a fantastic spoil in the dying 30 seconds of the game. Should be a great matchup.

Sidebottom v Geary – A good battle between 2 good young up and coming mids.

Collingwood Forward Line:

Cloke v Blake – This has been a great contest in recent meetings, with both players taking the honours on different occasions. Cloke is in career worst form and I believe his spot is now under threat. He needs a big one.

Anthony v Dawson – Dawson is well suited to Jack in terms of height, size and speed. He’ll much prefer this matchup than having to play on Rocca. Jack is also out of form and needs a big one.

Didak v Baker – Didak has had an up and down start to the year. He has still not shown that he can break a tag, or that he can be consistent. No doubt it is the Collingwood small forwards that can exploit St.Kilda, so Didak needs a big one as well. But Baker is as tough as they come and gives his opponents very little space.

Medhurst v Gwilt – Gwilt is the one enjoying the spot of Sam Fisher at the moment. If the Pies throw a 3rd tall up forward, Gwilt is most likely to take this matchup. The reason is they want to try and get Gilbert loose. Medhurst had a quiet game last week so will be keen to make amends.

Davis v Gram – Gram will look to run off Davis. He had 28 possessions last week so is in damaging form. Leon was quiet last week, but I thought his last quarter was very influential and got his side over the line.

Gilbert v Lockyer – If Collingwood is unable to keep Gilbert accountable, then I think Lockyer should move onto him. He cannot be allowed to float around at will and spoil contests.

DaVe’s Soapbox – Luke Ball

This week, I take aim at those having a go at Luke Ball. I suppose this is especially relevant considering there will be St.Kilda readers.

There is no denying he has had an ordinary start. I also don’t believe the Saints miss him 1 bit as Armitage has been very good to date. It might hurt them if they get a few injuries to key players, but I doubt Ross Lyon is losing any sleep about Luke Ball walking to Collingwod.

However, I say to all fans, do not worry about Luke Ball. Ball was not recruited to dominate against Melbourne. Ball was not recruited to help Collingwood finish higher on the ladder. Without Luke Ball, Collingwood has still made 4 finals series in a row, including 2 top 4 finishes and 2 preliminary finals. It is fair to say the team is strong with or without Luke Ball.

Luke Ball was however recruited to give the Pies an extra hard body in the big games against the best sides. The best sides are Geelong, St.Kilda, Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn. He played a fantastic Grand Final against Geelong, he brings intimate knowledge of St.Kilda and he was handy against the Bulldogs. He faces Hawthorn in Round 4.

In the preliminary final last year, Collingwood sent Sidebottom, Beams and McCarthy against Ablett, Bartel and Selwood. The need for an experienced in and under was prevalent.

It is a big game for Ball this week, and I expect him to lift. He usually does in big games. So I am not fussed by a 20% efficiency rating with his kicking against Melbourne. The best teams play contested footy, which is what Luke Ball enjoys.

It is time for the bitterness between Collingwood and Saints fans to end. Collingwood fans have to realise that the Saints are not missing Ball. But Saints fans have to acknowledge the service of Ball to their club and the fact that he is a good fit at Collingwood.

Fantasy News

Well, after 2 consecutive weeks scoring over 2200, my Dream Team has shot inside the top 800 and is looking good. Nick Riewoldt served me well as captain last week.

Leigh Montagna – Should have a field day against a Collingwood midfield without a designated tagger.

Nick Riewoldt – Will score 100 regardless if he kicks goals or not. If he is struggling, there is no Collingwood player able to match him if he moves up the ground.

Heath Shaw – Should bounce back and score well. Usually enjoys playing the Saints who will allow him first possession from the kick-in

Dane Swan – Avoid as captain this week as he is likely to get the Jones tag.

The Wrap Up

It should be a tough game. Collingwood typically holds St.Kilda for a quarter or so, then gets blown away. However, the Pies have to bounce back following a disappointing game last week.

The Saints will consider this their first challenge of the year, and will be looking to really stake their claim on this year’s premiership by dismissing one of the contenders.

It will all be about which team gets on top in the midfield and whether Collingwood can break through the St.Kilda zone. I am not anticipating a high scoring game, but expect a lot of stoppages.

The player Collingwood needs to lift is Travis Cloke. If he cannot find form soon, then I have great concern about the Magpies in 2010.

St.Kilda by 15 points.

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