Match Preview: R5 Collingwood v Essendon

Apr 21st, 2010 | By | Category: AFL Match Preview, Lead Article

By David Natoli
Aka DaVe86

I love this game. It’s one of the best things about being a Collingwood supporter. I’m sure Essendon fans feel the same. The ANZAC Day match simply carries a special feeling with it that makes it that little bit more enjoyable than any other game. I don’t know if it’s the finals atmosphere, the big crowd, the sentiment or the rivalry. I think it’s a combination of all these factors.

This year, I will be attending my first ever dawn service. I want to make the most of this years ANZAC Day. It’s a big game as well considering both sides have now won 7 games apiece, so the winner takes the lead in the all-time tally.

There will be plenty written this week about the sentiment and the real emotion behind the day. So I’ll try and stick with the analytical side. Despite this, it is always hard to ignore the fact that ladder position means very little on ANZAC Day. I suppose the favourite side has typically won, but some of the best victories have been against the odds, such as Essendon’s stunning last minute win last year. Despite Collingwood’s favouritism going into the game, it must be stated that Essendon typically get themselves up for ANZAC Day.

Essendon are coming back from a horror trip to Perth where they were convincingly beaten. A 23 point margin was ultimately flattering. They were slammed in the media throughout the week as well. Given the long break between games, I doubt fatigue will be an issue following the trip across the Nullarbor. Knights has also drilled his players at training this week, so there is little doubt they will come out fired up. It has been a less than impressive start from the Bombers, who currently sit on 1 win and 3 losses.

Over to the Magpies. Despite a good win last week against Hawthorn and a 3-1 start to the year, I still don’t think the Pies are playing their best football. Inaccuracy is perhaps the biggest concern in the first 4 rounds. But I also think the ruck division is still out of form, and the forward line is too reliant on smalls to kick the goals. Leon Davis was good last week, but the Pies continuously kicked it long to Leon who was outnumbered by taller opponents. I still think Collingwood needs to find another viable tall marking option to be a real premiership threat.

Regardless, the tackling pressure, the zone and the defence of Collingwood is working magnificently well. Sides have struggled to score against the Magpies all year. Malthouse publicly stated that it has been his long term goal to develop a defence that was in the top 4 in the competition, and he now believes it is potentially in the top 2. This is going to be an issue for Essendon as their forward line is very suspect given the patchy form of their young talls. No doubt there is promise in Hurley and Gumbleton, but are they ready to stand up on the big ANZAC Day stage against quality defenders?

ANZAC Day has always been a day where the big names perform. It is a new era now without the likes of Buckley, Hird and Lloyd out there, but a new generation of players are continuing the tradition.

However, it has always been a day where a few unlikely types have made a name for themselves. Many have never lived up to the hype, however have managed to play well beyond their capacity on this special day. Mark McGough and Damien Cupido spring to mind.

Which young-guns will announce themselves in 2010? Will it be a Brent Macaffer or a Scott Gumbleton? Will it be a Steele Sidebottom or a Jake Melksham?

Recent History

It’s hard to go past the last ANZAC Day clash where the Bombers looked dead and buried late in the last quarter, yet rallied to win in the 30th minute with a Zaharakis goal which will go down in history.

However, the last time these 2 sides met was in Round 14 last year where Collingwood were winners by 35 points. The votes going to Fraser, Cloke and Swan. It was a particularly dominant game by Josh Fraser who was humiliated on ANZAC Day by Paddy Ryder. Didak was also dominant with 36 possessions.

However, the last ANZAC Day clash between these 2 sides will go down in history. Collingwood will be desperate to take revenge. It was one of the most thrilling ends to a game I have seen, and the name Zaharakis has haunted Magpies fans for a year.

Swan was the highest possession winner on the day with 37 and picked up 1 vote for his efforts. The major votes going to Lovett and Ryder, who subsequently won the ANZAC medal. Stanton was also very good with 34 disposals. All looked lost for Essendon when David Hille went down early with a season ending knee injury. However, it seemed to inspire Ryder to new heights as he lifted his game to another level. The 13 tackles he took highlighted how hard he worked and he kicked an inspiring goal as well.

Andrew Lovett was the man that turned the game around with some amazing runs through the centre, pretty much piercing right through the Collingwood midfield.

Collingwood won the prior 3 ANZAC day clashes.

Selection News

I doubt there will be massive changes for Collingwood. Following a 70 point win, Malthouse will be pretty keen to keep his side balanced. The only real injury worry for Collingwood is John Anthony with a foot problem.

Shane O’Bree was good in the VFL last week, but looks unlikely to regain his spot.

Malthouse typically plays a youngstar on ANZAC Day. It is his belief that this sort of atmosphere fast-tracks his players. However, I doubt there is any rookie really knocking down the door for selection. Malthouse has however signalled his intention to bring in fresh faces in the upcoming weeks.

Perhaps he will give Simon Buckley his debut for Collingwood after 2 pretty solid VFL appearances. Chris Dawes continues to impress at VFL level and has to come into selection contention again.

The one change I think Malthouse should make is to bring another tall defender into the team. Presti, Maxwell and O’Brien are not tall, and my concern is that Hurley and Gumbleton will expose them in the air. Essendon have also been using Ryder and Hille up forward a lot. Potentially, Collingwood could throw Leigh Brown into defence this week. However, I think this is a good opportunity to bring in one of Reid or Nathan Brown. Both are high draft picks and need big game experience. Nathan Brown looks most likely after a good game in the VFL, though Reid has had a solid month as well and won selection in Round 2.

Moving over to Essendon, expect a few changes this week. Mostly involving a few big names.

Monfries looks set to return. His presence will bolster the forward line. McVeigh also looks likely despite not training. Stanton is also likely to return. Knights will also toil with the idea of bringing back Prismall, who I frankly can’t believe is out of the team.

Alwyn Davey must surely return this week as well. Knights has admitted they have lacked his presence up forward. He will return and most likely get Harry O’Brien as an opponent.

Finally, Knights may look to bring in Myers after his VFL game was good and Atkinson may earn his recall. Atkinson was impressive towards the end of 2009, and his pace would be valuable in the midfield.

So Essendon looks set to be much stronger this week, though a few players might be a bit underdone or struggling for form.


Essendon will no doubt try and play the corridor. At its best, Essendon is a highly attacking side and when in full flight can be very hard to slow down. I think the Bombers will set a few tight tags on some of the Collingwood stars, whereas Collingwood is likely to zone heavily and go head to head through the middle.

The concern for Essendon is obviously defence. I’m not talking about the back 6, I’m talking about midfield defensive pressure. Being such an attacking, free flowing side, Essendon is always susceptible to conceding goals.

Given Collingwood’s strong defence, getting into a shoot out could be dangerous given the Magpies have a greater capacity to shut the game down.

The other concern for Essendon is fitness. The Bombers have not run out quarters well this year, although they did come back a bit last week. Knights has trained the team really hard this week in terms of fitness. The last training session involved nothing but time-trials. Collingwood is obviously a very high rotating side, and will look to put the foot down in time-on.

Finally, Essendon’s defence may struggle to cover the small forwards of Collingwood. Medhurst, Davis and Didak have dominated recent games, whilst Thomas and Macaffer are in good form.

Collingwood’s game-plan is obviously going to be to slow down the Bombers run. The Eagles managed to do this last week and the Bombers made bad mistakes. Given their high risk attacking game-plan, the Pies will be looking to impose the same level of tackling pressure as they did against Hawthorn last week. Forcing Essendon to over-possess is the plan, and the small forward line is making it very tough to clear the Collingwood attacking 50.

The start is going to be hot. I have no doubt Essendon is going to come out firing. No doubt Collingwood will need to bring the same intensity.

Players to Watch


Scott Pendlebury: Andrew Welsh has had the job on Pendlebury the last few times. Welsh has attacked Pendlebury and looked to win a lot of the ball himself. Scott has been a bit out of form early, but looked to regain his touch last week. He has a good record against Essendon, which is why Knights now tags him.

Dale Thomas – In my opinion, he has been Collingwood’s best this year. I hope he continues to fly under the radar of the media, because it is good to see little hype about his performance publicly. Usually lifts for big games, and I expect a massive one on Sunday.

Travis Cloke – May get Pears as an opponent. Typically plays good against Essendon as well and has a good ANZAC day record. He in fact had his break out game against Essendon on ANZAC day. His form has been on the improve over the last 2 weeks, though I still think he has more in him. No doubt that if he is quiet, Collingwood’s forward line looks very suspect due to the lack of talls. Cloke continues to lead very high up the ground which is leaving the smalls to do the marking up forward. I’d like to see him try and win the ball closer to goal.

Dane Swan – Has always been a big ball winner against Essendon, and this game should be no different. I think the tight tags will go onto Pendlebury and Didak, which should free Swan up to do his business.

Sharrod Wellingham – Don’t underestimate how valuable this guy has been to Collingwood this year. His pace is essential to what I believe would be a sluggish midfield without him. He has put 4 good games together, and has often done jobs for Malthouse as well. I would love to see him put a big game in on ANZAC Day as a reward for his hard work in 2010.

Harry O’Brien – May prove to be a very important player for Collingwood on Sunday. Essendon have a number of forwards I could see him matching up on. Firstly, Williams is his ideal opponent…although I think he’ll get Prestigiacomo. I think Harry will get the job on Davey, who is likely to return. Further, his run off half back is essential to the Magpies.

Luke Ball – Is going to go head to head against Watson in the centre, and it should be fascinating. He was quiet last week; however I think he was one of Collingwood’s better players. It was as hard as I’ve ever seen him play. Was at the bottom of every pack and copped a few knocks as well for his team. It’s his first ANZAC Day, and I expect him to really thrive in the big game.


Jobe Watson – Who wins the battle between Watson and Ball will have a major bearing on the game. Bombers need to win around the stoppages, because Collingwood in typically strong in this area. Watson is captaining his side on ANZAC day for the first time and will be mighty keen to stamp his authority on the game early. Though I expect the matchup to be head to head, I hope Collingwood invest a bit of time into stopping Watson’s influence around the ground as well.

Courtney Dempsey – I rate this guy. Provides so much pace and run off half back and looks to be over his hamstring issues. Reminds me a lot of Andrew Mcleod. Essendon relies so heavily on quick movement and attacking rebounding from defence, and Dempsey is the catalyst of this. Collingwood should mind him if they want to lock the ball inside attacking 50. Otherwise, he will provide a lot of counter-attacks.

Michael Hurley – Had a quiet game last week in his return game, but he will surely be keen to reinstate his mark on the side and remind people how good a player he is. His height and strength may worry the current Collingwood defenders, which is why I think Nathan Brown should come in. Essendon need Gumbleton and Hurley to stand up.

Jason Winderlich – He is the Essendon midfielder who really takes the game on and has extreme pace. Therefore his is vital to their team. I expect Wellingham to get the job on Winderlich.

Kyle Reimers – He is the player all opposition supporters love to hate, and you just get the feeling ANZAC Day is his type of game. May get Toovey as an opponent. Though I believe he is far too arrogant, he is the sort of player that usually gets on top of Collingwood. He suffered an ankle injury last week but should be right to play. Regardless of how you feel about him, he is dangerous and Collingwood will have to watch him closely.

Ricky Dyson – Had a breakout game on ANZAC day last year, and was part of the comeback. His skills are important to the Essendon team and he is a much improved player. He is unlikely to get much attention, so he is the sort of player who can cause a lot of damage.

Key Matchups

Jolly/Fraser v Hille/Ryder – No doubt Ryder and Fraser will go up against each other most of the day. Ryder’s agility may worry Jolly a bit, so Josh should be given the responsibility for him whilst in the ruck. Ryder will push forward where he has proven dangerous this year.

Hille was impressive last week I thought. Cox and Naitanui may have smashed him in the ruck, but they are going to do that to every team. Hille however ran his guts out to become an influential player around the ground. He will do the same against Jolly who is not known for his versatility. However, Jolly should have the edge in the actual ruck. Despite his poor form this year, he is slowly regaining his touch and should enjoy his first ever ANZAC Day clash.

I personally think the ruck battle has been the defining clash in the last 2 battles between these 2 sides. And it could be vital again. All 4 big men are different and have different attributes.

DaVe’s Soapbox

Around this time every year, the usual debate re-appears that ANZAC Day should be shared. It surfaced again this morning on SEN, with KB and Patrick Smith endorsing other teams to play on ANZAC Day.

Let’s get this straight. ANZAC Day should always be Collingwood v Essendon. In fact, I’m spewing we have to share it this year as it is on a Sunday.

These 2 sides have invested 15 years into this day, and have built a tradition and rivalry which no other team can compare. I truly believe Essendon and Collingwood have done a lot for the celebration of ANZAC Day, and have helped make it such a big event on the calendar each year. I doubt I would be going to dawn services if it wasn’t for the clash between Collingwood and Essendon. ANZAC day has become such an important day on the Australian calendar, and I think these 2 sides have a lot to do with that.

What’s more, Collingwood and Essendon have always played the game in the right spirit, and have always attracted a crowd. Both sides always lift for the clash.

Richmond and Carlton have opened the season the last 2 years, but the games have been disappointments. Geelong played Hawthorn on Easter Monday but only drew around 60,000.

As fans, we simply know to book tickets in March for this game. It has become tradition. It isn’t even a question for me as a fan. I always go to this game. For other fans, they may look to it as a long weekend and go away.

Whether this is fair or not to other sides, I couldn’t care less. And I doubt the AFL does either considering it is such a money maker for them.

Fantasy Advice:

Expect Watson and Stanton to dominate for Essendon, and Swan to top score for Collingwood.

The Bombers will struggle to cover the Collingwood small forwards, so expect Medhurst to also bounce back.

Also take note that if you want Melksham or Colyer in your team, this is the last week to get them before their price rises. Could be an option if you have Shuey or Banner in your team and are looking to downgrade them.

The Wrap Up

If you’ve read this far, then you would be aware I love ANZAC Day. I can’t wait to hear the roar when the national anthem finishes, and the absolute silence whilst the Last Post plays.

I have no doubt this is going to be a fantastic match. Collingwood have revenge to pay for last year’s crushing loss, whilst Essendon have all to prove after a poor start to the season.

No doubt, if Essendon lose this, they are no hope for the finals this year. So it is a crunch game for them. However, I must say that I think Collingwood is going to be too strong in defence and too even through the midfield.

Despite this, I am not going to break my superstition, and I will tip against Collingwood again.

Bombers by 15.

Tip for the ANZAC medal: Dale Thomas.

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