Match Preview: R11 Bulldogs v Collingwood

Jun 2nd, 2010 | By | Category: AFL Match Preview, Lead Article

By David Natoli
Aka DaVe86

Collingwood face the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium this Sunday at 4:40pm to conclude Round 11. It seems crazy I am previewing a game between the Doggies and Magpies again. It was only 2 months ago I was preparing the same preview. But that’s the AFL draw. It seems stupid but it’s what we are stuck with.

Regardless, this match is crucial for both sides. The Bulldogs were bad in Round 10. Essendon made them look very average. Collingwood on the other hand is backing up from 2 straight losses after working its way to the top of the ladder. A win is crucial for either side to get back on the winners list.

In my opinion, Collingwood and Western Bulldogs still remain the 2 challengers to Geelong and St.Kilda. I think both will show their superior fitness in the second half of the season as other teams start to slow down. However, we saw last year that it is essentially important to get wins on the board early and look to freshen up senior players leading into finals. Collingwood has the chance to cement its top 4 spot with a game in hand, whilst the Western Bulldogs have the chance to move back into the top 4. So a lot is on the line.

The Dogs have had their week rocked by the Akermanis situation. I’ll delve more into this under the ‘DaVe’s Soapbox’ part of the preview. I have pretty strong views about this. Nevertheless, Akermanis is still a very good player, and from a Collingwood supporter’s point of view, I am very happy to see him out of the side. Hopefully the Dogs are able to put the dramas behind them and put in a good showing on Sunday, because I’m hoping for a cracking game.

The Round 1 Encounter

Collingwood were simply incredible in Round 1. I’ve been watching Collingwood play for a long time, and that’s as good as I’ve seen them. The Pies ran away 36 point winners. They played amazingly quick footy and I doubt any side could’ve stopped them that day.

However, there were other factors that may have come into play. The Doggies were backing up from a taxing NAB Cup campaign and looked a little flat. They were also first to see Collingwood’s new look game-plan and had no answers to the forward press. This time around, they will be much more prepared and switched on.

Boyd was probably the Bulldogs best with 38 disposals and a goal. For Collingwood, Heath Shaw was electric with 36 disposals and 14 marks and was the driving force across half back. Dane Swan had a typically productive game with 31 disposals and 10 marks, whilst I thought Sharrod Wellingham was a real factor as well, taking Cooney for most of the game and getting a lot of the ball himself. Dale Thomas had the defensive job on Ryan Griffen and I thought was very good. Prestigiacomo did a typically good job on Barry Hall.

At the Selection Table

Both sides will make changes this week.

Starting with Collingwood, it was obvious from the get-go last week that the side was top heavy. With Leon Davis and Medhurst out of the side, playing the 3 talls forward was a massive risk which didn’t pay off. Especially with 2 immobile ruckmen in the side as well. I thought Reid was the wrong matchup for Jonathon Brown. Nathan Brown should’ve got the gig instead. I’m also not sure where O’Bree is at. Luke Ball is clearly ahead of him, and having O’Bree in the side is only limiting Pendlebury’s on-ball time.

It seems unlikely that Medhurst will return as he is listed as 1 week off with his foot. He may be given until after the split round to regain fitness as he has been out for a month now. Leon Davis is listed as a test, however serious doubt will hover over him. I think we all saw last week how crucial Leon is to the team as the forward pressure was non-existent. Leon Davis is Collingwood’s best tackling forward typically.

Cameron Wood is struggling. He has his opportunity to cement his spot in the absence of Jolly, but he isn’t doing enough. Admittingly, he is only getting just over 40% game-time. This may be improved if the Magpies play 1 less forward, which gives him a chance to rest up there.

I’d suggest:

In: L.Brown, Davis, Barham
Out: Wood, O’Bree, Anthony

Leigh Brown is dominating VFL, and can play the 2nd ruck option. I don’t like having Brown in our 22, but he has the ability to come in and have an impact. He just has no ability to string a month of good footy together. But he is a good option to come in on occasion to plug a hole and add some aggression. Then when Josh Fraser is ready he can replace him.

Jack Anthony is struggling for form and it seems clear that Collingwood cannot play 3 talls against a quick Bulldogs side. Barham has displayed good form and has great pace so I think he should get his chance as well in the place of O’Bree.

Ben Reid holds his spot simply because he has more versatility than Nathan Brown. Although, Malthouse seems to always drop a tall defender against Western Bulldogs, so a final change may involve perhaps Tarkyn Lockyer coming if for Ben Reid. I don’t mind having the extra tall though because Minson rests forward, and Grant is in good form.

For the Western Bulldogs, Akermanis will be out of the side. Robert Murphy is still also 2 weeks away. Callan Ward is off the injury list, but I don’t think he’ll come straight back in. Brad Johnson will still be some time off.

Stack only had 7 disposals last week in a game he should’ve had an impact, so he may be on the chopping block. I also don’t think Addison is in the Bulldogs top 22 right now, although the coach does like him and gives him important jobs.

There’s plenty to come back for the Dogs. Guys like Eagleton and Everitt are putting pressure on for a game. Brodie Moles also showed some great signs before he got injured, so must be on the cusp of getting a game as well. He has a big body and takes the game on, so he seems a good inclusion.

I’d say:

In: Eagleton, Moles, Everitt
Out: Akermanis, Stack, Addison

Without Aka, the Dogs may turn to Eagleton to be a goal-scoring option and to add experience. Everitt can play a number of roles and is a real utility so his flexibility against a very even Collingwood side could be handy as well.

Players to Watch

Western Bulldogs

Ben Hudson – Doesn’t get much of a wrap at times, but Hudson is having a great 2010. He is beating most opponents in the ruck and is a good link up man around the field. Given Collingwood’s ruck woes at the moment, Hudson is going to prove a handful. He already beat Jolly in round 1, and given Jolly’s patchy form, he should do so again. Like I said earlier, I would bring in Leigh Brown to add something different. Get him to crash into Hudson, and also get him to run off him. Last week Ryder was able to make himself very dangerous and was Essendon’s best on field I thought. Hudson will look to give Doggies first use. When this happens, the Bulldogs can be hard to stop.

Ryan Griffen – One of the must stop players when you plan for the Bulldogs. His 2010 has been much more consistent than previous years. He might be a little sore after a few minor injuries, but his class cannot be underestimated. I think Malthouse will use Dale Thomas on him again.

Matthew Boyd – Was the Bulldogs best player in Round 1 and may go head to head against Swan. Since injuring his hand, his form has not been quite as good as it was early in the year, but he should rack them up this week. The Collingwood midfield was far to slack last week on Black, Power and Rich, so they will have to be very cautious of Boyd this week.

Jarrod Harbrow – If Leon Davis returns, Harbrow will get the job. If not, then Harbrow will go onto perhaps Sidebottom or Didak when they play forward and run off hard. I’d be telling whoever Harbrow play on to be very very tight on him. He is so deadly on the counter attack and his speed cannot be underestimated. It’s shown in the past that the way to beat the Bulldogs is to stop them across half back. So stopping Harbrow should be Goal #1

Mitch Hahn – One of my favourite players. Not the most talented player, but I’ve always maintained he is one of the most important to the Bulldog cause. With Barry Hall and Grant now in the side, Hahn can play like a 3rd tall and also put a lot of forward pressure on. Will most likely get the job on Maxwell or perhaps even Macaffer. I think I would use Macaffer on him as he did a good job on Chapman a few weeks back, and use Maxwell on Grant.


Alan Didak – May cop the Picken tag, so has to work hard through it. If Leon Davis is back, it will give Didak more of an opportunity to move on the ball. If he is not back, then he’ll have to play forward more and try to kick goals. His form is ok at the moment, but is perhaps missing Davis and Medhurst to act as a buffer. Makes him crucially important to the Magpies cause as so many goals come from smalls.

Sharrod Wellingham – Has not returned to his early season form since his calf injury, but I don’t think it’s too far away. Will probably get the responsibility for Cooney in the field of play. Wellingham is so important to Collingwood as he is the one with genuine pace and X-Factor through the middle, and can play a shut down job as well. The Magpies will be hoping he regains his touch soon as he has looked a bit short of match fitness in the last 2 weeks.

Simon Prestigiacomo – Will get the job on Hall. Collingwood needed 2 Presti’s last week. When he was playing on Fev, Brown dominated. When he switched to Brown, Fev dominated. This week he faces the tough assignment of playing on Barry Hall who is in good nick. Presti proved to me last week that he is still a vital component to Collingwood defence. I think Reid and Brown should rotate based on matchups…and let Presti go about his business against the good forwards.

Heath Shaw – If Jarrod Harbrow is crucial to the Bulldogs, then Heath Shaw is definitely the barometer for Collingwood. His form has been down over the past fortnight, and not surprisingly the Magpies have lost 2 in a row. Teams are going to forward tag him. It’s a given. However, Shaw’s decision making has been a bit sketchy and he is not winning enough of the ball. He was the Magpies best in Round 1, so no doubt the Bulldogs will put emphasis on him. Even if Heater is not winning the ball, it is crucial he is shutting down a dangerous Bulldog small.

Harry O’Brien – He is really the prototype defender that you want in your side when you play the Bulldogs. You need guys who can win in the air, but also compete at ground level. Harry could play on a range of players including Hill, Higgins, Grant or even Giansiracusa when he goes forward. I think he’ll start on Hill, and Toovey will get Higgins. Harry was pretty good last week, but Banfield got away from him early. Will be crucial on Sunday night as Malthouse will ask him to play on the dangerous small forward.

DaVe’s Soapbox – Jason Akermanis

Akermanis wrote an article 2 weeks ago contending that the AFL was not ready for a gay football to come out of the closet. What he should’ve written is that AFL is not ready for a footballer to exercise freedom of speech.

The hysteria over an opinion piece, which as I believe was written at the behest of the players association, is ridiculous. Though I disagreed with the majority of what he had to say, I respect him for having the guts to speak his mind on a topic we are all too scared to talk about publicly.

The thing is, inadvertently, Akermanis has made it much easier for a gay football to ‘come out’. By bringing up the topic, it has provided the public with the opportunity to finally talk about the issue. The overwhelming majority of people have stated that they would have no trouble with a gay footballer. And this is what freedom of speech is about. It is why the High Court have interpreted it as a right in the Constitution.

I don’t understand why Aka’s column has any bearing on the Western Bulldogs. It was his opinion and in no way reflective of his football club. Aka took a serious pay cut to play on, so he has to be entitled to supplement his income through media work. The Bulldogs were surely supportive of this. However, since writing the article, the Herald Sun, the Western Bulldogs, the AFL and the Players Association have all distanced themselves from him and hung him out to dry.

Perhaps it is a convenient way for the Bulldogs to drop Aka who is out of form and suffering from injuries. Regardless, I still think Aka is important to the Bulldogs. He offers forward pressure, and last week I thought he was responsible for a number of goals…many through knock ons that didn’t go onto the stats. It’s like Leon Davis. Although he is not getting big numbers on the stats sheet, his influence on games cannot be measured purely by kicks and handballs.

The Wrap Up

It should be a great game. No doubt both sides will be looking forward to the split round considering a few players are suffering from a few niggles, and the formline has been patchy over the last month. Regardless, each side needs atleast 2 wins leading into the Round 13 split-round, so chalking one up against a fellow top 4 contender will do the confidence a world of good.

Personally, I think the Bulldogs are a little sharper right now and have a bit to prove after their defeat in Round 1. I wonder about the Collingwood forward line without Davis and Medhurst. I also worry about a midfield which I think is a little flat. I think Swan is suffering from a knee complaint and Wellingham is not back to his best. The Dogs also have the extra days break and Collingwood played on the hard Gabba last week.

But Collingwood will be equally keen to restate their position as a genuine contender this year. They’ve troubled the Bulldogs over the last 2 years and match up pretty well on them. If they get back to their attacking best and the forward pressure returns, then I have no doubt they can win.

But I’m tipping Bulldogs by 10.

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