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This Week's Selection
1998 Draw from Footy 98
Magpies chase Rocca for life
By Michael Davis
Tuesday, June 02, 1998
COLLINGWOOD are moving to sign full-forward Saverio Rocca for the rest of his football career.
While refusing to discuss contract details, the Magpies chief executive John May said last night: 'Certainly Sav, at his age (24), is a player we see playing out his career at Collingwood. He's a player we want to tie up. He's an important part of the whole team.' The Magpies are building their future on Rocca, Nathan Buckley and Paul Williams, players of a similar age.
Rocca bagged 11 goals against Fremantle at Victoria Park on Sunday. He has kicked 426 goals in 120 games.
Not bad for a youngster who did not play the game until he was 15. Former Collingwood captain Ray Shaw, brother of coach Tony, spotted Rocca playing age-group football at North Reservoir-Lakeside and quickly alerted the Magpies.
After watching Rocca on Sunday, Tony Shaw made the bold prediction that he had a full-forward capable of kicking 1000 goals in the Australian Football League.
Rocca was more concerned yesterday, during a rare media interview, about becoming more consistent.
'I need to kick three or four goals every week to become more value for the club,' Rocca said.
He said that his improved showing could be attributed in no small way to the set routine each time he kicks for goal.
Assistant coach David Wheadon has been working with him on setting up the same way for each shot.
Until now his approach had been haphazard, to say the least.
Rocca has set himself the target this season of 100 goals.
So far he's managed 40.
''It (the century) is in reach, but as long as I keep performing each week, that's the most important thing,' Rocca said.
The self-effacing youngster believes he's still learning about the game.
'Sometimes I'm still not sure whether to go body on body with an opponent or fly for the mark,' he said.
Most of his opponents are happy when 194-centimetre, 107-kilogram Rocca avoids body contact.
Rocca constantly studies videos of Hawthorn's Jason Dunstall and Sydney's Tony Lockett to see how they play the full backs in the competition.
He'll pay particular attention this week to the recent battle between North Melbourne's Mick Martyn and Lockett at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where Martyn held Lockett to one goal.
Collingwood face the Kangaroos at the MCG on the Queen's Birthday Monday in round 11.
The Australian, Tuesday, 2nd June
Defeats spark fiery tempers~ Bucks ; just dumb footy
By Bruce Matthews, Mark Robinson
ACTING captain Nathan Buckley said last night Collingwood was playing dumb football.
The Magpies are 'killing ourselves with a thousand cuts' by squandering promising starts, he says.
Buckley revealed the private hurt and collective disappointment after leading the team to an agonising three-point loss to Melbourne at the MCG.
'We've gone backwards again, we're a lot better side than what we're playing at the moment,' the brilliant onballer said.
'We can match anyone if we play smart footy, but we're just dumb.
'It's very disappointing. It felt like we were in fair control of the game for 80 per cent of it, but we weren't able to convert, to capitalise on our better opportunities.
'That has been the story for us so far this season.
'It's a lack of composure, making poor options, poor use of the ball, bad movement in the forward line, not enough running from behind the lines.
'It's killing ourselves with a thousand cuts, as Micky Malthouse would say, having a look at our games.' Buckley, again one of Collingwood's best performers with 23 kicks and eight handpasses, echoed coach Tony Shaw's concern on how the team let slip its early grip against the Demons.
Shaw's frustration was evident after the game.
He was at a loss to explain why his team allowed the Demons to get back into games, but didn't hold back on his criticism of Anthony Rocca.
Rocca almost became the reluctant hero yesterday after spending long periods on the interchange bench.
He booted two goals in as many minutes in the last quarter to put the Pies within three points.
Shaw said: 'I was sort of pretty hard after the game on Anthony because everyone is going to say he was fantastic the last five minutes, (but) to be a good footballer you've to be better than that over the whole entirety of the game.
'It was good to see him put his hand up in the end, but these blokes (teammates) are depending on him more than the last five minutes of the game.' While Buckley didn't target individuals, there was veiled criticism of the Rocca brothers as he explained the poor return inside the attacking 50m.
'With the weight of ball down in the forward line, you would have hoped they probably could have done a bit more earlier in the game,' he said.
'We took the ball forward five or six times. We took a few marks inside our forward 50 which was probably pretty rare for us for the match.' Anthony Rocca finished the game with two goals from 11 touches and four marks, while Saverio slotted home four goals.
Not wanting to blame individuals, Shaw said the Pies were 'getting killed' by inaccurate kicking for goal, poor disposal and incorrect decision-making.
'It has to be a mental thing,' he said.
'Some (players) are still doing things wrong which we've been working on for a month. That is frustrating.
'When does it gel? Are we coaching it right or is it just not gelling under the pressure? 'As individuals they get into a situation under pressure and not under pressure and still do the same things.
Herald Sun Monday, 18th May
The breaking of the drought
Our first win over the Blues since 1994. Somehow, the victory over Carlton on Saturday was less satisfying than it should have been. The Carlton of 1998 is not the team that I wanted to see humiliated by the Pies. They aren't the arrogant and impressive team that we all love to hate so much, they're really a pretty pathetic bunch at the moment and anything but a victory over them would have been inexcusable.
Saturday's match and the matches of the previous two weeks have highlighted a problem that existed last season and is apparently still affecting us, and that is that our match performance tends to follow the performance level of the opposition. Saturday's win, even taking into consideration the 29 point margin, was not the overpowering victory that it should have been.
Collingwood often seem to rise to the occasion when presented with an in-form opposition, either beating them after a hard fought duel or losing by a comparitively small margin, only to slump again when the pressure is taken off. The Collingwood that the Western Bulldogs declared to be the best team in the competition, after their meeting in round 8 last season, was the same one that was beaten by Sydney, Hawthorn and Richmond in the next three rounds, each holding the lowly position of 15th on the ladder.
Let's hope that we can once again rise to the occasion on Friday night, a win over the Swans will give us our 7th successive victory at the MCG, and again for our 8th against Melbourne the following week. The round that really worries me is the one after that, Port Adelaide at Football Park, we haven't won away from the MCG and VP since 1996.
Rocca goal sparks Pies fightback
By Mark Harding
Sunday, April 26, 1998
A LONG Anzac Day bomb from Sav Rocca after the half-time siren may turn out to be Collingwood's most significant kick of the season.
The Pies had wasted opportunity after opportunity to manage just 5.12 with Rocca goalless when he marked on the 50m line moments before the siren.
His huge kick reduced Collingwood's deficit to 12 points and Rocca was swamped by jubilant teammates as they headed into the long interval with their spirits soaring.
Rocca returned in the second half a vastly different player to the one who had been so astray early and he added another six goals as the Pies ran out 20-point winners.
Rocca's seventh and last goal also came after the siren.
In despatching inexperienced full-back Matthew Banks and then Ryan O'Connor, the giant full-forward was clearly the man of the match.
If football is war without death and bullets, then the two biggest army bases in Melbourne lived up to the Anzac Day tradition in proud fashion with a torrid, if error-riddled, battle.
But equally, if the Collingwood-Essendon April 25 encounter is said to be the closest thing to a Grand Final in the home-and-away season, then it is just as well. Because yesterday is likely to be the closest either side gets to the Grand Final this season.
The wet and swirly conditions - and probably the occasion in front of 81,542 fans - made it impossible for the game to be seen at its most skilful but even so, both sides made too many basic mistakes under pressure to be considered competition pacesetters.
Rocca and, to a lesser extent, Essendon's Matthew Lloyd were the only truly exciting players and it was the dour commitment of young Pie defender Mal Michael which was the difference between the two sides.
Michael beat Scott Lucas in the first half and then kept Lloyd goalless after half-time in the best performance of his blossoming 16-game career.
Lloyd started the game roaming far and wide across half-forward and was far too mobile and classy for Andrew Schauble, kicking four goals.
At the same time, Justin Blumfield not only closed down Nathan Buckley's drive but picked up plenty of kicks himself as the Dons shot out to a 21-point lead halfway through the second quarter.
In an effort to break the tag, Magpie coach Tony Shaw briefly moved Buckley on Lloyd, but Blumfield went with him and Shaw abandoned the idea.
Buckley lifted his game after half time to finish with 26 disposals and, inspired by Rocca's first goal, all Collingwood players improved.
In the third quarter, the Pies kicked 5.5 while the Bombers could manage only six behinds.
Collingwood had 88 possessions to Essendon's 50 in the quarter.
At the start of the last quarter it was Essendon's turn to lift and goals to Bewick and Blumfield reduced the margin to two points.
Alex McDonald, who had been a good player all day, ran on to a loose ball to reply for the Pies and when Rocca goaled after a downfield infringement, the Pies had opened up a buffer again.
Bewick snapped his second goal for the quarter at the 24-minute mark to keep the game alive but once again it was Rocca who outmarked O'Connor for his sixth goal.
Big Sav's third goal for the day was his 400th in the AFL and after both he and the club seemed in disarray just a fortnight ago they are now back in the hunt for a finals place.
Herald Sun Sunday, 26th April
Michael a Magpie with a difference
By LINDA PEARCE
Q: Damian Monkhorst, Saverio and Anthony Rocca and Greg Williams have gone fishing and the boat begins to take water. Who's thrown overboard first, and why?
A: Sav, because he would start panicking, saying he wanted his mother.
Says who? Says Collingwood teammate Mal Michael. The response, published in a recent issue of the independent fan publication, Footyzine, was offered in jest, but the young Collingwood full-back is refreshing for more than just his mischievous streak.
From the uncommonly high level of athleticsm he displays in the key defensive post, to his birthplace in Port Moresby, to the ultimatum he delivered to Collingwood last year that he would leave if not included on the senior list, Michael is unconventional.
He was the first Papua New Guinean to play in the AFL. When promoted in round seven last year against North Melbourne, he was also the first rookie-list graduate to play a senior game. While not admitting to his club nickname of "Porn Star", Michael says openly that he would prefer to play in a back pocket than take on the opposition's key goalkicker.
And two weeks before making his AFL debut, he was so frustrated that he had asked assistant coach Stan Magro if he could go and play in the VFL.
The reply was that Michael should bide his time and his chance would soon come. When it did, it was a reward for choosing football over the two other sports - water polo and basketball - at which he was a Queensland junior representative, and for persevering when ignored by the Bears in 1994-95 and then initially restricted to Collingwood's supplementary and rookie lists.
Indeed, when overlooked by the Magpies in the 1997 pre-season draft, Michael decided to return home to Brisbane. "When I didn't get picked up I thought, `well, I've given it everything, and it just hasn't worked'. I told them, `if I don't get picked up, I'm not doing another year on the supplementary list'. So they knew, but somehow they managed to persuade me to stay around."
Some of the encouragement came from vice-captain Nathan Buckley, who tried to change Michael's mind. "I just spoke to him about how I thought that he could be a really good player and that I thought the match committee had treated him pretty harshly," says Buckley. "I think Mal was happy to hear it from a senior player. In the end he decided to stay and the rest is history."
Or at least an exciting work-in-progress. Since his debut, Michael has missed just three games: two because of form and the other through an ankle sprain. Despite some daunting assigments, the 20-year-old has not just filled out by six kilograms through a summer in the gym, he has also filled the Pies' glaring full-back vacancy with distinction and flair, developing from a spoil-at-all-costs negator to one more willing to run and back his judgment in the air.
Yet coach Tony Shaw was initially unconvinced by the young Michael, a former Teal Cup representative who moved from PNG to Brisbane with his mother, three sisters and Melbourne-raised father at the age of three.
"I thought he probably didn't get involved enough, and Danny Frawley and Stan Magro have to take a lot of credit because they saw things in him which I probably didn't see," says Shaw. "But it's a good story in that he made some sacrifices to come down and see if he could play the game. He's got a long way to go, but two years down the track it looks like it's working."
Frawley recognised in Michael a raw athletic talent and one that he believes, in time, could make him a damaging forward. Michael credits the former St Kilda stalwart with delivering most of his football education. As helpful as it would have been to have an on-field teacher such as Jamie Shanahan, Frawley is doing his best to teach the young dog all his old tricks.
"I've given him all my notes on defence and positioning and really just walked him through out on the ground with one-on-one sessions over the last couple of years; the art of scragging without giving a free kick away, all that sort of stuff," says Frawley. "He's a very coachable kid who's just going to get better and better."
Michael believes it is his decision-making that still lets him down most often, but expects that to come with experience, just as an improved work ethic and discipline have been inspired by some early career disappointments. Shaw now rates the 190-centimetre Michael as a fine and versatile competitor who he hopes to eventually release to a back flank; others at Collingwood share the coach's high opinion of their full-back with a difference.
"I can see Mal playing a role at centre-half back when his endurance improves a little bit," says Buckley. "He's already a pivotal player for us and his run from behind the lines has been very important over the last couple of weeks. If he continues to work on his endurance, which would probably be the area of biggest improvement, he could be anything."
Roccas get Pies rolling
COLLINGWOOD turned it on for a huge army of black and white faithful with a 45-point win over Richmond at the MCG last night. It was the Magpies' first win against the Tigers since 1993.
The Rocca brothers, under fire for their recent poor form, thrived on the opportunities provided by a dominant midfield, with Anthony kicking five goals and Sav four.
Collingwood withstood a Richmond challenge in the third quarter but steadied through the work of Nathan Buckley, who had 13 possessions for the term.
Magpie debutant Andrew Pugsley had a dream start to his AFL career with two goals from his first two kicks.
Collingwood 20.13 133
Richmond 12.16 88
Collingwood: A Rocca 5, S Rocca 4, Watson 3, Buckley 2, Puglsey 2, Fuller, Wild, Crosisca, Crow.
Richmond: Daffy 5, Holland 2, Rogers 2, Campbell, B Gale, Rombotis.
Collingwood: Buckley, A Rocca, Crosisca, Michael, Russell, McDonald, S Rocca.
Richmond: Daffy, Merenda, Campbell, Gaspar.
Crowd: 78,259 at MCG.
Herald Sun, Saturday, 18th April
Step up says Shaw as star pair sidelined
By Mark Robinson
Thursday, 16 April 1998
COLLINGWOOD coach Tony Shaw last night threw down the gauntlet to his players in the wake of the loss of skipper Gavin Brown and midfielder Paul Williams for tomorrow night's game against Richmond at the MCG.
The Pies have turned to youth for at least one of their replacements.
Andrew Pugsley, 19, will play his first game, making him the third player behind Frank Raso and Chris Tarrant to make his debut this season.
In a welcome move, Shaw said the club was not hiding the fact that Brown and Williams would miss because of hip complaints.
And he guaranteed that the out-of-form Rocca brothers, Saverio and Anthony, would both play.
'Hopefully, we can pull it off without them (Brown and Williams), but the blokes have got responsibility now and we'll see who's going to stand up,' Shaw said.
'Our senior blokes have been very good for a fair period of time and hopefully they might have a fair bit of footy ahead of them but when they're not there somebody has to stand up.
'We could've hidden the fact those two might have played or might not have, but we don't think that was good for the group.
'We wanted the players to know they are representing the club without these two players . . . and it's a great opportunity for us to see where we are coming from as a group.' Collingwood is 1-2 after three rounds, losing to perhaps the best teams in the competition - the Western Bulldogs and West Coast.
A loss to the Tigers could be perilous. The Pies face Essendon and Carlton in the next fortnight, also at the MCG.
Shaw said the result of tomorrow night's clash could help shape the rest of their season.
'It's very important for the year,' he said. 'It's a big game for the club.
'The good thing is the next three weeks we'll be playing in front of big crowds and against good opposition.
'We just have to have a win to turn it all around. One win can change a lot and hopefully that can happen this week.' Of frustration to the Pies has the been the indifferent form of Saverio and Anthony Rocca.
Sav Rocca has just seven goals this season and is desperately lacking confidence.
'Their commitment has never been a problem, they train very hard and they do what they can, but it's up to them,' Shaw said.
'Confidence is a minute by minute thing . . . and we'll back them in.'
Herald Sun, Thursday, 16th April
Shaw: Heat no excuse
By Glen Quartermain
WEST Coast coach Mick Malthouse last night suggested the AFL season could start later to prevent players suffering from the extreme heat at the end of Perth's summer.
The Eagles beat the Magpies by 60 points with the temperature dropping only four degrees during the match from the high of 32 degrees.
'There has been a shift in the seasons, there's no doubt about that,' Malthouse said.
'It's enough to suggest cricket could still be played in April and our game later.' Collingwood coach Tony Shaw agreed, but said the heat did not contribute to the Magpies' loss.
'I am not using that as an excuse,' Shaw said. 'They are just a good side, either here or in Melbourne.
'It's a pretty ordinary trip to come over here.
'We were very positive tonight. They are too good for us at this stage, but it's a long time before we play them again.
'They can be beaten over here, but you need a lot of things going for you.' Shaw said Anthony Rocca had recovered from a 'corked shoulder' and was not in doubt for next week's clash with the Western Bulldogs.
'I think the way he was marking in the third quarter showed he was OK,' Shaw said.
Herald Sun, Monday, 6th April
Collingwood swoops Hawks
Sunday, 29 March 1998
Collingwood 18.15 (123) Hawthorn 12.12 (84) Collingwood started the season on a high with a six-goal win against Hawthorn in the AFL's first twilight match at the MCG.
Before a crowd of about 47,000, Collingwood beat Hawthorn 18.15 (123) to 12.12 (84), following a second-half domination.
The Hawks led by two points at half-time after a stirring second quarter in which they kicked five goals to the Magpies' one.
But Collingwood, through full-forward Saverio Rocca and champion midfielder Nathan Buckley, turned the tables. Rocca finished with four majors, which included three in the third term, and Buckley booted three as well as picking up a stack of possessions in the midfield.
Buckley and Paul Williams largely were responsible for Collingwood's 22-point quarter-time lead with their drive through the middle.
The Hawks hit back in the second term before the Roccas, Saverio and Anthony, began to control the skies and Buckley the centre. Anthony Rocca cleaned up Hawthorn ruckman Paul Salmon in the opening minutes of the second term when he collided heavily with the big Hawthorn star while attempting a mark.
Salmon left the field and didn't return until midway through the third quarter by which time Collingwood had surged four goals clear.
Saverio Rocca also did damage in a marking contest when he flattened Hawthorn defender Mark Graham and Hawks' small man Richard Taylor in two separate contests.
The match signalled the return of Hawthorn skipper Jason Dunstall after major knee surgery. The goalkicking champion, 33, did not shirk any contests in an encouraging performance, which included four goals. Though the Hawks trailed by 20 points at three quarter-time, coach Ken Judge had been confident of snatching a win and ending an eight-game losing streak.
Buckley Blitzes Hawks!
(28/3) Collingwood star Nathan Buckley delivered a B.O.G. peformance today in the Pies match against Hawthorn. Buckley had 26 kicks (11 of those in the first term) and 7 handballs with Collingwood winning the game 18.15 (123) to Hawthorn 12.12 (84).
Collingwood dominated early, beating Hawthorn in the first term by 22 points, but the Hawks fought back in the second term gaining themselves a 2 point lead going into the main break. Collingwood caught fire in the third term giving themselves an 18 point lead at the end of the quarter.
Hawthorn looked as though they were going to make another fight back with forward attacks on many occasions, but missing goals that should have been kicked. They paid the price when Sav Rocca converted his fourth goal for the game (and the season).
Rocca and Dunstall both kicked 4 for the day.
The goal kickers for Collingwood were S. Rocca 4, Buckley 3, Mcdonald 2, Williams 2, A. Rocca 2, Crow 2, Mahoney, Burns, Patterson.
Magpies lose full-back
By GREG DENHAM
Collingwood will start the home-and-away season without full-back Mal Michael when it takes on Hawthorn today at the MCG.
Michael, named on Thursday night to play on Hawks captain Jason Dunstall, appears certain to be a late withdrawal as his injured right ankle has failed to respond to treatment. Under coach Tony Shaw, Collingwood has become notorious for naming injured players who do not take the field.
Michael damaged his ankle against Fremantle in a practice match two weeks ago and failed to complete Collingwood's two main training sessions this week. He seems certain to be replaced by either Chad Liddell or Matthew Francis, who were both named as emergencies.
The Magpies will probaby start experienced defender Gavin Crosisca on Dunstall, but Gavin Brown could be swung into the uncharacteristic role of full-back.