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Saturday's Ultimate Preview

David Natoli  May 18, 2017 3:00 PM

Bucks confirms star to return Watch Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley's full press conference, as he addresses the main talking points heading into his side's clash with Hawthorn this Saturday.

In 2017, David Natoli, aka DaVe86, returns to Collingwood Media to file his famous, in-depth tactical match previews.

Since publishing his first report on Nick's Bulletin Board in early 2005, DaVe86 has become a weekly favourite among the passionate online Magpie Army receiving thousands of views for each article.

The articles are lengthy and have been published in their entirety as the club did not want to hinder DaVe86's creativity during the writing process.

The views expressed in DaVe86's previews are solely of the author and do not reflect the views of the Collingwood Football Club.

Saturday night sees Collingwood host Hawthorn under lights at the MCG.

The Magpies are currently sitting in 17th on the ladder, while the Hawks are placed 14th.

It has been a difficult start to the season for both sides, and not many would have expected these teams to be placed so low on the ladder.

Hawthorn, though, has turned its form around somewhat in recent weeks by winning its last two games against Melbourne and Brisbane. It’s a new look Hawthorn side this year, and it has definitely taken the team some time to find its footing again.

But just as the Hawks have slowly turned their form around, injuries to Cyril Rioli and Ben Stratton last week threaten to stall their season again. The absence of these players will compound the existing injuries to James Frawley, Grant Birchall and Jaeger O’Meara.

Collingwood on the other hand will need to quickly recover from the heartbreaking loss to Greater Western Sydney last week.

After a disappointing loss to Carlton, the Magpies jumped out of the blocks against the Giants to take a 26-point lead into quarter time. The match was very tight from that point on, but a last-minute goal to Steve Johnson struck a dagger into the hearts of all Collingwood fans. The loss means that Collingwood now sits on two wins and six losses, with any finals aspirations in real trouble.

But the Magpies need to stay positive. In the next month, Collingwood faces teams all currently sitting outside the top eight. Despite the inconsistent nature of its form all season, I still feel that a few wins can turn the momentum around quickly. The Magpies have shown on numerous occasions they can match it with the very best sides in the competition. This is demonstrated by a percentage of 91.36 which is unheard of for a team in 17th position on the ladder.

The Magpies must win this week to keep any faint hopes alive. Despite the fact that the Hawks are wounded, the Pies have not beaten them since the Preliminary Final of 2011. It will be a tough ask for Collingwood to not only fight its own form issues, but also to do so against its bogey side.

Recent History
Collingwood last met Hawthorn in the final round of 2016. It looked as if the Magpies were going to break their hoodoo against Hawthorn when Adam Treloar kicked a ripping goal late in the game to give the Magpies an unlikely lead. But a freak goal from Jack Fitzpatrick stole victory for the Hawks by one point, and the Magpies were again left to lick their wounds. It was a mighty performance from an undermanned Collingwood side considering the Hawks were playing for a top four position.

Treloar was simply outstanding with 36 disposals and two goals, ultimately polling him the three Brownlow votes. Shaun Burgoyne’s class stood out with two crucial goals, earning him the two votes, while Cyril Rioli’s three goals saw him poll the one vote.

At the Selection Table
Much has been made about Hawthorn’s injury woes, but the Magpies were also dealt a few cruel blows this week. Ben Reid has been ruled out for a month with a quad injury, which is a huge problem for Collingwood since he was ear-marked to plug a hole up forward. Travis Varcoe has also suffered a setback in his return from a hamstring injury, and will miss at least another fortnight, while Jesse White also strained his hamstring at VFL level last week. Tim Broomhead will be tested after suffering a concussion.

In more positive news, Adam Treloar is available to return after he was rested from last week’s clash against GWS. Chris Mayne was the travelling emergency last week, and may be a chance to be recalled given Reid’s injury. Mason Cox was impressive at VFL level booting four goals, while Ben Crocker continues to put his hand up as well. Matt Scharenberg’s form has also been very impressive at VFL level as well.

It will be interesting to see whether Alastair Clarkson turns to youth or experience to cover the big-name injuries this week. The Hawks have some established players at VFL level, in particular guys like Taylor Duryea, Brendan Whitecross and Ryan Schoenmakers. Ty Vickery may also get his opportunity again given the fact Fitzpatrick may miss after a concussion last week. Vickery has a good record against Collingwood. Kaiden Brand is another who may get the nod to cover the loss of James Frawley in defence.

Focus on Collingwood
There was not a lot wrong with Collingwood’s endeavor last week. But, again, it was execution that cost the Magpies dearly. A few errant handballs, missed kicks and inaccurate goal kicking late cost the Magpies a win they thoroughly deserved and needed. It’s true that there is a lot of youth in the side, but it was a real opportunity to take a big scalp and get the season back on track, which ultimately was not taken.

It is frustrating to see Collingwood play such poor football one week against Carlton, and such good football the week after against GWS. Recently, you can almost get a sense from the first five minutes of a game whether the Magpies are on or not, and this huge contrast in form needs to be curtailed.

Although the Hawks are undermanned and haven’t been performing as the side they once were, they still have the capacity to play very good football. Collingwood needs to be switched on this week, as the Hawks have won their previous two games and will enjoy going into this game with little expectation. If the Magpies are even 1 per cent off, the Hawks still have enough firepower and experience to rub more salt into the wounds.

Player Focus – Collingwood

Jamie Elliott – Jamie’s good form continued on the weekend, bagging three goals to again be Collingwood’s most dangerous forward. Since returning to the side, he has average two goals a game and his work-rate continues to improve. He will be a real handful for the Hawthorn defence this week, and looms as a game-breaker.

Steele Sidebottom – Sidebottom’s form has been relatively consistent this year, but he hit his best form last week, kicking three goals from 24 disposals. Sidebottom is at his best when he is a goal kicking midfielder, so it was good to see him hit the scoreboard. Steele is a leader of this side, and therefore needs to be one of the key players to drag the Magpies out of this slump.

Taylor Adams – Taylor is another leader of this side, and he has been arguably Collingwood’s most consistent player so far this season. He is averaging 30 disposals a game, to go with an impressive eight tackles. He is the grunt player of the Collingwood midfield, and hunts the ball with tenacity. Although he is prone to the odd error, Taylor’s work rate cannot be faltered. He has not kicked a goal so far this year, but with the likes of Scott Pendlebury, Daniel Wells, Sidebottom and Treloar on the outside, Adams has the key role of feeding it out to them and dominating stoppages. In general, Adams has done this brilliantly this year, as Collingwood is one of the leading teams in the competition for clearances and contested possession.

Focus on Hawthorn
Much was made about the departures of Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis last year. Many also forget the departure of Brad Hill who was also one of Hawthorn’s key playmakers. It’s clear that, onfield, the Hawks have suffered some short-term pain as a result of these decisions, however it should have long term benefits. After five years of contending for premierships, the Hawks looked way off the pace early in the year.

But the pride of this group has shone through over the last fortnight with two really impressive performances. The ball movement was back, and the cohesion up forward was also good. There are still a lot of really proud and talented players in this Hawthorn side, and the forward line is still really dangerous on paper. The loss of Rioli is going to hurt, and therefore guys like Breust, Gunston and Puopolo become vital.

Player Focus – Hawthorn
Tom Mitchell – The Hawks swooped on Tom Mitchell during last year’s trade period, and the investment has been quickly vindicated. He has almost stepped in and filled the void of Sam Mitchell. Tom is the competition’s leading disposal winner, and he is really sharp around stoppages as well. He played a terrific game last week with 36 disposals, and he has had more than 30 in all games bar one this year which outlines his incredible consistency.

Jarryd Roughead – The new skipper had a slow start to the year after missing the bulk of 2016 recovering from illness. Fortunately, his form in the last few weeks has been steadily improving. He is still averaging two goals a game, but probably isn’t winning as much of the ball as we became accustomed to. Nonetheless, Roughead is a vital component to this Hawthorn team, and there’s no doubt the side plays better when he is on song. It’s great to see him back out there, and it’s good to see him returning to form. As his fitness builds, I expect to see him more in the midfield as well.

Isaac Smith – With Brad Hill departing, Smith has become the prime outside runner for the Hawks. But opposition sides have quickly identified this, and most are electing to tag Smith as opposed to others such as Tom Mitchell or Luke Hodge. Brisbane elected to run Nick Robertson on Smith last week to good effect, as he was only able to win 16 disposals. I expect the Magpies will also look to tag Smith this week, as he is such a damaging outside player and one of the few who really break the line in the Hawthorn side.

The Wrap Up
There’s a lot riding on this game for both sides considering the precarious positions on the ladder they both sit. With the bye rounds approaching shortly, both sides will look to build some momentum and prepare themselves for an assault at the second half of the season.

Although both teams have had tough starts to the season, they have also demonstrated that they are not sides to be taken lightly, as they have both caused upsets against high ranked teams when they were least expected.

It has been a repetitive theme in my previews in recent weeks, but the big question will be which Collingwood we will see on Saturday. Collingwood’s deep midfield will be close to full strength with the return of Treloar, and I think will prove a handful for the Hawks. Hawthorn’s defence is also without some of its prime movers. Having said that, Collingwood’s forward line has been far from impressive, and the inexperienced backline will have its hands full with the likes of Roughead, Breust, O’Brien, Gunston and Puopolo.

This will be a very interesting game indeed against two sides battling to find their best form, but simply need wins to stay in the hunt this season.

By David Natoli
Aka DaVe86