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Ultimate Queen's Birthday Preview

Watch Jarryd Blair finish off some clever work by Dane Swan further up the ground during last year's Queen's Birthday match against Melbourne. Dane Swan shows a little magic and Blair finishes with a goal.
Jamie Elliott is tackled by Luke Tapscott during last year's Queen's Birthday clash at the MCG.
In 2013, has again enlisted the help of David Natoli, aka DaVe86, who has shot to Internet fame for his in-depth Magpie tactical 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.

As we approach the midway stage of the season, the ladder is slowly taking shape. After an inconsistent start to the season, the Magpies have clawed their way back into the top eight. However, the Magpies’ spot remains vulnerable as their percentage is very low and good sides like Adelaide and West Coast sit only one game behind.

Collingwood’s opponent this week is the struggling Melbourne in the traditional Queen’s Birthday fixture at the MCG. It has been a tumultuous week again for the Demons after a disappointing 95-point loss to Hawthorn. Mark Neeld’s coaching position continues to be questioned and although he has survived to face another week, he will be desperate to see Melbourne’s competitiveness improve on the big stage this Monday.

Regardless of form, Melbourne always seems to lift for the Queen’s Birthday clash. It is a rare chance for the Demons to take centre stage and perform in front of a big audience. After a difficult week, expect a much more fired up Demons side this Monday.

However, if you look purely at statistics, it is a mammoth task for Melbourne to overcome the depth of the Collingwood side. The Demons are ranked last in disposals and points per game, and also ranked last for disposals against. They are 17th for points against and marks. Simply put, Melbourne doesn’t get the football and does not score enough.

On the other hand, Collingwood is ranked fifth for disposals and second for marks. Despite the fact that Collingwood has been inconsistent this year, there is still no denying the talent through the midfield and it is difficult to see Melbourne’s shallow midfield keeping up. In Melbourne’s favour, Mark Neeld does have intimate knowledge of Collingwood’s star midfielders from his assistant coaching days.

Collingwood is backing up from a scrappy win against Brisbane and will now be eyeing off the next few weeks as an opportunity to cement itself in the top eight. Therefore, it is an opportunity to really start getting some confidence and consistency back. It all starts this week against Melbourne. The Magpies not only need to win, but need to start repairing the percentage as well.

Recent History
As mentioned above, Melbourne is typically competitive on Queen’s Birthday despite the differential in ladder position. When these sides last met, Collingwood won by 42 points but the Demons were persistent. Dane Swan had 42 disposals and kicked two goals, polling the three votes, whilst Dayne Beams polled the two votes with 37 disposals and six tackles. Steele Sidebottom polled one vote with 36 disposals and seven tackles.

In 2011, Collingwood were massive 88 point victors. In 2010 the sides met twice, with Collingwood winning the first encounter by one point before drawing on the Queen’s Birthday.

At the Selection Table
Both sides have injury concerns ahead of this week’s game.

Starting with Collingwood and the injury list is slowly decreasing but is still far too long for Buckley’s liking. Sam Dwyer and Jordan Russell must pass a fitness test this week if they want to earn a recall, while Travis Cloke should return after a bout of gastro last week.

At VFL level, Ben Hudson, Jarrod Witts and Tim Broomhead were all influential, but finding room in the senior side may be difficult. Young players like Kyle Martin, Josh Thomas and Ben Kennedy were all impressive last week and will be difficult to displace. Alan Didak also showed positive signs as the substitute.

Tyson Goldsack is edging closer to a return, as is Clinton Young who is eyeing off a VFL return within the next fortnight. However it will still be at least a month until Dayne Beams returns, while Lachlan Keeffe and Ben Johnson are also on the sidelines with other injuries.

Turning the focus onto Melbourne, and the Demons were dealt a blow this week with news that defender James Frawley will miss a month with a hamstring injury. Frawley was the player most likely to get the job on Cloke, so his absence will be felt. Also out injured are Mitch Clark, Jack Grimes and Jack Viney.

Shannon Byrnes and Tom McDonald will face fitness tests, with the latter being the logical replacement for James Frawley. Also in the mix is Max Gawn after a massive game in the VFL.

Focus on Collingwood
Although the Magpies should never take the Queen’s Birthday game lightly, it is important they come out with a ruthless approach against the Demons. Collingwood cannot afford to get a lead then slow down as it did against Brisbane last week. The Magpies need to start stringing four quarters together and need to improve their percentage.

Despite an up and down season, the pleasing part to come out of it so far is the immediate impact the younger players have made to the team. Buckley is seemingly favouring these younger players as they come in and freshen up the side and are able to be moulded to Buckley’s game plan.

Ben Kennedy – After playing the substitute role on three occasions, it was good to see Kennedy get a full game against Brisbane last round. He did not disappoint either, picking up 20 disposals and kicking two goals. He has speed and confidence but importantly is not afraid to put his head over the ball. He is short in stature, but is brave and highly skilled. Another good game against Melbourne will make his position in the side very hard to displace, so it is a good opportunity to see him get a full game again.

Alan Didak – The highlight of the game last weekend was when Didak came on as the sub in the third quarter to a big cheer from the Collingwood contingent at the Gabba. He had an immediate impact with 11 disposals and looked very sharp. He seems well suited to the substitute role as he adds real flair when he comes on. However, his position in the side is not yet secure so he will be hoping for more game time in order to re-establish himself. Either way, it was just good to see ‘Dids’ back.

Paul Seedsman – Every week, Seedsman gets better and better. His game against Brisbane last round was perhaps his best yet as he polled eight votes in the AFL coaches award. He had 28 possessions and 8 marks. Most impressive though was a mark he took in the last quarter running back with the flight of the ball, proving his courage and dedication to the cause. He is playing the important half back role, which not only requires him to utilise his offensive skills, but also to defend where necessary as well. He is showing an ability to do both, which makes him a highly important player to the side. It also enables Heath Shaw more freedom to either defend an opponent or move up the field to create.

Focus on Melbourne
As mentioned above, the Demons are really struggling to win the ball. In fact, against Fremantle two rounds ago, they went four minutes without a possession. The reason is that the midfield is devoid of star quality. Leadership is also an issue.

Most teams are locking down on Nathan Jones, and Jack Trengove has been down on form lately, leaving a lot of responsibility on younger players like Matt Jones and Michael Evans. David Rodan returned to the side last week and added some spark, but there is just not enough young talent coming through. Jack Viney has been the most impressive youngster but is out injured. Top draft pick Jimmy Toumpas is struggling to break into the side, having played only once since round three.

Chris Dawes – It will be a big day for Dawes coming up against his former side – a team he won a premiership with. In an injury interrupted season, Dawes played his best game so far for Melbourne last week, taking 12 marks and picking up 21 disposals. He was wasteful in front of goal but must be commended for his work rate. It must be hard playing as a forward in a side that simply does not get the ball forward enough. It is good to see Dawes fit again, and I expect him to have a big game against his former team this Monday.

Jeremy Howe – There has not been much to cheer for this year for Melbourne, but Howe has given some hope for Demons fans. He is such a difficult match up as he is so versatile and such a good mark. He has kicked 16 goals this year and is also averaging 16 disposals a game, which is a good return for a forward that is getting little support. I expect Neeld to use Howe further up the ground if the ball is not getting into the forward line frequently enough.

David Rodan – Many are questioning Melbourne’s tactics of recruiting older players who were on the outer with their former clubs. Until last round, Rodan had done very little for his new club but he was one who fought hard against Hawthorn and picked up 24 disposals and 11 tackles. He was a big reason why the Demons managed to win the third quarter. At 29, this is clearly Rodan’s last chance at AFL level, so he will be keen to carry on this form.

The Wrap Up
On paper, this should be a one sided game. But nothing is certain in football and I expect that the Demons will put up a good show on the Queen’s Birthday. Let’s hope a big crowd comes out on the day and provides a big atmosphere.

I think Melbourne will be competitive, but ultimately it just does not have the midfield to stay with the Magpies, nor the forward line to kick a big enough score. Collingwood’s form has not been fantastic, but guys like Jamie Elliott and Andrew Krakouer should make the most of any opportunities inside 50 and Cloke should prove too strong for Colin Garland or Tom McDonald.

Jordie McKenzie and Lynden Dunn are likely to get the jobs on Swan and Scott Pendlebury, with Jones perhaps getting tagged by Brent Macaffer. However, it is hard to see Melbourne shutting down the key Magpie ball winners.

Collingwood by 55 points

By David Natoli
Aka DaVe86