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Saturday's Ultimate Preview

No signs of pre-Carlton blues Today on The Source... Nathan Buckley returns to the Collingwood heartland to discuss round seven selection, while the Collingwood players lose a bet, and wear the consequences.

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.

Collingwood celebrates its 125th year anniversary against its most bitter rival at the MCG this Saturday afternoon.

Both sides had stirring victories last week, with the Magpies causing an upset against the unbeaten Geelong, and Carlton beating last year’s Grand Finalists, Sydney. Despite the results, both sides sit on two wins and four losses, meaning the four points this week are really important. The winner this week will still be right in the hunt for a finals berth, while the loser will slump to a 2-5 record and damage their hopes for contention.

The game obviously carries extra significance for the Magpies given the enormity of the celebration. A win against Carlton – the first team Collingwood ever played in the VFA – would be the perfect way to mark the occasion, but there’s no doubt Carlton would enjoy nothing more than to spoil the party. It should be quite a fiery contest. These two teams have played each other more than any other sides have in the competition, with results fairly even (126 victories to Carlton and 123 to Collingwood).

Although neither side has been in finals contention in recent years, there’s no doubt this rivalry still endures as strongly as ever.

Collingwood will go in as favourites, but it will also be the third game the Magpies play in the space of 12 days. There will be some heavy legs and perhaps some sore bodies. With Greater Western Sydney at Spotless Stadium to come next week, the Magpies know that this win is absolutely essential in the context of the season so they simply need to find a way to get themselves up for this game.

Carlton is a young side that wasn’t expected to win many games this year. But the Blues have already proven on multiple occasions that they are no easy beats, and there is a developing crop of talent across every line. The Blues will be psyched this week to make a good showing, and are a chance to exploit Collingwood’s fatigue.

Recent History
These teams met twice last year, with each side winning one match.

The last clash was in round 15, where the Magpies won a fairly lacklustre game by 12 points. Scott Pendlebury was arguably the difference with 34 disposals and a goal, which saw him poll the three Brownlow votes. Kade Simpson was Carlton’s best, polling two votes for his 28-possession game, while Brodie Grundy earned one vote after booting two goals for the game.

The other meeting was back in round seven when Carlton held sway to the tune of 15 points. Bryce Gibbs polled the three votes in this game with a dominant 30 disposal and three-goal game. Pendlebury was again Collingwood best, polling two votes with his 34 disposals. Youngster Patrick Cripps polled one vote with 29 disposals. Simpson was again good with 31 disposals.

At the Selection Table
Both sides will have some selection dilemmas this week.

For Collingwood, there will be at least one forced change with Travis Varcoe ruled out with a hamstring strain. The obvious replacement is Jordan De Goey who has now served his club imposed suspension. Also available for selection is Ben Reid, who was rested from the Geelong match last week. Others pressing for selection include Rupert Wills, James Aish and Matt Scharenberg, who have all been impressing at VFL level. Jackson Ramsay was the carry over emergency last week for the Geelong game and would also be in contention to replace Varcoe, considering Varcoe was playing as a small defender.

I would expect a few changes considering the short turnaround for this game, and the fact there may be a few sore players. Coach Nathan Buckley may again opt to rest one or two players.

For Carlton, Jack Silvagni is expected to miss after he hurt his shoulder last week. Fortunately, the Blues had a number of players at VFL level who staked their claim, none more so than former Magpie Dale Thomas who responded to his demotion with 30 disposals and a goal. As a former Collingwood premiership player, I’m sure Daisy would be pushing to take on his old club this Saturday. Andrew Phillips also played well in the ruck at VFL level and Sam Kerridge picked up 30 disposals.

Marc Murphy has been playing with a knee injury, while Jacob Weitering copped a bad corkie last week. Both, however, are expected to play.

Focus on Collingwood
Although the Magpies still scored more behinds than points last week, ultimately the efficiency going forward was much better. It was the first time all season Collingwood has scored more than 100 points in a game, and it was just good to see opportunities capitalized with more regularity.

After only a five-day break from the ANZAC Day loss, not many expected the Magpies to challenge the Cats. Yet, ultimately, it was a dominant display. The Magpies had 18 more disposals than Geelong, better disposal efficiency (79 per cent), 10 more inside 50s, five more contested possessions, more clearances and 12 more hitouts. Collingwood was also able to shut out Geelong’s best players, while its own powerful midfield took absolute control.

Collingwood’s form has been inconsistent all year. The performance on Sunday needs to become the benchmark in regards to effort and discipline. There was also much more patience moving the ball, but also a greater willingness to play with freedom and take the game on at the right times. The forward line looked dangerous, but it was the even spread of 13 goal kickers that was the difference. Without a real hulking full forward, this is how I feel Collingwood needs to play every week, and needs this even contribution of goal kickers consistently.

Brodie Grundy and Matthew Kreuzer do battle at a boundary throw in during round seven, 2016.

Player Focus – Collingwood
Levi Greenwood – Despite the big numbers from the likes of Pendlebury and Taylor Adams, there’s no doubt that Levi Greenwood was the star of the show last week, completely shutting Geelong skipper Joel Selwood out of the game. With Patrick Dangerfield’s output also down, Collingwood’s midfield was able to completely dominate and Geelong’s second stringers had no answers. Greenwood’s role was very influential, and internally he would have been regarded as one of the most important players on the field. I would expect him to go to Murphy this week in a similar role.

Daniel Wells – In his two games for the club, Wells has already demonstrated his value. His clean ball use was in full display against the Cats, and he has been hitting the scoreboard as well. It will be imperative that the coaching staff use Wells wisely throughout the year, as he really completes Collingwood’s midfield when he is in full flight.

Lynden Dunn – Dunn played his first game for the club last week, and was thrown the massive task of stopping Tom Hawkins. He did a terrific job, limiting the Tomahawk to one goal and only eight disposals. Although Ben Reid is due to return this week, Dunn should hold onto his spot as he shapes as the best matchup for Levi Casboult who has been in good form lately.

Focus on Carlton
Carlton has clearly taken a position that it is going to blood the youngsters in 2017. Experienced players such as Dennis Armfield, Sam Kerridge, Rhys Palmer and Dale Thomas have been playing in the VFL, while youngsters such as Zac Fisher, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Charlie Curnow and Tom Williamson have been getting valuable experience at AFL level.

Although there have been some big losses along the way, for the first time in a while I can really see a structure developing. The defence in particular has real upside with Caleb Marchbank showing promising signs, as has Lachie Plowman. Alex Silvagni did a terrific job on Lance Franklin last week, while Sam Docherty just keeps getting better. Up forward, Charlie Curnow is improving with every match, and Jacob Weitering is showing promising signs as a forward. The Blues probably lack a bit of midfield depth, but Petrevski-Seton has been impressive, and Patrick Cripps is still only 50 games into his career.

The future is definitely looking brighter for the Blues, but they still have some work to do yet. Carlton may not win as many games as it did last year, but can still advance in its development by pumping games into younger players. All that said, there is enough talent to worry a lot of teams this year, and the Blues present a genuine danger to Collingwood.

To order your 125th anniversary commemorative guernsey online, please click here.

Player Focus – Carlton
Marc Murphy – After a season ruined by injury in 2016, Murphy had a terrific pre-season and has quickly reminded the football world how good he can be. He is averaging over 30 disposals a game this year, and his lofty form has continued despite a knee complaint. With such a young team around him, Murphy’s form is essential to his side, and he is proving to be a great leader of the club. He may get the Greenwood tag this week, so he has a tough game ahead.

Matthew Kreuzer – Like Murphy, Kreuzer enjoyed a relatively injury free pre-season for the first time in many years. As a result, he is having a really good season to date, and was arguably Carlton’s best player last week with two goals and 32 hitouts. A fit and firing Matthew Kreuzer is something Carlton fans have craved for a long time. He faces the in form Brodie Grundy this week, in what shapes as a really definitive battle.

Sam Docherty – After a breakout 2016, Docherty has continued his stellar form this season. He had a whopping 39 disposals last week against the Swans, and is so far averaging 28 for the season. Half back flankers have been getting big numbers against Collingwood of late, so Docherty could be a very influential player this weekend.

The Wrap Up
It’s a big occasion for the Magpies this week, but the players need to be careful not to let the festivities impact on their preparation for this game. Collingwood defied the odds last week after only a five-day break, but it will be extremely tough to yet again back up off only a six-day break.

Carlton will sense an opportunity to get a win against its fiercest rival. But if the Magpies are any chance of making finals this year, then this is a game they simply must win. Collingwood showed last week how good it can be, but it’s a question of whether that form can carry over this week.

Simply put, if Collingwood plays like it did against Geelong, it will win this game. If not, then Carlton will grow in confidence as the game wears on and could prove a challenge.

Collingwood v Carlton on a Saturday afternoon at the MCG – I’d like to see that!

By David Natoli
Aka DaVe86