It was a Perth massacre in the NAB Cup opener, with plenty of Pies looking great and few Eagles flying.
Matches like this sometimes happen in the preseason: one team is fair dinkum and the other is clearly not. Collingwood is notorious for starting strongly so it was no surprise that they saluted by ten goals in a pressure-less game. Enough about the big picture though, let’s drill down to fantasy-relevant players.
The star of the show was Tarkyn Lockyer, who played wide of Matt Priddis moving forward from the midfield, managing three goals from 31 touches and nine marks with five tackles, resulting in DT/SC scores of 149/162. There were also regulation DT tons for Dane Swan and Shane O’Bree running through a mostly vacant corridor with Leon Davis and Scott Pendlebury fading late for 95 and 93, while Alan Didak crept up with a 53-point last quarter to 104. Another player who reveled in junk time was Travis Cloke, who came into the sheds at half time with just the one goal but finished with 4.2 on Beau Wilkes – the sort of relatively skinny kid who is the only kind of opponent that C3 traditionally scores well against in fantasy.
Not that it was all good news for Pie players being watched by siginificant amounts of fantasy coaches. Josh Fraser (76) and Cameron Wood (66) shared the ruck work in equal measure, hinting strongly at another example of the dreaded ruck committee that has started to dominate the AFL, making both players unusable for fantasy sides if it continues into the regular season. Dale Thomas was flashy in his brilliance, yet again showed that he hasn’t got the sort of game that lends itself to the accumulation of ordinary statistics. The fact that his by-quarter scores of 24/21/11/8 went down each quarter perhaps speaks to a deficiency in his tank that should scare off fantasy coaches. Then again, the excuse can be made that coach Mick Malthouse held back his two substitutes until after half time, so rotations in the second half might have robbed Thomas and fellow late struggler Marty Clarke (18/25/7/7) with pointscoring opportunities.
The biggest disappointment for the night, for me, was Anthony Corrie. This is just the sort of game that a small forward should revel in: midfield dominance, plenty of talls providing good contests in the forward line, and plenty of crumbs from broken play to swoop on. A return of 61/55 is not good enough for a bloke playing for a spot in the Collingwood best 22. He’ll have at least one more chance to impress in the quarter final against either Fremantle or Richmond.
The same can’t be said for West Coast, who now have to travel to a NAB Challenge game on the hard turf of Albany, site of last year’s horrific season-ending injury to Mitchell Brown. Simply put, they were shocking, and very few players could hold their heads up. Chris Masten was the shining light with 22 touches and 83 DT points, though it was an indictment on the performance of the team that his was the highest team score. Mark Nicoski was next with 83 in DT and 105 in SC, but don’t be fooled: this was not a good performance. That 105 in SC masks a lot of long, ill-aimed kicks, and his turnover count was a point of discussion on radio commentary. Eric Mackenzie sustained a four-week shoulder dislocation, which Patrick McGinnity broke his jaw, putting a red line through a couple of fantasy smokies given their preparations will now be severely interrupted.
The worst set of numbers came from the Eagles forward line, with Simon Prestigiacomo restricting Quinten Lynch, playing higher than he did last year, to two behinds and 30/7, with Josh J. Kennedy largely unsighted with 26/15, and Ben McKinley held scoreless and soundly beaten by Harry O’Brien with fantasy scores of 26/23. It’s not much fun getting cold inside your forward 50 when your midfield is being smashed to smithereens. The Q-stick in particular is a worry: if he’s going to stay at home more like he did in this game, he won’t deserve premium status in the forwards. One wonders how much a fit Mitchell Brown could do to change this, given that the problem is further up the ground.
Eagles fans are making noises about how understrength their squad was, and it’s true they gave their draftees and rookies more gametime, but I don’t see a whole lot of strengthening to be done. Daniel Kerr and Dean Cox started as the nominated substitutes but Kerr only missed the first quarter, while Cox came on just before half time. Of best 22 players that were missing, you could only see Andrew Embley, Tyson Stenglein, Adam Hunter and David Wirrpanda that could seriously influence the result. One should be cautious about drawing conclusions too early, of course. Nevertheless, the game style was strongly reminiscent of the worst excesses of last year and there was little on which to hang hopes of improvement in any area. Long gone are the 400-possession Eagle games during their grand final seasons.
How much did you take out of that game? Do you trust the numbers of Lockyer and Masten? Can you overlook the poor performances by Corrie and Lynch? Give me your view in the comments.