Although many would argue not to take too much notice of what transpires in the first practice match between two AFL clubs in late February, the game does take on extra significance when the respective teams are having their first real hit-out under new coaches.
Such was the case on a windy Friday afternoon at Morwell Recreation Park where Collingwood and Hawthorn faced off under their respective first year coaches in Craig McRae and Sam Mitchell.
While other more settled clubs may tinker slightly with their game style or try something out of the ordinary in these early games, with their new coaches implementing new game plans, you could safely expect that what the two sides brought to Morwell today is what they will be trying to acieve in the season proper.
The game was played over six 30-minute ‘quarters’, although the Kayo live stream ended half-way through the fifth period. However, as Collingwood benched most of their ‘first team’ at the end of the third period, punters got a good look at what to expect from both sides come Round 1.
There have been quite a few changes touted for the Magpies in 2022 under debutant coach Craig McRae, and from the evidence provided by last week’s club intra and this pre-season match-up against the Hawks, most of those appear to be coming to fruition. Macrae had promised a more attacking brand of football with plenty of pressure, and this was certainly the case in the first half of the game. When Collingwood had the ball, they moved it on quickly and with purpose, while when the Hawks were in possession their pressure was constant and intense. At the end of the third period when the Magpies replaced the majority of their ‘first side’ they led 18.3.111 to 6.9.45.
Jordan De Goey, Jordan Roughead, Jeremy Howe
Although fantasy coaches would have been more than happy with the output of the last two seasons by 99.9% of ruckmen who have ever played the game, such is the high standard Brodie Grundy has set, averages of 108 and 106 were considered to be well below par. Well, fear not fantasy footy fans – the Ruck Pig is back! Grundy was everywhere in the first three periods of the game, barely having a rest during that time, and while he was mostly up against Reeves, the way he moved around the ground was reminiscent of a pre-covid Brodie Grundy.
At the time of this article’s publication, Nick Daicos is the highest owned player in AFL Fantasy having been selected in 57% of teams, and on the evidence from both last week’s intra and this game, you can only wonder what the hell the other 43% of coaches are thinking. As touted by the club, the younger Daicos will be alternating between midfield and defence, with the odd stint up forward. He attended plenty of centre bounces, took a couple of kick ins and was amongst Collingwood’s best before coming off at half time. Received a handball off brother Josh to slot his first goal in what would have been the highlight of the day for Pie’s fans.
Much of the pre-season talk around Collingwood this year has been around a move into defence for skipper Scott Pendlebury, and after this game you can lock him in as a def/mid DPP in the first round of position changes. Pendles only attended the odd centre bounce, spending almost the entire time he was on the field in defence and took every kick in from Hawthorn behinds when he was on the field.
Crisp is another player among the many every pre-season touted for ‘more midfield time’. However, in this case it appears to be how the former Lion will be used in 2022. Along with Adams and Lipinski, Crisp was amongst the most used player at centre bounces for the Magpies against the Hawks and looks like he could build on what was his best season last year.
Showing his fantasy chops when given a chance at senior level and a suitable role at the Bulldogs, Lipinski looks set to be given every opportunity to do so on a more permanent basis with the Magpies in 2022. The 24-year-old was one of the most used players at centre bounces and won plenty of the ball around the ground.
With less than 4% ownership in fantasy classic, it isn’t a stretch to say Taylor Adams is not the most sought-after player in fantasy, however even valued at 100 he could very well be under-priced and a real POD for your fantasy side. From the naked eye, Adams attended the vast majority of centre bounce clearances while he was on the field and picked up a lot of the ball as well as kicking a nice goal. Although, his injury history doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence, he did average 114.7 the last time he played a full season, he’s at his prime as a midfielder and looks as fit as he ever has.
Brayden Maynard was another player touted for more midfield time, however, was used almost exclusively in defence, while Steele Sidebottom and Josh Daicos each played on a wing. 41% of coaches have Will Kelly in their sides, yet despite the Pies love for him, can’t see him playing in R1, and if he does, his B/E of 23 is no sure thing anyway. Jamie Elliott attended a few centre clearances, however, his five goals came mostly playing deep forward. Finn Macrae, Tyler Brown and Reef McInnes all got plenty of midfield time while they were on the ground and were solid. Charlie Dean also did his Round 1 chances no harm and could be a viable bench option in Classic.
Like their opponents, the Hawks were playing their first game under a new coach, and although it was difficult at times to ascertain, given how well Collingwood played in the first three periods, it appears Sam Mitchell is also implementing a more attacking brand of football which involves moving the ball on quickly. Like the Pies, Hawthorn rarely kicked the ball backwards or sideways and although they were well beaten while both sides had their best line ups on the field, there was a few good take aways for fantasy coaches.
Jarman Impey, Changkuoth Jiath, Will Day, Chad Wingard, Luke Breust
From all reports James Sicily has had a faultless pre-season after returning from his ACL, and on this performance, appears to have picked up where he left off in Round 12 of the 2020 season. Although he started off fairly slowly – as can be expected – he got better as the game wore on with some trademark intercepts and took all the Hawk’s kick-ins while he was on the field. Sicily even produced a vintage look of incredulity followed by the familiar overly exuberant objection at a free kick awarded against him for blatant high contact which cost his team 50m and a goal – SicDog is back!
Without stats it’s sometimes hard to tell how much of the ball Tom Mitchell has gotten in any given game unless you are specifically watching him, while in others his impact is easily evident. While his outing against Collingwood certainly wasn’t the second of the two options, Titch did appear to find plenty of the footy, and along with Worpel and Newcombe attended the most centre bounce clearances for the Hawks. Although he recently suggested to The Traders he could spend more time forward this year, it wasn’t evident against the Pies on Friday.
Although not backed up by stats, from the naked eye Worpel appeared to have the most CBAs for the Hawks against Collingwood. Being used in a defensive role at times last season, the 2020 Best and Fairest winner looks like he will be Hawthorn’s second most prominent midfielder behind Tom Mitchell this year, and he was one of his sides best in a badly beaten side in the first half. Kept running all day, picked up plenty of possessions and kicked a great goal.
On a pretty disappointing day for Hawthorn, the performance of Connor McDonald was a highlight not only for Hawks fans, but also for fantasy coaches while doing his chances of a Round 1 debut no harm at all. Attended plenty of centre bounces while spending time forward and on the wing. Saw plenty of the ball and didn’t look out of place against the Magpies.
Another of the Hawk’s rookies who could be making his AFL debut in Round 1. Used mostly on the wing but did attend a few centre bounce clearances and showed why there have been so many positive reports on him over the pre-season. Was up against Josh Daicos for much of the day, and while Daicos was more damaging, Ward held his own nicely, and on today’s performance would be ahead of Tom Phillips for a wing position in the opening round of the season.
Although perhaps not classic relevant at his awkward price, one of Hawthorn’s best against the Pies was Jai Newcombe. Along with Mitchell and Worpel, the mid-season signing was utilised the most often at centre bounces and his willingness to run both ways was clearly evident. Finn Maginness was another of the Hawk’s young brigade who could be in their Round 1 line-up. Appeared to be used as a defensive midfielder while also spending some time on the wing. Won’t be a huge scorer but worth keeping an eye on in the AAMI Series game. Jack Gunston was quiet, however a piece of play in which he tried to chase down an opponent clearly showed he was not hampered by the back injury that kept him out for the majority of last year. Ned Reeves shared the ruck duties with Max Lynch, while skipper Ben McEvoy played almost entirely as a deep forward. On today’s performance, Reeves would be in front for that Round 1 spot.