Pies show touch of class

Steele Sidebottom.COLLINGWOOD 3.5 8.6 12.10 15.13 (103) NORTH MELBOURNE 5.2 8.4 9.7 13.9 (87)Goals: Collingwood: T Cloke 4 S Sidebottom 3 Q Lynch 2 T Goldsack 2 B Macaffer D Swan J Blair S Pendlebury. North Melbourne Kangaroos: L Thomas 4 L Hansen 2 A Mullett B Cunnington D Petrie R Bastinac R Tarrant S Gibson T Goldstein.Best: Collingwood: S Pendlebury S Sidebottom N Brown T Cloke D Swan H O’Brien. North Melbourne Kangaroos: A Swallow D Wells T Goldstein B Cunnington L Thomas A Mullett.Umpires: Stephen McBurney, Jordan Bannister, Nicholas Foot.Official Crowd: 41,040 at Etihad Stadium.

In the battle of the midfield brigades reputed to be among the league’s elite, Collingwood suffered a significant early blow when 2012 revelation Dayne Beams was a late withdrawal through injury.

When added to the absences of Luke Ball and Dale Thomas it seemed North Melbourne, boasting a fully fit list, would have had an edge. The reason it did not was primarily down to a Scott Pendlebury masterclass, as well as a general sense of composure late as the Kangaroos made an unlikely bid to snatch victory.

They ultimately failed as the Magpies began their season with a 16-point win at Etihad Stadium.

The fact neither team was able to kick more than two unanswered goals in the first half reflected the frenetic competition, which was evident immediately.

Since Collingwood’s 2010 premiership it has faced  accusations it was unable to lock the ball in its attacking half as it had done so proficiently during that breakthrough season. Its first-quarter performance was evidence to the contrary.

Any frustration at the side’s wastefulness in kicking for goal was eased by its ability to consistently stymie the Kangaroos’ attempts to clear from defence, most notably when consecutive kick-outs from Shaun Atley were marked by Harry O’Brien at the same half-back position.

The Kangaroos defenders were performing well despite those clearance jitters, particularly Scott Thompson. The improving full-back matched, and often beat,  direct opponent Travis Cloke for strength and positioning, although by the second half Cloke had clearly won a duel he was initially losing.

North went to the first break with a nine-point lead, based mainly on its superior use of the ball, especially up forward where it converted five of seven scoring opportunities. Collingwood, nevertheless, seemed at least its equal.

Kangaroos forward Lindsay Thomas showed no hint of his former yips, kicking four goals by the main break. His haul was not merely completing teammates’ good work either, with his fourth goal coming after a pass at half-forward to Daniel Wells that ended up back with him following a dogged sprint forward.

For the Magpies Alan Toovey often showed great composure in defense and used the ball well, the area of his game considered to be his weakness.

North captain Andrew Swallow started well and maintained that influence even when Collingwood’s midfield brigade fought back. He rivalled Pendlebury for possessions but could not rival his impact. That the Kangaroos were able to lead for much of the first half without spearhead Drew Petrie having any influence  would have been a bonus to them, in as much as  they still had his improvement to come.

But it became a liability late in that half and early in the second when his Magpies counterpart,  Cloke, bettered Thompson. While his influence  increased a little, Petrie’s remained negligible, with fellow key-forward Lachie Hansen and Robbie Tarrant offering little more.

The trend of neither side scoring more than two goals in a row ended emphatically in the second half when the Magpies booted the first four of the third quarter. When combined with their two late in the first half it meant they had transformed an 11-point deficit to a 27-point lead.

Collingwood’s usual suspects in the midfield – Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom and Dane Swan – were influential but credit was also due to its unheralded youngsters.

Any encouragement North might have derived from scoring the last goal of the third quarter, through Hansen, was countered by Cloke taking a characteristically strong pack mark and resulting goal – his fourth – to start the last. When that was followed by Sidebottom’s third goal the margin was six goals, seemingly snuffing out any realistic chance of a Kangaroos comeback.

Four consecutive goals from North provided a glimmer of hope, until Brent Macaffer’s late goal snuffed it out for good.


Collingwood selected three debutants in its 25-man squad. While it intended to play only one – Sam Dwyer – it ended up selecting all three. Josh Thomas and Jack Frost got late call-ups due to injuries to Dayne Beams and Heath Shaw, the latter not enacted until the warm-up. Thomas made some telling contributions in clearances, Frost showed composure in defence and Dwyer was influential after his half-time introduction.


Lindsay Thomas may as well have painted a target on his back when his attempt to shepherd away Ben Reid in the third quarter – by way of a bump – ended in his opponent leaving the ground with a bloodied face. The boos that followed Thomas thereafter were unfair given the wound was caused not by a high bump but by a head clash. What North should worry about though is that because Thomas initiated the contact the match review panel could find him liable for the consequences.


Drew Petrie ranks among the league’s elite spearheads, but his impact in the season-opener was uncharacteristically poor. He was blanketed by full-back Nathan Brown so decisively that by the last quarter coach Brad Scott elected to swap him with ruckman Todd Goldstein. It summed up Petrie’s day that when he won a free-kick in the last quarter, with his team surging, he hooked it out of bounds on the full.

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