By Barry Kennedy, AFANA Reporter in Melbourne
Last season the injury ravaged Collingwood side limped to 15th on the AFL ladder while St Kilda also didn’t live up to expectations of the football public, even with a Preliminary Final appearance. Season 2006 has been much kinder to Collingwood fans, their team flying high in third spot on the AFL ladder after 13 games. The jury was out for St Kilda, with only its long injury list the only defense to its seventh placing prior to yesterday’s clash. It was a crunch game for St Kilda against the upstarts from Collingwood and a chance to demonstrate their preeminence among Victorian clubs. That’s what they duly did.
A sellout greeted the passionate punters of St Kilda and Collingwood at the Telstra Dome leaving many wondering how many more would have come had the MCG been available. Collingwood opened the game brightly as new star Dale Thomas took a strong mark and goaled for the Magpies first. There was plenty to like about the game of evergreen captain Nathan Buckley also, who was busy and got Collingwood’s second with a clever snap. When Josh Fraser converted in the sixth minute from a dubious free, the Magpie bandwagon looked well lubed and running freely.
Many second tier Magpies like Dane Swan and Heath Shaw have been instrumental to Collingswood’s push up the ladder in 2006. St Kilda have had a few emerging players of their own that have been vital in retaining the Saints place in the eight. These include the two Fisher boys, a much better Brendan Goddard and previous bit player Leigh Montagna.
It was Montagna that shifted the fortunes of his side half way through the quarter with an audacious eight-bounce run from the pocket to half forward. Its effect was to loosen up the Saints side. Nick Reiwoldt and Xavier Clarke started making space and Robert Harvey had the ball on a string. Montagna was at the end of a short pass from Reiwoldt and converted for the Saints first. Tall ruckman Michael Rix took some big marks up forward and found Xavier Clarke for St Kilda’s second. Clarke, a welcome addition to the Saints after a bad injury run gave the next goal off to Reiwoldt. Crumber Stephen Milne made in four in a row after a cracking Harvey tackle created the turnover.
Brett Voss and Matt Maguire were rebounding superbly for St Kilda and Luke Ball and Nick Dal Santo imposing themselves in the middle. St Kilda took a six-point lead to quarter time.
There was no let up from the boys from Morrabbin in the second quarter. Nick Reiwoldt laid a great tackle, the ball spilling to Montagna for his second. Stephen Milne also kicked his second, while Montagna went on another three-bounce canter. When Robert Harvey kicked a rare goal on the run from his left boot, the evidence was overwhelming that the Saints were on.
Finally Collingwood struck back when Anthony Rocca, getting a rare possession on Maguire found Buckley. The Magpie skipper had been one of the few Magpies bright lights and finally stopped the St Kilda charge at seven goals. Unfortunately for the Pies, St Kilda were next on the board via the rapidly emerging Brendan Goddard who brilliantly spoilt Scott Pendlebury before gathering the ball and burying a goal from beyond 50. A goal each to end the quarter gave St Kilda a 22-point break on the Pies at half time. The lead was not insurmountable but St Kilda were clearly hitting contests with more vigor. Hardball gets were 20 to six to half time with huge tackles being laid by the Saints on a Collingwood side under siege.
Not much changed in the third quarter. The Saints got the first via Adam Fiora. Scott Burns who like Buckley was playing a fine veterans game honest game got one back for the ‘Woods.’ The Magpies fired few shots at the St Kilda machine from this point on in the quarter or indeed the game. Brett Voss’ fine goal late in the quarter, followed by another from Riewoldt put the result beyond doubt.
Collingwood managed to find a good deal of the ball but suffered at the hands of an honest St Kilda defense that was blanketing Rocca and Tarrant. Collingwood’s champion playmaker Alan Didak wasn’t so much getting blanketed by Stephen Baker more like suffocated, a great smother by Baker late in the quarter typical of that duel. The margin at three quarter time was 43 points.
The Magpies had only pride to play for in the last stanza however no quarter was given to them by their opponents. Collingwood added one goal to finish with nine goals for the day. St Kilda put on four more as a black and wide wave of humanity left the stadium in droves.
St Kilda delivered a stellar team performance on the day. Matt Maguire’s shutdown of Rocca was defending at its best while Max Hudgeton did a similar job on Chris Tarrant. Firebrand Steve Baker completely shut out the dangerous Alan Didak while Brett Voss rounded up a fine defensive effort by the Saints. The creativity of Harvey and Dal Santo was telling and Reiwoldt covered enormous ground. Leigh Montagna, Leigh and Adam Fisher, Goddard and Adam Fiora, all emerging players, were the icing on the cake.
Veterans Nathan Buckley, Scott Burns and James Clement were Collingswood’s best, while ruckman Fraser produced another great game. It was telling that the dash provided earlier in the season by the Magpies many up-and-comers was absent yesterday. Old hands were the ones standing up.
Local media have been scathing of Chris Tarrant’s third straight goalless game. It seems that Collingwood are beginning to flatten out, the heroics of earlier in the season fast dissipating. That said, they remain in fourth position, a very lofty spot given last season’s display. The Saints suddenly look top four material once more. They have two stars about to come back in Aaron Hamill and Justin Koschitzke and surprisingly have won one more game than the same stage last year. Suddenly it looks as if it’s the Saints may well improve on last years position. They may yet prove Victoria’s best flag prospect.
ST KILDA 4.3 9.4 15.8 19.8 (122)
COLLINGWOOD 3.3 5.6 8.7 9.9 (63)
Goals: St Kilda: S Milne 3 N Riewoldt 3 F Gehrig 2
L Montagna 2 J Gram 2 B Voss 2 R Harvey X Clarke B
Goddard A Fiora M Maguire.
Collingwood: N Buckley 2 S Burns 2 T Lockyer J
Clement H Shaw D Thomas J Fraser.
Best: St Kilda: M Maguire M Hudghton B Goddard N
Dal Santo J Gram N Riewoldt M Rix.
Collingwood: N Buckley S Burns J Clement H Shaw
Umpires: R Chamberlain M James B Allen.
Injuries: St Kilda: Nil.
Collingwood: S Prestigiacomo (bruised shoulder).
Crowd: 48,564 at Telstra Dome.
Article last changed on Thursday, July 13, 2006 - 9:12 AM EDT