Melbourne 0.11.13 79 def. Collingwood 1.9.7 70
A new-look Melbourne were able to come home in an impressive final quarter to defeat last year’s grand finalists Collingwood and in doing so show signs of a team that may be bound for September.
Melbourne took it right up to the Pies from the start, they brought a new game plan which focused on high pressure and winning contested football. This high pressure footy troubled Collingwood who over possessed the ball and turned it over resulting in early Melbourne goals.
The main driver of this new style was James Magner who collected 21 possessions, 14 contested in a best on ground performance. The stocky midfielder looks as if he will play a pivotal role as part of Melbourne’s on ball group this season.
Magner was not without help, Nathan Jones stood up with 5 clearances and Matthew Bate looks like he has a new lease on life under Neeld who has moved him to the midfield.
This turn in form was also shared by former captain Brad Green who appeared to be much more comfortable without the burden of captaincy on his shoulders.
Collingwood were not without their contributors as the usual suspects stood up, Scott Pendlebury was all class as usual, and Dale Thomas continued to replicate the form that saw him rise to the top level of players in the game.
Some of Collingwood’s youngsters were also able to impress, Peter Yagmoor was notable off the half back line and may fill the void left by Leon Davis, while Tom Young gathered a lot of footy however his disposal at times was worrying.
Despite these performances the Magpies were always going to struggle after half time when Buckley removed Cloke, Jolly, Reid and Swan from the game.
Before the half Melbourne were able to challenge Collingwood with more of their stars on the park, Melbourne’s pressure on Collingwood was relentless, however they were unable to take advantage of the opportunities it created scoring nine behinds up to half time.
The Demons appeared as if they were going to take a handy lead into half time, but a crucial turnover in the backline saw Maxwell reduce the lead to a point just before half time.
In the second half the Demons started to take control, Petterd and Martin were able to take advantage of the inexperienced back line and take contested marks, both of which resulted in goals.
However as they always seem to do Collingwood came back with three late goals, the most notable of which was a Heath Shaw supergoal with only seconds left in the third quarter.
This blow may have disheartened the Melbourne team from last season, but this new team under Mark Neeld seemed to relish the opportunity and was able to overrun the Pies in the last quarter. They were able to get more numbers at every contest, win the clearances and convert their opportunities.
Although it is still only March, and NAB cup form does not always reflect that of the home and away, from what they showed tonight Melbourne seemed to have turned the corner and are taking steps towards a more successful year.
Collingwood do not leave empty handed as they were able to observe many of their younger players under the pressure that is closer to the kind they will face when the season comes around.
Coll: Shaw (supergoal) 1, Thomas 2, Rounds 2, Cloke, Maxwell, Paine, Celgar, Ball
Melb: Petterd 2, Martin 2, Jones 2, Dunn 2, Howe, Green, Sylvia
Coll: Pendlebury, Thomas, Shaw, Yagmoor, Ball
Melb: Magner, Jones, Bate, Green, Sellar