WHERE AND WHEN: MCG, Friday May 18, 7.50pm
LAST TIME: Geelong 18.11 (119) d Collingwood 12.9 (81), Grand Final, 2011, at the MCG
It’s a match full of intrigue tonight as last year’s Grand Finalists meet in a replay which sees both struggling to recapture the form that saw them dominate 2011.
Geelong is fresh off a belting at the hands of Adelaide, and will obviously want a better result against arguably a better opponent.
Collingwood’s deficiencies have come largely from a long injury list, but with form players starting to return to the line-up, it is expected their peak performance will once again return.
Although key defender Nathan Brown is out with a medial ligament strain, premiership players Dale Thomas, Chris Dawes and Darren Jolly return along with livewire goal-sneak Alex Fasolo to add class to the Pies’ line-up.
Jolly could be the most important player in the black and white, as his ruck skills add another dimension to an already strong midfield.
Jolly’s strengths become paramount tonight, as Geelong are another side who have struggled in the ruck department since Brad Ottens retired.
The Cats will welcome mature-age recruit Orren Stephenson to the side, and he will need to complement Trent West in order for Geelong to control the stoppages.
Jolly on the other hand has little ruck support, so if the game is close late, you can expect Geelong to begin to assert their dominance in the centre.
Joel Selwood vs Steele Sidebottom
With the prolonged absence of Luke Ball, Collingwood needed someone to step up in the in-and-under department, and the last few weeks has seen Sidebottom do exactly that.
Tonight he will face one of the league’s very best in Selwood, and he will need to show the form he displayed last week if he is to negate the play of the Cats’ skipper.
Tom Hawkins vs Ben Reid
Hawkins will be one looking to increase his output after a disappointing match last week, but it won’t be easy against the vaunted defence of the Pies.
Although Reid is a highly talented defender in his own right, the Collingwood defensive strength lies in its ability to produce a loose man and have that player continually filling the space in front of the forward targets.
Hawkins will have his work cut out for him if Collingwood manage to release Nick Maxwell or Heath Shaw as that spare man, so he will need to make the most of his opportunities.
Scott Pendlebury vs Jimmy Bartel
Both Pendlebury and Bartel are the barometer for their respective clubs; once they get going they’re are almost impossible to stop, and their play inspires their teammates to higher levels.
We’ve seen it in the past – with both players winning the last two Norm Smith Medals – and so tonight, their performances become even more important.
The winner of this individual duel could set the match-up for their teams, making this contest a must watch for viewers.
Although Geelong probably have more to play for at this point of the year, with a loss destined to leave them with a record of 4-4 and in jeopardy of missing the final eight, Collingwood simply appear to be playing a better brand of football.
Tonight they welcome back key cogs in their machine and while Geelong is continually searching for replacements for their star retirements of last year, Collingwood should have too much for the Cats to compete with.
Verdict: Collingwood by 21 points
B: Heritier O’Brien, Ben Reid, Alan Toovey
HB: Simon Buckley, Nick Maxwell, Tyson Goldsack
C: Dane Swan, Sharrod Wellingham, Jarryd Blair
HF: Heath Shaw, Chris Dawes, Ben Sinclair
F: Dayne Beams, Travis Cloke, Alan Didak
Foll: Darren Jolly, Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom
I/C: Dale Thomas, Martin Clarke, Lachlan Keeffe, Alex Fasolo
Emg: Tom Young, Kirk Ugle, Paul Seedsman
B: Matthew Scarlett, Tom Lonergan, Josh Hunt
HB: Corey Enright, Harry Taylor, Andrew Mackie
C: James Kelly, Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel
HF: Steve Johnson, James Podsiadly, Steven Motlop
F: Paul Chapman, Tom Hawkins, Mathew Stokes
Foll: Orren Stephenson, Joel Corey, Taylor Hunt
I/C: Trent West, Mitch Duncan, Jesse Stringer, Cameron Guthrie
Emg: Shannon Byrnes, Billie Smedts, George Horlin-Smith