Footy is finally back, and it didn't disappoint in the first game. Everything you remembered from the AFL before the shutdown was there, you had Brian Taylor, Collingwood starting strong, Ivan Soldo's mustache, a few blown calls, and the Tigers on the prowl. The one thing we didn't see, a winner.
On June 11, 2020, Collingwood and Richmond played to a draw to kick off the Australian Football League season, following a two month postponement due to the coronavirus outbreak. You'd expect both sides to come out the gates rusty, but the Pies put on one of their trademark blistering first quarters. Just like in the 2018 Prelim and Grand Finals, the Pies poured it on in the first. After a stoppage in their forward 50, Brodie Grundy tapped the ball to Taylor Adams who sailed the ball from his left boot into the goals just two minutes into the game giving the Pies the early advantage.
5 minutes later, with the score still 6-0, Tom Phillips won a free kick inside the forward 50 and didn't miss. Phillips, who kicked just 12 goals last season, had a great first half today.
Tom Lynch also had a great first half, but he missed a kick 12 minutes in to give the Tigers a behind and their first point. This was nearly immediately followed up by Phillips missing for a behind of his own, putting the Pies back up by exactly 2 goals. With two minutes to play in the first, a sensational Callum Brown handball found Steele Sidebottom with plenty of time and space to make something happen, which he did, kicking his first goal of the season.
The Pies pressure was immense, and just 30 seconds later, a ball that Brody Mihocek couldn't reel in fell right to Brown and a few steps later, the Pies were up 25-1.
The Pies ended the first quarter on fire, and it was very reminiscent of their 2018 Prelim Final win over the Tigers. However, the Tigers didn't have Tom Lynch in 2018. The former Gold Coast Suns star joined Richmond in 2019 and helped lead them to a flag last year. He kicked his first goal of the season in the second quarter on a free kick after he was hacked in a marking contest.
Less than a minute later, the Pies had their best moment of the game. Taking it all the way out of their own end, they fought off the Richmond pressure and found Tom Phillips for his second of the night.
With six minutes left in the second, a wide open Tom Lynch marked, and kicked his second, and then kicked his third with time winding down in the half. The Tigers, who'd been trailing by 24 points, cut the lead to just 14 at half time.
First half standouts included Josh Daicos and Scott Pendlebury but there was more work to be done to put the game away for the Pies. They could've done it earlier, but Bachar Houli seemed to be everywhere for the Tigers, putting in a great all around performance.
Find the full game with my commentary right here.
After 2 quick behinds to start the third, one on each side, the announcers started to fascinate over the fact that Collingwood had so many blond players, and that they all had tattoos. That's why we love Brian Taylor, he says the things that we all notice but makes it sound awesome. It's so true as well, looking at Jeremy Howe and Jordan De Goey, they are noticeably blond at tattooed. Howe himself had a great day, with 20 disposals from the back, but De Goey missed multiple kicks that he should have slotted.
It took a long time for a goal to be kicked in the third, but when Shai Bolton was held in the forward 50, he pulled the Tigers within 8. The Tigers were doing the thing they hadn't been able to in 2018, claw their way back. The low scoring nature of the game was reminiscent of the GWS-Collingwood Prelim Final last year, but this one would have major differences.
The Tigers had more action late in the third, Dion Prestia sent a handball to Dustin Martin, who unloaded from 50 meters but it was wide. Jack Higgins marked it, but he looked clearly behind the line, until the ARC review somehow deemed him in front of the line, and gave him a chance, that he took, to run around it and kick from the left boot to cut the Pies lead to just two.
It was Higgins first game back from brain surgery, and Tigerland is glad to have him back so soon.
The Tigers ran back out onto the field for the final term knowing that they'd caught a break. Two rushed behinds later, one for each side, the score was 35-33, and Jordan De Goey launched a kick that would be a sure goal in almost every other scenario. It sailed wide right as De Goey proved rustier than an old garage door, playing nowhere near his usual self. A super interesting departure from his normal self, as De Goey is usually fantastic in big moments, the way he was in the 2018 run to the Grand Final.
Richmond had another rushed behind, but they were still looking for that goal. The announcers had been repeating "next goal is likely going to win this game" on and on and on, and it wasn't just Bruce McAvaney trademark repetition style. I was saying it too, as the Tigers looked for Jack Higgins to give them another moment of brilliance. Unfortunately for the Tigers, he couldn't provide it, and gave them a behind to make it a one point game.
At 36-35, it was clear that the next goal would win, but there simply wasn't one. Scores were leveled when Jeremy Howe was forced to concede with three minutes left, and from there, nobody scored. Both teams had chances to win this game, both teams missed kicks that they shouldn't have, but when the siren went, everybody in the ground, (which was just the players, coaches, staffs, and broadcast crew) rolled their eyes, thinking they could've gotten more.
Despite the lack of points, as it was the lowest scoring game since 1999, the game was rather enjoyable. It featured key moments of physicality, and a dose of brilliant football. This was only the second time ever the Richmond and Collingwood drew, the other coming over 100 years ago, when Richmond fielded a team that consisted of a man named Donald Don.
Both teams played rather poorly offensively, with Nathan Buckley, the Collingwood coach, saying that it was one of the most bizarre games he'd ever been a part of.
We've had a pretty short prep coming back, and maybe our expectations should be suitably adjusted – the footy will get better as the year progresses.
Buckley's key point in the interview shows that the performances will get better, giving the valid excuse that there'd been an 83 day break in the season and they'd only had a short time to prep.
Obviously the shorter quarters made a difference, as Richmond seemed to come to life at the end of the second and third quarters. Had the quarters been longer, who knows what would've happened.
Despite the game being exciting for me to watch, many disagreed. For them, all I can say is, it can only get better from here.