June 25, 2024

“What are tackles?” Pep Guardiola once questioned shortly after his arrival in England, showing little interest in the robust Premier League style of play. However, tackles became paramount for Collingwood on Thursday night, as they had struggled to execute them effectively in the previous three weeks.

Throughout the week, they focused on addressing this issue. By the early stages of the second quarter at the Gabba, Collingwood had amassed 32 tackles compared to Brisbane’s dozen, and by the end of the game, the tally stood at 84 to 52 in favor of Collingwood. Despite the fluctuations in momentum during the grand final rematch, it was Collingwood’s tackling that made the decisive impact. “We need to increase our tackle count and improve their effectiveness,” remarked Chris Fagan afterward. He attributed Brisbane’s propensity to overuse handball as an invitation for Collingwood’s pressure.

Sometimes, merely winning the tackle count highlights a team’s inability to assert dominance in contests. However, this was not the case for Collingwood. Their tackles were impactful, coming from various angles and creating numerous scoring opportunities. Among them, Jamie Elliott’s bone-jarring tackle on Dayne Zorko in the final quarter stood out, securing the victory that jumpstarted Collingwood’s season.

The match itself was peculiar. Grand final rematches often fail to live up to expectations and seldom offer redemption. For the losing grand finalist, a victory in the rematch can feel empty. Yet, the stakes were higher than usual for both clubs in Thursday night’s game. It was Brisbane’s marquee home and away fixture, and facing a struggling opponent, they needed a win.

Brisbane asserted dominance in the second quarter, reminiscent of last year’s preliminary final. Lachie Neale spearheaded their efforts with his adept ball skills, tenacity, speed, and strategic positioning. Despite absorbing Collingwood’s pressure, Brisbane showcased their trademark crisp ball movement and aggressive forward thrusts. However, their efforts yielded only four goals, with their tall forwards struggling to capitalize on opportunities.

Collingwood consistently responded to challenges, showcasing an even contribution across the team and greater efficiency in attack. Their defense, particularly during Brisbane’s second-quarter surge, displayed improved organization and resilience compared to previous weeks.

A notable mention goes to John Noble, who narrowly missed out on last year’s premiership. Despite the disappointment, Noble’s dedication and skill provided much-needed spark for Collingwood. Coach Craig McRae commended Noble’s perseverance, highlighting his resilience and contributions to the team’s performance.

Brisbane has faced a challenging period recently, with the coach attending to matters at the Human Rights Commission in Melbourne, another player succumbing to an ACL injury, and the Gabba encountering setbacks due to indecision from the state government. The team’s current predicament mirrors Collingwood’s position from the previous Thursday.

Despite their difficulties, Brisbane hasn’t hit rock bottom. They were involved in an exceptional match against Carlton, where they showcased nearly flawless football for a significant period, yet ultimately fell short. Their subsequent loss to an improved Fremantle team further added to their woes. Historically, Brisbane has struggled at this juncture of the season, suffering heavy defeats in previous years before rallying to secure positive results.

Interestingly, victories against Collingwood have previously served as catalysts for Brisbane’s resurgence. However, their home ground advantage has already been breached twice this season, and their tall forwards have struggled with their accuracy. Nevertheless, the coach remains optimistic, urging against overreacting to the current situation and emphasizing that there are still 20 games left in the season.

 

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