Classic rivalry bursts into life
IT’S the finals match-up that has been 13,873 days in the making and it might just burst the MCG at its seams.
For the first time in 38 years, since that one-sided 1980 VFL Grand Final, Richmond will meet Collingwood in the heat of finals footy, as the two bitter suburban rivals prepare to square off on Friday night in a preliminary final.
It won’t be the grand final pairing that many had anticipated throughout much of the second half of 2018, but it will be for a spot in a premiership playoff, no less.
These two clubs, historically divided by the strip of bitumen along Victoria St, will bring their vast armies to the MCG.
This rivalry has pretty much laid dormant for more than a generation now, before stirring back into life this year.
Yes, the reigning premiers held sway in both encounters — by 43 points in round 6, and by 28 in round 19 — but the Magpies will like their chances after a strong performance to knock off Greater Western Sydney in last night’s semifinal. The final margin was 10 points. If Nathan Buckley’s team had been cleaner, it could have closed the game out by quarter-time.
Still, Collingwood will have to overcome eight decades of history if it is to upset Richmond. Incredibly, the Magpies haven’t beaten the Tigers in a final since the 1937 semi, when Harry Collier, Albert Collier, Gordon Coventry and Jack Regan ruled.
The last time the teams met in a preliminary final was in 1973, when the Tigers brought injured superstar Royce Hart off the bench to change the game, beating the Magpies by seven points after Collingwood had led by six goals at halftime.
Two of the AFL’s best midfields will square off. In one corner, we will have Steele Sidebottom, Scott Pendlebury, Taylor Adams, Adam Treloar and one of the game’s most dominant ruckmen, Brodie Grundy. The Tigers will back their men in Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Dion Prestia, Shane Edwards and the equally tough Toby Nankervis.
Jordan De Goey has a long way to go, but in some ways he resembles Dustin Martin in his early years — brutish in his attack on the ball, damaging when isolated in attack, and capable of turning a game.
Collingwood’s patched-up but tough defence will face its sternest test against the multilayered Richmond attack.
The Pies’ attack, too, is a different one, modelled on the Tiger prototype from last year.
Then, there’s Buckley. The coach that so many outsiders wanted out of a job a year ago, is into a preliminary final showdown with Damien Hardwick.
GOING NOWHERE: The Giants’ Jacob Hopper is tackled by Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury during the Magpies’ semi-final win at the MCG. Collingwood now will face Richmond in a Friday night preliminary final.