Saints upbeat despite veteran's injury

Posted in AFL News

Dunstan 'really impressive' says Richo Watch St Kilda coach Alan Richardson's post-match press conference

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Sam Gilbert injured his foot against West Coast on Saturday night

ST KILDA didn't quite come marching in for a third straight win to start 2014, but the form of young gun Luke Dunstan and pending reinforcements have coach Alan Richardson buoyant about the next few weeks.

The main downside to a fighting 25-point loss to West Coast at Patersons Stadium was the foot injury to experienced defender Sam Gilbert, which looks likely to keep him out in the short-term at least.

However, the cavalry is coming to help offset the loss of Gilbert. Last year's best and fairest Jack Steven is likely to play next week, although Richardson suggested that would be in the VFL, Sam Fisher is nearing a return, while 18-year-old Jack Billings thrust his name forward with five goals for Sandringham yesterday.

Key forward Tom Lee also booted four while Trent Dennis-Lane (three goals) and Terry Milera were also prominent.

Dunstan, 19, was outstanding against the Eagles, finishing with 29 disposals, including 15 contested possessions, five tackles, six clearances and two goals.

He had 21 and 15 disposals in his first two games.

"He was just really impressive again tonight," Richardson said after the match. 

"He's ended with close to 30 possessions, five tackles and he's kicked a pretty important goal, although it was late and it was unlikely we were going to come back from there, but he wasn't to know that.

"At that stage you've got a fair bit of pressure on you to make the most of those opportunities and he went back and kicked a really strong goal for us. He has been really impressive.

"He has been among our better players for three weeks in a row, probably more if you include the NAB Challenge."

Richardson appeared resigned to losing Gilbert for a while.

"It is the foot that he's had surgery on so it looks like he's done some sort of damage to that," Richardson said. "We're obviously hoping that it's a really significant scar-tissue injury but that may not be the case.

"Gilbert has been really good for us, he's played on Jeremy Howe in round one and (Jeremy) Cameron, an All Australian last week and he's had one goal kicked on him, so he's been in really good form and he provides really strong leadership for our young guys.

"You are always going to miss those players."

Richardson blamed turnovers for the Saints falling away in the second-half. They were in front by eight points at half-time but were outscored seven goals to two in the second half.

"The reality is we just turned the footy over too many times," he said. "The Eagles scored 8.8 on the back of turning our footy over.

"We were well and truly solid defensively but didn't maximise when we turned the footy over. We were able to achieve 41 midfield turnovers which is a pretty good number but weren't able to capitalise.

"We thought we were really strong in terms of effort and contest."

St Kilda plays Adelaide at Etihad Stadium next Sunday, April 13.

Cox 'one of the best I've seen', says Eagle

Posted in AFL News

Highlights: West Coast v St Kilda The Eagles and Saints clash in round 3

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Dean Cox celebrates a goal in his record-equalling game

DEAN Cox is one of the best players of the modern era, West Coast teammate Jamie Cripps says. 

Cox equalled West Coast's games record in Saturday night's 25-point win over St Kilda at Patersons Stadium, joining four-time Eagles best and fairest Glen Jakovich on 276 matches for the club.

Cox had 15 disposals and 34 hit-outs but the highlight of the night was his goal on the run in the last quarter to seal the win. Cripps had the chance to kick the goal after receiving the ball 25m in the clear on the wing but handed it to Cox as he loped inside 50.

"I thought I'd better give him the goal," Cripps said.

"It's an awesome feeling around the club. The boys are up and about. It was (Chris Masten's) 100th as well and we had Brant Colledge's first game so it was a big night for us and a good win."

Cripps, who played 16 matches with St Kilda before joining the Eagles ahead of the 2013 season, is in awe of Cox's all-round ability as a footballer.  

"He's an awesome player," Cripps said.

"He's nearly got the best skills at the club kicking both left and right foot really well. Coming in from outside I didn't know he was this good but he's one of the best footballers I've seen."

Eagles coach Adam Simpson says the publicity surrounding the milestone had been low-key due to Cox's attitude but also the fact that he will likely break the record outright against Geelong in round four.

"He breaks the record this week if he gets a game. He's in the mix," Simpson joked.

"We haven't made a massive deal of it [because] that's Coxy's nature.

"I was really happy with how he played tonight and in the end he contributed well."

Elliott soars but Magpies crash to earth

Posted in AFL News

GEELONG has broken its two-season victory drought against Collingwood by scoring an 11-point win over the Magpies in a high-pressure clash at the MCG on Saturday night.

The Cats were 20 points up late in the first quarter, surrendered the lead by half-time, then survived a gripping battle of attrition in the second half, prevailing 12.15 (87) to 11.10 (76).

It was their first win over Collingwood since the 2011 Grand Final, and it ensured they remain unbeaten in 2014.

Five talking points: Collingwood v Geelong

"Yeah, we're three and zip, but it doesn't really feel like it at the moment," Geelong coach Chris Scott said.

"So the positive is that the win-loss looks good. But we've still got a lot of work to do on our game."

Key forward Tom Hawkins was the hero of a tense last quarter.

Having been well held by young Magpie Jack Frost, Hawkins came to life in the final term, booting three team-lifting goals, including the last of the match after Jamie Elliott had put Collingwood within five points.

Hawkins finished with four majors and was the Cats' only multiple goalkicker.

"He was very important," Scott said. "Got the ball, kicked the clutch goals. But we had to get the ball down to him."

Elliott, who was Collingwood's outstanding contributor, produced the most spectacular feat of the match when he soared over Jimmy Bartel and hauled in a screamer during the second term.

He also finished with five goals, including three in the last quarter as his team fell agonisingly short.

"In the end, we lost the midfield battle across the four quarters quite convincingly," Pies coach Nathan Buckley said.

"(We were) minus-12 inside 50s, about the same in contested possessions, and the weight of ball just ended up counting against us."

Key defender Tom Lonergan was a star for Geelong, using the new umpiring interpretations to his advantage in holding Travis Cloke goalless, while Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan were prolific in the midfield.

Selwood was flattened by Collingwood sub Taylor Adams early in the last quarter in an incident that is sure to attract the attention of the Match Review Panel.

Though he was involved in a number of heated exchanges with Adams late in the contest, the Cats' skipper was not badly injured and was able to play out the game.

Sealed with a kiss: Tom Hawkins celebrates one of his four vital goals against Collingwood on Saturday night. Picture: AFL Media

In the absence of five-time All Australian Corey Enright, who was a late withdrawal after failing to recover from an ankle injury, James Kelly stepped up, providing cool and calm leadership across half-back.

Of the Cats' emerging youngsters, Cameron Guthrie did an impressive tagging job on Scott Pendlebury.

Although Pendlebury was able to amass 26 disposals, Guthrie made him accountable by gathering 18 touches of his own, kicking a goal and taking a great pack mark late in the game.

Steele Sidebottom did all he could to haul the Magpies over the line. Sidebottom was electric during the second quarter, during which he gathered 10 of his 29 disposals.

Dayne Beams and Heritier Lumumba also continued their good form, while Brent Macaffer held Steve Johnson to just 20 touches. Johnson had averaged 34 disposals in rounds one and two.

In his first game since round five last year, Alex Fasolo made a solid contribution down back.

Geelong had a comeback kid of its own, with George Burbury tallying 12 disposals in his first game since breaking his jaw against Collingwood in the opening match of the NAB Challenge.

The Cats will be aiming to continue their unbeaten start when they host fellow unbeaten side West Coast at Simonds Stadium next Saturday night.

Collingwood's next outing is a Friday night game against Richmond at the MCG. With the Magpies and Tigers slumping to 1-2, it shapes as a must-win clash for both sides.

COLLINGWOOD         0.4   6.7   8.9    11.10 (76)
GEELONG                   3.5   6.7   9.12  12.15 (87)

GOALS
Collingwood: Elliott 5, White 2, Blair, Toovey, Goldsack, Sidebottom
Geelong: Hawkins 4, Varcoe, Horlin-Smith, Murdoch, Johnson, Guthrie, Stokes, Mackie, McIntosh

BEST
Collingwood:
Elliott, Beams, Sidebottom, Macaffer, Maxwell, Lumumba
Geelong: Selwood, Kelly, Lonergan, Hawkins, Guthrie, Stokes

INJURIES
Collingwood:
Dwyer (lower leg)
Geelong: Enright (ankle) and McCarthy (team balance) replaced in selected side by Sheringham and Simpson; Varcoe (head)

SUBSTITUTES
Collingwood:
Taylor Adams replaced Sam Dwyer in the third quarter
Geelong: Mark Blicavs replaced Mitch Brown in the third quarter

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Donlon, Hay, McInerney

Official crowd: 63,152 at the MCG

Twitter: @AFL_AdamMcNicol

Magpie in orbit

Posted in AFL News

Highlights: Collingwood v Geelong The Magpies and Cats clash in round 3

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Jamie Elliott hauls in his mark-of-the-year contender against the Cats

1. Cold Pies
Slow starts are fast becoming a trend this season for Collingwood. In their opening round loss to Fremantle the Pies kicked 2.4 in the first quarter.  In the next round against the Sydney Swans they could only manage one goal. On Saturday night at the MCG that trend reached its mathematical conclusion, with the Pies goalless at the first break. Dane Swan was particularly slow to fire. It took the Brownlow medalist 12 minutes to register his first touch for the game. He finished the quarter with five disposals: low by his standards.

2. Collingwood's dancing Dream Team
The Pies' 12-member hip-hop dancing crew, the Dream Team, have attracted critics who accuse the club of trying to Americanise the game. Unveiled as part of the pre-match entertainment, the crew (posse?) were charged with pumping up the crowd ahead of the opening bounce. Suggesting the Pies may want to reconsider their audience, the twerking and crumping was met with plenty of blank faces.

3. Elliott in orbit
Collingwood small forward Jamie Elliot's spectacular pack mark against Port Adelaide in round 14 last season earned him the 2013 mark of the year. He is firmly in contention to claim the honours again in 2014 after taking yet another magnificent grab five minutes into the second quarter. With eyes only for the ball, Elliot ran in from the side, riding Geelong star Jimmy Bartel to complete a towering grab in the goal square. His resulting goal, the Pies' first for the game, sparked a comeback which saw them draw level with Geelong at half-time. And his influence didn't stop there. The 21-year-old booted five goals, equalling his career-best haul set last season in round 17 against Carlton.

4. All quiet on the Cloke front
It wasn't a memorable night for Collingwood spearhead Travis Cloke, who has suffered a poor record against Geelong in recent times. Cloke has kicked just the four goals against the Cats in their past three encounters. The Magpie forward  failed to trouble the scoreboard on Saturday night and finished the match with just eight disposals and four marks. His Geelong counterpart Tom Hawkins was well held by young Pies defender Jack Frost in the first half. However he stood tall when the Cats needed him most, kicking three final-term goals including the sealer.

5. Tough tags do their job
Cat Cam Guthrie was handed the challenge by coach Chris Scott to run with Collingwood star Scott Pendlebury. The Pies' 2013 best and fairest winner had 26 disposals but wasn't able to impart his usual influence on the game. Guthrie himself finished with 18 possessions and a goal. Meanwhile Brent Macaffer was given the job of negating Geelong's Steve Johnson. The Cat veteran was unable to break free for most of the match, finishing with 20 touches and a goal.

Eagles playing sore

Posted in AFL News

Highlights: West Coast v St Kilda The Eagles and Saints clash in round 3

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Dean Cox celebrates the final goal of the match in his record-breaking game

1. Winning streak over

Believe it or not, the Saints were chasing a fifth straight victory, having won their last two games of 2013, against Gold Coast and Fremantle, before their opening wins this season against Melbourne and the Giants. Alas the party is over and the Hawks, who haven't lost since round 19 last year, remain the team to chase.

2. Winged Eagles

In the space of a week, West Coast's season has gone from chocolates to, well not so yummy chocolates. It started last Sunday with Shannon Hurn going down with a medial ligament injury during the win over Melbourne at the MCG. Then on Friday the Eagles confirmed that Beau Waters' season was over after he re-injured the shoulder he had surgery on last year. Sharrod Wellingham was next, pulling out of Saturday night's game against the Saints with a groin problem, and finally Mark LeCras was substituted in the first term with an arm injury. LeCras broke the same arm last season and looks likely to miss some football. Scott Selwood also looked to be favouring a sore right ankle by the end of the match while Dean Cox said after the match that Chris Masten was playing sore.

3. West Coast's greatest 

Dean Cox equalled West Coast's games-played record against the Saints at Patersons Stadium, the club he nearly went to a decade ago when Michael Gardiner ruled the ruck roost at the Eagles. History shows it was Gardiner who ended up at the Saints and Cox has gone on to play 276 games at West Coast, the same as Glen Jakovich. Cox was named in Perth's major newspaper as the greatest-ever Eagle on Saturday morning and should break the record at Geelong next weekend.

4. Crunch time

Another player who almost became a Saint had a close-up view of the red, white and black jumper within the opening two minutes of Saturday night's clash. Mitchell  Brown, who turned down a lucrative deal at St Kilda to remain an Eagle, clashed heavily with Beau Maister as the pack collected for a mark at centre half-forward for the Saints. Maister stayed down for a while as Brown limped away before almost falling over again.

5. What's your decision?

The 'taking out the legs' rule came under the microscope in the third term at Patersons Stadium when West Coast captain Darren Glass was pinged after a clash with young Saint Eli Templeton. Glass was already on the ground with the ball in the Saints' forward pocket when the shaggy-haired Templeton charged into his body with his lower legs. The ruling was a free to the Saints which ended up being a goal after Templeton slotted from a tight angle.