Mick Malthouse on what faces Queen’s Birthday combatants Melbourne and Collingwood

Mick Malthouse gives his honest take on the Queen’s Birthday blockbuster and the recent high-tackle dramas surrounding Jack Ginnivan.

Is Melbourne about to capitulate? Are the Pies the real deal? We’ll get an answer either way Monday.

The Queen’s Birthday clash has rarely reached blockbuster status. Relative ladder positions have generally indicated the outcome instead. But tomorrow’s game takes on a new dynamic with the Demons in turmoil and the Pies on the rise.

Collingwood has everything to gain from a win. History tells us that the final eight, while not cemented, doesn’t change dramatically after Round 11.

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So, with the Pies currently hovering on the edge of the top eight, it’s in their hands.

After living in happy land for the past couple of months, back-to-back losses and infighting suddenly makes Melbourne very vulnerable.

It’s a position the Dees haven’t faced for a while.

Once upon a time supporters of the club would have held their collective breath waiting for an implosion and driven off to the snow.

While we have the best ski season in 50-years in Victoria, this is an opportunity for Melbourne supporters to witness a rejuvenated and mature team take control of their own destiny.

Possibly.

Can Melbourne lift for Queen’s Birthday? Picture: Getty Images
Can Melbourne lift for Queen’s Birthday? Picture: Getty Images

It only takes one game to change people’s opinions, but more importantly change the way the players think they and the club are going. Doubt spreads quickly.

Confidence is hard won.

Melbourne’s intensity has dropped, its game structure has been pulled apart, the Steven May, Jake Melksham blue in public is not a good look, and suggests division in the playing group. (This is not the first time May has had a fight with a teammate – Campbell Brown at Gold Coast).

On top of that, workhorse Tom McDonald may have played his last game of the year, Ben Brown is struggling in an unsettled forward line where the coaches can’t make up their minds on a formation, and Jake Lever has been left high and dry without May in the team.

Clayton Oliver was tagged out of the game against Fremantle and Max Gawn was smashed in the ruck by Sean Darcy.

The Demons have never been an overly high-scoring side, but they have been highly effective defensively through a workmanlike backline with ball speed and leg speed, which has kept them in a lot of games.

Their forward line shares the goals among many, and they are very reliant on the Gawn, Oliver, and Christian Petracca trio in the middle.

Steven May’s actions have unsettled the club. Picture: Getty Images
Steven May’s actions have unsettled the club. Picture: Getty Images

Gawn as captain has always shown brilliant leadership, fronting the cameras this week to answer all the questions about his teammate’s discretions and his club’s response. But he can’t be left to shoulder it all, again.

This is Melbourne’s chance to show how much it has grown in the last 12-months.

To pull together, to knuckle down, to avoid the implosions of the past and regain its mojo.

If it doesn’t, things could get ugly.

As far as game day goes, Simon Goodwin coaching from boundary line worked brilliantly last year and for so much of this year, but when you have the availability of the coaches’ box to view what’s happening in the game, maybe there’s an opportunity now for him to coach from the box just to see the mechanics of his game style and whether its working or not.

Interactions with players from the boundary line can be vital, but so too is a bird's eye view of the game when things are not going according to plan.

The Pies have surprised so far this year, but internally there is great belief. And that can carry you into a whole new dimension.

Rookie coach Craig McRae has rejuvenated the Pies. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
Rookie coach Craig McRae has rejuvenated the Pies. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Collingwood’s Craig McRae gives the Magpie supporters a sense of calm. There’s no fuss, no bother, his speech is level winning or losing, and his players are responding beautifully because you can tell there is a genuine respect between him and his player group.

He has been a highly successful player and assistant coach so he knows how to win and how to arrest a loss.

Collingwood in many respects is undermanned. The loss of Jordan Roughead could have been fatal with also losing Jack Madgen to a shoulder, but after initial problems, Darcy Moore has changed his game to be far more defensive and effective and has kept the backline tight.

Regardless of what some are saying about Brodie Grundy, he is a wonderful player and sadly missed.

Darcy Cameron is another illustration of being handed the baton and excelling.

All that rough and tumble in the backyard is paying off for Josh and Nick Daicos, with their instinct and feel for one another on match day on full show. It is beautiful to watch.

Jack Ginnivan hasn’t done himself any favours with his early antics, but he has the potential to become a genuine top-level half forward.

He has his detractors, but Jack Ginnivan has been a revelation or the Pies. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
He has his detractors, but Jack Ginnivan has been a revelation or the Pies. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

He has attracted a few critics with the way he plays, but that’s him. And having watched him closely, I feel that he has been let down on many occasions for free kicks. He will mellow to fit into the Magpie ethos, as he adds another dimension to an already workmanlike forward line.

I hope for Collingwood’s sake that Jordan De Goey signs on. I believe he is of instrumental value to the team. Again, with maturity, he will be high-class value for a midfield that will soon see Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom absent from the stoppages.

Brody Mihocek and Taylor Adams just add to my admiration of tough, hardworking players that will do anything for their teammates.

Pound for pound over last 12-months the Demons are a street in front of the Pies. But with ego and confidence dented in the Melbourne camp, and Collingwood riding a wave of success, this could go down as one of the great Queen’s Birthday clashes.

The Dees have been confronted in the last two weeks and failed to stand up. The Magpies have learnt to win the close ones. One loses and it’s a lesson for next week, the other one loses and it may be catastrophic.

One thing’s for sure, we’ll all be watching.

Originally published as Mick Malthouse on what faces Queen’s Birthday combatants Melbourne and Collingwood

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