AFL greats expose worrying Collingwood trend as Brody Mihocek development rocks premiers

The injury to Mihocek compounded a Collingwood season in freefall.

Collingwood's AFL premiership defence is in freefall after a 12-point defeat to Essendon at the MCG on Friday night that leaves them in danger of dropping out of the top-eight. A likely season-ending injury to Brody Mihocek has further compounded the problems for Craig McRae's side, whose defence and commitment was again called into question by several AFL greats.

Mihocek suffered a suspected torn pectoral muscle in the fourth quarter of the defeat to the Bombers and bravely played on before coming off late in the game. The 31-year-old will undergo scans to determine the extent of the damage but Collingwood's coach revealed after the game that the injury would almost certainly be season-ending, in yet another setback for the injury-hit Magpies.

On the right is Collingwood star Brody Mihocek.
Collingwood's latest AFL defeat was compounded by a suspected season-ending injury to Brody Mihocek. Pic: Getty

"Brody looks like he's going to need surgery and he'll most likely be out for the season," McRae said. "As we always do, we love and support to get around our players and rally together." The Magpies are close to getting Dan McStay back from an ACL injury he suffered in December but also have forwards Jamie Elliott, Beau McCreery and Mason Cox sidelined with injury. Ruckman Darcy Cameron was also taken to hospital on Friday night for assessment on potentially broken ribs.

The injury situation is just another concern for McRae's side, who came racing out of the blocks with five goals to two in the opening quarter, including three in as many minutes from Jack Crisp. But the Magpies managed just three more majors over the next two quarters as the Bombers surged back to take a game-defining 17-point lead into the final term. Collingwood have proven the masters of the comeback in recent times, but couldn't get the job done on Friday night as their season hit another hurdle.

AFL greats Jonathan Brown, Jordan Lewis and club legend Nathan Buckley all pointed to a lack of intensity - particularly in defence - as a major concern for the Magpies. Lewis said Collingwood "didn’t want to dig in" and Buckley agreed that the Bombers were hungrier than their opponents across the park. Statistics backed up their concerns with the Magpies only managing four tackles inside 50, compared to 14 from Essendon, and a pressure rating of 165 that was the team's second-worst in the McRae era.

“It seemed to me tonight that Collingwood didn’t want to dig in,” Lewis said on Fox Footy's post-game coverage. “Their first quarter was outstanding, everything was on their terms. But when the game had changed and Essendon started to dominate with a kick-mark game, you looked out there and there looked like some deflated players. They didn’t want to chase. This Essendon side made them defend – and they didn’t want to defend.”

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Buckley highlighted the fact it was Collingwood's seventh consecutive match with 50 or less inside 50s for the game, in what he described as an alarming trend. “They’ve dug in for a long time, but tonight they were found wanting by a side that was prepared to run harder for longer,” Buckley said.

“They’re playing so much of their game on the back foot at the moment. They haven’t got field position, they’re not able to turn the ball over in their front half quite as well. That’s the first time in Fly’s era that I haven’t seen the players on top of the ground.”

Seen here, Collingwood star Brody Mihocek after suffering a pectoral injury.
Collingwood star Brody Mihocek suffered a suspected season-ending pectoral injury in the loss to Essendon. Pic: Getty

Melbourne legend Garry Lyon said the Magpies had no answer for the outstanding Zach Merrett, who was allowed to dictate terms for the Bombers in a superb display that included 30 possessions and one goal. “Collingwood had no plan for Zach Merrett at all – and he ripped that game to shreds and they had no plan for him,” Lyon said.

Brown said the Magpies were "every chance" to drop out of finals contention and warned "something needs to be done soon" if they're to get their premiership defence back on track. “It’s a big concern... Their inconsistency of pressure throughout games is getting them into these situations,” Brown added. “They almost pulled a rabbit out of a hat again late, but it’s concerning. And I think that’s why Craig McRae is starting to show his frustration.

“Something needs to be done – and something needs to be done soon. If they continue on this track, they won’t make finals – let alone a Grand Final. No doubt they’ve had injuries, but I think they’re lacking that absolute hunger that is required to win a premiership like they did last year.”

with AAP