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John Longmire cunningly used Robbie Fox as a defensive forward on Isaac Quaynor – one of Collingwood’s few good players in round one and a damaging intercept defender and distributor of the ball. Fox was cunning. Quaynor was beaten.

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This all compounded the original problem in Collingwood’s defence that was apparent a week earlier against GWS.

Collingwood has long played a rolling-zone defence, which means their defenders – including their best one, Darcy Moore – played on everyone and no one.

Normally, it works. Normally, he has the intelligent support of Nathan Murphy and the timed leap of Jeremy Howe for support. Murphy is presently not there, Howe was playing his first game for the year and Charlie Dean was playing only his second senior game. In the end, Howe was needed forward to have someone – anyone – who could take a mark there.

Collingwood were outscored by 47 points from turnovers – their second-worst result under Craig McRae. When was the worst? Round 23 last year against Brisbane when the Lions played that same high press, high pressure defensive style.

Regular clever ball users were some of the worst culprits for Collingwood’s blunders.

Sydney playmaker Isaac Heeney was dominant against Collingwood.Credit: AFL Photos

Teams largely have a choice in games between a high press and a low press. Between pushing defenders aggressively high up the ground and trying to hunt and pressure the opposition into a turnover. This risks committing too many players high up the ground where the opposition might kick through them and get into dangerous space. The other option is a low press; holding numbers back in defence to give coverage behind the ball. Sydney largely applied a high squeeze of Collingwood and it worked.

But it wasn’t entirely one over the other. As a senior coach said, no team can exclusively play one way, or the good opponents will work out ways to get through them.

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The Giants, for instance, are a team that forces opponents into making quick decisions about how high they risk squeezing up. Teams that make a shallow entry into their own forward line against the Giants find themselves in the most dangerous position to be in on a football field. If they push up too quickly and aggressively, the Giants will breeze through them. If they hold back, GWS will punch holes in their defence.

Sydney struck the right balance of when, and how often, to squeeze up high on Collingwood and hunt the defenders in numbers. And, yet, it took time to yield results. For all of the Swans’ field dominance in the first term, when they pushed up really hard at Collingwood, they were still, at one point, trailing 1.6 to Collingwood’s 3.1.

This has been Melbourne’s problem in the past, such as in the qualifying final last year, when the Demons pressed numbers high to stop the Collingwood counterpunch but also left themselves with a clogged forward line where it was difficult to score.

The Magpies looking dejected after losing their round one AFL match against the Sydney Swans at the MCG on Friday night.

The Magpies looking dejected after losing their round one AFL match against the Sydney Swans at the MCG on Friday night.Credit: Getty Images

Sydney were smarter in how they attacked their own goal among congestion. They changed angles of attack. The Swans understood that if they kept going forward by the same angle of attack against Collingwood Darcy Moore or Brayden Maynard would read it and intercept the ball.

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Collingwood tried to respond in the second quarter, pushing Scott Pendlebury loose behind the ball from the midfield and pulling one of the high half-forwards, Beau McCreery or Lachie Schultz, into the midfield. The plan being to be more careful in how they transitioned the ball from defence and to change the angles.

In the second half, as the Swans still stretched their lead, Collingwood flicked to a fast and higher risk ball movement to try to get over the top of Sydney’s high press. In attack Collingwood had little support.

Ash Johnson was the focus of criticism after the game, and it was warranted after a second poor game in a row, but it is worth acknowledging the three Magpies talls – Mason Cox, Johnson and Brody Mihocek – took three marks between them inside their team’s 50-metre arc.

Johnson will plainly go out of the team, but Collingwood will need to consider moving Cox into the ruck and using Darcy Cameron as a target forward. Cameron has been good in the ruck in the first two games, but Cox has offered nothing in attack. Reef McInnes will also need to be considered as the Magpies search for something.

Opposition tactics also only account for part of the picture. The reigning premier’s success was built on a workrate that currently is not there. That is something Collingwood, not the opposition, control.

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#High #press #high #reward #Swans #give #footy #world #blueprint #beating #Collingwood

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