Collingwood: ‘So much more dynamic’- Why Steele’s shift backwards is key to ...

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Published Time: 18.05.2024 - 03:46:12 Modified Time: 18.05.2024 - 03:46:12

Aside from prominent roles in the 2010 and 2023 flags, Sidebottom is a dual-Copeland Medallist and also an All Australian who finished runner-up in the 2018 Brownlow Medal. Collingwood

The veteran ultimately finished with 21 possessions for the match, 17 of them kicks, and was responsible for four forays outside the Magpies defensive arc and another four into Collingwood’s attack.

Collingwood captain Darcy Moore was an obvious commander in the backline but, with Jeremy Howe sent forward before injuring himself, Sidebottom said Oleg Markov and John Noble proved great sounding boards as well.

“(The direction) was just to go back there and play a role, basically, to be a part of our defensive system, and that was it, really,” Sidebottom said.

“There were (no instructions when it came to earning) kicks, no handballs. It was whatever happens, happens and I really felt like I was really connected with the team.

“Howey not being back there, he is one of the leaders back there. But, yeah, Darcy leads it (and) guys like ‘Leggy’ (Markov) and Nobes were huge for me, because I was obviously playing a little bit higher up the ground.

“It was actually hard to be in the wrong spot because I always had the guys demanding that I be in a certain spot and that made it really easy for me. The back six were good. I think we gave up 30-something points, which is nice. That is the most important thing. It was good.”

Sidebottom has experienced a significant dip statistically this year compared to his career averages, which put a spotlight on his form.

He is averaging just under 15 disposals a match, which is just over eight below his career output, while his contribution to score involvements has more than halved as well.

But while Sidebottom has been less prolific in possession and winning clearances, for example, it is evident when watching him live just how hard he is working behind the play.

McRae pointed to this when stating that in an evolving team, Sidebottom was building towards producing a performance as influential as the one he contributed last Sunday.

“I think his last couple of weeks have been progressing towards this,” McRae said.

“A change of role can (lead to) excitement. I did chat to him and he said, ‘I’ve got a bit of an excitement in my stomach. It is a new challenge, a new opportunity’.

“I don’t want to put ceilings on players. This game (does that with criticisms) you’re too old or you’re too slow. But why would we? Just get better? Today was better, better than potentially he’s ever been, clearly, as a back, because he’s never done it.

“Will that prolong his career? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly a good step towards it.”

Former St Kilda star and Fox Footy analyst Leigh Montagna praised the move to push Sidebottom into defence, saying there was a two-fold impact.

He said the experience and class of Sidebottom strengthened the Magpies defence but also had the flow-on effect of allowing Nick Daicos and Jack Crisp to spend more time in the middle.

“I really liked it. I think this is going to enhance the Pies chances of getting another crack at winning another flag,” he said on AFL 360.

“Not only can Sidebottom play this role, what it has done for the midfield (is allow) Nick Daicos and Jack Crisp to become permanent inside mids and they look so much more dynamic.

“No longer is it Mitchell and Pendlebury and Sidebottom and everyone starts to get worried their leg speed. They have been able to make the adjustment.”

Quizzed as to whether he would play the role more permanently, beginning with Saturday’s intriguing clash against Adelaide at the MCG, Sidebottom said he was not certain.

“To be honest, I’ll play wherever I’m needed,” he said.

“But we might have to move magnets again, or whatever it looks like, because we obviously had a few go off (against the Eagles).

“But it’s just the next guy up. We will focus on who is coming In, not who is going out and we will butter up and go again (against Adelaide).”

Montagna said he would be surprised if Collingwood does not persist with the move given how well Sidebottom performed, while noting Essendon and Brisbane have enjoyed success by pushing former skippers Dyson Heppell and Dayne Zorko back due to the footy nous.

“The game on the weekend, from his last 70 games … it was his tenth highest rated game, his third most kicks - and you want Steele Sidebottom kicking the footy - and his second most intercepts,” Montagna said.

“When you take a look at some of his efforts in the game, this is the one spot on the field where you can get away with a lack of leg speed, because your footy smarts take you a long way.

“You think some other players doing a really good job in this role. Dyson Heppell has done such a good job going to halfback. Dayne Zorko now for Brisbane is playing this role.

“Despite the leg speed, if you have got these smarts, it is going to take you a long way and I think it is going to help the Magpies. I think they will persist with it. I am excited to see what this can do with the Collingwood team.”