Nathan Buckley’s decision to tag Tim Kelly out of the elimination final was the masterstroke that won Collingwood the game, according to ex-AFL coach Terry Wallace.
While Buckley has been praised for his decision to send rookie big man Darcy Cameron to battle Eagles superstar Nic Naitanui at key moments in the thrilling one-point win, Wallace said Levi Greenwood’s performance on Kelly should be the talking point.
“I thought Levi Greenwood tagging Kelly was their absolute key issue. Who says you can’t take a player out of finals and lock them out of the game? Wallace said on SEN.
“(Greenwood) was involved in some really big plays for his side. That move in itself was enough to tip them over the line.
“You go back to the game against St Kilda (round 17) when West Coast had all their midfielders out. Who was it that just took the game away from the Saints? It was Kelly.
“Taking him out of the match was a big, big key to winning the game I thought.”
Kelly finished the match with just 12 disposals – his second lowest tally since his AFL debut in 2018.
Against the Magpies earlier this year, Kelly had 29 touches – at almost 90 per cent disposal efficiency, six clearances and a goal.
“When you go to your midfield and you want to fight the fight early in a final and you come to quarter time and Dom Sheed hasn’t touched the ball, Luke Shuey had one touch and Tim Kelly had one touch in a game that’s on the line… they didn’t want to fight the fight and had to play catch up for the rest of the game,” Wallace said.
“You go back to their last two finals (the Eagles) played in Perth – last year it was the elimination final to the Bombers. They had 10 scoring shots to four at the start of that game. They came out and hit them, whack.
“Go back to the game before against Melbourne (in 2018). That game was over after virtually 12 to 15 minutes. They just come out and crushed Melbourne to pieces and went on and won the flag.
“They were sides that came out hungry and ready to take on the contest. That wasn’t the West Coast I saw on Saturday night.”
While strangely not naming Nic Naitanui directly, Wallace said the two-pronged Brodie Grundy-Darcy Cameron attack against the star Eagle wasn’t as successful as many experts believed.
“Everyone’s talked about bringing in Darcy Cameron … I didn’t think that was the biggest fact of the night that won the game,” Wallace said.
“They had five or six goals scored directly from centre bounce in that game.
“As much as what (Cameron) helped in some ways, they got annihilated those two players by the West Coast Eagle’s ruckman.
“The ruckman of the West Coast Eagles was the best West Coast player convincingly in that game.”