COLLINGWOOD 6.5 9.6 12.10 14.15 (99) MELBOURNE 1.3 4.8 9.10 12.11 (83)Goals: Collingwood: J Elliott 3 M Cox 2 T Phillips 2 W Hoskin-Elliott 2 B Grundy J Daicos S Sidebottom T Adams T Broomhead. Melbourne: J Melksham 3 A Neal-Bullen 2 C Petracca 2 J Garlett 2 C Pedersen J Watts M HannanBest: Melbourne: Oliver, Melksham, Lewis, Hunt, Petracca, Collingwood: Adams, Sidebottom, Maynard, ElliottUmpires: Troy Pannell, Brett Rosebury, Curtis Deboy ???Official Crowd: 51,223 at MCG.
AFL great Wayne Carey had one word to sum up Melbourne’s opening term against Collingwood on Saturday. Pathetic. With so much on the line, that being the chance to end an 11-year finals drought, it was hard to fathom how the Demons were so listless as they fell behind by 32 points at quarter-time at the MCG.
The Magpies, with little to play for, ran with verve and pressured their opponents. They would have three goals on the board, including Josh Daicos’ first in his brief career, before Christian Petracca delivered the Demons’ opener. But the Pies would have three more by the first break.
For all the pre-match talk that the Demons were set to post their first $1 million profit, and were keen on more Friday-night games next year, that would mean little in the short-term if they failed to rebound and rubber-stamp their berth in the finals. Inexplicably, that proved to be the case.
The shock 16-point loss means they almost certainly will have to sweat on the Sunday evening clash between the West Coast Eagles and Adelaide at Domain Stadium before knowing whether they will feature in September. The Eagles are a game behind the Demons and need to win by about five goals to push the Demons out of the top eight.
That Essendon is expected to confirm their spot in an elimination final when they host the limping Fremantle Dockers on Sunday means the final game of the round will determine the finals make-up.
The Demons were expected to emerge with the intensity they showed against St Kilda a fortnight ago. Instead, it was the Pies who dominated. They would narrowly win the contested-possession count and the tackle count 70-51.
The Pies had also began well against the Cats last week, and then fell apart through indecisive ball movement. On this day, that would not be the case, for they would hit back when the Demons landed a blow.
The Pies led by three goals at the final change and, buoyed by a late goal to Will Hoskin-Elliott, would hang on for arguably their best win of the season at a time when Nathan Buckley is still unsure whether he will be coach next year.
“We wanted to prove to our supporters that we are heading into the right direction,” midfielder Taylor Adams, who dominated with 28 disposals, said.
As the pressure rose in the final term, there were a calamity of errors. The crowd erupted when Magpie Mason Cox handballed from near the point post to Tyson Goldsack, with the latter having no option but to cross the goal-line when he took possession. Tom McDonald’s botched kick-in was then marked 20m from goal by Cox, who responded by missing the set shot.
It did not matter.
The Demons weren’t helped when Jesse Hogan was forced off in the second term with a hamstring strain. That looked to be counter-balanced when Steele Sidebottom hobbled off, but he would return as a tagger with his hamstring strapped and have a major influence.
Jeff Garlett ignited the Demons with a goal in the opening minutes of the second term, capitalising on Jayden Hunt’s run from half-back. When Jack Watts, in his return from the VFL, drilled a set shot from 55m, the Demons appeared ready to follow the Cats’ path.
Importantly, their intensity in the contest lifted. A lack of tackling was notable in the first term, when Jamie Elliott dominated up forward for the Pies. While the Demons lifted, to the Pies’ credit they responded. Taylor Adams found his groove while Brayden Maynard also found plenty of the ball. The Pies looked to go as direct as possible, and Elliott provided a moment of magic with his snap under pressure from the pocket.
It went without saying that Jeremy Howe offered another mark-of-the-year contender, this time towering over Petracca on the wing. It epitomised the mood the Pies were in.
They would stretch their lead to 40 points 11 minutes into the third term. One could have been forgiven thinking they were the finals-bound side.
“We never thought we were out of the game, even at 40 points down. To the group’s credit, they have been able to do that all year,” Demons coach Simon Goodwin said.
“Even when they have been down in games, we have had five-goal margins on probably six or seven occasions where we have been able to find our way back into the game. They did that again today but there were still critical contests late in the game … that we weren’t able to take.”
The Demons would respond as the third-term progressed. Toughnut Clayton Oliver lifted at the “source”, while veteran Jordan Lewis found his groove extracting the ball. Cam Pedersen was selfless in running back with the flight of the ball, leading to Jake Melksham converting on the scoreboard. The Demons had the momentum and would boot another three to end the term, giving club legend Ron Barassi and their other supporters in the crowd some hope. That would soon be lost.
With the Pies’ season over, Buckley said he hoped the day would be a “call to arms” for what awaits.
“We don’t have next week now so we are on the other side of it. In many ways there is a bit of time and space to be part of making the right decisions,” he said.
“I think we have good young list. I think we have a more balanced list now. We probably had a good young list last year – we have got a more balanced list. We have got some youth coming through. We think we have a little more experience and leadership in there. Daniel Wells is important for us in that regard.”
Should the Demons make the finals, they will have major injury concerns, one being the fitness of co-captain Jack Viney.
The tough midfielder has a stress-related foot problem but said pre-match he hoped to shed his moon-boot over the weekend. He said scans had shown the foot was “inflamed” but it was not a navicular issue.
“It is the early signs of a stress-fracture kind of thing – if I kept pushing that would have been the result,” he said.
Viney said he remained in doubt for the finals.
“There is still a bit of water to go under the bridge at the moment. It is a day-by-day analysis to see how I progress. It is frustrating,” he said.
“You put all the hard work in to play at this time of the year. I am working very hard, doing everything I can to get back as hard as possible.”
8: Taylor Adams (Collingwood) 8: Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood) 8: Jamie Elliott (Collingwood) 7: Clayton Oliver (Melbourne) 7: Jordan Lewis (Melbourne)