Collingwood 20.13 (133) d Melbourne 14.7 (91)
Incredible as it sounds, Collingwood's vast improvement has actually been underplayed this year, the Pies' renaissance having been overshadowed by sexier storylines, particularly Melbourne's surge into alleged premiership contention.
Mason Cox of the Magpies reacts after kicking one of his bag of goals.
After the events of the most hyped Queen's Birthday game in a dozen years, it's safe to say that the Pies will no longer enjoy the comfort of relatively anonymity. No longer will their rise be obscured by surprising North Melbourne and surging Melbourne, who they walloped before more than 83,000 in a result that will prompt reassessments of these clubs – and particularly of the Pies.
In their last meeting, Collingwood had prevented the Demons from playing finals by upsetting them in round 23 of last season, in what was widely viewed as either a monumental choke or limp effort by the young Dees – a verdict that perhaps ignored that Collingwood's then dormant capabilites.
This capitulation was arguably much worse from Melbourne's vantage point. The Demons had belted weaker opposition over the preceding six games and were being heralded – yes, all externally – as the team most capable of challenging Richmond.
While the holiday marks the birthday of the British monarch, it might have been the fourth of July, given that the giant American Mason Cox celebrated the day with the break-out performance of his brief career, booting five goals and, for the first time, seeming like a geniune key forward threat, rather than someone whose main task was to bring the ball to ground for quicker smalls.
Taylor Adams and Josh Thomas of the Magpies react after Thomas kicked a goal.
But, as impressive as Cox and his fellow forwards were – young gun Jaidyn Stephenson and the highly skilled Will Hoskin-Elliott contributed four goals each, Josh Thomas three – Collingwood was propelled most of all by an outstanding midfield, which routed Melbourne.
The Demons were noted for their ability to win the ball in the contest, where their tough inside players – Clayton Oliver, Nathan Jones and Jack Viney – had beaten up the likes of the Crows. On this day, however, they were smashed both inside and outside the contest by the Collingwood mids, who enjoyed a huge advantage in the clearances. Brodie Grundy also edged Max Gawn in the ruck, in what could be a play-off for all-Australian selection.
Collingwood's clearance victory – 45 to 26 – was mind-boggling when you consider the capacity of Oliver, Viney and co.
No player had a greater bearing on the outcome than the much-discussed Jordan De Goey, whom Nathan Buckley shrewdly deployed in the midfield – where his large body nullified Melbourne's theoretical asset. De Goey's first half included no less than 10 inside 50 thrusts and his ball use – like that of skipper Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom, Adam Treloar and indeed most of his team, was superb. The Magpies held a significant edge in general play for most of the game and, in reality, it was Melbourne's superior efficiency from fewer opportunies – typified by Tom McDonald's 6.0 – that kept the Demons alive for much of the game.
That said, the Pies scored far too easily throughout. They often moved the ball through the corridor with impunity. In part, they did so by taking risks with the ball, but it was also because Melbourne allowed them that space in dangerous spots and did not measure up defensively.
The Demons did not defend well anywhere on the field. If this was not a failure born of arrogance, then it should still be a learning experience. The Magpies' first half advantage of 19 points was built on the back of that midfield supremacy, some daring ball movement and an overwhelming ascendancy in the clearances, in which they lead the Demons 24-11 at the main break.
De Goey, released from forward duties into the midfield, had 21 disposals and double figure forward entries. His contest work was combined with excellent ball use, such as when he twice found Jaidyn Stephenson for goals.
Collingwood's opening quarter was simply outstanding.
The Pies controlled play from the midfield, rebounded with dare from defence and their unorthodox forward set up – Cox, surrounded by medium-sizers – posed problems for the jittery Dees' defence. Their pressure on Melbourne was immense, forcing the Demons to use too many ineffective handballs, rather than finding team mates by foot.
The Demons challenged in the second quarter, drawing within a kick, but it was telling that Collingwood was able to steady and re-establish a lead of better than three goals at half-time. By late in the third term, it was evident that the Dees were done and in the final quarter, they barely gave a yelp.
Last week, the man who has become so central to this day, Neale Daniher, suggested to his former team that there was no reason they could not win the flag. "Why not?'' asked Daniher, in an address that was spine-tingling just to watch on television.
On this day, that question is perhaps better asked of Collingwood.
COLLINGWOOD 5.5 9.9 15.11 20.13 (133)
MELBOURNE 2.0 7.2 11.5 14.7 (91)
GOALS – Collingwood: M Cox 5, J Stephenson 4, W Hoskin-Elliott 4, J Thomas 3, A Treloar, B Mihocek, S Pendlebury, T Adams. Melbourne: T McDonald 6, M Hannan 2, A Neal-Bullen, B Fritsch, C Oliver, J Harmes, J Viney, M Gawn.
UMPIRES: Chris Donlon, Robert Findlay, Leigh Haussen.
CROWD: 83,518 at MCG.
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