AFL Minor premiers Collingwood advanced to next Saturday’s Grand Final after coming from behind to defeat Greater Western Sydney, in a thriller, by just a single point.
The perfect present for coach Craig McRae, celebrating his 50th birthday, and his players who were on the wrong side of the ledger, by the same margin, just last year.Embed from Getty Images
Played before a crowd of 97,655, this encounter was an absolute beauty; full of momentum swings, big and tense moments with it going right down to the wire.
The Magpies have made a name for themselves in managing to hang on and win the close ones – they had to rely on all that experience to help get them over the line.Embed from Getty Images
Mason Cox (pictured above), the big American ruckman, scored what proved to be the winner but there was still plenty of time for some high drama as GWS finished strongly.
Jesse Hogan reduced the margin to within a kick and then Toby Greene saw his goalbound banana effort superbly marked right on the line by Steele Sidebottom.Embed from Getty Images
It was a real gusty effort by the Giants, who only qualified for the finals on the last round of the home and away season, that came into this contest on the back of two interstate trips and six-day breaks – they should be mightily proud of their efforts.
The final siren was met with a deafening cheer and wild celebrations by the Pies supporters who will all be back at the ‘G’, next Saturday, trying to roar their club on to their first flag since 2010 and also be part of the biggest day in the AFL calendar.Embed from Getty Images
Midfielder Jordan De Goey (pictured above) was simply another level with a best on ground effort that included 34 disposals, 17 kicks, 17 handballs, 13 clearances and six marks.
A lot of the build-up to this clash centred around the return of Nick Daicos, one of the favourites for the Brownlow on Monday, who came into the starting line-up, having missed the last seven weeks with a fractured knee, for the injured Taylor Adams.
Speaking post-match to Fox Footy, the 20-year-old (pictured above) said “I saw the Giants boys after the siren and while you are so stoked to go through to the Grand Final, we went through that last year so I could relate to them.”
“I’m so happy we are through but now want to reset emotionally, and physically and get ready for next week. It’s one thing to qualify, it’s another thing to perform next week.”
Talking on-ground to Channel 7, captain Darcy Moore (pictured below) said “Still pretty speechless to be honest. What a game. It was just so high pressure. Every moment. Such a slog, low scoring, but you know, we had to find a way to stand up in big moments and we had so many guys that did. All that practice over the last two years came in handy.”Embed from Getty Images
“We execute what we practiced so many times before. We win the close games for a reason because we are organised. It is easier said than done when you have this mob screaming their hearts out. It is pretty hard to communicate.”
He added “So much hard work goes in. Every team, every player in the league wants to be out here doing what we just did. It takes so much work to get here. We have to enjoy it and bring our best next week.”
Their opponents will be Brisbane who had to overcome a shocking opening quarter before going on to beat a plucky Carlton for a Grand Final appearance since 2004.
The results mean that they completed the whole of the 2023 season with an exemplary record at their fortress Gabba, which was sold out for this encounter.
For coach Chris Fagan (pictured below), 62, who has been at the Queensland club for seven years, it is fifth time lucky, having missed out in his last four campaigns, as he will now finally get the chance to lead his side out on the grandest stage of them all.Embed from Getty Images
He becomes only the second gaffer in AFL history to have not played at the top level, although he did have a 263 senior game career (kicking 430 goals) in the Tasmanian Australian National Football League and Tasmanian Football League with Hobart, Sandy Bay and Devonport, but lead a team to a Grannie.
Yet it looked like the outcome was going to be rather different, in the early stages, as the Blues came flying out, scoring the first five majors, to attain a healthy lead – something that they will look back on as a real missed opportunity in not building.Embed from Getty Images
However, cheered on by the home faithful, the Lions were able to re-set and stormed back, in the second, with a Joe Daniher goal (pictured above) ensuring that they went in with a half-time lead; from there, they seized control and then went on to get the job done.Embed from Getty Images
Defender Keidean Coleman (pictured above) (21 disposals and seven score involvements) had arguably his best and most impact performance ever, with a stellar effort down back, while ruckman Oscar McInerney and Dayne Zorko also played crucial roles.
Josh Dunkley (pictured below) was part of the Western Bulldogs squad that sensationally won a Premiership, back in 2016, and he will get an opportunity to go for a second medal.Embed from Getty Images
Talking on-ground to Channel 7, the midfielder said “Coming in as a new player, haven’t been part of the history of the footy club but everyone has made it known to me how much this means. We are ready for this exposure to Grand Finals footy and it is just so special to be part of it.”
Co-captain Lachie Neale (pictured below, right) said “Amazing feeling, ten years since I went in as a sub in 2013. A long time coming and so proud of our group.
“We’ve come from nowhere, six or seven years ago, and we’ve been a challenger for a while, and now we’re giving ourselves a shot at the cup next week which is awesome.”Embed from Getty Images
Harris Andrews (pictured above, centre) commented “We’ll recover well and make sure we’re right to go. It’ll be another great game against Collingwood, they’re an awesome team and really admired what they’ve done this year. Really excited to get down to Melbourne.”
Collingwood 8.10 (58)
GWS 8.9 (57)
Brisbane 11.13 (79)
Carlton 9.9 (63)
AFL finals: Week 4 fixture – Grand Final
Saturday 30 September – Collingwood v Brisbane @ MCG (2.30pm)
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