Collingwood romped to their 20th minor premiership, their first since 2011, in emphatic style by thrashing Essendon before a crowd of 74,344 at the MCG.
They showed exactly why they are the bookies favourites for this year’s flag, flexing their muscles, with the contest effectively over by the half-time interval.
Jack Ginnivan (pictured below), recalled to the starting line-up following a ten-week spell in the VFL, and Brody Mihocek each kicked three goals apiece for the rampant Magpies.
Speaking in the presser on their achievement, coach Craig McRae said “You’re here to qualify and we’ve won 18 games – you can’t deny that. 18 games in this tough 24 round competition – the first time it’s been 24 rounds. It’s a marathon with bumps and bruises, losses and the resilience to go again.”
He continued “This is a tough competition and it is so even. The margins are small. There is not a massive gap between us and others. We know that. To qualify in this position. We are proud of our efforts.”
Brisbane wrapped up second spot, which also guarantees them a double chance home final, after coming out on top in a tight contest against a resilient St.Kilda.
The Lions maintained a perfect winning record this season (11-0) at their fortress Gabba, for the first time in their club history, which bodes really well with many pundits expecting to see them there, in the big one, at the end of September.
Forward Francis Evans made the most of his re-call to the Port Adelaide side by scoring three snags as they secured third spot with victory over Richmond.
A real, tight see-saw affair, at a sun drenched Oval, finished with the Power really running away with it but this was a lot closer than the 31-point margin suggests.
Another player seizing the moment, on his return, was Bayley Fritsch, putting a two-month lay-off behind him, with a five-goal haul as Melbourne defeated Sydney.
Talking on ground to Channel 7, the 26-year-old (pictured above) said “To get on the end a few was nice and the win. You know we were under some big pressure and as it is a hostile crowd up here. To come out on top I think is going to be really good for us.”
Unfortunately, the success came at a cost with Jake Melksham, who had to be substituted in the third quarter, suffering a serious left knee injury. Coach Simon Goodwin admitted “We fear the worst, but we hope for the best. Looking at an ACL, which is really sad for ‘Melky’. It takes a really big dent in the day.”
The sport of AFL said a final ‘goodbye’ to one of the all-time greats with 8x All Australian, 4x Coleman Medallist, 2x Goal of the Year and 2x Premiership forward Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, who had announced that he was hanging the boots up a few weeks ago, doing a lap of honour, during the main break, at a packed SCG.
Speaking to Channel 7, as he went around, he said “A lot of happiness, little bit of sadness that it has all come to an end. I feel incredibly honoured to have played this great game for 19 years. There is a lot of hard work that goes into us and a long time playing footy. It is absolutely incredible to be out here and see our fans today.”
“Coming from the bush in Western Australia, I probably never thought this was all possible. As I said, to play 19 years at two great clubs, I am incredibly proud.”
Asked what he will miss the most, he replied “The banter in the changing rooms; that day-to-day stuff behind closed scenes. Competing, being out here just playing footy; really going to miss that.”
Fremantle ended what has proved to be a very underwhelming campaign, on a positive note, as they travelled interstate to knock over an improving Hawthorn.
It was a big afternoon for Tom Emmett (pictured below getting the traditional Gatorade shower) (17 disposals, 10 score involvements, five marks, two goals and two assists) in making only his second senior appearance.Embed from Getty Images
The 21-year-old has had overcome plenty of adversity to get his playing career back on track. Having been successfully treated for a rare form of cancer at the age of 16, just two years later, he was then told that he wouldn’t be able to run again after suffering a serious Achilles injury; however, he has managed to defy all the odds.
The big winners of the weekend were Greater Western Sydney that came into the very final game of the home-and-away season knowing they had to win to make it.
Despite Charlie Curnow kicking three majors to claim back-to-back Coleman Medals, there was no denying the Giants who got the job done to lock-in seventh place.
Stephen Coniglio (28 disposals, six tackles, two goals) was immense, in his 200th start for the club, while captain Toby Greene (pictured below) played a big part by kicking four majors.Embed from Getty Images
Speaking post-match to Channel 7, the 29-year-old said “Feels bloody good. We knew the equation tonight and we knew we were a good chance and played a good brand of footy, especially the second half. Yeah, we’re pumped.”
He went on “We probably surprised ourselves with the level we could get to. I think our last ten weeks have been as good as anyone. We put in a huge pre-season and sort of up and down the first ten weeks but since then, we’ve been playing a really strong brand of footy. We’re pumped. We can’t wait to take on Saints in September.”
It also means that, even though they won their fixture over current reigning premiers Geelong, the Western Bulldogs miss out on an opportunity next month; they fell back out of the eight with that defeat to the Eagles, last week, looking even more galling.
Given the talent, depth and expectations of their current squad, it is a very disappointing outcome for the Doggies that are likely to now face plenty of scrutiny, during the summer, with many speculating that not all is well at the Whitten Oval.
Just this week, the board decided to part with long-time assistant and former player Rohan Smith despite the pleas of coach Luke Beveridge who wanted him to stay.
North Melbourne ended a run of 20 straight defeats and moved off the bottom of the ladder, on the final weekend, by producing a big performance to defeat Gold Coast.
Nick Larkey, nicknamed “Souv”, had the match of his life by booting a career-high nine majors and helping the Kangas put up their biggest score of 2023 (132 points).
For the Suns, that earlier in the week appointed three-time Premiership coach Damien Hardwick on a mega six-year contract, they will be focussed on having a big off-season and aim to get back for another go at making their first ever finals.
That result meant West Coast finish as the wooden spooners, for only the second time in their 37-year history, after they faded late on and crashed to Adelaide.
Taylor ‘Tex’ Walker enjoyed a day out with a nine-goal haul, having scored ten against the same opposition in Round 13, to finish with a season-high tally of 75.
It has been a horrible campaign and one to forget for the Eagles that said farewell to the trio of Shannon Hurn, Luke Shuey and Nic Naitanui – all decided to retire – they received a guard of honour and send off from a very appreciative home faithful.Embed from Getty Images
Round 24 Results
Essendon 3.13 (31)
Collingwood 16.5 (101)
Hawthorn 8.8 (56)
Fremantle 14.9 (93)
North Melbourne 20.12 (132)
Gold Coast 14.13 (97)
Brisbane 9.18 (72)
St.Kilda 9.6 (60)
Geelong 11.13 (79)
Western Bulldogs 16.8 (104)
West Coast 12.6 (78)
Adelaide 17.21 (123)
Port Adelaide 13.16 (94)
Richmond 8.15 (63)
Sydney 7.14 (56)
Melbourne 11.11 (77)
Carlton 11.7 (73)
GWS 16.9 (105)
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