On a perfect evening for football in front of a capacity and raucous SCG crowd, the hometown Swans jumped the Magpies, building a lead in excess of 30 points at times and seemingly destined for the Grand Final. This Craig McRae side is made of something different, more resilient, more fun to just roll over like that and slowly, but surely worked their way back to striking distance. In a pulsating final term, Collingwood would relentlessly drive the ball inside their F50, while Sydney appeared almost powerless to stop destiny, however a different type of alignment took place, and some 26 years after the last Preliminary Final at this famous ground, the ultimate result was identical, a one-point win to the Swans and a date on that last Saturday in September against the Cats. Please find our individual player ratings and assessments thanks to @Jimmy Day (Sydney) & @Tim Hunt (Collingwood).
Sydney – (Jimmy Day)
 Dane Rampe – 5
This was a really difficult rating. On one hand, Rampe only managed 7 disposals with 0 intercept possessions – not great as a defender. However, he had 6 tackles, 2 clearances, 5 contested possessions, and went at 86% efficiency in a high-pressure game. He was staunch in defence and made sure his opponents earned everything throughout the game. He gets a pass – just.
 Tom McCartin – 4
Didn’t have much to do for a lot of the game. Just put a body on his opponent and not give them space – the Pies’ forward entries helped with that. Finished with 8 disposals – only 4 were effective and 5 intercept possessions. I feel bad giving him a 4, but his output matched that, even if his game didn’t feel like a trainwreck – just not much to do and he only did it okay.
 Nick Blakey – 6
The Lizard had an almost game. He ran hard, broke lines, and used the ball well. But he also made some errors, got caught a few times, and late in the game allowed his opponents to have too much space. He breaks the lines well, and even on an off day still does significant damage with time and space afforded to him.
 Jake Lloyd – 7
A perennial Supercoach goat, Jake Lloyd still flies under the radar. He had 21 disposals at 86% efficiency. He rebounded all day and, as always, uses the ball incredibly well. One of the seasoned campaigners for the Swans, he was ever reliable – and even had a centre clearance. You know what you will get with Lloyd, and rarely does he fail to deliver.
 Paddy McCartin – 4
Similar to his brother, it was more the lack of opportunity to impact that leads to the grade. Six disposals, half of which were intercepts. He took zero marks, so his aerial threat was neutralised, but he also did his part limiting the Collingwood forwards. A game not for the big fellas most of the time, so there wasn’t much to do for Paddy. What a story for him though, now heading to a Grand Final.
 Justin McInerney – 7
The running man who also doesn’t mind the physicality. He finished with 13 disposals @ 92%, with balanced numbers of contested and uncontested possessions. The highlight was him telegraphing a switch of play and being able to spoil just outside his F50, secure the ball, and then run into an open goal. Collingwood was pressing at that time, and his play released the pressure gauge a little. His job on Josh Daicos gains him a point as whether it was a tag, or just being in his eyeline significantly impacted the influence and output of the older Daicos.
 Errol Gulden – 8
Gulden was in everything. 20 disposals (10 contested), 7 tackles, 20 pressure acts, and 0.2. He missed some clutch shots – especially in the final term – but that’s a small blip on what was a fantastic game. Where he lacked being clutch in front of goal, he was clutch defensively, laying some momentum-changing and goal-saving tackles at key moments.
 Chad Warner – 9
Was the clear best on ground at half-time. The Pies put some work into him in the second half, hence the rating isn’t as high as it was tracking towards, but when the game was hot early, The Chad was everywhere. 22 disposals (12 contested), match high 644 metres gained, 4 clearances (three from centre bounces), 9 inside 50’s, 2 goal assists, and 1.1. The more I think about it, even an 8 is probably underselling The Chad. He can hurt teams in a number of ways, but especially with his explosiveness at stoppages. Okay, I’ve convinced myself the initial assessment of 8 was wrong – The Chad, take a 9 for your game today!
 Callum Mills – 9
Mills was also in the top couple of players on the ground. He does the run-with role well in the sense of putting a body on them at stoppages and preventing the spread his opponents bring to the game. But he doesn’t stop there – he runs all day and impacts at both ends of the ground. 27 disposals, 5 tackles, 22 pressure acts, 6 score involvements, and three clearances emphasise the variety of ways that Mills impacts the game.
 Isaac Heeney – 6
Equal team-high score involvements with six, 6 tackles, and 1.1 from 16 disposals. This was a solid game from Heeney, without being dominant. He got to good positions and got involved in scoring chains, but it didn’t feel like he took over the match how we know he can. He’s building, and if the Cats aren’t careful, he may just take over the big one next Saturday.
 Sam Reid – 5*
Reid competed well until he was subbed out with an apparent adductor issue. He kicked a goal, was a serious aerial threat, and supported Hickey in the ruck. The Swans’ structure was compromised a bit with his exit, and they will miss his versatility if he isn’t cleared for next Saturday. He did what he could in the game time he had.
 Will Hayward – 3
I’m a big fan of Hayward. He is combative, he stands up in big moments, and he can ignite the Swans. Today, he was hardly sighted. He finished with just the nine disposals and only one score involvement. It wasn’t his best game, but there is upside for next week. Hayward didn’t really impact the contest and will want to stand up next Saturday.
 Tom Papley – 7
Some people might think this is unders for Papley – I think I’m being a little generous. Yes, he kicked 3.2 – but that was the extent of his score involvements. He applied limited pressure, but did win 11 contested possessions, showing his willingness to win the hard ball. He went at 50% efficiency, so it was a weird game for him. He sets the Swans alight and gets in opposition faces … but he couldn’t carry that through to considerable impact in multiple facets that you want from a good small forward.
 Lance Franklin – 7
Buddy was great at times, and at others, tried to do too much. He finished with 2.1 but his main moment was a fantastic, contested mark late in the last quarter. The Pies were surging, the Swans were trying to run down the clock, and Buddy latched onto the contested chest mark with just under two minutes to go. He had some moments, and you’d have to think we might see one or two more before 6pm next Saturday.
 Ryan Clarke – 6
Blanketed Nick Daicos for much of the game before the Pie was swung forward. He had only the 7 disposals, but also 6 tackles showing his hard edge. He kicked a goal early and had 20 pressure acts. He made a point of being a body in contests and limiting the run of those he was playing on.
 Tom Hickey – 9
Pretty epic game from the journeyman ruckman. 15 disposals, 15 pressure acts, 11 contested possessions – one of which was a crucial pack mark late in the last, five clearances, and 27 hit outs. He out-bodied the Pies rucks and was the dominant ruckman on the ground. He also competed in the contests, tackling, and trying to clear the ball. He gave his mids the first look at they capitalised well for chunks of the game, from his tap dominance.
 Luke Parker – 7
It’s probably reflective of Parker’s career, but he just flies under the radar. He competes up forward or on the ball, is rarely out-bodied, and loves the contest. He was the only Swan to have less than 50% disposal efficiency – hence his lower rating – but was still important at stoppages and won his share of the footy. He hit the scoreboard (1.0) as well from long range for the first of the game. You know what you’re going to get from Parker and we saw that all day.
 James Rowbottom – 9
His performance probably flew under the radar in comparison to some of the more household names, but Rowbottom was fantastic. 10 tackles, 18 disposals (13 contested), 1.1, and an equal game-high 27 pressure acts. He was regularly under the pack and dishing the ball out to teammates, harassing opposition players ensuring that they couldn’t get clean disposals and impacted his team’s gameplay, especially in the front half.
 Robbie Fox – 5
The Fantastic Mr Fox – he’s probably never been called that, but I couldn’t resist. He competed okay, but not a huge influence. 14 disposals, and six intercepts. He used the ball fairly well out of the back half and impacted his opponents. Did his job for most of the day.
 Oliver Florent – 6
Was okay, but not brilliant. He competed manfully, given the situation and had flashes of brilliance – quick handballs or being in the right place at the right time – but didn’t always use the ball well.
 Logan McDonald – 4
Benefitted somewhat from Reid’s early departure after half time as the ball was kicked to him a little more. Kicked a goal after a towering, contested pack mark from his six disposals, but that was about all from the young bloke. Has shown a lot this year but will need to get more involved next week to help his teammates otherwise Cats defenders will zone off and intercept.
 Dylan Stephens – 4
Another of the Swans’ role players. Was in everything early but had a limited impact across much of the match. Kicked an early goal and got involved in much of what the Swans did early, but drifted out of the game.
Medi-Sub  Braeden Campbell – 3
Got an opportunity but was shaky. The intensity was high from the start, and the sub struggled to find his footing during the game. He made a few questionable decisions, fumbled a little, and got caught a few times as he struggled to match the game’s fast pace. He’d be unlucky to not be sub next week, but he didn’t do a great deal to ensure his spot either.
Collingwood – (Tim)
 Brayden Maynard – 5
Guys like Maynard who play with their heart on their sleeve will occasionally make silly errors, and Maynard was guilty of this a few times tonight. He was beaten a few times in the air – when matched up against the far taller Lance Franklin – and though not disgraced, can’t argue that he won his position.
 Darcy Moore – 7
I don’t know about you, but I reckon Darcy Moore might be a pretty special footballer. He gave it his all tonight, finishing with a game-high 10 intercept possessions, and ensured that none of Franklin, Logan McDonald or Sam Reid could get simple shots at goal. When the Pies were under pressure most, he stood up, and should be forever proud of that.
 Jeremy Howe – 5
I thought it was an uncharacteristically disappointing night for Howe. He seemed to spend the entire night flitting between Franklin, McDonald and Reid (when he was on the ground) and as a result was never fully able to impose himself on the match. For a guy who lives and breathes intercept marks, some crucial drops hurt his team.
 Nick Daicos – 7
The familiar match-up of Ryan Clarke seemed destined to rob the young phenom of his opportunity to positively impact a preliminary final, particularly when Clarke goaled in the first term. But as any great player does, Daicos kept fighting, and was able to get the better of their battle in the end, finishing with 23 touches, seven score involvements, and a goal of his own. The loss will burn all summer long, but he ought to be proud of his performance.
 Nathan Murphy – 3
For a second during the game, I thought about comparing Murphy to his teammate Howe. By the end of the game, though, I concluded that it wasn’t an apt comparison. Though Murphy has ability in the air, and looks a solid enough defensive option, he’s a fair way off being compared to Jeremy Howe, and tonight was largely a non-factor.
 Jack Crisp – 9
It may just be me, but you know that poem that your crazy uncle often sights – “if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs” – well, that almost perfectly applies to Jack Crisp tonight. He was simply sensational. Admittedly, he started slowly (as did the rest of his team) but once he got going, he led from the front and nearly got his team over the line. 29 touches, 20 contested, nine score involvements, 11 clearances and 10 inside-50s – it was one of the great finals performances.
 Will Hoskin-Elliott – 7
I struggled with a grade to give Hoskin-Elliott, but ultimately settled on seven. Here’s my logic – he plays a tough role and ultimately if he can contribute more than a goal while not making it easy for his opponent, then that’s a win. He kicked two tonight, amongst 11 touches and five score involvements, and really if that’s what you’re going to get from him, then you take it every day of the week.
 Scott Pendlebury – 8
As always, Pendlebury played like he had one or two extra seconds with the ball than any other player on the field. Behind Crisp, he was the Pies’ most impactful player, sending the ball inside 50 seven times and finishing with three score involvements and one goal assist. The problem with being as brilliant as Pendlebury has been that a performance like tonight’s gets mixed in amongst the other hundred plus really good games he’s played. But don’t forget it – Pendlebury is elite (he has a basketball background too) and could very well lead the Pies to ultimate glory in 12 months’ time.
 John Noble – 6
Is it fair to say that this was an unremarkable performance from Noble? He’ll have games every now and then when he can use his run and dash to break the lines and get the ball moving forward, but tonight he was a bit more subdued. He far from disgraced himself but also never quite broke the shackles.
 Jordan De Goey – 4
If the first two weeks of the finals had shown us all the star De Goey could be, tonight showed us the other side of the coin. The one that, when forced to go head-to-head with a quality opponent, can come up short. Obviously, there are times when great players get beaten, and to his credit, De Goey didn’t drop his head, but the fact remains that in one of the biggest games of his career, he was beaten. Whether that ultimately costs him money, or sees him to move to St Kilda, only time will tell.
 Darcy Cameron – 6
Look, firstly, can we all please stop being surprised that Tom Hickey has gone to Sydney and flourished as a ruckman under the tutelage of Dean Cox? We all remember what, and more importantly who, Dean Cox was, right? I know I’m supposed to be talking about Cameron, and I will now – I thought he battled manfully. He was beaten early but fought his way through the rest of the game, ultimately finishing with 17 touches, 16 hit outs and a goal. Was he beaten by Hickey? Probably, but not by enough to really matter.
 Beau McCreery – 6
Similar to Hoskin-Elliott, I found it difficult to rate the game of McCreery. Obviously, he had a far from ideal lead up – he was involved in a car accident ahead of the game that fortunately didn’t see him lose his place in the side. He also contributed two goals and was a fairly consistent option forward of the ball for the Pies, especially one searing run through the middle to launch a late attack. He finishes the year with 14 goals from his 22 games this season and looks a good prospect for the Pies heading into 2023.
 Ash Johnson – 2
A really disappointing game from Johnson to close out his 2022 season. When he was brought into the side in round 18, he hit the ground running, kicking two goals on debut as the Pies saw off a late challenge from the Crows. From this point forward, he played the role of ‘unconventional full forward’ extremely well, kicking 15 goals across his first seven games, and contributing to a forward line that seemed almost impossible to guard against. Unfortunately, the last two weeks have seen the quietest performances from Johnson, culminating in tonight’s effort where he managed just the two disposals.
 Brody Mihocek – 3
As disappointing as Johnson was, I’d have to say that for most of the game, Mihocek was worse. It’s not necessarily his fault either (nor is it Johnson’s fault, for that matter), as he’s always struck me as a player more suited to a role as the second or third tall forward. When he needs to be the focal point, as he was needed tonight when all their other options deep inside attack were failing, his weaknesses as a marking target come to the fore. Here’s hoping the Pies can land a tall forward option in this year’s (I’m assuming gambling-sponsored) trade period.
 Steele Sidebottom – 7
As with Pendlebury (or is it ‘de-Pendlebury’) Sidebottom delivered what he promised – four quarters of consistent effort, pretty excellent footy and as much run and carry as he could manage. It’s interesting how seamlessly he has moved from being one of the game’s premier midfielders – he averaged just under 30 touches a game in 2018 – to a hardworking, run and carry outside player averaging less than 18 touches this season. Tonight, showed that, though his days remaining in the comp may be numbered, he’s still more than capable of making the most of his talent.
 Mason Cox – 2*
After a really impressive display last week, where he kicked a goal to go with his ten touches and 19 hit outs, tonight was a decidedly less impactful performance. Admittedly, two out of ten might be rough given he left the game in the third quarter with a groin injury, but I felt that his team needed more from him when he was on the field, and he couldn’t deliver.
 Jamie Elliott – 6
If this season has proven anything, it’s that you don’t want to take on Jamie Elliott in a battle of nerves. Nevertheless, it must be frustrating for him (and I’m sure all Pies fans too) that he’s not about six inches taller. Given his aerial talents, as well as his goal kicking nous, a six-foot four-inch Jamie Elliott could be unbelievable. The five-foot ten-inch one is pretty good too, and though he wasn’t at his best tonight, he still kicked a couple of goals and was consistently dangerous.
 Josh Daicos – 6
He may have been expecting his brother to get tagged, but I don’t reckon Josh Daicos would have gone to sleep last night thinking he’d get tagged too. In fact, I’m not even sure that I’d call what Justin McInerney did to Daicos ‘tagging’, but he certainly got inside his head. Daicos was fumbly early and was effectively the poster child for Collingwood’s slow start. Fortunately, the rest of his team got going, and as they did, so did Daicos, finishing with 14 touches, a goal and more than 400m gained.
 Patrick Lipinski – 6
He’s almost gone under the radar as one of the recruits of the year this season, but Lipinski has proved to be an important cog in the Collingwood midfield. Tonight, was no exception as he added 19 disposals, six tackles and five clearances. His run and carry through the middle have been important, and with a full season in black and white now under his belt, I reckon we’re just about ready to see his best.
 Isaac Quaynor – 6
Speaking of seeing someone’s best, can I say I’m a massive fan of Quaynor. I reckon he has some really special abilities and now that he has a few seasons in the league, we’re just about to see him take the next step. Tonight, did not dissuade me from this view – he had 18 touches, seven tackles and had an equal game-high 10 intercept possessions as he and his teammate Moore consistently repelled the ball from their defence. His speed and evasiveness have always been a feature of his game, but if he can add a midfield string to his bow, he could become a truly special talent.
 Trent Bianco – 5
It must be really tough coming into a settled side and needing to replace one of their best players. That’s been the task required of Bianco – to replace the injured Taylor Adams – and proved nigh-on impossible. This isn’t to say Bianco hasn’t tried – he gave his best tonight, but only managed eight disposals to go with one goal and four tackles. He looks to have a decent future and could become a really good player, but in important moments the Pies seemed one midfielder short and unfortunately Bianco couldn’t fill the Adams-sized hole.
 Jack Ginnivan – 5
Memo to the rest of the competition – tackle Jack Ginnivan around the waist. That’s right, his waist, that area around the top of his shorts. Yes, he might get a handball, but you know what won’t happen? You won’t give away a stupid high tackle free kick! And let’s be honest, Ginnivan is getting tackled high. Yes, he might shrug his shoulder, blah blah blah, but if you tackled him around the waist, all the shoulder shrugging in the world couldn’t get that to his neck. Anyway, rant aside, I thought this was a pretty typical game from Ginnivan. He kicked a goal, set up another, was dangerous inside his attacking half and ultimately tried his guts out.
Medi-Sub  Nathan Kreuger – 4
A really tough assignment for Kreuger to come on in the third term of an increasingly tense preliminary final, but I thought he acquitted himself reasonably well. I thought he was an interesting choice as the sub coming in, but I guess the Pies coaches must know more than some fat bloke writing player reviews (who’d have thought that?). In a little more than 45 minutes of game time, Kreuger had four touches, five hit outs and three score involvements.