Collingwood v Melbourne – The Qualifying Final Quarter By Quarter

As the rain tumbled down at a packed MCG, it was a true clash of footy heavyweights to open the 2023 AFL Finals.

After a blistering season, the Pies finished on top, and though they were troubled with injuries late in the season, a thumping win over Essendon put any doubts as to their hunger to rest.

Meanwhile, the Dees finished top four and had some injury worries of their own, with Clayton Oliver working his way back into the team in recent weeks.

The weather was all but going to nullify the big forwards, which meant the team that adjusted better was going to come out on top – a five-goal to-one first quarter left no doubt as to who that would be, and though the Dees would come back hard later in the game, the damage was done early by the Pies, and it would be enough to secure them a place in the Preliminary Final.

HB has all the details from this massive clash as he looks at the game, the highlights, the players, and the controversies, quarter by quarter.





Well, this is gonna get a lot of air time over the next day or two, isn’t it?

As the Dees finally worked themselves a centre break, with Max Gawn taking clean possession and feeding Angus Brayshaw, the helmeted Demon ran toward half-forward and sunk the boot into the footy. Brayden Maynard came at him, front on and leapt in the air to attempt a smother.

The ball cleared his outstretched hands, and on the way down, he collected Brayshaw flush on the chin with his shoulder.

Brayshaw hit the deck and did not move. The downfield free kick went to Bayley Fritsch, who slotted a goal as his teammate was attended by support staff and a stretcher was called. And then the sparks started flying.

Maynard and Viney were the two who seemed to get into the most, and I expect the AFL will garnish their wages like they are Pizza Hut employees who dropped a large supreme, but it was apparent that Viney wanted to fly the flag. I understand that, but for the remainder of the quarter, Viney looked stuffed!

Will Maynard get suspended for this action?

Look, he shouldn’t. You cannot freeze in mid-air and allow someone to pass under you while you hang there, waiting for them to move to safety. That’s not how it works. Maynard braced for contact and hit Brayshaw in the head, ending his game and adding to his already worrying collection of head knocks. However, some will argue that if the AFL are serious about stamping out head-high contact, Maynard will have to go.

I can’t abide that.

We are consistently moving more and more toward being a sport where everything is legislated against. Maynard was not lining Brayshaw up with an intent to make him pay – he was attempting to smother the kick. It’s a bloody football action. He had to jump to do it. Allowing him free passage to kick is not within the spirit of the game.

That there was contact is unfortunate for Brayshaw and the Dees, but actions like this have to be protected as part of the fabric of the game. The physicality of the game has been watered down over the last 20 years. Bumps are all but dead and tackling is now monitored in case someone is a bit too aggressive, but being caught in the air and bracing for inevitable contact… for god’s sake I hope someone displays a bit of common sense and throws this out before any more talk of suspensions and ramifications on Collingwood over the rest of the finals series.

I understand passion in the moment and people crying foul online immediately after the incident – nobody wants to see players knocked out. However, this remains a contact spot, and I’m sorry to say, in a contact sport, there will sometimes be contact. This was one of those moments.

Play on.




There was a stark difference in the ball movement of the clubs in the first stanza, with Collingwood’s slingshot play from half-back far too potent for the Dees to combat. By pushing their half-forwards right up to half-back, it limited the Melbourne offence to long kicks into a congested forward half, and that is something the Magpies have preyed upon all season.

Blokes like Jack Crisp and Steele Sidebottom burned the Dees on the counterattack, finding players on the spread as their teammates hustled to get back inside 50 where there was plenty of space to be found.

Bobby Hill was electrifying – see below, and Jamie Elliott was far too elusive for Michael Hibberd, who really got thrown to the wolves having to play on him. Hibberd can play tall, but he cannot play fast, and that is the conundrum coaches face when looking for a matchup on Elliott. Unfortunately for the Pies, Elliott’s radar was a bit off.

Hill, however, was on. As was Jack Crisp, who blasted a massive goal from outside fifty to bring the crowd to its feet.

It was obvious that Melbourne needed to do something different to slow the Magpies down. They were first to the fall of the footy at both ends of the ground and seemed to be more willing to run hard into space. The quarter-time siren could not come quickly enough, and in truth, the Dees were lucky to be within 20 points. It could have been over.



I’m a Tom Mitchell fan, and I want to see him do well. As many of you know, I am a Hawks man, so I retain a soft spot for the Brownlow Medallist, but staging for free kicks really tests the friendship.

Mitchell tried it on in a heated first quarter, going weak at the knees when Christian Petracca and he had a little coming together. The umpire ignored it and it was a bloody good job, as that type of crap has no part of finals footy. Mitchell should know better and stuff like that tarnishes a player.

Don’t be that player, Tom. It is beneath you.




I mentioned him above, but the work of Bobby Hill in the opening quarter deserves a section of its own.

He was doing the damage, working up to the wings and doubling back inside 50. With the Demons’ defence playing a style where they permit their players to zone off, Hill worked into space beautifully, and not only slotted a couple of goals, but laid three tackles, as well.

That last bit is important, as it was viewed as a weak point in his game coming into the club, but watching him in this one, and throughout the season, it is evident that he has taken that criticism and worked on both his application and his desire to do the team stuff.

I watched him quite a bit at GWS and always thought he ran around at three-quarter pace, but in this Collingwood side, he has well and truly hit top gear.





After being smashed in the first quarter, what was immediately evident was that the Demons needed to shake things up. They needed to start winning the footy, stop the run and overlap of the Magpies, and start getting deeper entries inside 50.

They did two of the three.

The deeper inside 50s only came via long, aimless kicks hoping for a big mark, but the combination of a wet footy, a forward line that was not really a great marking cohort, and playing against a polished defence meant that they had to rely on squeezing Collingwood and forcing them to play a slower game.

They succeeded, too.

The game became an arm wrestle, with the Pies retaining an air of danger when they had the ball, but the discipline of the Demons saw the contest on a lot more even terms.

Clayton Oliver started winning clearances, whilst Max Gawn used his bucket hands to start clunking marks and pumped the Dees inside 50. He’d go on to finish the game with four ‘Get out of Jail’ grabs that were vital to the Dees both opening the game up and frustrating the Collingwood mids waiting for the footy to come to ground.

However, even with the team winning the ball and preventing Collingwood from scoring, we entered halftime with the teams adding just a goal each to their totals.

Two out of three ain’t bad, but when the one you didn’t do was score… it takes the shine off the other two, quite a bit.



After playing what looked to me like lazy footy in the first quarter, Kysaiah Pickett decided to come to the party in the second quarter.

He had one effective disposal in the first quarter but the second emphasised just how dangerous he can be for this Melbourne team.

In the preview I half-wrote this week (sorry… the missus got Starfield on XBox yesterday, and I got stuck with the kids) I highlighted Pickett as the key to Melbourne’s forward line. It was always going to be a night where the high markers were taken out of the equation, so it was going to be left to the small players to make an impact.

Maybe the work of Bobby Hill in the first quarter lit a fire under Kozzie?

He had six touches as he worked further up the ground, able to finally use his pace to put a bit of distance between Isaac Quaynor and himself, and whilst he wasted the footy in front of goal, he was one of the genuine livewires in the game.

Pickett’s best is brilliant, but too often he lacks the drive to get to the front of packs. In the first quarter, I didn’t see him front and centre once, but he started to do it in this quarter before abandoning what should be his bread and butter again after halftime.

However, if you’re looking for the man who could ignite this Demons side, look no further than Pickett, as his second-quarter demonstrated just how effective he can be.



I loved the matchup on the outer wing between Steele Sidebottom and Ed Langdon. Two veteran outside runners with vastly different styles.

Watching Sidebottom in this quarter, he seemed content to play the defensive wing role, drifting back to half-back to receive the pressure on his defence. This put Langdon in a bit of a bind – did he go with him to even up the numbers, or play behind the footy, himself?

He settled on somewhere in the middle, but whenever the two were able to contest the footy, it seemed as though Sidebottom’s greater strength and balance won the day. Langdon will run until his heart bursts, but in body-to-body contests, he can be beaten quite easily, and it was as though Sidebottom relished that opportunity. He shrugged Langdon off a couple of times, both in marking contests and at ground level to secure the ball and get the Pies out of trouble. It was an intriguing clash of styles that would make AJ Styles nod in appreciation.

Sidebottom finished the quarter with 11 touches, but kicked under pressure quite a bit. Langdon seemed to find room when he had the footy and was able to hit targets a little more.

In the end, I had it for Sidebottom just, as he was able to beat Langdon for the footy when they were isolated, but it was close.






If you’ve ever doubted the impact Christian Petracca can have on a game of footy, I suggest keeping an eye on the way he moved through the contest in the third quarter. He was like a four-wheel drive, and not one of those ones the mums at my kid’s school drive when they clog up the sidestreets. No, I am talking about the ones built for off-roading.

He was able to make diamonds out of coal on a few occasions in this quarter, winning the footy, turning one way, then the other, losing an opponent and dishing off to a runner on the outside. With 12 touches and three clearances, it seemed like the only thing left for him to add was a snag to cap it off, but as seemed to be the case for the Dees, it just was not meant to be.

He drew a holding free kick inside 50 but close to the boundary with under a minute remaining in the quarter, but his shot faded left and hit the post. When you look at the contest of the game and how close the Dees got in the end, that footy fading left… there was so much riding on it; we just didn’t know it at the time.

Whilst his disposals lacked the cleanliness they’d normally have, he finished with 29 touches and seven score involvements as he and Max Gawn put the Dees on their back in the third quarter.



Every time the Dees came at the Pies in the ‘Premiership Quarter’ it seemed as though the Pies had the answers.

The Dees started fast, but missed their first three shots at goal. This is where things will get muddied, so this bit is important – none of these were easy shots. The stats may say Melbourne had a heap of inside 50s, but the quality of them was shitty. Joel Smith missed from 50, Clayton Oliver missed from 50, and Fritsch missed from 50, as well. All very shallow entries.

Lo and behold, almost as though we knew it would, the Pies got out on one of those misses, Brody Mihocek snuck away from Steven May and pinpointed the streaking (streaking as in running… not as in taking his pants off) Bobby Hill, who kicked his third and drove a dagger into the hearts of the Dees.

McStay then goaled, before Sparrow slotted one, then McStay again, then Neal-Bullen, then de Goey.

Of course, when the Dees had their chances late in the quarter, they botched them. An Ed Langdon miss advantage following a free kick to Bayley Fritsch would have had Simon Goodwin cursing his team’s idiocy. It was a horrid error.

And despite all the hard work from the Dees, the margin actually grew in the third quarter. The Dees thought they had the answers. The Pies just changed the questions.



About a month ago, I was up with my son, who decided he only wanted to sleep laying on my chest, and would only settle if I held him upright.

Good times for me.

As a result, I found myself up at about 2am and looking for something to watch. I settled on the 1980s classic, The Club, with Jack Thompson. Though it wasn’t named, The Club was obviously Collingwood, and even back then, it was the one club players wanted to be, and as this game continued, I started watching how the players who were playing elsewhere and made their way to ‘The Club’ combined.

Pat Lipinski, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Oleg Markov, Tom Mitchell, Jack Crisp, Darcy Cameron, Bobby Hill, Jeremy Howe, Taylor Adams… they all landed at Collingwood from somewhere else, but they are all well and truly part of ‘The Club’ now.

Watching these blokes combine, putting everything they had into contests… it was evident just how strong the pull of this black and white jumper is. In front of over 92,000 people at the MCG, it is the stuff kids dream about when they lay in bed at night and fantasise about naked ladies playing AFL footy.

If you were sitting on another team, barely drawing flies to your games, and you look at this team and what their fans create at the game… why the hell wouldn’t you want to join? Two years ago, this club was at a low ebb. To see what they’ve built since then… it’s bloody phenomenal. ‘The Club’ should be proud.





Geez, the last quarter was a whirlwind, wasn’t it?

It seemed like a boxing match where the Pies knew they were well ahead on points and were just content with keeping their guard up and absorbing whatever the Dees were able to throw at them, secure in the knowledge that as long as they didn’t suffer a knockout, they were going to have their hand raised.

That said, it was a dramatic reversal of form for a team that usually finishes all over the top of the opposition.

However, one player that did not let up was Darcy Moore. The Collingwood captain had owned the contest all game against Tom McDonald, who had a huge ask to fill the contested marking role in his first game back in ages.

But that was not Darcy Moore’s problem. He doesn’t care that you’ve been out of the side, Tom. He couldn’t give a rat’s fat backside where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. His job is to put the brakes on you and make sure you don’t take the game over.

A couple of Moore’s spoils late in the game were spectacular – one was one McDonald, as Moore made considerable ground on a hack kick inside fifty. At the last moment, he dived and connected with the footy, launching it away from the contest and saving the Pies in the process. Moments later, Clayton Oliver launched a long shot at goal, leaving two players battling for position on the goal line.

They may as well have wandered off to have a cuddle somewhere else, as Moore tracked the footy back and punched it through the goals with authority.

He was the General in the Collingwood defence, ably supported by the man with the most punchable face in the game, Nathan Murphy, as Moore collected another defensive double-double, with 11 intercepts and ten one-percenters. He also sent the ball outside 50 on eight occasions as he once again proved his immense value to this side.

The Pies walk taller with Moore in the lineup, and games like this are evidence as to why.



After sitting back at three-quarter time and all but putting this one in the book, with a few minutes remaining, the Dees moved to within seven points of the lead.

Seven points… how the hell did this occur?

Well, it’s called the weight of numbers. The Pies were excellent in making their shots at goal count. They were efficient with the footy and to emphasise just how efficient they were, we can look at one of the key stats – inside 50s.

Melbourne had 69 of them in this game. That is dominance, but they just continued to roost the ball long and high – Clayton Oliver, I’m looking at you, mate – and the Pies just murdered the footy in just about every aerial contest as a result.

In contrast, Collingwood had 37 inside 50s.

+32 for the Dees and they lost? What the hell? But it explains how Melbourne were able to get back into the game despite the Pies looking so much better for the majority of it. Some will lay it out there as though the Dees lost this game – I don’t buy it. Collingwood takes what the opposition gives them. They have done it all year. You think you can squeeze them and pressure them into mistakes inside 50? Think again. They have a defence that is about as unflappable as a bird with no wings. But had the Dees been able to convert a bit better, particularly in the third quarter with their shallow entries, I reckon we would not have seen such a docile Magpies outfit in the last quarter.

Yes, for some the story will remain that the Dees dominated and were let down by the quality of their inside 50s. There is some truth in it, but without taking into account the way Collingwood could have and would have reacted to a more efficient Melbourne team, you’re really only fooling yourself.



A massive game from the lockdown defender in this one, responsible for the elusive Kysaiah Pickett for long stretches.

Pickett finished with one goal to his name (and three misses, which could have changed the way their matchup was viewed) but in the last quarter, Isaac Quaynor stood up several times to make big defensive plays.

He finished the game with nine intercepts and was rock solid, keeping his eyes on the footy at all times and refusing to be muscled out of the contest. Pickett did get away from him a bit in the second quarter, as covered above, but you had the feeling that IQ had the better of him in crucial situations.

Many were touting Quaynor as a potential AA defender this season, but his role is not all that flashy. Blokes like James Sicily and Tom Stewart seem to have the eye of selectors (more Stewart than Sicily) but Quaynor provides a great base for the Pies to launch from half-back. He is a meat and potatoes player in a league where people are already looking at the dessert menu, and he stood tall in this game, particularly in the last quarter.



Speaking of standing tall in the last quarter, despite a pretty quiet outing through the first three periods, Scott Pendlebury displayed a calm head down back when the Dees continued to press late in the game.

Whilst his 15 touches won’t see this game go down as one of his more memorable performances, he had seven on them in the tight final quarter, including three vital intercepts to steady the Magpie ship. I said that Darcy Moore was the General of the defence, and stand by that, but I reckon having Pendlebury back there to control the troops at points made Moore a little more confident.

There were moments in the game when Pendles seemed to have that second he always has at his disposal closed down. Some of his touches were rushed, but on the last line late in the game, his composure was worth its weight in gold.



As much as I have praised the Collingwood defence in the last quarter – and it is well-deserved – the way the Dees fought this one out and threatened late in the game will have them looking back and wondering what could have been.

Their wall across the middle of the ground – so often smashed down by the Collingwood run in the first quarter – started to look very steady in the last. Steven May started to dominate in the air, risking life and limb to ensure the ball did not get out the back past him, and whenever the Pies looked to clear the footy, it seemed as though Max Gawn floated into the frame and either marked it or brought it to ground for his smalls to run onto.

It was a gutsy effort by the Dees. Alas, it was to no avail.




31 touches from Clayton Oliver in this one – the first time he has notched 30+ since he returned from injury. Should be cause for celebration, right?

Hmmm… not really. I didn’t see him lower his eyes once hen kicking the footy. Just long and high every time. His two score involvements back up that assessment.

Mason Cox attacked Max Gawn with all he had at the opening bounce. Whilst Gawn didn’t take long to get the contest on his terms, you have to like Cox at least flying the flag a little, even if he was completely overmatched over the course of the game.

Jacob Van Rooyen’s hit on Dan McStay… as much as I reckon Maynard should not have a case to answer, I reckon JVR will have a week or two of for that one, as it was an intentional forearm to the chin. He may have been aiming for the chest, but… silly move.

I wonder whether that opens the door for Grundy to return? The commentators were yapping about Gawn moving forward to give the Dees a marking target – maybe Big Brodie has a part to play in 2023 yet?

I wonder whether James Jordon will get a call-up to replace Angus Brayshaw next week. He is without a deal for 2024 and I reckon whether he gets into this finals side may very well dictate whether he is re-signing with the club, or not.

Finally, I whacked Tom Mitchell early in this review for staging. I didn’t like it, but the way he tackled Petracca in the last quarter… THAT is the type of play that endears you to your new club and their supporters. Forget playing for free kicks – tackle like that, with no bullshit about you, and even your most ardent detractors will not have a leg to stand on. I loved it – it was redemption for him.


Not the prettiest game of footy you’ll see, but the conditions meant that the team that played harder and smarter would win this. The Pies went hard early, and were smarter for the remainder of the game.

That’s a nice way of saying the Dees also played pretty dumb footy. Ignoring a leading player and going repeatedly high and long to the goal square when you have bugger-all players capable of marking… that’s dumb footy.

The Pies now get a week off to rest up and hit the Prelim.

The Dees play the winner of the Blues and Swans and risk the dreaded straight-sets exit. Seriously, this team is better than that and they need to lift their heads.

For all those who support The Mongrel – massive thanks to you. The reviews get a bit longer and a bit more involved from here, so I really appreciate you sticking with us – HB



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