R14 – Collingwood v North Melbourne – What Happened???

It was a Sunday afternoon snoozer at Marvel Stadium. A Collingwood team ravaged by injuries, taking on a North Melbourne outfit that had only registered a single victory in 2024, against a Harley Reid-less West Coast. We weren’t expecting much, and nothing noteworthy happened. Collingwood did enough, and although their opponents weren’t much chop, the lack of experience proved telling, as the Magpies couldn’t put their foot down and walked away with a predictably boring win.


What did you say happened? North Melbourne did what? Then Collingwood did what?



The reigning premiers have had to deal with more than their fair share as they mount their charge for back-to-back flags. Adversity has struck them at almost every turn. Their injury list has consistently grown, with names like Brody Mihocek, Scott Pendlebury, Jordan De Goey, Dan McStay, Jamie Elliott, Mason Cox, and Tom Mitchell all missing from their best 22. Their reinforcements have done their jobs, and honestly have exceeded expectations, but even they are starting to fall over as well, and this week, the Magpies have called upon their sixth debutant of the season, Tew Jiath, the younger brother of Hawthorn’s Changkuoth.

All of that aside, we also can’t go on without talking about the cruel side of the game, with Nathan Murphy having to retire on medical advice thanks to a series of concussions. This would sink most clubs, but Collingwood has something special about them. They never give up on the game no matter how far down they are, and their next solider in approach has worked wonders, so much so that not only are they back inside the top eight after temporarily falling out, but they’re still in up to their ears to mount a challenge for the top four.

But Arden Street could only dream of the adversity Collingwood has faced. This is a team that has struggled for much of the 21st century, but 2024 might just be their lowest ebb. Alastair Clarkson was brought in to try and weave some of his coaching magic, but after missing a large chunk of last season thanks to those allegations that I won’t talk about, he really hasn’t had much chance to implement his style until this year. Even with that considered, this club has a long road ahead, and I mean a road the length of the country ahead of them to regain some level of respectability. Last week’s victory was a step in the right direction, but North Melbourne needs to give us more. So much more.



Kangaroo fans hoping for a continuation of last week’s win would’ve been disheartened after 71 seconds. Four kicks, four marks, and through Bobby Hill, the Magpies had the first goal of the game. However, it’s amazing what a victory can do to a team’s psyche because if this was six weeks ago, the Collingwood train would’ve kept rolling. But this time, North kept their heads up, and through immense pressure on the ball carrier, mounted a big challenge. First through Nick Larkey, then Larkey again, a Paul Curtis needle thread, the Kangaroos showed that they had come to play, and Craig McRae suddenly had a challenge on his hands.

Collingwood simply couldn’t find a way through North’s strong team defence, and every time they exited defensive 50, it would come straight back, inevitably for another Kangaroo major. Larkey took a mark on the behind line and slotted his third, and after wunderkinds Wardlaw and Sheezel each went for home, North were five goals up, the crowd both stunned and overjoyed. Their team had come to play, and it showed no signs of slowing down, with Curtis popping up again, followed by Larkey’s fourth. With 10 seconds to play, Collingwood got a break, and a dashing run from Josh Daicos got the ball long and deep, with Lachie Schultz the beneficiary of a holding-the-ball advantage. But the quarter belonged to the Roos, who took an eye-watering 35-point lead into the first change.

The quarter-time break came at the worst time for North because Collingwood came out firing in the second term, determined to prove that as the reigning premier, this score was an aberration that could be fixed. It wasn’t pretty, but both Jack Crisp and Will Hoskin-Elliott kicked truly, and the margin was much more manageable. North were just ever so slightly off, their pressure dropped away, and they couldn’t get their tackles to stick, and it brought the Magpies back into the game.

But once again, North refused to yield. They made sure to get the ball into George Wardlaw’s hands as often as they could, and his beautiful kicking skills brought North’s forward line back to life. It seemed that every time Collingwood would claw the margin under five goals, North had the answer. Cam Zurhaar kicked his first, after a wayward first quarter, Collingwood answered through Schultz’s second, and then the miracles started rolling. Bailey Scott roosted from outside 50, before ruckman Tristan Xerri slotted a goal that ruckmen shouldn’t even attempt. Bobby Hill took the mark of the day in the goalsquare to give Collingwood their sixth, before North put their foot down once again. Xerri nailed his second from outside 50, before Sheezel and Zurhaar got their second each, and as the siren blew for half time, North had registered their highest score for the season, and took a commanding 48-point lead into the break.

It was North’s turn to burst out of the blocks after the break, and through some kicking fluency, the margin was stretched again from Cam Zurhaar. Collingwood needed another answer to avoid things spiralling even further out of control, and after a free kick to sub Reef McInnes, who came on at half time for the tactically removed Finlay Macrae, and another goal from Schultz, the lead was back down to 42. Will Phillips, a late inclusion for skipper Jy Simpkin, and who had been wearing Nick Daicos like a glove, got a confidence-boosting major from a stoppage to put more doubts in the minds of the black-and-white army.

As is tradition, Collingwood refused to die wondering and peppered the goals in a withering burst that netted them two much-needed goals, but more importantly, momentum and belief. Time on came, and North answered back with another two goals, before the Pies took control back. Debutant Tew Jiath hit Krueger on the chest for the conversion, Nick Daicos got off the leash, and as the final break arrived, Collingwood had pulled the margin back to 31 points, making for a pulsating last 30 minutes. They were close enough, the reigning champions, but North had done so much right all day, and this would be a big learning curve for Clarkson’s young charges.

You can just never write these Magpies off, as everyone found out in the final term. Through sheer workrate, Collingwood got the game going fully on their terms, and the Kangaroos couldn’t stop the avalanche. Clarkson made what can only be described as an eyebrow-raising sub at three-quarter time, taking Will Phillips off, and without a backup plan as to how to curtail Nick Daicos, the young superstar went to work. Now completely free from the shackles, it was Daicos who put the team on his back and carried them forward.

Harvey Harrison got the first of the last, and it felt like the inevitable was coming. Four minutes later, Hill kicked his third, and a running goal from Beau McCreery sank the stake further into North’s hearts. Another brilliant mark from Hill netted him his fourth for the afternoon, and as time on came, Nick Daicos sent a mongrel punt forward, his wayward kick somehow landing in the arms of Jeremy Howe, who duly converted, and the Magpies were in front for the first time since early in the first quarter.

For all the positives for North in the first three quarters, it had unravelled spectacularly, and even though the Magpies were less than a goal in front, they didn’t look like losing unless the Roos did something extraordinary. Slick ball movement created the perfect opportunity to get the lead back, and a selfless Larkey gave Brynn Teakle his first goal for the Kangaroos, and with less than five minutes on the clock, North were back in front.

But the Magpies kept coming. Howe had another chance to steal the game, but couldn’t convert, and with the ball now back in North’s hands they needed to be calm and composed. But the pressure was too much for them, and once they turned the ball over, Bobby Hill kicked his fifth, and Collingwood restored last-quarter order. Try as they might, North couldn’t find that last defining goal, and thanks to a couple of dubious non-calls (Nick Daicos throwing the ball in a stoppage, and the missed 50-metre penalty), and despite a Zac Fisher shot with 23 seconds left, Collingwood held on, coming from 54 points down to shut the door on the Roos with a one-point victory.



Normally, I’d go through nearly every player on every line, but in so many ways this was a tale of two halves, and who was good in the first chapter wasn’t sighted much in the second. Nick Larkey for example, had four first-quarter goals, and aside from the goal assist to Brynn Teakle, couldn’t get near it after quarter time.

The best player from a North perspective was George Wardlaw, who has stamped himself as the new man to beat in the race for the Rising Star. In the barnstorming first half, Wardlaw was everywhere, and his supreme kicking skills went a long way in getting his teammates in the best position possible. Wardlaw finished with 30 disposals, 10 score involvements, six clearances, six inside 50s, and a goal, but interestingly, whenever he was off the ground, Collingwood got a run on, so much so that late in the game, Wardlaw was thrown forward to keep his influence on the ground.

Nick Larkey’s opening quarter was exemplary, but once Darcy Moore locked him down, it was Cam Zurhaar’s time to step up, and step up he did, in a big way. With Larkey and Teakle playing deeper, Zurhaar threw his weight around further up the ground, and he was dangerous when he pushed himself closer to goal. Zurhaar finished with 19 touches, nine marks (five of which were inside 50), six tackles, five inside 50s and three goals.

Two other Roos that deserve a mention are Charlie Comben and Tristan Xerri. Since being moved to defence, Comben has looked more and more comfortable, and has found himself a permanent home in North’s best 22. An excellent intercept marker and decision maker, Comben was rock solid in the backline, finishing with 14 disposals (13 effective) and eight marks, all while keeping his direct opponent Nathan Krueger very quiet.

Xerri had an excellent battle with Darcy Cameron, and I really couldn’t split them. Xerri ventured forward more than Cameron did, and his two goals were critical in the Kangaroos getting as far ahead of North as they did. Xerri’s bullocking ruckwork was also very good, finishing with 30 hitouts, six tackles, four clearances, and of his 15 disposals, 11 of them were contested.

Cameron gave all he could in a huge effort to wear down Xerri. He started slowly, but like his team, Cameron got better as the game wore on, and by the end, arguably had the better of Xerri. A calming presence all over the ground, and regularly in the right position whenever his team needed a get-out-of-jail mark, Cameron finished the day with 16 disposals (most of which were in the defensive half of the ground), 10 contested possessions, 13 pressure acts and 35 hitouts.

The other intriguing battle was one that we didn’t expect until the first bounce. Will Phillips was a late inclusion after captain Jy Simpkin withdrew with a hamstring injury, and his task was made crystal clear. Operation: Nick Daicos. Everywhere Daicos went, Phillips was right there, and unexpectedly, this was a war between two players with completely different ideologies. In the three quarters Daicos and Phillips did battle, it was an arm wrestle that Daicos ever so slightly won, but credit where it’s due, Phillips gave him nothing and more than held his own. Phillips ended the afternoon on the pine, finishing with 13 touches and a goal.

Daicos was good for the three quarters he had company, with 19 disposals, but once the shackles were lifted, Daicos did what he does best, willing his team home through sheer workrate. Daicos had 10 disposals in the last quarter alone, finding space where there was none, and his excellence with disposal was vital in pulling the margin back in the final term.

Without a true key forward target, the main avenues to goal were small forwards Bobby Hill and Lachie Schultz. Hill provided the flair, Schultz the grunt work, but both players were equally important to the cause. As Collingwood mounted their charge, Hill and Schultz regularly hit the scoreboard, finishing with five and four goals respectively. Hill also provided two big highlights with inside 50 screamers that will no doubt feature in the mark-of-the-year discussions.


I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t expect much from today’s game. Sure Collingwood were ravaged by injury, and the Roos had their tails up after finally tasting victory, but I thought it would be a doddle. This match was the exact opposite. For two-and-a-half quarters, North Melbourne came for a fight. They played high-octane, pressure-filled football, and the Magpies couldn’t go with them. No one, not even our own long-suffering Kangaroos diehard JB Eddy would’ve predicted North to be nine goals up just after half time, but that’s what goal-kicking accuracy, fast-moving football, team defence, and pressure will get you. Regardless of what happened next, it’s a significant step in the right direction and gives supporters something to cling to in the long rebuild.

But what did happen next simply beggars belief. 54 points down, and still somehow finding a way to win. This Collingwood team is something else. The belief that Craig McRae has instilled in his team leaves many of us shaking our heads. Sure, some tactical errors by their opponents helped a little, and there’ll be some (unwarranted) arguments in the media about the non-free kicks and 50-metre penalties in the last quarter, but that’s looking at this too simply. Collingwood refused to die wondering, and once they got a run-on, nothing was going to stop them from mowing down the lead. They’re an incredible football club, and although you might not like them, you can’t deny that they’re always a fascinating team to watch.