Geelong won’t be featuring in the AFL finals for the first time in nine years after being outclassed by Collingwood at the MCG.
The Magpies led from start to finish in a 48-point win to rebound in style from last weekend’s embarrassing 91-point loss to Richmond.
After losing Travis Cloke in the warm-up to a hamstring injury, Collingwood shared the load in their 17.8 (110) to 9.8 (62) triumph, with 11 different goalkickers.
The result will exasperate Cats coach Chris Scott as his side had no shortage of motivation on Friday night.
Not only were their finals hopes on the line, but the club celebrated the amazing return of Daniel Menzel after four years out with as many knee reconstructions.
Menzel didn’t miss a beat, kicking a goal in each quarter and a taking a mark of the year contender, but played a lone hand up front.
Jack Crisp and Taylor Adams impressed in midfield for the Magpies, Levi Greenwood subdued Cats skipper Joel Selwood and Scott Pendlebury was influential in a quarterback-style role.
Coach Nathan Buckley’s biggest concern from the win was a knee injury to Dane Swan, who was substituted at halftime after going down in a fair Selwood tackle.
In front of a disappointing crowd of 40,582 – the lowest attendance for the fixture in 15 years – the Magpies started fastest.
Collingwood put aside Cloke’s late withdrawal to put two goals on the board just three minutes in.
Geelong responded through Menzel, who kicked the Cats’ first goal with one foot on the 50 metre arc and was richly embraced by his teammates.
But the gulf in intensity became clear as Collingwood dominated possession to skip clear.
Everything was working for the Pies, evidenced by maligned forward Jesse White’s boundary-line snap goal.
With Pendlebury in a pace-setting role, the Magpies controlled the tempo in a seven-goal opening term to set up victory.
Down by 50 at halftime, the Cats fought back in the third term but couldn’t hurt Collingwood on the scoreboard.
Two quick goals to open the last quarter brought Geelong back within five goals but the Magpies settled the nerves and clamped down.
The loss leaves the Cats six points adrift of eighth-placed Adelaide, who they host next week, crueling their hopes for a finals playoff at Simonds Stadium.