Collingwood’s shock 10-point semi-final win over Geelong has come at a huge cost, with injuries to Levi Greenwood and Jordan De Goey likely to end their seasons.
The Magpies jumped Geelong in the opening quarter, with Taylor Adams and ruckman Brodie Grundy setting the tone for the 9.7 (61) to 7.9 (51) win that gives the Pies a week’s break.
The Cats will now face a sudden death elimination final against the in-form West Coast Eagles at the MCG next Friday night.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has no such worries, but lamented the loss of De Goey with yet another hamstring strain and veteran Greenwood who has a suspected ACL knee injury.
“They are both remarkably stoic characters and Levi particularly in the situation that he is in … Levi is right up there in record to the heart and soul and his teammates just love him,” Buckley said.
“We are really flat for him. We expect the diagnosis to be confirmed. But we can’t be positive.
“There is always hope. But he was around his teammates on the bench still really positive and engaging and contributing in any manner that he could. Because physically he was done.
Buckley said the Pies had earned their big win and executed the gameplan.
“A good result and hard earned,” he said. “We set the game up the way that we wanted to early.
We were able to continue and maintain the rage through the whole four quarters. So it is a fantastic defensive effort.”
Geelong will be sweating on the fitness of Mitch Duncan after he benched at halftime with a medial ligament injury.
Cats coach Chris Scott said lots of things went wrong in the game and it was hard to bounce back after the poor first quarter. He said his players do get another chance and that was the benefit of a strong season’s work.
“Well, we are human … [but] we have to be positive about the opportunity that presents itself,” Scott said. “But, yeah, there was a periods of mourning if that is not too strong a word.
“Our players, in particular, this year have shown really good capacity to bounce back when we have had some disappointments. I don’t see any reason to suspect that that will change.”
In front of 93,436 fans, the Cats fought back in the final term with Patrick Dangerfield superb but often playing a lone hand.
Gary Ablett was well-beaten and frustrated throughout by Brayden Maynard.
The Cats were slow off the mark and trailed seven goals to one midway through the second quarter.
Their issues arguably began before the opening siren when they made a late, weather-influenced change to their 22.
Rhys Stanley was dropped and Sam Menegola recalled, leaving Mark Blicavs to shoulder the ruck load against All-Australian Grundy.
But the forecast rain dried up and Grundy dominated, racking up 48 hitouts and 21 disposals for a Collingwood side that had winners across every line.
Adams (26 disposals, two goals) and Steele Sidebottom reigned supreme in the midfield and Jamie Elliott (two majors) caused headaches up forward.
Jeremy Howe (23 disposals, 13 marks) was superb down back, along with Jordan Roughead and Darcy Moore who had been under a fitness cloud.
There were danger signs early for the Cats, whose defensive errors paved the way for dangerous goalsneaks Jaidyn Stephenson and Elliott to hit the scoreboard early.
Playing in his first game back from a 10-week suspension for betting on Collingwood games, Stephenson looked to have lost none of his touch.
The Pies threatened to put the game on ice before successive goals to Brandon Parfitt, Gryan Miers and Zach Tuohy reduced the halftime margin to 19 points.
Neither team was able to seize the advantage in an am-wrestle third quarter before Magpies skipper Scott Pendlebury, playing in his 300th AFL game, roved a classy goal to extend their lead and wrestle back the momentum.