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Dockers and Magpies in a Thriller

Drawn game (Dave Woodley/AFANA)

The Fremantle Dockers and the Collingwood Magpies played out a dramatic draw in front of a heaving crowd of 54,035 at Optus Stadium. The contest wasn't spectacular but was a dour struggle of tough contested football where neither team was prepared to give an inch. The undermanned Magpies picked up two more injuries during the match (Mason Cox and Brody Mihocek), but the team fought to the very end against a desperate home side. The Dockers jumped the Magpies early, locking the ball in their forward half with the assistance strong defensive marks (catches) by their captain Alex Pearce. After three minutes of play, Fremantle forward Josh Treacy received a free kick for a high tackle and threaded the needle from the boundary, to give the home team a positive start. Two minutes later the Magpies transitioned the ball from defense finishes with slick handpasses from Bobby Hill and Patrick Lipinski which resulted in a clever goal by youngster Harvey Harrison. Three minutes later the Dockers pushed forward to a marking contest in their goal square, where wingman Jeremy Sharp swooped in for an opportunistic soccer-style goal when the ball came off hands. Three minutes later the Dockers brought the ball from defense with Andrew Brayshaw on the end of a chain of possessions and he finished with a polished a running goal from forty meters.

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Concussion Claims 2023 Premiership Player

Murphy Spoils (file photo/AFANA)

2023 Collingwood premiership player Nathan Murphy succumbed to the after-effects of concussions (including his 10th in the 2023 Grand Final) and announced his retirement. He is only 24 years old. Earlier in the year, he stepped away from the club in an attempt to recover and return to play. However, on advice from the medical concussion panel, he has decided to retire. In making the announcement, he said, “I feel it is the right time and the right decision for me to hang up my footy boots. I love my football, but my priority is on my future and ensuring I live a full and healthy life. I’d like to thank the Club, coaches, teammates, staff, and the Magpie Army for all their support throughout my playing career and for allowing me the opportunity to live out my childhood dream of playing AFL. To my family and friends, I couldn’t have gone through this journey without your continued love and support which I am so grateful for. It is not lost on me how fortunate I am to have been able to experience premiership success ... I hope I did the jumper proud and thank the many people and supporters who helped me along the way. I will forever cherish the memories and friends I’ve made ...”.

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Signings, Retirements, and Sackings

Players have been added or dropped from five AFL clubs in recent weeks for a wide range of reasons. 

North Melbourne has terminated Tarryn Thomas. Thomas, aged 23, was recently banned from playing for 18 weeks after another incident of inappropriate behavior. He has faced charges of domestic violence and other offenses against several women. The club, after numerous interventions and support structures to help him, have run out of patience.

A statement released by the club said in part, "The club has provided Tarryn with significant time, resources and support but we've now arrived at a point where the individual's needs don't match those of the club. We know Tarryn needs help - for himself and for the women in his life - but it's clear the path we've taken over the past 12 months hasn't had the desired impact ... we have made the decision to end Tarryn's time at North Melbourne. This decision doesn't come lightly or easily ... we acknowledge that he has faced complex and challenging circumstances over his life. We hope Tarryn will find the support that is right for him and that he does the work required to be the best version of himself."

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Pies Sign Three and Lose One

In mid-February, Collingwood signed three players via the preseason Supplementary Selection Period (SSP): Lachie Sullivan, Jack Bytel, and Josh Eyre. Sullivan, 26 years old, has been a star midfielder for the Western Bulldogs in the VFL where he won two best and fairest awards. He was named to the VFL team of the year in 2022 and 2023. Bytel, 23 years old, was drafted by St Kilda in 2018 and played 22 games before being delisted at the end of 2024. Bytel is also a midfielder. Eyre, aged 21, was a member of Essendon's Next Generation Academy and was elevated to Essendon's VFL list in 2022. He joined Collingwood's VFL program last season. He recently underwent surgery for a tendon tear and won't return to training until late April. 

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2024 Rule Changes

Maynard Gets His kick Away

The AFL has announced the annual rule changes for the 2024 season, primarily focusing on player protection. The new rule interpretations cover smothering kicks and run-down tackles, both of which can risk player injury. Two incidents in 2023 led to these changes. Collingwood defender Brayden Maynard leaped into the air to attempt a smother against Demon Angus Brayshaw. Maynard collided with Brayshaw who suffered a concussion as a result of the collision. Maynard faced the tribunal but avoided suspension. Maynard’s exoneration was applauded by some sections of the football community who argued he had done nothing wrong, but the AFL flagged a review. The new rule states in part, "If a player leaves the ground in an attempt to smother, it will be deemed careless conduct at a minimum, “unless the player has taken all reasonable steps to avoid that high contact and/or minimize the force of that high contact (for example, by adopting a body position that minimizes the force of the high contact. The incident can be viewed on YouTube

While the AFL doesn’t want to end the run-down tackle,

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2023 AFL Life Memberships

Parker Kicks For Goal

In early October, the AFL announced four new members for AFL life membership. The new members are  Neil Craig, Peggy O'Neal, Kevin Sheehan, and Greg Swann for their respective roles within the game. The formal induction will take place next year during the 2024 season launch. Six players who reached 300 games also qualify by rule. They are:  Luke Breust, Dustin Martin, Luke Parker, Isaac Smith, Callan Ward, and Jack Ziebell.

2024 LIFE MEMBERS

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Collingwood Delistings and Free Agents Moves

Flynn tackled (Dave Woodley/AFANA)

Collingwood delisted Trey Ruscoe, Trent Bianco, Tom Wilson, Arlo Draper, and Cooper Murley. Sydney picked up unrestricted free agent James Jordon and West Coast added unrestricted free agent Matt Flynn.

Ruckman Flynn has joined West Coast from Greater Western Sydney. Flynn, 26, was drafted by GWS in 2015 and played 33 games. The Eagles believe will add size with the retirement of Nic Naitanui. List manager Rohan O'Brien said, “We prioritized adding to our ruck stocks this off-season so we’re really pleased Matt decided to join the club ... Matt has spent eight seasons in the AFL system and is physically mature so we expect he can come in and make an impact.”

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Magpies Hold Off Gallant Giants for Grand Final Date

Collingwood banner (Densham/AFANA)

Greater Western Sydney captain Toby Greene won the toss and kicked to the Punt Rd end. With the pinnacle of his footy career in his mind, the Preliminary final against Richmond in 2018, American Mason Cox started in the ruck and won the first hit out. His teammate McStay drew two huge cheers from the predominantly Collingwood crowd first when he marked and then when he connected for a goal from 30 meters out. Jack Crisp doubled the score with a quick kick off a step and off the outside of the boot to kick the Magpies second goal. The nearly 98,000 in the crowd (almost all Magpie fans) were ecstatic.

Now the Giants had their turn when Irishman Callum Brown was put in range with a 50 meter penalty but a poor kick off the boot went wide to give the Giants their first but single point. McStay came from the back of the pack to somehow lead to the ball and marked strongly 20 meters but missed the shot on goal. Mihocek added another point for the Pies behind before quarter time, while Riccardi and Daniels added singles for the Giants. 

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Footy World Mourns Ron Barassi

Ron Barassi (file photo/AFANA)

The semi-finals weekend was bittersweet, not only for the teams which were eliminated but for the sad news of the passing of the legendary great Ron Barassi. Ron Barassi was 87 and suffered complications from a fall. Tributes from the AFL and the four clubs with which he was involved poured in. His story is well-chronicled, from the time he went to live with Melbourne coach Norm Smith after his father was killed in World War II to his recruitment to the Melbourne Demons, his shock move to Carlton, and his coaching career at Carton, North Melbourne, and Sydney. He was actually retired when he was coaxed to take over at the Swans after their move from Melbourne to Sydney. He coached the Swans from 1993 through 1995 (59 games). He was a board member for seven more seasons.

Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham said the AFL has lost a pioneer, "The Sydney Swans are saddened by the passing of one of the game's all-time greats, Ron Barassi. Ron was a wonderful person and had a huge influence on the Swans, for which we are forever grateful ... ".

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Cox Joins 100 Club as Pies Pump Kangaroos

Cox Celebrates (file photo)

North Melbourne hosted the Collingwood Football Club at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.  While outside it was raining, match conditions were perfect under the retractable roof which was closed for the day. It was a big milestone match for American born player Mason Cox, who was honored on the banner running out even if he was second fiddle, it read "Steel Sidebottom 300 games, Mason Cox 100".  When Collingwood ran out through the banner Cox, as he traditionally does, remained at the back of the group and was the last to run through the banner.  

Cox started forward where he has played most of his time on the field in the AFL. In the sixth minute of the game Darcy more marked on the wing and looked for the lead of the big American. He was awarded the mark after the defender chopped his arms but his set shot kick went to the left for a behind. Not quite the fairytale start. 

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