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Kim Densham reporting for AFANA in Melbourne

On Friday night old rivalries kicked in as the NAB Cup finalists lined up for the national anthem. The last time Collingwood and Essendon faced each other in a Grand Final match was in 1990. The Pies won that game by 48 points even though back then the teams were evenly matched in their ladder finish. This year it is different, the Magpies are at their peak, having come off a Premiership winning season and preparing to go back to back. Essendon are rebuilding with a new coach who has only four games under his belt and is managing a team that ended 2010 on the lower rungs of the AFL ladder.

This present day match was played out on its own merits. The Magpies brought their big guns in Alan Didak and Leon Davis back to play. The team boasted 19 Premiership players. American rookie Shae McNamara was not playing but David Hille and Dustin Fletcher were both inclusions for Essendon.

From the first bounce it was game on and while the Bombers had the early running and kicked the first goal, Collingwood clawed back and took the lead midway through the first quarter. There was something menacing in the way that they tackled, cutting through the Bombers' quick play on advantage and stifling the run that gave Essendon victories in the earlier rounds.

Essendon’s inability to convert in front of goal, despite several 50 meter penalties awarded against Collingwood for interchange infringements, was costly. They managed to narrow the gap to nine points late in the third quarter and again to ten points with ten minutes to go in the fourth. A positive sign was the Bombers' tenacity to hang on and not get blown out and lose by ten goals or more. The Magpies put in a solid effort and while they seemed slightly underdone being two months behind in preseason training, they gave the rest of the competition a preview of what they are capable of when they put the foot down hard on the accelerator.

After the final siren there were no outbursts of joy and celebration. It was as if coach Mick Malthouse had set them a task and they ticked the first item off the list of things to do before September action. No song was sung, no public display of victory after the cup presentation. The main game is the road to the Finals and the Magpie army just keeps marching on.

Heath Shaw won the Michael Tuck medal with 25 touches off half-back as the Magpies kicked 1.15.9 (108) to 0.13.8 (86) to win their second Grand Final in six months.

Check out game day action photos at:

Article last changed on Monday, March 14, 2011 - 7:19 AM EDT

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