Jamie Kloeden reporting for AFANA from Melbourne, Australia
Final round action saw traditional rivals Collingwood and Essendon lock horns at the MCG but their end of season situations were in stark contrast. For the Bombers, it was a chance to regain some pride. After letting a great start to the season slip by the wayside with their horrible run home, they cost themselves any chance of participating in Finals action. The Magpies on the other hand needed to win the game to sew up a spot in the Top Four and gain the double chance.
As the game started Essendon definitely looked like a team on a mission and, following a magnificent goal from the boundary line by Stewart Crameri, Angus Monfries received a free kick which resulted in another. With Collingwood squandering opportunities in front of goal and Essendon making the most of theirs, it looked like the Bombers were ready to take charge. However three late goals to the Pies, including a second to the dangerous Travis Cloke, saw them take an eight point lead into the break.
James Hird had his men up again for the contest as the Bombers started the second term on fire and got the scoring underway. Three early goals to just one for Collingwood saw the Bombers wrestle back the lead but that was it as the rest of the quarter belonged to Cloke and the Pies. They only managed one more goal through their elite power forward but had they kicked straight, the game would have already been put out of reach for the Bombers. Just two goals were scored from eight Pies' scoring shots but it was enough to hold an eight point lead at half time with all of the momentum going their way.
Cloke was completely dominating up forward for Collingwood against Cale Hooker and with veteran defender Dustin Fletcher missing through injury, Hird was forced to move his own key forward in Michael Hurley back to defense to try and curb his influence. Midfielders Scott Pendlebury, Dayne Beams and youngster Alex Fasolo were shining for Collingwood but none as much as Brownlow Medalist Dane Swan who had already amassed 22 possessions before half time. Essendon was being well served by its inspirational captain and early favorite for this year’s Brownlow Medal, Jobe Watson who, as always, was working tirelessly all around the ground. It was Watson who kicked the first goal of the third quarter after marking in front of Pendlebury and kicking truly but the goalscoring dried up after that. Fasolo and Swan kicked goals to push the Magpies' lead out to 16 points but the next goal got the biggest roar of the night from the crowd. Andrew Krakouer was making his season debut after injuring his knee during the pre-season and when Fasolo hit him on the chest with a short pass, the resultant kick snuck inside the goal post. Krakouer was mobbed by the rest of the team, obviously all aware of the hard work that he has put into getting back on the track so soon. Hurley was having some success curbing the influence of Cloke but Essendon just didn’t have the firepower through the midfield to match it with the Pies and although David Zaharakis was able to get a late goal, it still looked like Collingwood’s game to lose.
Essendon tried hard in the last quarter but managed only one goal from six scoring shots while Collingwood kicked away with four more goals and finished up with a 32 point lead. Cloke continued on his strong game finishing with 16 marks and five goals while Swan finished with a game high 42 disposals and a goals of his own. The Magpies' win sets up a blockbuster first Qualifying Final next week. Collingwood will meet Hawthorn on Friday night at the MCG with the winner booking a ticket straight through to the Preliminary Final. Essendon will lick its wounds and look at this season as the one that got away. After having an eight and one record early in the season, injuries and fatigue appeared to take their toll. Not even scraping into the Finals will necessitate a big review in Bomberland where things will need to change to get the team back on track next season.
Scoreboard Essendon: 4.3 7.3 9.7 10.12 (72) Collingwood: 5.5 7.11 10.17 14.20 (104) Best Essendon: Watson, Zaharakis, Stanton, Heppell, Hurley, Hille Collingwood: Cloke, Swan, Fasolo, Beams, Pendlebury, Thomas
Article last changed on Friday, September 07, 2012 - 6:55 AM EDT