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preliminary final
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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. 

At quarter time it was an eleven point lead as Collingwood squandered their chance for a bigger lead. McStay had good position and hands on the ball a number of time but could only manage that single goal. Sidebottom and de Goey kept up their end of the bargain racking up stats in the middle, but the Giants defenders should also get some credit with Buckley, Taylor, and Idun doing well under pressure. 

A perfectly weighted kick from Whitfield hit Callum Brown on the lead, but again his kick went wide. The Giants needed to find a goal kicker and they looked for Hogan twice, the second time he marked strongly and then gave it off to Toby Greene who lurked around the back of the set shot and his kick was a captain's goal if ever there was one. Daniels marked alone and the top of the 50 and was able to give off a short pass to Tom Green just inside the 50 and that closer range was just enough for his set shot to clear the defenders on the line. 

Toby Greene fended off multiple defenders to scrub a high ball to the hot spot and to the advantage of teammate Cummings, just 20 meters out from goal. His kick was good, and the Giants lead it by seven points. As the Giants were able to repeatedly defend close to goal, it was Collingwood's turn to go wide and kick from long range at goal. McCreery's shot went well wide. Bobby Hill tried to break the game open with speed off half back, but the Giants held their nerve and turned defense into attack with Riccardi marking and kicking a goal from close range. 

Another good forward foray from the Magpies was thwarted by GWS defenders though Mihocek got a shot off, but he only received the one point for his wayward kick. Even Nick Daicos couldn't raise a major as his kick under pressure also drifted to the right, but at least the Magpies were now keeping the ball in their attacking half for the first time in the quarter. When the Giants did go forward again it was Cumming who wastefully kicked wide from the pocket and Moore of Collingwood, as usual reading the ball in the air, shut down the attack. At halftime it was quite the turnaround with the Giants now leading by ten points. 

Pies Giants
Toby Greene kicks (file photo/AFANA)

The second half opened with Toby Greene scoring two minutes in when he roved Mason Cox's tap in the forward pocket and off one step snapped the goal with his left boot. After an eight minute wrestle, lowlighted by continual turnovers, the game turned again. Ten and a half minutes in Collingwood finally found Bobby Hill twenty meters out from goal and he kicked the team's first goal since the six minute mark of the first quarter. If the massive crowd could be believed, the Pies were back in business. In reality they were indeed just eleven points down. They now had some confidence and an unfortunate fumble from Callum Brown saw Collingwood turn it over on the wing, and the long kick from Brown found McStay on the lead 35 meters out and he kicked his second goal for the night. Just a minute later though, Brown made amends getting on the end of a quick ball inside 50 and his snap parting the tall posts for a goal. 

And the goals were now rapid fire, with Jamie Elliot finding space running back towards goal, stopped to take his set shot and again bring the margin back to single figures. The Magpies hit the front when a long ball meant for McStay was roved off hands by McCreery, who was aided by a shepherd and kicked his first goal of the night. Mihocek finally kicked his first goal of the match when he shrugged Buckley tackle inside 50 and ran on to kick the Magpies third goal in a row. Late in the quarter Keefe could have put the Giants back in front, and chose to shoot at goal when he perhaps should have given to a teammate who was in a better position and his kick hit the post. At three quarter time the Magpies had a four point lead. This game would go down to the wire.   

While the forwards did the damage on the board it was Collingwood's defenders in Murphy, Darcy Moore, Jeremy Howe, and Quaynor who really kept the Giants out of the game for much of the quarter. Concerningly for Collingwood, McStay went to the changing rooms late in the quarter and it looked like he may not return. Jack Ginnivan was subbed into the game at the break and immediately he got the ball and fired it goalward, but for a behind (single point) only. 

Mason Cox
Mason Cox (file photo/AFANA)

Lloyd marked forty meters out straight in front, and Sidebottom moved off the mark early as Lloyd looked to give the ball off. The resulting 50 meter penalty put Lloyd on the goalline and he could not miss from there. The goal saw the score level six minutes into the final quarter. Cox had played mostly in the ruck tonight, but now playing up forward Cox on the lead took a strong mark. The kick from 48 meters was long and strong and accurate, once again reminding us of his heroics in 2018. It might not have been an equal performance from the American tonight, but the goal might have been equally as important. Pushing and shoving after the kick saw his jumper ripped off and he went to the bench to have it replaced. 

A snap from Elliot deep in the pocket, while being tackled, hit the post but took Pies lead to seven points. And oh, how important that seventh point would be. GWS made their substitution with the veteran Callan Ward off, O'Halloran on. In a tight game it felt like if Collingwood could kick another goal they would certainly win. The Giants weren't done, and after a quiet night for Jesse Hogan, a bullet-like pass from Ash hit his leading run. His set shot goal reduced the margin back to a single, solitary point. 

A huge tackle by the O'Halloran on Crisp, who looked to have broken through the defenders into an open forward line. Once again it kept the Giants in the game.  Then with the ball deep in the pocket Toby Greene again tried to drag his team over the finish line but his desperate shot lacked penetration and his kick was marked on the goal line by Sidebottom.

Collingwood decided to try to eat up the last three minutes on the clock. First using loose men to chip it around, and then by creating throw ins and ball up stoppages by nudging the ball out of bounds or locking up the ball at every contest. The Giants appeared to go defensive with players behind the ball and Howe on the bench it would be hard for them to manufacture a score.  

With 30 seconds to go, the ball broke loose. Josh Daicos kicked the ball wide to a Hoskin Elliot who held it up as long as he was allowed. The siren sounded and the game was over. Collingwood were back into the Grand Final for the first time since 2018. The notes of "Good Old Collingwood Forever" rang out and the stands literally shook as the fans celebrated the narrowest of winning margins. GWS will call it a day on a great finals run.

COLLINGWOOD:            2.2 2.6 7.7 8.10 (58)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY: 0.3 4.1 6.9 8.9  (57)

Collingwood:            McStay 2, Crisp, Hill, Elliott, McCreery, Mihocek, Cox
Greater Western Sydney: Greene 2, Green, Cumming, Riccardi, Brown, Lloyd, Hogan

BEST on Ground
Collingwood:            de Goey, Crisp, Pendlebury, Quaynor, N.Daicos, Cox
Greater Western Sydney: Green, Greene, Taylor, Whitfield, Hogan, Coniglio

Collingwood:            McStay (knee)
Greater Western Sydney: Nil

Collingwood:            Jack Ginnivan (replaced McStay at three-quarter time)
Greater Western Sydney: Xavier O'Halloran (replaced Ward in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 97,665 at the MCG.

Article last changed on Friday, September 22, 2023 - 8:32 PM EDT


It wasn't over for the Giants yet. After a quiet night for Jesse Hogan, Ash threw a bullet that hit his leading run. The difference was cut back to just one point by his set shot goal. slope game

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