Collingwood Magpies vs. Melbourne Demons: AFL Big Freeze Seven, upset win at SCG, last game for coach Nathan Buckley

Nathan Buckley’s tenure as Collingwood coach ended on a high, with his side upsetting the Demons at the SCG on Monday afternoon.

Nathan Buckley’s 218-game career as Collingwood coach has ended on a massive high note with his Magpies surviving a late surge to topple the ladder-leading Melbourne by 17 points in a Queen’s Birthday stunner at the SCG.

After controlling proceedings for most of the day, Collingwood got out to a 20-point lead early in the final quarter. However, Melbourne strung together four scoring shots in a row late in the game, but luckily for the Pies, only one of them was a goal to Ed Langdon and after Brayden Maynard took a match-saving mark deep in defence with less than a minute to go, the ensuing transition ended up with club stalwart Steele Sidebottom who fittingly iced the cake for Buckley with a goal after the siren.

On a day that saw another 11 sliders participate in the annual Big Freeze at the MCG before the match, to honour the legendary Neale Daniher and help raise funds for his courageous fight against MND, the 16th-placed Magpies caused the biggest upset of the season in handing the Demons just their second loss of 2021.

Buckley and Collingwood have gone together like a horse and carriage for a very long time, given he spent 26 years at the club as coach, assistant coach and one of the side’s greatest ever players, and his players sent him off in fitting fashion, playing with renewed freedom after being unshackled by the burden of expectations.

Melbourne’s backline is usually the most organised in the competition, but it was uncharacteristically disjointed, allowing the Magpies 18 marks inside 50 – their previous high for the year was 15 – while down the other end, the Demons could only manage nine.

But Melbourne’s usual pressure wasn’t there either, the premiership favourites laying just 44 tackles, well down on their season average of 64 per game. And with a clear advantage in that category (52-44), the Magpies out-hunted their more-fancied opponents for longer.

The first quarter was a scrappy affair which was punctuated by numerous turnovers from both sides. The combined AFL average for clanger kicks per quarter this season is 11, and there were already 19 committed at the 24-minute mark of the first term. That figure ballooned out to 41 at the 20-minute mark of the third quarter.

But just as it did against a couple of other top-four contenders in Port Adelaide and Geelong recently, the unattractive nature of the contest suited the Magpies just fine. They then increased their pressure, cleaned up their disposal and sped up their ball movement in the second quarter to boot four goals in a row, including a pair to Brody Mihocek, before taking a 16-point lead at halftime.

Like they did against Brisbane last week, Melbourne lifted its intensity after halftime, registering 10 of the first 11 inside 50s to kick the first three goals on the way to a one-point lead late in the third quarter.

But on the back of some great work from Sidebottom in particular, the Magpies hit back hard, kicking four goals on the trot to stretch their lead to 20 points early in the final quarter.

De Goey dominates

Jordan De Goey didn’t get off to a great start when his kick across Melbourne’s goal in the opening stages missed its target and eventually led to Alex Neal-Bullen kicking the first goal of the game for the Demons.

But the Collingwood star put that setback behind him to become the most influential player on the ground. Relishing the freedom of playing mainly on the ball, De Goey was instrumental to Pies’ victory, finishing up with a game-high 33 disposals (11 contested) and seven clearances, to go with three goal assists and 11 score involvements.

Cameron controversy

A controversial moment occurred midway through the third quarter when Collingwood’s Darcy Cameron was paid a mark 20m out from goal, despite TV replays clearly showing Steven May’s hands touched the ball first. A bemused May’s desperate protestations to the umpire fell on deaf ears as Cameron coolly slotted it home for the third of his four majors to put the Magpies back in front.

Collingwood continues to own Queen’s Birthday

The result continued Collingwood’s domination of the modern-era Queen’s Birthday fixture, having now won 13 of 20 meetings with Melbourne on the public holiday, including eight of the last 10.

Ballet feet

One of the highlights of the second quarter came at the 24-minute mark when De Goey brilliantly spun out of traffic to avoid Harrison Petty and dish off a handball to Beau McCreery who performed his own pirouette, which also included a strong fend-off of Clayton Oliver, before checksiding it home from 20m out to put the Magpies 14 points to the good.

DEMONS 2.2 4.4 8.6 9.9 (63)

MAGPIES 1.4 6.8 8.11 11.14 (80)

LERNER’S BEST Demons: Jackson, Petracca, Harmes, Oliver, Langdon. Magpies: De Goey, Pendlebury, Maynard, Cameron, Lynch, Moore, Quaynor

GOALS Demons: Jackson 2, Neal-Bullen, Harmes, Oliver, Gawn, Petracca, Fritsch, Langdon. Magpies: Cameron 4, Mihocek 3, Hoskin-Elliott, McCreery, Pendlebury, Sidebottom.

INJURIES Demons: Nil. Magpies: Murphy (quad).

UMPIRES O’Gorman, Meredith, Williamson

VENUE SCG

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

LERNER’S VOTES

3 J.De Goey (Coll)

2 S.Pendlebury (Coll)

1 B.Maynard (Coll)

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