All-night celebrations after Magpies snare sweet 16th victory
Darcy Cameron and Brayden Maynard celebrate with the Magpie Army at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Photo: Getty
Collingwood fans have celebrated into the morning after winning one of the all-time greatest grand finals with a thrilling finish that ended with heartbreak for Brisbane.
The Magpies won by four points to seal a record-equalling 16th AFL premiership, drawing level with fierce rivals Carlton and Essendon.
Bobby Hill kicked a career-best four goals in the Magpies’ epic 12.18 (90) to 13.8 (86) triumph in front of 100,024 fans on Saturday at the MCG.
The result came despite the loss of key defender Nathan Murphy to concussion before halftime.
The match was not without controversy which was served up in the tense final minute of the game.
Lions star Lachie Neale had been paid a free kick but apparently not hearing the whistle, team mate Zac Bailey kept play flowing and the umpire called the advantage.
As the seconds ticked away, Bailey rushed a kick and Magpies star Nick Daicos gathered a loose ball, with the Pies holding onto it until the final siren.
Fans and commentators have blasted the umpire’s decision which may have sealed Brisbane’s fate, questioning whether Bailey had any advantage.
“Better team wins in @CollingwoodFC but that was rancid umpiring at the end @brisbanelions had no advantage to take,” ABC news and sport editor Paul Johnson posted to X (Twitter).
Sports journalist Lachlan McKirdy wrote: “That advantage call was an absolute shocker. Collingwood deserved winners, but wow that was awful.”
It was Collingwood’s first premiership since 2010, following heartbreaking grand final defeats in 2011 and 2018.
It also erased some of the Magpie Army’s pain from losses to Brisbane on the same stage in 2002 and 2003, and franked the club’s return as a competition powerhouse on and off the field.
“Sixteen is nice,” Collingwood chief executive and 1990 premiership player Craig Kelly told AAP.
“There’s a nice little spot in the new AIA Vitality Centre (for the cup) and it will be good to have 16 square the ledger.”
Darcy Moore and Brayden Maynard leave the field with the premiership cup. Photo: Getty
Craig McRae became the Magpies’ sixth premiership coach in his second year at the helm, capping “the best day of my life” after his wife gave birth to the couple’s daughter just a few hours before the game.
Hill was a unanimous choice as winner of the Norm Smith Medal, kicking all of his goals in a scintillating first-half display, and took a spectacular mark on Brandon Starcevich’s shoulders.
Fellow off-season recruit Tom Mitchell (24 disposals, seven clearances) shone, as did veteran pair Scott Pendlebury (23, six, one goal) and Steele Sidebottom (20, three, one).
Jack Crisp (25 touches, two goals), Jordan De Goey (18, two) and Nick Daicos (29 disposals) were also influential, and captain Darcy Moore was important after halftime in his 150th game.
There were 10 lead changes throughout the tight four-quarter battle, during which neither side led by more than 13 points.
Collingwood were almost left to rue inaccuracy but responded to Brisbane speedster Charlie Cameron’s go-ahead goal in the final quarter with goals from De Goey and Sidebottom in time-on.
Joe Daniher dragged the Lions back within a kick with 1:41 left to play but the Magpies held on in yet another thriller after two seasons littered with close contests.
“I know last year everyone thought it was a bit of a fluke,” McRae said.
“There’s some bounces of the ball that hit the post, we get that. We’re not saying this is a perfect science.
“But there’s starting to be a bit of a trend now, don’t you think? We’re pretty good at these clutch moments.”
A three-time premiership player with Brisbane before turning to coaching, 50-year-old McRae added: “On reflection, it was one of the best games I’ve ever been involved with.”
Daniher and Cameron kicked three goals each for the Lions and Zac Bailey slotted a pair of stunners in the first first quarter.
Keidean Coleman (26 touches), Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale (21 touches, five clearances), Josh Dunkley (21, five) and Hugh McCluggage (21, four, two goals) also fought hard in a losing cause.
It was a heartbreaking end for Brisbane in their fifth-straight finals campaign and first season decider since 2004.
“The team that won today probably is the team that should’ve won, given they had more shots on goal,” Lions coach Chris Fagan said.
“Having said that, we had our chances. People always talk about this in finals – moments.
“They kick a goal right at the end of the first quarter, they kick a goal right at the end of the second quarter – those sorts of moments.
“When you lose a game by four points you look back at those things and think if only we had’ve defended a little bit better then.”
After claiming the AFL premiership, Collingwood have belief they are perfectly placed to handle the chasing pack and push for back-to-back flags.
“Everyone at this club has helped me and this team to get where we need to be and I tell you what – it’s just the beginning,” enforcer Brayden Maynard said.
“This day, we’re gonna lap it up, we’re gonna have some serious fun, I might burn down Melbourne.
“But I’m looking forward to celebrating with the team because it’s been two years of getting after it, getting better every day.
“We got better for this moment I don’t want to get ahead of myself too much but we’ve built this culture, we can do anything.”
Lions lick wounds
A dejected Lachie Neale after the game. Photo: Getty
Brisbane co-captain Harris Andrews says the Lions will watch the tape of their heartbreaking AFL grand final defeat rather than ignore where they fell short.
Brisbane had their chances to pinch a fourth premiership since the Bears and Fitzroy merged in 1996 but the Magpies’ close-game instincts got them over the line.
“I’ve got no doubt we’ll watch the tape; everyone’s going to have a different view of their own games and that sort of thing,” Andrews said.
“But we’ll talk and break it down as a group.
“We’re not going to push it under the rug.
“We’re going to break it down as we have every year at the end of each season.
“Recognise where we’ve fallen short and what we can do better to come back next year in better shape and be ready to go again.”
The Lions have had a steady build since Chris Fagan took over as a coach at the end of 2016 when the club was a basket case.
After two more seasons down near the bottom of the ladder, Brisbane flew into finals in 2019 and have stayed there for the past five post-seasons.
However, the Lions went out in straight sets twice (2019 and 2021) and lost two preliminary finals before finally qualifying for the last Saturday in September.
“We’ve acknowledged that we’ve fallen short and I think we’re able to then steer our own journey,” Andrews said.
“If we push it under the carpet and go ‘it didn’t happen’, then that’ll leave us in a bad place.
“But I feel like that’s what this group has done really well, driven by ‘Fages’, our ability to learn from our mistakes.
“I’ve got no doubt the boys would be hurting at the moment.
“It will take a little while to sink in, I think, but at the end of the day, we’ll come back ready to go and make sure we’re fit for the pre-season.”