North Melbourne’s Robbie Tarrant marks Collingwood’s Ben Reid, who booted five goals, is spolit by Kangaroo Todd Goldstein. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Collingwood’s Steele Sidebottom battles with North’s Lachlan Hansen at the MCG. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Sandwich: Lachlan Keeffe gets caught between North’s Lindsay Thomas and Taylor Garner. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

NORTH MELBOURNE 8.1 10.5 15.9 19.11 (125) COLLINGWOOD 5.4 10.8 14.11 17.12 (114)GOALS North Melbourne: Ziebell 4, Thomas 3, Black 2, Petrie 2, Wells 2, Goldstein 2, Cunnington, Harvey, Macmillan, Bastinac. Collingwood: Reid 5, Cloke 5, J. Thomas 2, Pendlebury 2, Didak, Seedsman, Dwyer.BEST Collingwood: Pendlebury, Cloke, Reid, Didak, Sidebottom, Swan, Macaffer. North Melbourne: Ziebell, Bastinac, Harvey, Goldstein, Petrie, Atley.CROWD: 50,958 at MCG.

For a game of no consequence the consequences for Collingwood were potentially significant; the consequence for North academic. North proved its bona fides only for that to also be proved irrelevant.

Nathan Brown was dressed in a red vest and chilling his knee in ice before half-time. Then, half an hour later, Quinten Lynch hobbled from the ground with a rolled ankle. A week from the finals these were the sort of matters to be avoided in this game more than any other. In this game where four points meant nothing to either side in terms of ladders and finals, avoiding injury meant far more for one team.

Lynch came back on to the ground to see out the match, assuaging concerns over one problem, but Collingwood will be left to ponder the impact of the other, musing on the contingencies for a game without its full-back. The logical step to cover the possibility of missing Brown is that the man who booted five goals, Ben Reid, will probably have to spend next week in defence. The Magpies will also wonder about Jack Frost and whether the youngster can fill a breach.

Already it should have Jamie Elliott coming back into the team – as well as Luke Ball, Harry O’Brien and possibly Ben Sinclair – so the idea of moving Reid back will be helped by Lynch still being fit enough and a small but good marking player in Elliott coming back in.

This game could have been so good, but then Carlton killed it before it started. The Blues took eighth and left North dangling with nothing more to play for save trying to persuade that it was a September-worthy side by beating a side that was September-qualified.

Collingwood played only because it had to, played like it wanted to avoid injury – and to see if it could win Travis Cloke a Coleman medal.

Seven goals shy of Jarryd Roughead before the game, Cloke had the medal in his sights. He could have had it by half-time. He had kicked four and missed three, and had one bounce achingly over his fingertips for a goal as he stood alone on the edge of the goal square.

It appeared he might end like Justin Koschitzke a day earlier when the Saints players all willed the retiring veteran to goal but he confounded each attempt. Cloke had only kicked seven once before in his career – against Richmond earlier this year – so it was always unlikely.

Collingwood likewise started the second half with eyes for Cloke. They went long to him, short to him, wide to him, but always to him. North knew it too, so they sent two and three players to him such that the more they went to Cloke the less likely he seemed to kick a goal. In the end he kicked another, might have added more and was left two goals short of Roughead.

Still, it generated an interest of its own in a game that was played as open as a November training session. As Wayne Carey observed on radio, ”That was not a normal game of footy.”

North, whose season ends now, wanted to win this match more than the club whose season continues this week.

The game was open and free – North kicked eight goals in the first term and there were scarcely six ball-ups for the first half.

Regardless of a self-preservation mindset, Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley will be troubled by the freedom with which North entered its forward line and assaulted the goals throughout.

Lindsay Thomas and Aaron Black both had two goals as North opened Collingwood up. North won the centre clearances where Todd Goldstein had the better of Brodie Grundy and Jack Ziebell. Ryan Bastinac and Brent Harvey worked harder around the ball all day.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.