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After the sickening initial fear it had lost two key players in a meaningless match on the cusp of the finals, Collingwood ended the game bullish it had dodged a bullet and was instead left with a selection headache.
The Magpies substituted full back Nathan Brown out of the match against North Melbourne on Sunday after he suffered a knock to the knee in the second quarter, but coach Nathan Buckley said it was precautionary and he was confident Brown had suffered no lasting injury ahead of next Saturday’s elimination final with Port Adelaide.
Key forward and relief ruck Quinten Lynch also appeared to have seriously hurt an ankle when he rolled it as he landed awkwardly in a marking contest and hobbled from the ground unable to put any weight on the foot. But he later returned and played out the match with Buckley adding he was expected to be fit for the game.
Buckley admitted to ”a few injury concerns” but said with so many players due to return the match committee would have difficult decisions at selection.
The Magpies withdrew Harry O’Brien from the match due to illness but he will be fit for next week, while Luke Ball, Jamie Elliott, Ben Sinclair are all also expected to be available to play.
Premiership ruckman Darren Jolly has played in the VFL in recent matches after injury and is back to fitness while Ben Hudson was an emergency for this match.
Alan Didak had his best game for the club in more than 12 months against the Roos and Paul Seedsman impressed after coming back into the side last week when an opportunity presented through injury.
”Selection is going to be tough,” Buckley said.
The Collingwood coach admitted the match had been an extraordinary one – only 38 tackles were laid by his side in the game – and
that after half time he was only worried about preparing for next week and was less concerned about the result of the match.
”You won’t see a game that we play in like that too often,” Buckley said. ”We do not subscribe to shootout football … there were a few concerns injury-wise but the second half of the game was just [a feeling of] ‘blow the siren’.”
Ben Reid and Travis Cloke both kicked five goals. Cloke had needed seven goals to draw level with Jarryd Roughead for the Coleman Medal but he fell short of the medal target.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire earlier described the scheduling of a rugby Test in Perth during the finals as an act of treachery that would potentially impact on the Magpies.
The Wallabies meet Argentina at Patersons Stadium on September 14, which means that should Fremantle lose to Geelong next week they would potentially be scheduled to host Collingwood (or Port) in the second week of the finals series and that game would have to be on Friday, September 13, only six days after the Magpies-Port elimination final at the MCG.
”That is a perversion of the finals fixture,” McGuire said in his president’s address.
Buckley dismissed the concern, saying it was pointless to project too far ahead and in any event a short break would presumably be offset by an extra day’s break before a preliminary final.
North Melbourne coach Brad Scott said after the game that having resisted the temptation to contemplate ‘what if?” all year due to the large number of close results that counted against his side on Sunday was the first time he had allowed himself to contemplate what might have been had they won some of those close encounters.
Second Elimination Final
Collingwood v Port Adelaide Saturday, 7.45pm, MCG
The Pies should welcome back Luke Ball and Harry O’Brien, but there were more injury issues on Sunday with Nathan Brown (knee) and Quinten Lynch (ankle) both going down. The other big decisions surround Darren Jolly and whether Alan Didak holds his spot. Could Clinton Young come back in? Hamish Hartlett returns from suspension, but will another Power player – Domenic Cassisi – run foul of the match review panel?
Round 14: Port Adelaide 13.8 (86) def Collingwood 7.9 (51) The Power notched their first win over Collingwood since 2007 with intense tackling pressure in a game where the Pies’ reliance on Travis Cloke was a major talking point.
Why Collingwood will win: Because they are a far more unpredictable and potent team since Ben Reid went forward and helped split the defence and encourage the midfield to use him as a target more often – rather than going to Cloke most of the time. However that all depends on the Pies being able to aff ord the luxury of keeping Reid forward.
Why Port Adelaide will win: Because they not only beat the Pies earlier in the year, they beat them convincingly with hard tackling and clean ball use. Repeat that formula, regardless of the venue, and the wave of momentum that has carried Port’s surge from basket case to finals contender this year might keep the fairytale alive.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.