The Magpies held off the Demons to secure a dramatic win in the opening finals match. Despite appearing vulnerable in the late stages of the regular season, Collingwood rediscovered their early-season form to narrowly defeat the Demons 9.6 (60) to 7.11 (53) in the qualifying final. The match drew a crowd of 92,636 fans on Thursday night.
Collingwood held a 25-point lead at the end of the third quarter but had to withstand a late surge from Melbourne, who dominated the final quarter but couldn’t take the lead. Key players like Tom McDonald and Bayley Fritsch missed crucial set shots in the last quarter, while Melbourne’s strong midfield duo of Max Gawn and Christian Petracca couldn’t fully capitalize on their dominance.
The return of captain Darcy Moore and Nathan Murphy from injuries bolstered Collingwood’s defensive setup, despite Melbourne having a significant advantage in the inside-50 count, registering 69 to Collingwood’s 37. However, Melbourne squandered numerous scoring opportunities.
Magpies coach Craig McRae expressed his pride in the team’s performance, emphasizing the significance of winning their first final and securing a guaranteed home preliminary final.
Brayden Maynard, an enforcer for Collingwood, faces uncertainty about his availability for the upcoming preliminary final against either Port Adelaide or Brisbane. In a chaotic first quarter, Maynard’s attempted smother resulted in a high and dangerous hit on Melbourne’s Angus Brayshaw, who was knocked unconscious and left the field on a stretcher. As a result, Brayshaw will enter the 12-day concussion protocols and miss the next week’s semi-final against Carlton or Sydney.
Melbourne may also have concerns about young key forward Jacob van Rooyen, who delivered a high hit to Daniel McStay in the first quarter. McStay underwent a concussion assessment but later returned to the game, contributing with two crucial goals in the third quarter.
The match began with Collingwood scoring the first two goals through small forward Bobby Hill, thrilling their supporters. Hill, who joined Collingwood from GWS during the previous year’s trade period, finished with three goals in an impressive performance.
This loss marked Melbourne’s third consecutive finals defeat since their 2021 premiership win, following last year’s exit from the post-season without a victory. While they dominated the game after the first quarter, Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin acknowledged their poor start and emphasized the need to regroup for the upcoming matches.