Collingwood's coach Nathan Buckley urges his players on at quarter-time. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
In Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley's eyes, this was a better style of loss to Hawthorn. The Hawks have a stranglehold on the Magpies, winning five in a row since the 2011 preliminary final and kicking 20 goals or more in the previous four. On Friday night, two late goals made it 18, and gave Hawthorn a 35-point winning margin that Buckley felt reflected unfairly on the unfolding of the match.
"We haven't been able to get over Hawthorn over the last 18 months. But this one feels different to the others, different than round three," he said. "We were beaten by a pretty good side tonight. But the effort was good. There were things in our control that could have made a difference. There wasn't a lot in the game. I thought the flow of play was pretty even. Thirty five points isn't a small margin, but it was closer than that. They kicked the last two goals, which was really disappointing."
Hawthorn led by as much as 41 points after holding Collingwood goal-less in the third quarter, and as little as 24 points mid-way through the last quarter as the Magpies surged. But another period of sustained attacking brought no further reward, which Buckley said was something of a theme on the night.
AFL Round 21: Hawthorn v Collingwood
Hawthorn's Lance Franklin in the clutches of Heath Shaw. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
"In the end, (it was) tackle efficiency," said Buckley. "There were a lot clinchers out there. I thought they were just that bit better in tight. When we had a chance to tackle, we didn't quite lay the tackle as effectively. That's an element of the game that's in our control, one that told at certain stages."
Nonetheless, Buckley was not disheartened. After rousing wins over Essendon and Sydney, this was not so much a setback as a check. "Despite not getting the win, I think it's reinforced the last couple of weeks," Buckley said. "I said to the players, there are plenty of elements outside of our control that conspired to contribute to the loss. But there were element inside our control. Losers talk about things they can't control. Winners improve the things they can."
Buckley rued the third quarter, when he said Collingwood allowed Hawthorn to drop defenders back, dictate play and take the pace out of the match. "Hawthorn are too good a team to allow that," he said. "In the third quarter, we didn't play the way we wanted to play, but apart from that, we weren't far off. We expect to be in the mix against anyone going forward, and we can do some damage." But he admitted that it was now impossible in his mind for Collingwood to make the final four.
One of Collingwood's gains on the night was another impressive display by ruckman Brodie Grundy, who in just his fourth game had 20 possession and 28 hit-outs. Buckley admitted to surprise that the teenager had been able to give so much so soon. "You've got to be surprised," he said. "And he hasn't had pre-season. He keeps giving. He has a fierce competitive will that comes through. He's not overawed. He's been very positive for us."
The Magpies finish the home and away season with matches against West Coast and North Melbourne, both sitting outside the top eight.