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Anguish and ecstasy in finals farewell

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Chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age

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Magpies knock out Eagles

Collingwood has clinched a preliminary final berth after defeating West Coast.

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SEMI-FINAL victory hurt so good for Collingwood at the MCG last night. In yet another epic of football as tug-of-war, the Magpies dug in their heels to beat West Coast by 13 points.

It was a victory achieved by hearts at once big and hollow, for they had dedicated this night to the memory of former teammate John McCarthy, who died in a tragic accident in Las Vegas last week.

When it was done, the MCG was littered with spent bodies; it looked like the scene of accident. From some Collingwood players, the tears flowed, mostly in mourning. Uniquely, the mood in the winners' rooms was as sombre as in the losers'.

Bittersweet victory: Magpies Sharrod Wellingham, Jarryd Blair and Dayne Beams shed a tear for John McCarthy.

Bittersweet victory: Magpies Sharrod Wellingham, Jarryd Blair and Dayne Beams shed a tear for John McCarthy. Photo: Paul Rovere

The Magpies' prize is what will doubtlessly be another pitched battle against Sydney next Friday in a preliminary final. Beyond, tantalisingly, awaits another grand final. History would not be denied, twice over. Again, Collingwood proved an impenetrable force field for the Eagles. And again, the season's top four becomes the final four. History informs next week's speculations, too: the Magpies have won their last 11 matches against the Swans.

This contest was won and lost by a series of mighty wrenches. The Eagles kicked the first four goals of the game, at which point the Magpies were tottering. Daniel Kerr scarcely bothered to celebrate the fourth; it was no more than a formality at the time. Actually, it was merely the opening gambit.

It took Collingwood until after half-time to haul themselves back to parity. Then, the mercurial Dale Thomas made Collingwood's ascendancy his personal business, kicking three goals in seven minutes in an effervescent burst at the start of the second half.

In such a meeting of irresistible force and immovable obstacle, this was a contribution from another dimension.

But the Eagles redoubled their efforts, and early in the last quarter inched back into the lead. Once again, the Magpies had to reach deep within; once again, they did. But if this match had lasted another minute, the rope surely would have snapped.

Between convulsions, this match was always twitching this way and that. Pre-match, the talk was all of the Eagles' big bodies, but this night they would be cut down to size. The Eagles made what has become the traditional West Australian flying start in these finals, and then were rampant. Collingwood’s only riposte, a goal snapped by Andrew Krakouer out of a goal-mouth frenzy, was belatedly struck off when a replay showed that Andrew Embley had rushed the ball over the line beforehand. It seemed ominous then.

But the Magpies, nothing if not resilient, elbowed their way back into the match. The second quarter was a 1-1 draw. Collingwood had the preponderance of possession, but not penetration. The Eagles threatened constantly on the break. At half-time, the Magpies led on almost every vital sign except the scoreboard.

Thomas, a bystander last week, singlehandedly gave the match a violent lurch at the start of the third quarter. In a draining contest, the Magpies seemed to have found a new store of energy, perhaps by plugging into the crowd, or into their memories of McCarthy.

Again, the Eagles spent the rest of the quarter taming the Pies. They did not kick a goal for themselves until after the three-quarter time siren, but added two more within five minutes of the start of the last quarter to seize the lead and and sent a shiver around the MCG. None of the 65,500 crowd could have known then that Eagles would not score again in the match.

Both sides now were playing on heart alone; all their physical reserves were spent. Typically, the Magpies gathered themselves and kicked the last five scores of the night, but widely spaced. They even summoned up a last burst of running to keep the ball out of the Eagles’ reach. The Collingwood crowd roused itself for one last chant, but it died away quickly. No-one at the MCG had a breath to spare.

8 comments

  • Extremely poor form using someone's death as a motivation for winning. If you had to do it, do it with some class and do it privately. Expected nothing better from C'Wood though.

    Commenter
    Elijah Baley
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    September 16, 2012, 2:11PM
    • The one positive to come out of the night is that because the skunks won, their expectations are rising. They're into another prelim, meaning their eventual demise will be fantastic to watch this year, as it was last year. They will be slayed, either this week or the next. This will give us all another year to hang it on their ignorant fans about what a bunch of losers they are.

      Good old Centrelink forever
      They pay for us to watch the game...

      Commenter
      Julius Seizure
      Location
      `
      Date and time
      September 16, 2012, 2:38PM
    • why is that such poor form?
      teams do that all the time.

      im willing to bet if it was your team you wouldnt care.

      btw i hate colliingwood as well, but saying its wrong to honor their dead mate by playing hard is whats poor form

      Commenter
      rl
      Date and time
      September 16, 2012, 2:40PM
    • Elija Bailey, have you ever spilt blood and sweat with a brother or friend in a team sport? If you have, you're a cold individual and in the minority. If You haven't, you should remain silent. The rest of us are demonstrably vocal (and for the Pies, motivated more so) and proud to celebrate his life and mourn JMac's passing. Go back into shadows you sad person.

      God be with you JM......AND GO PIES !!!!!!!!!!!

      Commenter
      Jack
      Location
      Pascoe Vale
      Date and time
      September 16, 2012, 2:47PM
    • And then there are those that would be Collingwood haters no matter what. Those that had any "class" would keep comments such as yours Elijah Baley to themselves.

      Well played Pies.You did us all proud.

      Commenter
      Amber
      Location
      Dubai
      Date and time
      September 16, 2012, 2:50PM
  • Elijah is obviously a west coke fan. You must remember that after Chris Mainwaring died, they didn't just dedicate 1 game to him, in Perth we get a reminder of his drug use every year with the Chris Mainwaring Game for Telethon. I think it is more tasteless to glorify a drug death for so long, than one young mans death for one game.

    Commenter
    pene
    Location
    perth
    Date and time
    September 16, 2012, 2:31PM
    • Elijah,

      I suspect you have very little emotional intelligence judging by your comments. JMAC (god rest his soul) just happened to become part of the build up to the game. It is very hard to not to let a tragedy like this get in your way. Everybody has their own way of grieving and dealing with this issue, including you! Buckley, players and the club did not use JMAC as the motivator during the week. What ever you think class means is different to what everybody considers it. Just another collingwood hater putting in their two bobs worth. Shame on you!

      Commenter
      geefa1
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      September 16, 2012, 2:43PM
      • I can only agree whole heartedly with Elijah and my words exactly as I was ereading the newshowever, does one truly expect true humulity from football players???? I think not.!!!In fact it was just bad taste at it worsed,
        Grow up boys, !! most times you all portray yourself as big bullies.
        This sort of public emotion is kept privately and with good taste. Grieve of course, but it is not show time.

        Elizabeth from Perth

        Commenter
        Elizabeth from Perth
        Location
        PERTH
        Date and time
        September 16, 2012, 2:44PM
        Comments are now closed

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        Collingwood has clinched a preliminary final berth after defeating West Coast.

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        DALE Thomas is confident Collingwood can continue a six year hoodoo over Sydney this Friday night and secure a grand final berth.

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        The message could not have been any clearer from Swans coach John Longmire. Success against Collingwood on Friday and a grand final berth hinges on his team simply being harder, for longer.

        From cheers to tears for Magpies

        Emotional Collingwood players broke down in tears in the MCG dressing rooms last night as the death of former teammate John McCarthy hit home and they willed themselves into a preliminary final for the fourth year in a row.

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