Defeating Essendon on Anzac Day after coming from so far behind - and the way they did it - made the win more worthy than Collingwood’s other three wins of the season, Magpies coach Nathan Buckley said.
He said he felt the team had improved on last year, in particular defensively at either end of the ground.
The win came at a cost for Collingwood, with Alex Fasolo injuring a big toe and needing to be substituted. When he finished the game in a moon boot, there were concerns he had re-injured the navicular bone that kept him out for most of last season, but scans were expected to reveal a toe injury.
Clinton Young finished with a corked thigh in a heavy collision with Bomber forward Paul Chapman that left the former Geelong premiership player assessed for concussion.
Before a crowd of 91,731, the Magpies came from 37 points down early in the second quarter to boot nine unanswered goals and eventually win by 23 points. They withstood a mini-Essendon comeback in the last quarter to win by 23 points, despite being down a man on the bench.
“It was an excellent win … the pride in the performance, the belief in what we're doing at the moment … it's a massive step forward for us,” Buckley said.
“Today was probably as encouraging as any of our wins so far. We were on the back foot early, but we were able to hold our line and maintain the belief in the way we went about it. The onfield leadership of the players to maintain that communication and positivity when things were heading south, what we were able to execute over four quarters was the biggest win for us.''
Collingwood had 11 fewer forward entires than Essendon but also laid an impressive 97 tackles. Essendon put on 81 in a fiercely contested game.
“We won a different way … Essendon came out from the bell, punched us in the nose, we had watery eyes and it took us a little while to get our bearings,” Buckley said.
“It was all the more meritorious with the youth in our side and our senior leaders out there, to be able to keep everything on track and stick to the task. That doesn’t mean we are going to come back and win it, but the fact that we were able to is a fairly big feather in the cap.
“Last year, if we were to give up that many inside-50s, we would have been scored [against] really heavily.”
Buckley said the team was starting to better implement minor changes to the game plan made after last season when it was exploited defensively at either end of the ground.
“We were a top-four side defensively and offensively through the middle last year in transition, in contested ball and clearances, but at either end we had some work to do. We made some modifications, we are adjusting that.
“We are not putting a cap on what we are capable of. We are still finding our best balance, we are still finding out what we are capable of, and we look forward to challenges we have to come.''
Buckley said key-position swingman Ben Reid would likely return to the side in after the bye, and following the Carlton game next Friday night.