More heroes answer call in Anzac epic
2.4 5.6 9.8 11.14(80)
1.3 3.6 7.8 11.13(79)
Collingwood: Swan 3, Cloke 3, Blair 2, Beams, Jolly, Sidebottom.
Essendon: Davey 3, Zaharakis 2, Monfries, Howlett, Stanton, Dell’Olio, Hocking, Lonergan.
Collingwood: Swan, Pendlebury, Johnson, Clarke, Beams, Sidebottom, Maxwell.
Essendon: Zaharakis, Heppell, Fletcher, Howlett, Lonergan, Watson, Dyson.
Essendon: Hibberd (hamstring).
Donlon, Stevic, Meredith.
86,932 at MCG.
THERE can't have been a single Collingwood supporter who wasn't having the worst case of deja vu imaginable with two minutes left to play in yesterday's Anzac Day epic.
Three years ago it had been David Zaharakis who had been the subject of Magpie nightmares. Now it looked like it was going to be Brent Stanton haunting them, after the Essendon midfielder's snap bounced through to give the Bombers a five-point lead. And, to rub salt into the wound, after having been brilliantly held by Marty Clarke.
On a string: Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury wins the ball. Photo: Pat Scala
At that moment, you could see the Pies' season perhaps about to unravel, losing despite having led for nearly the entire match and dominating most of the statistical categories. They were staring a 2-3 win-loss record in the face, with a couple of tough road trips and a grand final rematch with Geelong looming. All of which might make the final 120 seconds of this match, in retrospect, not only pivotal to one result, but the 20-odd yet to come.
As gallant as was Essendon's fightback, Collingwood deserved this win. And got it, thanks to a long kick from Scott Pendlebury, a roost to the teeth of goal from Ben Sinclair, and a lunge of Jarryd Blair's boot which, after an agonising ''let's go to the video'' moment, confirmed the Magpies had hit the front one last time.
Even then, they had one minute and 20 seconds left to survive, and one final, desperate Essendon attack, in which the Dons again looked likely to score before Dane Swan took the game's final mark in the back pocket, kicked to the wing and, like several thousand other Pies, breathed a massive sigh of relief. And in his case, exhausted relief.
Swan epitomised how Collingwood rediscovered its mojo. Just like last year, he was everywhere, finishing with 42 disposals, including 13 clearances and three goals. He set the tone with a 13-possession first quarter.
Pendlebury racked them up too and, importantly, the Pies' support midfielders, players such as Dayne Beams and Steele Sidebottom, also jumped on board.
It was in stark contrast to the Essendon engine room, where Ben Howlett and Sam Lonergan battled hard, but Stanton was kept quiet, skipper Jobe Watson wasn't as influential as usual, and Heath Hocking couldn't pull the shutters on Swan's output.
The Collingwood defence, much criticised so far this season, came good yesterday. Skipper Nick Maxwell was back to his marshalling best and veteran Ben Johnson superb with his rebound.
The Magpies also had the more productive forward set-up, where Travis Cloke kicked three goals and always remained a threat. Essendon, sorely missing Michael Hurley, lacked the same sort of marking presence. Indeed, a grab from Jake Carlisle close to three-quarter time was its first mark inside 50 for the match.
But the Bombers did have decent crumbers such as Alwyn Davey, midfielders capable of kicking a couple of goals, such as Zaharakis, and a very healthy dose of good ol' Anzac pluck. It meant that every time Collingwood looked likely to blow the game open, back came the Bombers. Collingwood's lead never exceeded three goals.
Zaharakis clearly likes the Anzac Day stage. The still-young Bomber is a best-and-fairest winner and his game yesterday was all smooth run, smart ball use and classy finishing.
The even-younger Dyson Heppell likes it just as much. It was this same game last year that made many sit up and take notice of the eventual Rising Star winner. The 19-year-old was at it again off half-back yesterday, as resolute in defence as he was dashing with his rebound, the ageless Dustin Fletcher again leading the way.
Beams' early goal in the last term looked very likely to settle the matter, and Collingwood did blow several chances to hammer the final nail into the coffin lid. But substitute Corey Dell'Olio, who came on by quarter-time after Michael Hibberd tore a hamstring, kept things interesting.
Davey crept forward to reduce the gap to single digits. Then again to camp out in the goal square, hovering under Hocking's hurried snap. That levelled the scores and evoked memories of the first officially sanctioned Anzac Day clash between these two great rivals in 1995. When Stanton, three minutes later, took a quick handball from Carlisle and wheeled onto his right to suddenly make what had been a grim day personally that much brighter, it was 2009 all over again.
Blair had just turned five when the Dons and Pies drew in '95. He was 19 three years ago. And yesterday, at a still comparatively tender 22, he added his name to the roll-call of Rocca, Hird, Buckley, Zaharakis and co. It's elite company. And an elite football occasion. One that, as yesterday proved yet again, just keeps on delivering.