Melbourne's Mark Jamar battles with Collingwood's Darren Jolly. Click for more photos

AFL Round 11: Melbourne v Collingwood

Melbourne's Mark Jamar battles with Collingwood's Darren Jolly.

COLLINGWOOD 1.67.11 12.15 17.20 (122) MELBOURNE 1.5 1.7 3.9 5.9 (39)
GOALS Collingwood: Cloke 3, Martin 3, Kennedy 3, J Thomas 2, Didak, Lynch, Pendlebury, O'Brien, Swan, Macaffer. Melbourne: Trengove 2, Davey 2, Blease.
BEST Collingwood: Ball, Pendelbury, Swan, Shaw, Sidebottom, Kennedy. Melbourne: N Jones, M Jones,
Garland.
INJURIES Melbourne: Dawes (ankle), McKenzie (mouth).
UMPIRES McBurney, Margetts, Kamolins.
CROWD 50,835 at the MCG

This was one quarter of match, three quarters of match practice.

The first quarter was Melbourne's nod to the occasion, the biggest day of its football year. The Demons matched Collingwood in every aspect, and beat the Magpies handsomely in one, contested posession, 36-25. The Melbourne faithful, rallying perhaps one last time, were in full and throaty voice, classically indignant during play, rapturous at quarter time. In the moist air, there hung the merest hint of the impossible.

Cameron Pedersen battles with Collingwood's Quinten Lynch.

Cameron Pedersen battles with Collingwood's Quinten Lynch. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

That only made what followed all the more abjectly anti-climatic. In the the remaining three quarters, Collingwood had the ball 87 more times than Melbourne, including 31 times in contested situations. It led the inside 50 count 54-23, and outscored the Demons 110-28. In the last quarter, Melbourne advanced the ball inside 50 just four miserable times. At least it was efficient, kicking two goals. By then, the seagulls were making more noise than the Melbourne fans. One, in full regalia, was never deluded; he listened to ABC Classic FM through headphones all day.

So, on the one day, the Demons put in their best and worst performances of this annus horribilus. At least no-one is any doubt about where they stand. They don't, still.

But, if anything, this muddied the Collingwood waters. The Magpies had wanted a four-quarter effort, and played three. In the first quarter, Scott Pendlebury was caught in possession twice, and Quinten Lynch missed three times, including once from 20 metres. Over and over, the Magpies stalled at half-back. It was as if they had sleep-walked into this game. Pendlebury, on his own admission, had spent the pre-match watching Miami-versus-San Antonio in the NBA play-offs.

Stung by a burst from Nathan Buckley at quarter time, they then played some their slickest football in their mercurial year. They got match kilometres into Alan Didak, who regained some of his cockiness of old. His first goal this season was kicked with a Didak flourish, though he understood the humble context and was careful not to flaunt it.

They saw Luke Ball back to his old tricks, ferreting the ball out from the bottom of packs. He led all-comers for contested possession, and as much as any one player was responsible for the change in complexion in this match after quarter time.

The Magpies introduced another new player, their sixth this season. With his first kick, a cultured left-footer, Adam Oxley spotted up Dayne Swan in scarcely a metre of leading space, an astute career move. Swan goalled. Collingwood's injury malaise is a double-edged sword, hurting now, but laying down a foundation for the future.

But it was not all sweetness and light. Travis Cloke began by slotting a goal from the bleachers, but thereafter lost his range as only he can, managing a total of three goals from eight shots. In this, he was also the Cloke of old. After one flew wide in the last quarter, he flapped his arms in frustration. For Melbourne's gallant Colin Garland, this counted as a moral victory. Meantime, Nathan Brown was subbed out, seemingly because of what is known in the trade as a niggle.

But it was it was hard to gauge Collingwood, because really, there was no measuring stick. Former Magpie Chris Dawes kept the backline honest early, until an ankle strain put him out of the game. Thereafter, Melbourne's forward line became a bird sanctuary. Pendlebury and Swan, left untagged, had more than 70 possessions between them. No serious team will give them the freedom of the land like that.

Time after time, Melbourne tried to run the ball out of defence, so played into Collingwood's hands, literally. Mark Neeld, still Melbourne's coach, counted 24 Collingwood shots on goal from Melbourne's surrendering of the ball.

From quarter-time, Collingwood kicked 10 goals in a row, after which all was postscript. Midway through the last quarter, even the Collingwood end of the MCG was half-empty. The event _ you could not call it match _ was reduced to an exercise by Collingwood in piercing Melbourne's 18-man defence. It would not have surprised if both coaches had appeared on the ground, setting out witches hats.

The Queen's Birthday occasion rarely has been so faux. It cried out at least for a Jeremy Howe mark, but this was not a day even for momentary soaring. In the end, Collingwood added a 14-goal win to its spluttering season, and Melbourne dreamed of the day when it, too, would splutter.


TEN OF THE BEST

Aaron Davey thrilled the surprisingly vocal Demons contingent with a first-quarter goal that featured two baulks.  But it was another 59 minutes until they got the opportunity to wave their flags again, when Jack Trengove threaded a set shot in the third quarter. In between, Collingwood piled on 10 goals of its own.

DIDAK'S CLASSY CAMEO
Veteran Magpie Alan Didak was made to work hard for a senior recall, but the absence of Andrew Krakouer provided him a great opportunity to reclaim his mantle as the side's premier creative forward. But instead of sitting deep,  Didak was used on a wing or flank, and used his guile and freakish skill to great effect.

DAWES' DIRTY DAY
The sterling effort of Demon Chris Dawes last weekend against Hawthorn raised expectations he would be even better against his old club. His first quarter on Monday produced only two marks but he left no doubt where his loyalties lay after he became embroiled in a scuffle with Nick Maxwell. But as the match progressed it became obvious he was struggling with a knee injury, which prompted his substitution at half-time. With Mitch Clark already missing, the loss of the spearhead was another blow the Demons could not absorb. - Jesse Hogan