COLLINGWOOD moved to top of the ladder but again victory came at a cost with dynamic forward Alan Didak reinjuring a groin and, it is feared, likely to miss most if not all of the rest of the season.
Didak, a former All-Australian and premiership player, is the 10th member of last year's grand final side now on the injury list, and for the veteran forward it could be a long-term problem.
Didak had only just worked his way back into the side and into form in recent weeks after an adductor strain in the pre-season and it was this same groin problem that flared in the opening minutes of the game. He had a shanked shot at goal and ripped the muscle as he kicked. He turned on his heel and immediately ran to the bench clutching at his groin and was substituted.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley hoped the injury would prove less severe than the pre-season injury that kept him out for two months but the mood in the rooms was not optimistic.
''At this stage it is an adductor strain, we will get the scans done tomorrow and see where the dust settles then,'' Buckley said.
The Magpies have a bye this week and the team flies to Port Douglas today for a week-long camp, but Didak will stay behind for scans and rehabilitation.
The loss for Melbourne could also be compounded at the match review panel with Colin Sylvia and Luke Tapscott likely to be cited. Tapscott gave away a 50-metre penalty for his late charge when he led with the elbow into the back of Alex Fasolo after the Collingwood player had marked. Fasolo went off the ground briefly. Sylvia was running with the flight of the ball but not looking at it when he jumped into Tom Young coming in the other direction in a marking contest. Young had his arms up to mark and was open when struck in the midriff.
''The game of footy is tough, you are not going to get it all your way. We expected Melbourne to be fairly physical: we are a physical side, we play the game hard … every now and then you are going to cop a few, we will wear that,'' Buckley said.
Collingwood led by 52 points midway through the second quarter in the game before a crowd of 64,250 on the Queen's Birthday holiday but Melbourne kicked seven of the next nine goals to stage a solid comeback. Collingwood kicked four goals in eight minutes at the start of the last quarter to quieten the surge.
''The second half in particular Melbourne went inside 25 times and scored 15 so that is not a stat we are particularly proud of. We started the game well and we were happy with that and I thought we got a little bit cute through the second quarter,'' Buckley said.
At the break on top of the ladder with a 9-2 win loss record Buckley said he was ''satisfied and content, which are really dangerous words, but we are really happy to be in the position that we are in. We have worked very hard as a unit''.
Melbourne coach Mark Neeld said in the past three weeks against Carlton, Essendon and now Collingwood his side had had 10 competitive quarters out of 12 and been blown away in those other two quarters. The glimpses of good form were starting to get bigger.
''The first quarter was not what we dished up last week … our challenge is to eradicate those performances. We were over-run, the speed of ball movement we didn't deal with very well at all.
''The middle quarters were good certainly … I am sure the glimpses are getting bigger and longer but we need to get it going for a whole game.''
Demons forward Mitch Clark, who booted four goals and was again his side's best player, said too few players had been prepared to get involved in the first quarter.
''We didn't have enough guys joining in at the start of the game and at the end of the day that's what cost us the game,'' Clark said.