Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has praised veteran forward Travis Varcoe's effort to play less than a fortnight after his sister died.
The 30-year-old stood alongside his teammates as they wore black armbands and observed a minute's silence to honour the 27-year-old, who died after being involved in an on-field collision while playing football in South Australia a fortnight ago.
Varcoe kicked the Magpies' first goal and laid a goal-saving tackle in the third quarter as he applied enormous pressure on the Eagles throughout the tense final.
"For Trav to be able to stand up and play for his teammates was huge," Buckley said.
Buckley also lauded defender Tyson Goldsack's performance after he made a miraculous return from the knee reconstruction he had just six months ago.
The coach said Goldsack's effort in the first three quarters against Eagles forward Josh Kennedy was outstanding and part of the reason why the Magpies had their noses in front at the final break.
However Buckley said more than one game would be required from Goldsack, with the finals series alive and a must-win clash against the Giants ahead.
"Now he has got to butter up again," Buckley said.
The Magpies did not suffer any injuries but the mood in the rooms post-game was despondent as they held a lead with just five minutes remaining.
However, Buckley said they would head home on the midnight flight and begin recovery immediately to prepare for the Giants, who beat the Magpies at the MCG in round two.
He told the players they had no time to dwell on the disappointment.
"The fact we have been able to learn from our losses and add that to our game and take the next step [means] we still feel like there is three wins for us to get," Buckley said.
"Now we need to get three in a row and we start next week."
Buckley said the opportunity to head straight into a preliminary final was lost when the Eagles took control of the stoppages in the final quarter and turned a 10-point deficit into a 16-point win.
However the double chance meant all was not lost.
"We have a chance to in some ways take the lessons from this experience and dust ourselves off and go again," Buckley said.
"Whether we have won games or lost them we have played with a consistency of effort for each other."