Collingwood Now Premiership Favourites After Taming Tigers
The Tigers had won 22 straight at the MCG and were overwhelming favourites before the first preliminary final against the Magpies on Friday night.
Collingwood? Almost everyone thought they were there to help Richmond make it 23.
In fairness to the 'Pies, they've improved beyond almost anyone's expectations since losing the first two games of the 2018 season -- playing an ever more attractive brand of footy as this season has unfolded.
But one very sizeable obstacle stood between their growing ambitions and reality: Richmond.
And few people seriously expected them to beat the Tigers in a preliminary final, let alone by a whopping 39 point margin -- 15.7. (97) 8.10 (58).
Richmond in recent times have been the super-professional team that just knows how to win. But Collingwood had nothing to lose. And in sport, that's often the most dangerous thing.
Collingwood's first goal epitomised everything about their nothing-to-lose mentality. The ball came the way of Jordan De Goey after a beautiful piece of crumbing from Travis Varcoe. It's all in the video below. Oh, those silky skills.
And De Goey backed himself, kicking around the corner for a goal that set the black-and-white army into a frenzy.
This is precisely how Collingwood had to play. They had to be a little daring, which they were. Their risks had to pay off, which they did.
Another goal followed soon after the first, after Varcoe marked and kicked truly.
Jack Riewoldt got one back for the Tigers soon afterwards. They needed that. Oh, how they needed that. But Collingwood continued to dominate across the ground and on the scoreboard to establish a handy 23-point lead at the first break.
First quarter a fluke? Forget it.
Mason Cox made sure of that. The 212cm American had never heard of AFL footy five years ago. But he occupies parts of the atmosphere which pretty much extend all the way into the stratosphere and Richmond just couldn't touch him early in the second term.
Incredibly, Cox kicked the first three goals of the second term as the Pies kicked out to a scoreline of 51-9. This was real, people. Eddie was pumped. The Collingwood army was pumped. Tigers fans were in disbelief.
Richmond got one back with just 11 seconds remaining in the half but Collingwood took an improbable 44 lead into the long break -- leading 10.4. (64) to 2.8. (20).
You'd imagine the half-time vibe Richmond in the rooms would have been interesting to say the least at.
13 seconds into the third quarter. Jack Riewoldt marked just inside 50. This moment just felt crucial. Miss, and you felt Richmond would miss out on a grand final berth for sure. Get it, and who knows?
He got it. 38 the margin.
But the Pies hit back within a couple of minutes. Guess who? No, but really. Two guesses. You got it. A mark to Cox just outside the 50 and a goal to De Goey after the American kicked towards the goal square.
Mason Cox, you are officially a giraffe in a zebra suit. And a very effective one.
Richmond hung in there, kicking another goal, but Collingwood had the answer virtually every time. When you're 40 points down as Richmond were at halftime, that's just not good enough.
But Richmond weren't quite done yet. Jack Riewoldt goaled with a couple of minutes left in the quarter -- his fourth for the night -- reducing the margin to 34.
Collingwood led 12.7. (79) to 6.10. (46) at the last break.
Richmond got the first two goals of the fourth quarter and suddenly, this thing was on again.
Until it wasn't. A goal to Brodie Grundy might have been the death knell for the Tigers.
It's always the goals that make highlights packages. But what really set up this game was the across-the-ground enthusiasm of the Magpies. From their tackling to their slick handballing to the relentless contested marking of Cox and others, this was a total football performance by the 'Pies.
When Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley was smiling with five-and-a-half minutes to go, you knew it was over. But when Joffa put on the gold jacket, you really, really knew.
Collingwood will play the winner of tomorrow's West Coast Eagles vs Melbourne Demons match in the AFL grand Final next Saturday.
Incredibly, sports bookies are suggesting that no matter who wins tomorrow's match, Collingwood will now likely start favourite in the grand final.
Not bad for a team which finished 13th last year -- which just happens to be the same position Richmond finished in 2016 before winning the 2017 flag.
Featured Image: Getty.