Magpies on board, oust Lions in scrappy GF rematch

Murray Wenzel |

Collingwood have consigned the Brisbane Lions to their worse start to an AFL season in six years.
Collingwood have consigned the Brisbane Lions to their worse start to an AFL season in six years.

Collingwood have revived their AFL season and sent the Brisbane Lions’ further south with a 20-point win in a scrappy, fluctuating grand final rematch at the Gabba.

The Magpies were kept scoreless in the second term but weren’t made to pay and the premiers roared back to win 14.8 (92) to 10.12 (72), improving to 3-1 on Thursday night.

Brisbane, who lost by four points to Collingwood at the MCG decider last year, are now 0-3 in their worst start since they lost their first eight games in 2018.

Unbeaten at the Gabba last year, the Lions are 0-2 at the venue in 2024.

History is still against both sides, North Melbourne in 1975 being the last team to start 0-3 and win the flag.

Brody Mihocek (three goals), Jamie Elliot (four) and Bobby Hill (three) took chunks out of the Lions while Jack Crisp’s long-range effort out of a pack, against the flow, helped extinguish Brisbane’s final-quarter charge.

They won the tackle count 84-53, coach Craig McRae praising the recalled John Noble and Nick Daicos – who shifted to halfback and broke open the game – and describing it as a “statement” performance.

“We’ve had a bit against us, in terms of the pile on (of criticism),” he said.

“Our pressure, we wanted to raise the bar; there was a damning number we looked at.

“Last year we were No.1 for pressure and we were 13th.

“It almost stunned us. That’s not us. So we tried to make a statement in some ways or put it right in front of our face.”

Collingwood veteran Scott Pendlebury, who has avoided suspension in 387 games, will face scrutiny after his open-handed slap to the stomach of Lachie Neale left the Lions co-captain doubled over in pain.

Last year’s Norm Smith Medallist Hill tormented the Brisbane defence again in the first quarter in front of a full house of 34,022 fans.

Both sides were error-riddled, dropping simple marks and missing targets in borderline comical scenes given the quality of their last encounter.

The Magpies’ speed told though, their ball movement too slick and direct as Hill popped up for three of five goals as the visitors threatened to tear the game open.

Dayne Zorko’s (30 disposals) lone hand showed the way though and senior teammates Hugh McCluggage and Neale (35 touches, 10 clearances) responded with powerful second quarters to help turn the tide.

McCluggage (29 disposals) had nine touches and Neale five clearances in the one-sided term, Neale booting an early goal in his return from a hamstring injury.

They kept coming but couldn’t take a mark, a 21-2 inside-50 count a reflection of their dominance as the Magpies were kept scoreless.

Bobby Hill.
Bobby Hill takes a mark during the Pies’ win in Brisbane. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

But the Lions didn’t hit the lead – Neale’s the only Brisbane mark inside 50 until late in the half – until Cam Rayner’s goal on the siren.

Collingwood rallied to take a 20-point margin into the final break, Elliot and Mihocek goals icing the contest as Lions fans headed for the exits with almost 10 minutes still to play.

Coach Chris Fagan was again left looking at a statistics sheet that contained plenty of positives in a losing result.

“We had enough entries (56-43 inside-50s), but weren’t able to turn those into marks and scores, and a lot were in that second quarter,” he said.

“We over handballed and that invited their pressure.”