It was always going to be a day of intrigue for the Collingwood Football Club.
As unrest amongst the boardroom and the members continues to bubble away off the field. It was a heart-breaking conclusion on the field after leading for almost the entire day, giving up a 15 point three quarter time lead to succumb to Port Adelaide by a singular point in a scrappy contest at the MCG.
After trailing all day, a Sam Powell-Pepper goal put Port Adelaide 13 points in front with less than six minutes to play. Goals were hard to come by, but Collingwood cut the margin back to a point with minutes to go through first-year players Beau McCreery and Caleb Poulter.
The Pies were beaten by the clock despite a final forward thrust in the dying stages.
They burst out of the blocks with the first three goals of the game and controlled the opening stages with fast ball movement and a steadfast defence, restricting the Power to a goalless opening quarter.
The Pies continued to outwork their opponents in the first half, controlling the speed of the game and the early work out of the middle with Brodie Grundy, the dominant ruckman leading the way and running Peter Ladhams ragged around the ground.
Robbie Gray kickstarted the Power with two second-quarter goals, registering Port’s first goal at the 14-minute mark of the second.
For all Collingwood’s dominance in the first half all over the ground, they only had a 15 point lead to show for it at halftime.
The Power surge loomed large at the start of the second half when Charlie Dixon goaled and then set up another for Todd Marshall. But the Pies drew away again, McCreery striking twice to re-establish the halftime lead as the contest turned into an arm wrestle.
Port Adelaide showed its experience and poise to wrestle the ascendancy back its way as Robbie Gray stepped up to kick his third goal of the afternoon midway through the final quarter. An errant kick by John Noble led to a costly turnover which resulted in a Sam Powell-Pepper goal.
Despite spending some significant time on the bench getting treatment, the Pies were bolstered significantly by the return of Taylor Adams to the engine room, leading all players on the ground, gathering 29 disposals.
Power coach Ken Hinkley was just happy to get the four points on a day where he conceded his side didn’t play their best footy but won regardless.
“Sometimes you just have to put a season together, there will be some poor performances, not very often you get a poor performance and a win out of it,” he said post match.
“I thought Collingwood played a pretty good brand of footy to challenge us. They managed to do it better than us for most parts of the game.”
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Hinkley lauded the influence of his veterans Charlie Dixon and Robbie Gray, who were instrumental in both getting Port Adelaide going and steering them across the line.
Gray’s efforts came as no surprise to Hinkley, who proudly declared “he’s done it forever for us.”
“He’s always been reliable for us when we need him. I was pretty grateful he was out there today for us. He does that week in week out.
“Charlie, I’m sure like the rest of the team there are moments there today he would have liked to have been better.”
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley wouldn’t be drawn in to the outside noise that continues to surround his club with off-field matters. Instead, he is focused on rebuilding this side and taking the young Pies up the ladder.
“We just had 22 or 23 players do their business inside the white line, in our endeavours to play our best football,” Buckley said.
“We’ve come off a week wanting to prepare what to do against an opponent and we’ll do that in the next weekly cycle also.
“There’s a lot of focus on plenty of things that none of those boys or I are in control of, we’ll ask the questions of people that are.”
While the goals from the start of the year have been reset, Buckley was buoyed by the signs of improvement that were displayed by the young Pies over the four quarters today, and over the past three weeks, as the regeneration of this Collingwood team continues.
It fills him with hope for the rest of the season that the group is trending in the right direction.
“The fact that we were six minutes to go, 13 points down and fought it out, is no small shift in what we’ve seen this year given we could have easily just let it go,” Buckley said.
“We’ve seen some young guys come through that we didn’t know about at the beginning of the year.
“Beau [McCreery] has gone again and finished and stood up when it mattered. Caleb Poulter as well. Isaac Quaynor continues to take steps. Darcy Cameron looks dangerous for us in front of the ball.
“Whilst you take the ’21 season as a snapshot and look at where were at, we expect to perform a lot better in this next period.”
Collingwood’s next challenge comes in a Saturday afternoon meeting with Geelong at the MCG.
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