Collingwood's Quinten Lynch enjoyed a win in his first game against his old club
COLLINGWOOD has enjoyed a timely confidence boost on the eve of the finals, dominating a flat West Coast to win by 62 points at the MCG on Friday night.
After being humbled by Hawthorn seven days earlier, the Magpies bounced back in a powerful performance that re-established them as a September threat.
In an even performance that will leave coach Nathan Buckley with welcome selection headaches, Collingwood ran out 15.11 (101) to 5.9 (39) winners to improve its record to 14-7 for the season.
The severity of West Coast's fall, however, is sure to be a major talking point after its lowest-ever score at the MCG, which came a week after its lowest score at Patersons Stadium.
Incredibly, it was less than 12 months ago these two clubs played off at the MCG for a place in a preliminary final.
The Eagles' inability to be competitive meant the contest fizzled by quarter time, with Collingwood 37 points clear and in no danger of surrendering that lead with its season still alive.
Brownlow medallist Dane Swan was best on ground, winning 34 possessions and kicking two goals, tearing through a lethargic Eagles midfield with his running power.
The only concern for the Magpies was a possible injury to midfielder Luke Ball, who was substituted in the opening minutes of the third quarter with calf tightness.
Otherwise, it was a night for the Magpies' faithful to enjoy, with the club's young players superb as they fought for positions in the team going into finals.
Every Magpie on the ground ran to him when he kicked a goal halfway through the final term.
Young midfielder Josh Thomas starred in the first half with 22 possessions and a goal, and he kicked on to finish with 35 disposals.
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Paul Seedsman was a late inclusion, replacing midfielder Dayne Beams (back tightness), and he took his chance, winning 30 possessions and kicking a good running goal from long range.
Key forward Travis Cloke took the lead in the Coleman Medal race, kicking three goals to take his season tally to 61.
Ben Reid remained forward and kicked four goals, while Scott Pendlebury (37 possessions), Marley Williams (27) and ruckman Brody Grundy (11 and 23 hit-outs) were impressive.
Scott Selwood (33 disposals) battled hard for the Eagles, as did Matt Priddis (32 and nine tackles) in his 150th game.
They lacked support, however, on a dark night for the Eagles.
Click here to vote for the three best West Coast players from the game
Matt Priddis battled for the Eagles without much support in his 150th match. Picture: AFL Media
Rubbing salt into the wound, young forward Jack Darling was substituted out of the clash early in the third quarter with hamstring tightness.
Collingwood produced its best first quarter for the year and its best start ever against West Coast, racing to 8.3 (51) at the first break, with the Eagles held to just two goals.
From that point there was a sense of inevitability about the result.
"[Our] contested ball, [we] defended really well, put pressure around the ball, and were able to take it inside 50 and be really damaging.
"That's as good as we've played in in all three phases."
While they held their own at the coalface early, the Eagles couldn’t contain the run of their desperate opponents, who had options and space whenever they won the football.
By half time the Magpies had won 29 more uncontested possessions than West Coast, taken 19 more uncontested marks and laid eight more tackles.
Out-of-contract coach John Worsfold said he knew what the Eagles needed to do to improve, but conceded the season had undoubtedly been disappointing after West Coast had been tipped by many as a flag favourite.
"This year we've been under expectations, and that's been really disappointing.
"Whether it's a wasted opportunity or not, I'm not sure."
There is a changing of the guard underway at West Coast as premiership heroes retire and others near the end of their decorated careers.
The question that arose on Friday night was who, other than Selwood, is ready to drive the Eagles' response from a horror year in 2014.
COLLINGWOOD 8.3 11.8 14.10 15.11 (101)
WEST COAST 2.2 3.4 3.6 5.9 (39)
Collingwood: Reid 4, Cloke 3, Lynch 2, Swan 2, Seedsman, Thomas, Kennedy, Didak
West Coast: Masten 2, Lycett, Darling, Dalziell
Collingwood: Swan, J.Thomas, Seedsman, Pendlebury, Williams, Reid, Grundy
West Coast: S.Selwood, Masten, Rosa, Priddis
Collingwood: Dayne Beams (tight back) replaced in selected side by Paul Seedsman
West Coast: Jack Darling (right hamstring), Sharrod Wellingham (left ankle)
Collingwood: Luke Ball replaced by Alan Didak in the third quarter
West Coast: Jack Darling replaced by Bradd Dalziell in the third quarter
Umpires: Ryan, Meredith, Jeffery
Official crowd: 41,198 at the MCG