MELBOURNE'S nightmare week has ended with a third straight loss after Collingwood produced a stunning second-half fightback at the MCG to leap back into the eight in a big upset on Queen's Birthday.
After a week where the Demons' culture has been forensically examined from the outside following the controversial incident between Steven May and Jake Melksham, Melbourne's grip on top spot has been loosened again – Brisbane and Fremantle are now level on 40 points.
Simon Goodwin's men led by 20 points in the third quarter before the Magpies kicked seven of the last eight goals to win a fourth straight game to continue the renaissance under new coach Craig McRae.
MAGPIES v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats
It was equally as stunning for the victors as it was disappointing for the losers.
The Demons won the first 10 games of 2022 – and hadn’t lost for 17 games – before they were upset by Fremantle a fortnight ago. They then fell to Sydney last weekend before the Magpies saluted by 26 points on Monday.
Brownlow Medal contender Clayton Oliver dominated from start to finish for the Demons, collecting 16 touches in the opening quarter, 27 by half-time and 43 by the final siren to win the Neale Daniher Trophy for best on ground.
But Collingwood found more winners all over the ground across four quarters to continue its remarkable emergence as a contender, banking an eighth win from 13 rounds after winning only six times during a horrible 2021.
Rising Star favourite Nick Daicos followed up his career best performance against Hawthorn with another brilliant showing against Melbourne, Brody Mihocek kicked four goals in a stunning display and Mason Cox produced another had-to-see-it-to-believe-it effort to continue his red-hot form.
Collingwood looked like it was going to be made to rue a wasteful start when they kicked five behinds – plus two shots that didn’t register a score – before Jack Ginnivan snapped the Magpies' first two minutes into the second quarter, following an opening quarter where the polarising livewire hit the post and missed another shot after drawing a high tackle from Christian Petracca.
By that stage, Melbourne had taken its chances. Ben Brown ended a three-game goalless run with its first, before it reached the main break with an eight-point lead, despite the Magpies bringing the heat from the outset.
Mason Cox had two chances late in the first half, but pulled both set shots to the near side in a nearly day for the 211cm ruckman-forward. The American quickly imposed himself on the contest in a third quarter blitz that was almost as devastating as his performance against Richmond in the 2018 preliminary final.
First he kicked a goal on the run, then he took three intercept marks in defensive 50 to block some forays forward. Staring off attacks in his prescription eyewear. For the second time in the space of a fortnight, Cox played like it was a final, finishing with 21 disposals, nine marks and a goal to be one of the most influential players on the ground.
Melbourne was forced to deal with a range of injuries in the second half. Max Gawn hobbled off the ground just before half-time after hurting his foot and battled through the second half. Daniel Turner didn’t finish his debut after suffering a concussion in the third quarter. Harry Petty was also forced off following a crunching collision with Jamie Elliott, but returned in the last quarter after passing a concussion test.
By then, the Magpies were in control of the contest and put the foot down to continue their dominance in this marquee timeslot, claiming a 14th win from 21 games since the Queen's Birthday clash was introduced in 2001.
Between now and when Collingwood next faces the Demons in round 21, they face Greater Western Sydney, Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Adelaide, Essendon and Port Adelaide - six sides which don't currently hold a spot in the eight.
Melbourne returns to action in nine days when it faces Brisbane at the MCG in what looms as an even bigger encounter after the outcome of Queen's Birthday.
Mihocek delivers after being under injury cloud
Brody Mihocek barely trained at all during the week after suffering bone bruising in his knee against Hawthorn last Sunday and was in doubt for the clash. But you wouldn’t have known it on Monday. The undersized key forward did what he has done in his first 90 games. He provided the Magpies with a target in attack all day, finishing with four goals from 16 disposals and 10 marks in a commanding display at the MCG.
Concussion ends debutant's day
Daniel Turner was the feelgood story of the week at Melbourne after getting an opportunity to play in the Demons' back six in the absence of the suspended Steven May. The 20-year-old arrived at the club this time last year after being taken in the NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft, but has had to wait patiently for an opportunity. Turner showed some promise before he was substituted out of the game with a concussion in the third quarter. While Melbourne has the bye this weekend, it plays next Thursday which will rule Turner out of that game.
Oliver continues his monster season
Clayton Oliver sent the statisticians scrambling in the opening half when he amassed 27 disposals by the main break. He slowed, somewhat, after half-time, but still finished with 43 disposals – two off the personal best he set against North Melbourne – to claim the Neale Daniher Trophy. Expect the three-time All-Australian to return to the top of the Coaches votes leaderboard after Lachie Neale and Andrew Brayshaw displaced him earlier in the day.
COLLINGWOOD 0.5 3.8 8.5 12.10 (82)
MELBOURNE 3.1 5.4 7.6 8.8 (56)
Collingwood: Mihocek 4, Elliott 3, Cox, Crisp, Henry, Ginnivan, McCreery
Melbourne: Brown 2, Jackson, Jordon, Fritsch, Oliver, Pickett, Viney
Collingwood: N.Daicos, Mihocek, Cox, Crisp, Maynard, De Goey, Pendlebury
Melbourne: Oliver, Viney, Petracca, Brayshaw, Salem, Jordon
Melbourne: Turner (concussion) Gawn (foot)
Collingwood: Tyler Brown (unused)
Melbourne: Kade Chandler (replaced Daniel Turner)