THE QUESTION of where to play Jordan De Goey might have been answered.
Collingwood has long been searching for the solution to that defining conundrum and on Thursday night, De Goey's scintillating four-goal first half went some way to providing it as the star Pie inspired his side's crucial 21-point victory over Carlton.
The 16.10 (106) to 13.7 (85) win, which simultaneously resigned its arch rivals to an 0-2 start, was defined by De Goey's efforts as the mid-forward became a pure forward to haunt a Blues side that now has its finals hopes hanging by a thread.
BLUES v MAGPIES Full match coverage and stats
He received silver service from the midfield performances of Taylor Adams (29 disposals, 13 clearances, one goal) and captain Scott Pendlebury (30 disposals), shooting the Pies into an early advantage that they maintained across the night.
The Blues, who found life after the main break courtesy of the attacking efforts of Harry McKay (four goals), Jack Martin (three goals) and Michael Gibbons (three goals), flirted with a late comeback. But ultimately it was a familiar tale for David Teague's men, who had once again left themselves with too much to do too late in the game.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley had put the heat on his midfield after the side's round one defeat, with Adams inspiring a red-hot start as an efficient Pies outfit moved the ball with much more potency to open up an 18-point lead by quarter-time.
Adams had 10 disposals and five clearances in the first term alone, with a smaller forward line doing the damage as De Goey, Jamie Elliott and Steele Sidebottom combined for six of the side's first eight goals.
Carlton appeared to need a miracle to stem the momentum when it fell 30 points down early in the second term. But, fortunately, Gibbons provided just that. Twice. Having produced a lovely dummy and check-side in the opening term, his dribbled effort from the point post in the second quarter helped reduce the deficit to just eight points.
The Blues comeback coincided with a nasty ankle injury to Elliott, forcing Trey Ruscoe's introduction as the medical substitute. But even without his partner in the forward line, De Goey wasn’t slowing down. He had four goal by half-time, almost single-handedly restoring his side's handy buffer by the main break.
The two sides continued to exchange blows throughout a tense, cagey third term. Inspired by McKay's efforts, Carlton kicked three consecutive goals to once again draw to within eight. But, inspired by Darcy Moore's defensive feats, Collingwood again kept its opponents at arm's length.
The Magpies toyed with their lead for periods in the final quarter, missing some guilt-edged chances to kill off the game, before De Goey's pinpoint pass set up Ruscoe to finally put the dagger in the Blues' hopes.
Billy's bad luck continues at the 'G
It's been a wretched run for Jamie Elliott. Just when he looked back to his best, bagging two early goals on Thursday night, his evening was ruined by a nasty-looking injury in the second quarter. Elliott suffered a badly sprained ankle following an awkward fall from a marking contest, leaving the forward clutching at his lower right leg and unable to put any weight on the injury as he hopped from the field. He was immediately substituted out of the contest, with Trey Ruscoe introduced as his replacement. Having already missed the entire 2018 season through injury, Elliott's latest blow is a cruel one for a talented player that has rarely been able to enjoy an extended period on the field due to past hamstring and back injuries.
Gibbons sparks the Blues revival
Carlton had been on its haunches in the game's opening stages, before Michael Gibbons lit the fuse for a mini-revival twice through some individual brilliance. His opening goal of the game saw the Blues forward smartly dummy around Darcy Moore's lunging smother attempt, before check-siding through from a tight angle. Then, when the Blues fell 30 points down in the second term, Gibbons produced an even more miraculous snap from the point post. Receiving the ball on ground level, the diminutive forward dribbled through his effort from the tightest of angles. Each of his goals came at the perfect moment for Carlton, helping to galvanise the team when it needed it most.
McKay, Moore deliver an old-fashioned battle
It was reminiscent of the '90s, with both the full-forward and full-back among the best for their respective sides. Harry McKay kicked four goals from 10 disposals and six marks and competed as Carlton's most dangerous attacking threat throughout the night, while Darcy Moore enjoyed 22 disposals and 18 intercepts from six marks to consistently repel a series of other Blues attacks. There was hardly anything to split the two, as a pair of the game's brightest key-position stars lit up the MCG encounter through their tireless tussle. If the neutral has their way, hopefully this won't be the last time these two battle it out like this in front of a huge crowd in a blockbuster encounter.
CARLTON 3.2 8.3 12.4 13.7 (85)
COLLINGWOOD 6.2 11.5 13.7 16.10 (106)
Carlton: McKay 4, Martin 3, Gibbons 3, Pittonet, Fogarty, Fisher
Collingwood: De Goey 4, Mihocek 3, Elliott 2, Cox 2, Sidebottom, Hoskin-Elliott, Daicos, Adams, Ruscoe
Carlton: McKay, Fogarty, Walsh, Saad, Martin, Weitering
Collingwood: Adams, Moore, De Goey, Pendlebury, Crisp, Noble
Collingwood: Elliott (ankle)
Carlton: McDonald (Unused)
Collingwood: Ruscoe (replaced Elliott)
Crowd: 51,723 at the MCG