IT CAME down to the last minute. We wanted the best and we got the best.
In one of the hottest Grand Final days ever recorded, with the two best teams of the season, in one of the best seasons in recent times, we got perhaps the best ever premiership decider.
ALL THE STATS Full Grand Final match coverage and numbers
MATCH REPORT Magpies outlast Lions in thrilling Grand Final
NORM SMITH MEDAL All the votes as Bobby wins it
PLAYER RATINGS Every Magpies player rated
PLAYER RATINGS Every Lions player rated
PRECISION AND POWER The moment that won the Pies the flag
10 THINGS WE LEARNED Magpies are clutch kings, party time for Bobby
CHAMPIONS STEP UP The Magpie 'fossils' who guided their side to 16th flag
IT'S MCRAE DAY One flag, one daughter and 44 sons
FAGAN OPTIMISTIC Lions' flag window just opening, coach says
'HE GOT ME UP AND ABOUT' How Hawks great inspired Magpies star's huge GF display
'SOAK THAT UP' Andrews urges Lions to use GF hurt to 'power them' in 2024
HEROIC PIE Defender reveals he finished GF with three broken ribs
And now it's official: Collingwood is the best team of 2023, with the Magpies edging out Brisbane by four points on Saturday in a Grand Final epic in front 100,024 people at the MCG.
In a game full of remarkable highlights, brutal toughness, brilliant goals, spectacular individualism and hard-nosed team ethos, it was Craig McRae's men who claimed this year's premiership, winning 12.18 (90) to 13.8 (86).
Collingwood's triumph breaks a 13-year drought without a premiership and sees them claim their 16th VFL/AFL flag, joining rivals Essendon and Carlton with a competition-leading 16 premierships.
With five-and-a-half minutes to play, Lions star Charlie Cameron looked set to snatch the flag for Brisbane when his snap put his side four points ahead. But Collingwood superstars Nick Daicos and Jordan De Goey teamed up to immediately grab back the lead, with Daicos' swift handball to De Goey giving the Pies' No.2 space to bomb it from 50 metres in the 10th lead change of the game.
It restored the Pies' four-point lead, before Steele Sidebottom marked on the wing and was dragged to the ground by Lion Jarrod Berry. A 50-metre penalty was awarded and the Pies veteran slotted a goal from the 50-metre line to give the Pies a 10-point break with 4:23 remaining.
The game looked over before some Hugh McCluggage magic saw Joe Daniher snap a goal to get the Lions within four points with 93 seconds to play, before the Pies ground out the last moments to clinch an extraordinary flag.
Five years after the heartbreak of the 2018 Grand Final loss, the Magpies got their moment in pulsating fashion, with heroes all over the ground.
Bobby Hill kicked four goals from 18 disposals in a career-best game to win the Norm Smith Medal, while Nick Daicos had a stellar afternoon, with the young superstar having a game-high 29 disposals and a goal to end his special second season.
McRae's men have become the kings of the close contest over the past two years and did it on the biggest stage of all.
After legendary rockers KISS put in a super pre-match performance, the fireworks kept coming right until the final siren.
Daicos kicked off a frenetic first term, slotting the opening goal after a free kick. The sensation had started forward in his second game back from injury, with the Pies having all the early running. They skipped to a two-goal lead before Brisbane had caught its breath, with Zac Bailey's two first-quarter goals helping edge the Lions ahead.
The first goal was good – an on-the-run banger that sailed through – but the second was an all-timer, seeing the Lions star smother Mason Cox, collect the ball, evade two Collingwood tacklers and then snap it through. The Lions had jumped to a three-point advantage before again the Pies took back control, with a De Goey long bomb after the siren establishing Collingwood's 10-point lead at the first change.
If we thought the first quarter was good, there was the most epic of second quarters to come. During the quarter-time break, the MCG speakers blasted John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads, igniting three crowd singalongs.
It also lit the fuse for Cameron, who was making them sing for him soon enough with two quick goals and another goal assist to get the Lions firing.
Brisbane's efforts to keep the ball at ground level in defence had Collingwood unsettled and their fleet of small forwards went to work, with Deven Robertson busy, Bailey terrific and Lincoln McCarthy kicking a cracker from the pocket to put them 13 points ahead.
But the Magpies weren't ready to stop there. In a first half that will rank alongside any Grand Final for highlights and quality goals, Hill then put his mark on the game – figuratively and literally. He kicked three goals for the quarter and by half-time had a career-best four, including a left-foot snap and a huge screamer inside-50 that he converted.
Again it was some Daicos magic – weaving through traffic, slowing down, speeding up, spotting an option and hitting his target – that set up the final goal of the half with his 19th disposal before the main break as Brody Mihocek put the Magpies up by six points.
After full throttle footy in the second term, the third quarter hit arm wrestle territory. Collingwood was kept to 0.6 until the final two minutes, when Hill smartly spotted Scott Pendlebury open 30 metres from goal. Having watched his side surrender the lead, the Pies champion's never-in-doubt kick put his side ahead by four points heading into the last quarter.
The Lions conceded a goal in the final two minutes of the term in each of the first three quarters, and it proved a costly momentum shifter at the end of the third after they had otherwise been on top with their efficiency.
Daniher was a big part of Brisbane's push, with the key forward having an important day, helping set up Robertson's crucial goal in the third quarter with his contested mark on the wing.
The Lions had their opportunities at the start of the fourth but Collingwood's mantra throughout the year has been to play every single minute.
It's the mantra underneath McRae's uber-positive, open-door, belief-is-everything philosophy that has sealed them a premiership cup, coming to the fore when they needed it most.
COLLINGWOOD 4.4 9.9 10.15 12.18 (90)
BRISBANE 3.0 9.3 11.5 13.8 (86)
Collingwood: Hill 4, Crisp 2, De Goey 2, N.Daicos, Mihocek, Pendlebury, Sidebottom
Brisbane: Cameron 3, Daniher 3, Bailey 2, McCarthy 2, McCluggage 2, Robertson
Collingwood: Hill, N.Daicos, Crisp, Howe, Mitchell, Pendlebury
Brisbane: McCluggage, Daniher, Coleman, Andrews, Bailey, Cameron
Collingwood: Murphy (concussion)
Collingwood: Patrick Lipinski (replaced Nathan Murphy at quarter-time)
Brisbane: Jarryd Lyons (replaced Callum Ah Chee in the fourth quarter)
Crowd: 100,024 at the MCG
2023 Norm Smith Medal voting
15 - Bobby Hill (Coll)
5 - Keidean Coleman (Bris)
4 - Nick Daicos (Coll)
3 - Tom Mitchell (Coll)
2 - Jack Crisp (Coll)
1 - Scott Pendlebury (Coll)
Luke Darcy (Chair) – B Hill 3, N Daicos 2, S Pendlebury 1
Eddie Betts – B Hill 3, T Mitchell 2, K Coleman 1
Jude Bolton – B Hill 3, K Coleman 2, T Mitchell 1
Sarah Olle – B Hill 3, K Coleman 2, J Crisp 1
Luke Shuey – B Hill 3, N Daicos 2, J Crisp 1