Darcy Moore leads his team off the field after the Opening Round match between Collingwood and GWS at Engie Stadium on March 9, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

COLLINGWOOD needs to quickly rediscover the physicality that propelled it to Grand Final glory while it waits for defensive reinforcements to arrive, according to coach Craig McRae.

The Magpies started their premiership defence with a 32-point defeat as Greater Western Sydney ran riot with 18 goals on Saturday night.

GIANTS v MAGPIES Full match coverage and stats

Emerging forward Callum Brown booted five goals, while Jesse Hogan and Brent Daniels each added four as the Magpies had few options to cover the Giants' variety in attack.

The Pies were missing premiership defenders Jeremy Howe (calf) and Nathan Murphy (concussion), handing Charlie Dean a debut in an undermanned backline that gave up 13 marks inside 50.

"Were we undersized? Maybe, I'm not sure. But if you watch every one of those marking contests, which I have, there's not enough physicality in what I'm seeing. That's on us," McRae said.


"Hogan's a very good mark in the air if you give him a chance to run and jump at it, so we have got to get to work.

"Charlie showed some signs, I think it was promising, we'll look at the tape and look for opportunities for him to grow. But collectively, our backs, we didn't connect the way we would like."

Brayden Maynard was one of few Magpies defenders to get the better of his opponent, shutting down Toby Greene until the dying stages in the latest edition of their long-running duel.


The Pies' vice-captain held Greene to only two kicks at the main break, and while the Giants skipper got off the leash more in the second half, he only managed one goal that came from a stunning snap in the final term.

"'Bruzzy' is one of our leaders and just sets himself for every game, he doesn't sort of waver in the way he approaches the game," McRae said.

"Toby's such a great player. He is so influential, kicks a goal from the boundary line that not many can do. But we like to think Bruzzy is just being himself."

The Giants ran over the Magpies and pushed out to as much as a 52-point lead before conceding four late goals, but the win came at a cost with an injury to veteran Callan Ward.


The former GWS skipper was caught in a Beau McCreery tackle as soon as he gathered a loose ball and was taken shoulder-first into the turf just before half-time.

Ward was subbed off at the main break as the injury came in his 296th AFL match to put any planned milestone celebrations on hold.

"He's got an AC joint, shoulder [injury], so he'll be scanned tomorrow and assessed. He'll be out of the game for a while, it'll be a couple of months," coach Adam Kingsley said.


"We'll wait and see which path we go, whether it's surgery or whether it's not.

"It's a difficult situation for him, obviously a disappointing way to hurt your shoulder but also with his 300th game approaching. He's just going to have to wait a little longer unfortunately."