James Rowbottom celebrates a goal during round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

COLLINGWOOD may have unfurled its 16th flag on Friday night, but the reigning premier will have to defy recent history if they are to go back-to-back in 2024.

The Magpies were comprehensively dismantled by Sydney at the MCG, slumping to a 0-2 start to the season after losing by a 33-point that could and should have been much worse.

MAGPIES v SWANS Full match coverage and stats

With Swans captain Callum Mills, veteran midfielder Luke Parker and recruit Taylor Adams inside the MCG, but not out there due to injury, John Longmire’s undermanned, younger side dominated from the start until junk time to win its first game at the MCG since before the 2022 Grand Final.

Craig McRae expected a response after last Saturday night’s flat Opening Round performance against Greater Western Sydney. But he didn’t get one. Now the third-year coach faces the biggest challenge of his coaching career to date after the 15.12 (102) to 10.9 (69) loss left the Magpies winless after the first fortnight.


No reigning premier this century has recovered from a winless first fortnight to go all the way. North Melbourne (2000), Sydney (2006), Hawthorn (2009) and Geelong (2023) all started 0-2 and failed to defend. The Cats and Hawks both suffered dreaded premiership hangovers, failing to return to September.

Just like last week at the SCG, Isaac Heeney stepped up in the absence of the key three - Mills, Parker and Adams - in the middle, amassing 29 disposals, 13 contested possessions, 10 score involvements and two goals to show he has the potential to become an All-Australian midfielder by September, after collecting his first blazer as a forward two years ago. 

Young spearhead Logan McDonald cashed in with four goals – three from the goal square – in one of his most productive outings yet that will enhance the scrutiny surrounding the West Australian’s contract status. 

Chad Warner did it all, finishing with three goals from 27 disposals and seven clearances in a clinical performance. James Rowbottom was at his destructive best, laying a game-high 13 tackles. Errol Gulden licked his lips in the second half, ending his night with 30 possessions, seven inside 50s and 650 metres gained.


The ruthless Swans started how they finished in Opening Round, dominating the first ten minutes but only had a moment of brilliance from Warner to show for it after he intercepted a handball from Steele Sidebottom to slot the Swans' first goal.

Enter Nick Daicos. He landed a long-range set shot from beyond the arc to settle the reigning premiers after a quiet start. Bobby Hill then picked up where he left off last time he played at the MCG, kicking a clever crumbing goal, sporting a bleached blond haircut.

When Jordan De Goey bent the Sherrin through on the run from 30m out, the Magpies had three goals from four inside 50s in stark contrast to last Saturday night’s wasteful entries.

But that was as good as it got for Collingwood.


Rowbottom rolled up his metaphorical sleeves and wrestled the momentum back in the second quarter, chasing down De Goey in two massive tackles, as well as kicking a goal from outside 50 on the run to silence the Collingwood army.

In a devastating burst, Sydney kicked six goals in a row, almost killing the contest by half-time, with Warner and Heeney involved in everything.

When Darcy Moore turned the ball over switching the ball across the back of the square in the third quarter, McDonald found McInerney streaming alone towards goal for another major, it was going to be a long way back.


Sydney’s pressure and intensity was too much for the Magpies, as was its organisation behind the ball caused Collingwood problems on transition.

Collingwood kicked four late goals to ensure the margin wasn’t the biggest loss under McRae, but it won’t hide the disappointment. The Pies were smashed aerially inside 50, conceding 19 marks inside 50 and destroyed on turnover.

It is only a fortnight – and there are more games than earlier this century – but history tells us it is a fair way back for Collingwood.

Only four sides have gone back-to-back in the AFL era. The Magpies haven’t done it since legendary coach Jock McHale led Collingwood all the way in 1936.

While it is too soon to call it a premiership hangover, it is not too soon to label Sydney the real deal in 2024. Imagine what they will look like when Parker and Adams return in a fortnight and Mills is injected hallway through the season.


Grundy faces another old mob
The fixture bosses didn’t miss the opportunity to cash in on the Brodie Grundy narrative to start 2024. A week after the ruckman produced a brilliant display first-up against Max Gawn and Melbourne, the Sydney recruit faced the side at which he won two best and fairests and claimed two All-Australian blazers. But despite a convincing win, Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox got the better of the former Pie.

Darcy Cameron and Brodie Grundy contest the ruck during round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Daicos at it again
Collingwood’s disappointing start to 2024 has overshadowed Nick Daicos’ great start to the season. The Brownlow Medal contender amassed 34 disposals, 10 clearances and 663m gained against Greater Western Sydney. That went under the radar. On Friday night, the 21-year-old burst out of the blocks and finished with 37 touches, 15 contested possessions and seven clearances.

Nick Daicos in action during round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Fin fires late
Finlay Macrae has had to bide time his under Craig McRae. He watched on from afar during Opening Round, but after earning a shot in round one, Fin Macrae made the most of his chance as the sub. The former first-round pick, who signed a one-year extension in recent days, replaced Tom Mitchell in the 23, after the Brownlow Medallist was managed. He entered the game in the third quarter after Ash Johnson was subbed out. 

Finlay Macrae chases the ball during round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos


COLLINGWOOD       3.1     5.2     6.5      10.9 (69)
SYDNEY                   2.6     7.8     12.10   15.12 (102)

Elliott 2, Schultz 2, J. Daicos, De Goey, N. Daicos, Hill, McCreery, Cameron
Sydney: McDonald 4, Warner 3, Heeney 2, Rowbottom, Papley, Amartey, McLean, Wicks, McInerney

Collingwood: N. Daicos, Cameron, Maynard, Pendlebury
Sydney: Heeney, Warner, Gulden, McDonald, Rowbottom, McCartin

: Fin Macrae replaced Ash Johnson in the third quarter
Sydney: Sam Wicks replaced Joel Amartey in the fourth quarter

Crowd: 78,933 at the MCG