Nick Daicos evades Will Phillips during Collingwood's clash against North Melbourne in round 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

COLLINGWOOD superstar Nick Daicos overcame injury, illness, a short break and a close tag for the second time this week to lead the Magpies into the top four for the first time in 2024, after the reigning premiers started the campaign 0-3. 

The 21-year-old was trailed around the MCG on Monday by Melbourne's Alex Neal-Bullen before being subbed out of the King's Birthday blockbuster with a corked shin in the fourth quarter after being held to a season-low 15 disposals. 

KANGAROOS v MAGPIES Full match coverage and stats

Former pick No.3 Will Phillips was the late inclusion for North Melbourne after Kangaroos co-captain Jy Simpkin injured his hamstring at training on Friday and executed a decent job on the Brownlow Medal contender in the first half, before Daicos broke free after half-time to propel the Magpies to victory. 

Daicos finished with 29 disposals, 18 contested possessions – the most on the ground – 10 score involvements, three goal assists and two goals of his own to help drag Collingwood to another single-digit win. 

Collingwood coach Craig McRae revealed post-game that Daicos almost didn't play after missing the captain's run due to illness, with former first-round pick Ed Allan pulled out of the VFL and on standby when he arrived at Marvel Stadium on Sunday morning. 

"He is a marvel, isn't he? He was sick yesterday. He was a chance not to play. When you come into training and Nick has gone home sick, you (think) 'Oh God'," McRae said with a smile after the one-point win on Sunday. 


"You know the old like-for-like magnet, we don't have one of those. 

"I didn't sleep that well and didn't really check the phone this morning to see if he was going to be OK. We had to have a discussion with Ed Allan yesterday to be ready mate. We're not sure what's going to happen. 

"Then getting tagged well. They've been doing some good jobs on him the last couple of weeks. He finds a way to get into the game and it is through work rate contest to contest. I'm really proud of him."


Collingwood conceded eight of the first nine goals before quarter-time and was 54 points behind early in the third quarter – and still five goals behind at the final change – before recording the club's second biggest comeback win.

With seven premiership players missing and seven players with less than 20 games of experience, McRae was forced to make some changes at the main break. Jeremy Howe was sent forward and Billy Frampton took his place in defence. Daicos was sent forward to help shake the tag. Fin Macrae was subbed out and replaced by Reef McInnes. 

"There were pretty simple messages. They had had 60 uncontested marks and were getting the ball through us really easily. We showed some footage around that," McRae said.


"There was some stark vision that I showed around our pressure and players in the screen that really weren't involved in it. They were there, well, their jumpers were, but their intent wasn't there. That's not a level that we expect or want. 

"We were no chance to have any chance in this game unless we got that part of our game right. It was all around defence and pressure and the way we can move the ball.

"We were still a long way down at three-quarter time. For everything we were doing to get the scoreboard a little bit more in our ledger, they were scoring when they went inside 50. It was a struggle."

The Magpies delivered a win on the day All-Australian defender Brayden Maynard became the first player from the 2014 AFL Draft to reach 200 games. 


Collingwood will now take a breath next week and reset ahead of a trip to Queensland to face Gold Coast at People First Stadium in round 16. 

McRae expects Brody Mihocek and Jordan De Goey to be available, while Scott Pendlebury will need to make some ground to face Damien Hardwick's side. 

"We get back to work when we get back to work. We have the bye now, so we reset. I mentioned to the boys this is not a full stop, it's a comma. We take a breath," he said.

"The ladder position will be what it will be. But we've had a really tough stretch here. The last five or six games, we are fighting hard and you guys know the magnets don't look the same. We're throwing guys around, there is young guys, a makeshift forward line for most of the last six to eight weeks and we've only lost one game in that period, which ideally stands us in good stead."

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson defended the decision to sub out Phillips at three-quarter time and replace him with Jaidyn Stephenson, despite the Victorian producing a strong first-half performance on Daicos. 

"He was doing a good job, but we had the freshness of the sub and Will was starting to fatigue a little bit. We just thought the freshness of the sub (was an advantage). Liam Shiels tried to finish that job off," Clarkson told reporters in his press conference. 

"When you don't win you sit there and ask, 'Was that pivotal?' I don't think it was pivotal in terms of the final result. We just wanted to use the freshness of the sub."


The Kangaroos celebrated the 25-year anniversary of the 1999 premiership win over Carlton on Sunday, with master coach Denis Pagan spending time at the club this week, sharing memories that made that team so successful. 

"Denis has been around the club this week, which has been really special for both him and the footy club, recognising the past of our footy club because that helps show what it takes going forward," Clarkson said. 

"It is now about our lads that have the opportunity now to wear the guernsey to try and write their own chapter. We’ve got a fair way to go, but we showed today against a really, really good side today that we're capable of being able to mix it against some of these sides. 

"We've just got to be able to sustain it for four quarters. Our first half was outstanding. The third quarter the game started to turn, it was six goals to four in favour of Collingwood and it just gave them enough of a sniff. They are a terrific side. We've just got to learn how to cope with the pressure when it comes."

North Melbourne co-captain Jy Simpkin was a late out after injuring his hamstring at the end of training on Friday. The midfielder is a chance to be available against Melbourne next Saturday night at the MCG. 

Jy Simpkin kicks the ball during North Melbourne's clash against West Coast in round 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Highly rated young gun Brayden George suffered a suspected second anterior cruciate ligament tear in the VFL at the AIA Centre on Sunday morning in what could be another heartbreaking setback for a player who was closing in on a debut after recovering from a knee reconstruction in his first year at Arden Street and elbow surgery over the pre-season.

"I've heard he's hurt his knee, which is just so sad for the kid if that is the case. He has worked so hard. Then the gym accident over the summer. He has done it tough, but this is a tough, brutal game. You need to be resilient," he said.

"He probably only needs to look at someone like a Charlie Comben and the amount of injuries he's had over the journey to show if you persevere and get your body strong you can come back. Hopefully he can stick tough and stick fat through this tough period."