Andrew McGrath, Xavier Duursma and Jade Gresham celebrate a goal during the match between Collingwood and Essendon at the MCG in round 17, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

JUST what they needed. 

After dropping three of four games since Dreamtime at the 'G, Essendon has challenged the lingering fears of deja vu by beating Collingwood by 12 points at the MCG on Friday night. 

And it should have been more. The Bombers conceded five of the first six goals, but then steadied the ship ahead of half-time, before a dominant third quarter put them on a path to the 13.14 (92) to 12.8 (80) victory to maintain their spot in the top-four. 

MAGPIES v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

Essendon fell off a cliff in the second half of Brad Scott's first season at the helm. After turning for home 8-5, the Bombers lost seven of 10 on the road to September, including the final two games by a combined margin of 196 points, to miss the month that matters most.

Those wounds are still raw, but Friday night showed they are more reliable, mature and capable of matching the best 12 months on.


Kevin Sheedy was synonymous with the premiership quarter. Essendon hasn't been close to reaching the final day of the season since the legendary four-time premiership coach departed, but it was the third quarter that shaped the game with the Bombers kicking four goals to none during a period that essentially ended the game.

Collingwood kicked four of the final five goals of the game to make the Bombers fret late, given the reigning premiers history of coming-from-behind late under Craig McRae.


But it was too little, too late. 

The Bombers' decision to go with Sam Draper one-out in the ruck against Darcy Cameron and the call to recall last year's No.10 Nate Caddy paid dividends, while Dylan Shiel grasped a rare opportunity in 2024 after a long stint in the VFL. 

But it was Zach Merrett (30 disposals, 15 score involvements and 10 contested possessions) and Jye Caldwell (30 disposals, eight clearances and seven tackles) who helped Essendon not only match Collingwood's stacked midfield, but beat them.


Although it didn't look like heading that way early. Harry Jones and Merrett had the first two shots from the exact same patch of grass, just inside 50m in the tennis centre pocket. Jones shanked his shot, Merrett nailed it.

But it wasn't a sign of a fast start. 

With Charlie Dean recalled, Jeremy Howe was used in attack and quickly hit the scoreboard with an early win on Jayden Laverde. 

Despite the Bombers having more early chances, Jack Crisp made something from nothing. Not once, but three times in less than three minutes, equalling his career-high goal tally in a staggering succession of blows.


Essendon had enough chances early, but Collingwood's defensive setup forced the shots from low percentage areas beyond 40m, from tight angles.

Jake Stringer gave them some reward after the quarter-time siren, reducing the margin to 15 points. 

Merrett kept Essendon in it just when Collingwood was pushing away. It was the skipper that helped propel the Bombers forward in a play that ended up in Kyle Langford's first goal. And it was him again that changed the play that resulted in a Caddy goal to put the game back under 10 points. 


But just when the Magpies needed its experienced stars to make an impact, Jordan De Goey, Steele Sidebottom and Scott Pendlebury all won critical contests to halt Essendon's momentum. The Bombers intensity shifted in the second quarter and they got within two points, but couldn't hit the lead.

After being held to five touches – including four under pressure clearances – by Sam Durham in the first quarter, Nick Daicos reached half-time with 19 to his name, as the Brownlow Medal contender started to get off the leash.  

Essendon wasted two golden opportunities to start the second half, but it didn't stop them coming.


The Bombers had eight of the first 10 inside 50s and levelled the scores when Sam Draper calmly slotted a goal after receiving the free kick. Then Peter Wright juggled a pack mark to give Essendon the lead for the first time in an hour.

Collingwood never looked like scoring in the third quarter, while the Bombers kicked 4.4 to 0.3 and should have got even more reward on the scoreboard after a dominant burst that reignited its season. 

Collingwood's phenomenal record of coming from behind in fourth quarters kept Essendon supporters nervous at the final change, but when Matt Guelfi kicked the first, the Magpies' aura started to fade.


They rallied late, as they always do. They are never really out of it. But they were never really in it after half-time.

And they might not be in the eight by the end of the weekend.


More injury concerns for the Magpies?
Collingwood's forward line issues are about to get worse. Brody Mihocek finished the game on the bench with a suspected torn pec that is expected to rule him out for the rest of the season. With premiership forwards Mason Cox, Jamie Elliott and Beau McCreery – plus Dan McStay – all sidelined, the Pies' forward stocks are thin and getting thinner. Mihocek will undergo scans on Saturday to determine the severity of the injury he suffered late.


Three in three minutes
Jack Crisp had only kicked three goals in a game once in his first 241 games, but he did it for a second time in a three-minute burst in the first quarter. What's more, the dual Copeland Trophy winner kicked them all from nothing. The first from a stoppage inside 50, then 20 seconds later from on the run outside 50, before swooping on a Sam Draper tap to snap a third. Crisp is closing in on Jim Stynes' iconic 244-game consecutive games streak – he is now up to 230 in a row – but this streak was staggering in a different way.


Prized pick takes chance
Nate Caddy was unlucky to be left out against Geelong and showed why on the Friday night stage. After making his debut in front of nearly 80,000 against Richmond in round 11, the 2023 pick No.10 showed he can handle the setting. Caddy took a handful of strong grabs, finishing with 1.3 from 12 disposals and six marks in his third game. 

COLLINGWOOD      5.2     8.4      8.7        12.8 (80)  
ESSENDON              2.5     6.8     10.12     13.14 (92)

Collingwood: Crisp 3, Howe 2, Harrison 2, Kreuger 2, Mihocek, Pendlebury, Schultz
Essendon: Langford 2, Wright 2, Caddy, Caldwell, Draper, Duursma, Gresham, Guelfi, Jones, Merrett, Stringer

Collingwood: N. Daicos, Crisp, Sidebottom, Pendlebury
Essendon: Merrett, Caldwell, Draper, Durham, Shiel, McKay

Collingwood: Mihocek (pectoral), Quaynor (leg)

Collingwood: Ned Long (replaced Charlie Dean in the third quarter)
Nick Hind (replaced Nate Caddy in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 81,711 at the MCG