MELBOURNE has surged into the top eight, playing its best football since 2018 to thump Collingwood by 56 points at the Gabba on Saturday night.
The Demons blew the game open with an exhilarating seven-goal second quarter and kept their foot to the floor, running out rampant 16.4 (100) to 6.8 (44) winners.
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Even without injured skipper Max Gawn, they matched Collingwood's midfield and then used dare and bravery with the ball to open up the usually frugal Magpies' defence.
DEMONS v MAGPIES Full match coverage and stats
Clayton Oliver (25 disposals) and Christian Petracca (24 and a goal) continued their fine seasons, while wingman Ed Langdon played his best game since moving east from Fremantle, gathering 22 disposals and kicking two goals.
Following big wins over struggling Adelaide and North Melbourne in the past fortnight, this match was going to tell Melbourne a lot about how it was going – and the answer was emphatic.
All facets of their game – attack, defence and the contest – have not combined as well since 2018.
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Small forward Charlie Spargo kicked three goals in the decisive second term, while tall targets Tom McDonald and Sam Weideman added one each during that span and provided great aerial contests for their small men to cash in.
It was Collingwood's fourth game in 14 days and it showed, as it suffered some uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns.
The most miserly defence in the competition before this round was leaking like a sieve, conceding 10 goals from 20 forward 50 entries in the first half.
ROUNDS 12-18 Check out the full fixture
The night was made worse by injuries to tall forwards Brody Mihocek (concussion) and Ben Reid (hamstring).
The loss leaves Collingwood vulnerable in seventh place ahead of matches against North Melbourne and Carlton.
Horror clash takes Mihocek out
One of Collingwood's most reliable players fell victim to the club's injury curse when Brody Mihocek collided with Aaron vandenBerg in the second quarter. Mihocek was running back with the flight of the ball, when vandenBerg – also with eyes for the ball only – flew high straight into the Magpie's path, inadvertently hitting his head with his upper arm. Mihocek, who was playing his 52nd successive game since debut, was stretchered off with concussion. Luckless veteran Ben Reid went off in the third quarter with a hamstring injury.
Melbourne's bright Spark-o
It's amazing the difference quick ball movement makes, and livewire Charlie Spargo was the second-quarter beneficiary, kicking a career-high three goals in 10 minutes to take the game away from Collingwood. He was on the end of a penetrating Jake Melksham pass for his first, marking all alone 30m out, while his second was a lovely snap from 30m. Spargo's third was a classic front-and-square rove from a Tom McDonald contest that any small forward would be proud of.
Preuss holds up just fine
With captain Max Gawn (knee) and draftee Luke Jackson (hamstring) unavailable, Braydon Preuss was thrust into the ruck for his first game this season. The hulking Queenslander was up against Virgin Australia AFL All Australian Brodie Grundy and more than held his own. While Grundy was his usual tireless self, gathering 15 disposals, including eight clearances, Preuss managed to nullify his influence around the ground, while chipping in with 12 touches of his own. Melbourne will be itching to get Gawn back, but Preuss has shown he can hold the fort in the meantime.
MELBOURNE 3.3 10.4 12.4 16.4 (100)
COLLINGWOOD 1.1 5.2 6.6 6.8 (44)
Melbourne: Spargo 3, Fritsch 2, Langdon 2, Melksham 2, Weideman 2, Brayshaw, McDonald, Petracca, Pickett, Sparrow
Collingwood: Reid 2, Adams, Brown, Elliott, Hoskin-Elliott
Melbourne: Oliver, Langdon, Petracca, Brayshaw, Hibberd, May, Spargo
Collingwood: Sidebottom, Adams, Grundy, Daicos
Collingwood: Mihocek (concussion), Reid (hamstring)