In Saturday night's Five things we learned, brought to you by Haier, the world's No.1 appliance maker, we discover there wasn't another Eagle miracle, Coxzilla loves a big final and Grundy is Nic Nat's bunny.
EAGLES v MAGPIES Full match coverage and stats
1. There wasn't room for another miracle
There must have been Collingwood heart palpitations when Jeremy McGovern won possession deep in defence in the final minute on Saturday night, with the Pies one point up. It was, of course, the same Eagle who kickstarted the play that ended with Dom Sheed kicking the match-winning goal at Collingwood's expense in the 2018 Grand Final. The fact the next three kicks – McGovern's, Jake Waterman's, then Andrew Gaff's – found West Coast teammates only added to the déjà vu. Alas, it wasn't to be, with Tim Kelly opting to handball to Tom Cole rather than drive the ball inside 50, a decision that resulted in a turnover. It was just the latest in a series of moments throughout the night that added up to the best final since that 2018 epic between the same clubs.
2. There's nothing like a Coxzilla attack
Richmond fans won't forget the way Mason Cox almost single-handedly ended their side's hopes of back-to-back flags in the 2018 preliminary final. On that night, Collingwood's 'American Pie' booted the first three goals of the second term to put the game out of the Tigers' reach – and ended it with a season-high eight contested marks. Cox hasn't reached those heights since, in part because of a serious eye injury last year that required three surgeries. He even lost his spot, on form, for a period this season. However, injuries to Brody Mihocek and Ben Reid opened the door again for round 13 – and he's remained in the team. Then, against West Coast on Saturday night, 'Finals Cox' returned with a vengeance. He didn't wait until the second quarter this time, snaffling three contested marks and kicking three goals in an extraordinary five-minute spurt in the first term. Cox is no shrinking violet and swaggered his way through the period. After the second of the goals, with his tongue already wagging, he even waved a two-fingered salute to recognise his scoreboard impact.
3. Grundy is Nic Nat's bunny
If Brodie Grundy owns Western Bulldogs big man Tim English, then West Coast's dual All-Australian Nic Naitanui is making a case for the same against the star Pie. Naitanui was comfortably the game's best ruckman in 2020, including dominating Grundy in a huge West Coast triumph over Collingwood in round eight. The Magpies selected a second ruckman, Darcy Cameron, to help Grundy on Saturday night, but any thoughts he had of revenge on Nic Nat were quickly rebuked. Naitanui had six disposals, seven hit-outs and three clearances by quarter-time – numbers that inflated to nine, 11 and five at half-time, then 17, 24 and seven by night’s end. Whether by strategy, or in response to what had happened, Grundy started the third term on the bench. Yet little changed once the 26-year-old came onto the field, with Naitanui triggering two centre-clearance goals early in the second half to make it four for the match. Collingwood had just one. A fifth came at the start of the final quarter – but with Grundy again watching from the bench. Then, at the key final centre bounce with barely a minute left, Nathan Buckley preferred Cameron once more.
4. A bit of spice is nice
We don't often get to enjoy prolonged one-on-one match-ups, but that's exactly what we got between All-Australian Eagle Liam Ryan and gun Collingwood defender Brayden Maynard. They fought tooth and nail for every contest, got in each other's face and even gave a bit of cheek (we're looking at you, Liam). Ryan clutched a mark in front of his sparring partner in the second term, then taunted Maynard by briefly holding the ball in front of him. It's not something we see a lot of, but it was light-hearted and fun and added extra flavour to what was a sensational final with twists and turns. The fact Maynard didn't flinch and that Ryan's long kick inside 50 created a West Coast goal made the moment even better.
5. Holding-the-ball decisions continue to confound
In a comical turn of events, Taylor Adams conceded a first-half free kick for holding the ball … when he wasn't even in possession of the Sherrin. The Magpie was in a three-way tussle for the ball with Eagles Nic Naitanui and Dom Sheed, with Sheed snatching it from Adams' grasp at ground level. Adams subsequently tackled Sheed to the ground, only for the umpire to somehow award West Coast a free kick. That looked to be a mistake, but throw forward to the third quarter and it was the Eagles' turn to be hard-done by. Jackson Nelson laid a brilliant tackle on Jamie Elliott, with the ball spilling from the Pie's hands without a genuine disposal. There was no call, as Collingwood rushed forward for a Will Hoskin-Elliott goal that gave his side the lead. A possible explanation was Elliott, perhaps, didn't quite have enough prior opportunity.