OLIVER Henry has the makings of a player Collingwood can build a team around for the next 10 years.
While it is unfair to heap too much pressure on a first-year player, the Magpies’ top pick in last year’s draft looked every bit the seasoned campaigner in a best-on-ground performance as his team edged out Gold Coast by three points in an enthralling arm wrestle at Olympic Park on Friday evening.
It was an entertaining but error-riddled clash, but Henry’s beacon shone brightest as he took 13 (mostly) contested marks, had 22 disposals and kicked 3.3 playing as the deepest forward.
And when the Suns threatened to steal a history-making first win in Victoria, he got himself up to the wing and won two crucial touches that led to the winning goals for Youseph Dib and fellow draftee Reef McInnes.
The teams were evenly matched throughout, with both enjoying strong periods in a seesawing affair.
The Suns got out to a 16-point lead early in the second quarter led by Darcy MacPherson, who was everywhere on his way to 33 disposals and nine tackles, while Will Brodie (41, 10 tackles) and Brayden Fiorini (32, eight tackles) knocked up winning the ball.
But Henry and mature-aged rookie Tom Wilson turned things around, with the brother of Geelong defender Jack kicking three goals in 17 minutes to send Collingwood on an unanswered run of 5.3 and a 17-point lead of its own, before Rory Atkins ran into an open goal on the stroke of half-time.
The game tightened up after the break and neither team could break the shackles, with the gap not extending beyond single figures either way after the first two minutes of the third quarter.
Gold Coast looked winners when Alex Davies kicked truly from long range 11 minutes into the last, but Collingwood refused to concede and McInnes regained the lead on 26 minutes as the Magpies went coast-to-coast in their best passage of the game.
“We were down for most of the last quarter and some of the boys to hold up and push us across the line was superb.”— Collingwood FC VFL (@CollingwoodVFL) May 1, 2021
Here from Ollie Henry after last night's win against the Suns pic.twitter.com/YnUFIwJRUI
The ball spent the dying stages camped in the Suns’ 50, but the Pies defence held firm for a nailbiting win.
Wilson finished with 30 disposals and nine marks to put his hand up for an AFL debut for Collingwood, while Jack Madgen ruled the defence, Lachlan Tardrew had a strong game and Brayden Sier was important.
MacPherson, Brodie and Fiorini were ever present for the Suns, while Adelaide recruit Rory Atkins (20 disposals, two goals) looked ready for a call-up and and Papua New Guinean livewire Hewago Oea excited onlookers with his pace and dash around the ground.
THURSDAY, APRIL 29
North Melbourne 3.6 (24) def by Casey Demons 19.17 (131)
FRIDAY, APRIL 30
Collingwood 9.11 (65) def Gold Coast 9.8 (62)