A PICTURE might be able to paint 1000 words, but the MCG scoreboard certainly couldn't on Saturday.
On the face of it, Collingwood's 10-point loss to Geelong might not have been so bad. Dig a little deeper, though, and this was another defining day in an already turbulent Magpies season.
Collingwood endured a goalless first half for the first time since 2005 at the MCG, mustering a measly one major to the final change. Only a late flourish, where the Pies added a host of junk-time goals, would lessen the damage by the final siren.
Instead, they had the Cats to thank for the fact the 8.13 (61) to 6.15 (51) scoreline wasn't far more dramatic. Last year's Grand Finalists weren't necessarily firing on all cylinders, but barely needed to escape second gear to cruise to a comfortable four points.
A neck injury to dual Collingwood best and fairest Brodie Grundy, which forced the two-time All-Australian to be substituted out of the match midway through the third quarter, compounded issues for the Magpies.
Brandan Parfitt (30 disposals, five clearances) gave the contest a touch of class that it desperately needed through the midfield, while Tom Hawkins (21 disposals, three goals) was the side's premier forward threat.
MAGPIES v CATS Full match coverage and stats
But the play – or, rather, lack thereof – was focused on the other side of the ground as the Magpies were held to just six goals for the afternoon in another seriously worrying and seriously impotent display.
If the warning signs were only flashing at quarter-time, with Collingwood again held goalless and only having Geelong's own wastefulness to thank for the margin not being greater, then they were blaring by the main break.
Tall trio Jeremy Cameron, Rhys Stanley and Hawkins added three goals in six minutes for the Cats midway through the second term, extending the lead to 31 points and threatening to completely break the game apart.
Collingwood chipped away at the deficit, kicking its first goal for the game early in the third term and ultimately going on to win the inside-50 battle and eventually draw level for scoring shots.
But it was an indictment on the side's first half performance that Geelong, who only kicked eight goals itself throughout a match that was often hard to watch, was largely untroubled for much of the afternoon.
Perhaps the lack of a crowd due to Victoria's COVID-19 lockdown lulled the Cats into a false sense of security, as the Magpies eventually whittled their lead back to 10 points. But the result had been a foregone conclusion for some time by that point.
Brodie blow adds to Collingwood's woes
Just when Collingwood's afternoon seemingly couldn't get worse, dual All-Australian and dual best and fairest Brodie Grundy left the field with a nasty neck injury. The player the Pies could perhaps least afford to lose, Grundy's right shoulder appeared to buckle in a marking contest with Rhys Stanley. He immediately fell to the floor in agony, clutching in the region of his neck and shoulder before leaving the field where he was almost instantly subbed out of the game for Finlay Macrae. He was also taken to hospital as a precaution. The injury rubbed salt into Collingwood's wounds, with Grundy – at that stage – the side's only goalkicker midway through the third quarter. Darcy Cameron rucked admirably in his absence for the remainder of the game, but there's no doubt his injury will give Nathan Buckley yet another headache to worry about in the coming weeks.
Scoring woes hurting Pies
There was a lot of 2020 about this game … and this performance from Collingwood. Not only was there no crowd in the wake of Victoria's snap COVID-19 lockdown, but the scoring issues that have plagued the Magpies throughout last 18 months continued. A worrying goalless half to open the game, Collingwood's 14th and 15th terms without a major since the start of last year, meant it was the first time the club had been without a goal to the half-time break since 2005. Meanwhile, only last year's wooden spooners Adelaide has had more goalless quarters in that period with 16. Eventually, after around 56 minutes of game time, the Pies got on the board through Brodie Grundy. Needless to say, it was never going to be enough to inspire an almighty comeback.
Cats go full Cats before the bounce
There was more late drama at the MCG on the eve of the clash, as Geelong continued to keep its opponents guessing as to the make-up of its final team. Mark Blicavs underwent a rigorous last-ditch fitness test under the watchful eyes of coach Chris Scott and football boss Simon Lloyd 90 minutes before the bounce, ultimately withdrawing from the contest soon after due to what appeared to be a calf injury. Rhys Stanley was his replacement, despite Darcy Fort coming into the 26-man squad on Friday. Cam Guthrie, who had spent the week dealing with a shoulder injury, was also withdrawn amid a double late change from Geelong, with his brother Zach Guthrie replacing the important midfielder. Blicavs and Cam Guthrie had previously been named in the Cats' side on Thursday night.
COLLINGWOOD 0.3 0.7 1.11 6.15 (51)
GEELONG 2.3 5.8 5.11 8.13 (61)
Collingwood: De Goey 2, Grundy, Hoskin-Elliott, Mihocek, Maynard
Geelong: Hawkins 3, Cameron 2, Dahlhaus, Ratugolea, Stanley
Collingwood: Mayne, Moore, Quaynor, Crisp, Bianco
Geelong: Hawkins, Parfitt, Selwood, Tuohy, Stewart, Narkle
Collingwood: Grundy (neck)
Geelong: C.Guthrie (shoulder) replaced by Z.Guthrie in selected side, Blicavs (calf) replaced by Stanley in selected side
Collingwood: Macrae (replaced Grundy)
Geelong: Clark (unused)