PONDER this. Jordan De Goey returning to the late 2018, early 2019 form which had him compared with Dusty Martin. Brodie Grundy returning to his All-Australian and best-and-fairest winning form of the same two seasons.

If you’re a Collingwood supporter, these are feasible, beautiful scenarios, particularly when fourth position on the ladder has been secured after 19 rounds of the 2022 season without any form of impact from either of the players once considered THE keys to success.

And yet as vibrant as those possibilities are, the Magpies may not need them to add chapters to their near-fairytale story of 2022. Their incredible story hit the most dramatic plot line on Sunday, with an unbelievable after-siren victory against Essendon at the MCG.

THE RUN HOME Top-four Pies just don't know how to lose

Jamie Elliott’s last mark of the game was nearly as cool as his last kick, a 49-metre perfect drop punt from where the 50m arc line hits the boundary line of the left pocket of the Punt Rd end.

03:15 Mins
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Last two mins: Elliott's post-siren winner saves Pies again

Jamie Elliott sinks Essendon with a goal after the siren to send the Magpie Army into raptures

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It secured the Pies’ ninth consecutive win in what is the most compelling storyline of the season. First season coach in Craig McRae. No significant access to - or impact from - De Goey and Grundy. An ageing but not diminishing captain in Scott Pendlebury (34), and playmaker Steele Sidebottom (31). A first-year player staking a weekly claim for a Therabody AFL All-Australian jacket in Nick Daicos, another Daicos, Josh, who on Sunday kicked a goal at least the equal of the dozens of miraculous goals kicked by his famous father, Peter, in the 1980s and 1990s.

00:44 Mins
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Daicos dashes through Dons and kicks an incredible major

Josh Daicos shows his class with this rebel Goal of the Year contender

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Three weeks ago, no one outside of Magpies devotees would have been familiar with the names of Ash Johnson and Josh Carmichael. Johnson kicked three first-quarter goals on Sunday. Carmichael kicked two clutch goals from four kicks after entering the game after half-time as the medical substitute. Everyone on the Pies list is considered equal to the next player.

Who wouldn’t want to go to the proverbial sports war with Brody Mihocek and Taylor Adams? Jack Crisp, too. Darcy Moore never gives up. Beau McCreery, Nathan Murphy, John Noble, Darcy Cameron are among the best no-names going round. Trent Bianco presented himself when required on Sunday – to take the kick from Moore in that already entrenched all-time famous Collingwood play, and to then loop a kick to Elliott that at least gave him a chance, despite having two opponents to contend with.

Darcy Moore embraces his Collingwood teammates after their win over Essendon in round 19, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

From 37 points up in the first quarter to 20 behind in the final term, Collingwood, yet again, found a way against Essendon. The final four goals of the game meant it, extraordinarily, is now 8-1 in games decided by less than two goals in 2022.

Collingwood finished 17th in 2021. It sacked its coach, had a messy but belatedly necessary boardroom takeover, and had zero expectation for any form of success in 2022.

Yet here we are with just four home-and-away matches remaining, and it is a live flag contender.  And the best thing about this run – it is blockbuster every single week. You are compelled to watch Collingwood, drawn into its plight, and even wanting it to win.

That’s the McRae effect. He’s made everyone’s most-hated club so very likeable. For a little while, anyway.

06:32 Mins
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The 10: Round 19's best moments

Watch the best highlights from an exciting round of football

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How Cats' bargain-hunting made Jezza coup happen 

The recruitment of Jeremy Cameron at the end of 2020 may be the biggest reason that Geelong is primed to win the 2022 premiership.

In his 11th season, and second for the Cats, Cameron is compiling his most impactful AFL season. As a key forward and occasional creative play-making midfielder, his 2022 season is shaping as better than the two in which he was named All-Australian (2013 and 2019, when he also won the Coleman Medal with 76 goals).

His three goals against Port Adelaide in round 19 took him to 52 for the season and propelled his club a game clear atop the ladder.

Jeremy Cameron in action in Geelong's win over Port Adelaide in round 19, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Securing Cameron from GWS after the 2020 season required the use of a staggering three NAB AFL Draft picks inside the top 20. While some lucrative future second-round picks came back the Cats' way, it was the biggest cost ever attached to a player signing. And worth every cent now that Cameron, unlike 2021, is injury-free.

Geelong's seemingly never-ending presentation during a home-and-away season as a premiership threat is due to many factors: the targeted recruiting of Cameron and other big names from other clubs (Paddy Dangerfield, Zach Tuohy, Isaac Smith and Tyson Stengle among them), access to father-son players (Tom Hawkins, Jed Bews), and nailing first-round draft picks (Sam De Koning in 2019 the latest).

But a club only has the luxury of using three national draft picks inside 20 for one player if it has a proven track record of securing other high-end talent for bargain purchases.

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And this is actually THE key to the Cats' flag chances this year. From the 2019 rookie draft, Geelong secured Tom Atkins, who at nearly 27 years of age, is getting better and better with every match, now that he has assumed starting-midfield responsibilities. He was again outstanding against the Power, particularly when the game had to be secured in the final quarter.

Tom Atkins and Ollie Wines in action during Geelong's win over Port Adelaide in round 19, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

In the 2020 rookie draft, Geelong added Brad Close. Mark O'Connor and Zach Guthrie came via rookie drafts, so too Mark Blicavs way back in 2012.

Arguably the competition's best defender, Tom Stewart, who has missed the Cats' past four wins with suspension, was taken at No.40 in the 2016 national draft, after every club had overlooked him at least twice in that particular draft, and for the entirety of the previous four drafts.

Geelong wouldn't be top of the ladder without Cameron. But he wouldn't be having a career-best year without his new teammates. For the best part of two months and certainly after round 19, Cameron and his teammates are presenting as the perfect combination for the '22 flag.