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VFL Pies stand tough

Ben Hudson was critical to Collingwood's three-point win with 24 hitouts, 12 possessions and five clearances.
Collingwood’s remarkable VFL season continues to produce the extraordinary.

Thrilling wins and narrow losses have been the story of the first eight rounds, but none was quite as dramatic as its three-point triumph over the Northern Blues at Preston City Oval on Saturday.

Young ruckman Jarrod Witts was the hero, living out every footballer’s dream by kicking the winning goal after taking a diving mark 40m from goal with only a minute remaining.

Recap the thrilling final moments with collingwoodfc.com.au's blow-by-blow coverage.

The final minute had the crowd on its feet as the Blues pushed forward time and time again, only for Collingwood’s backmen to hold firm and take the ball out of bounds as the siren sounded.

The win marked the Magpies third win in as many games – the first time they have achieved this feat since it won four in a row in rounds five to eight back in 2010.

Forward Development Coach Anthony Rocca couldn’t have been prouder with the way his young team managed to remain level headed when the Blues threatened to run away with the match at different stages.

He explained that the coaching staff spent the final five minutes trying to wrest back the momentum after the Blues kicked three in a row to steal the lead.

“We were just working out how to get the game back on our terms. We got 19 points up, I think, probably halfway through the last quarter and we just felt like they just outhunted us at the contest,” Rocca told collingwoodfc.com.au.

“When they got in front, the reverse happened so we ended up hunting them again and got more numbers to the contest.

“We handballed the ball out and got a quick kick out to Witts who was playing in front. He was a lively target in that second half along with Jackson Paine and ended up kicking the goal which was huge.

“To our credit we just fought it out really well.”

The match was played on a cold and muddy Preston City Oval. The ground dried out well after Melbourne’s heavy overnight rain but the centre wicket area remained a thick, sticky gluepot.

Perfect, as it turned out, for grunt onballers the ilk of Jack Hellier (24 possessions) and Ben Moloney (17 possessions), who paved the way for youngsters such as Tim Broomhead (22 possessions) to have an impact.

Rocca explained the team’s approach to dealing with the conditions as follows:

“It was pretty much to try to control the ball. Even though it didn’t seem like one of those days that you could really control it, you had to take your yardage. I felt at time we overused the handball.

“On days like this you’ve got to take your yardage down the line and get your marking contests down the line and start again because we’re a great stoppage team. A stoppage is a win for us so it’s a matter of taking the yardage isolating our forwards who looked dangerous after half time and trying to kick it in to them one on one as much as possible.”

As good as the midfield was, Rocca was a big advocate of the way the big men performed on a day suited to those who ended getting their hands dirty.

“In the end it was the team that invested everything. Obviously there were individuals within that who played pretty well.

“I thought our rucks all day were really good. Jarrod Witts, Ben Hudson and Brodie Grundy who was really crucial after half time in the ruck.

“I thought Witts up forward was really good. He looked quick. Wittsy really exposed his opponents with a bit of pace which is unusual but he showed great kicking skills. He hit ‘Painey’ up a couple of times and they looked to have some great synergy amongst each other.

“I thought some of our backs played really well. I thought Peter Yagmoor really stepped up in class. He was fantastic. We needed the job done on Jeremy Laidler because he looked like he was getting off the leash a fair bit before half time and he did a massive job with some rebound 50s and just curtailing Laidler a little bit.”

The Magpies have won five of their eight games and their three losses have been by 13 points or less.

It’s auguring well for their first finals appearance since 2010, but don’t tell that to Rocca and his coaching staff who are simply living out the ‘minute-by-minute’ mantra that has served them so well.

“I can’t remember the last time our VFL side won three in a row,” Rocca grinned.

“We’ve got a really good challenge this week against Casey who have got a lot of senior AFL experienced players playing so that’s going to be a really big challenge, playing out at Casey Fields.

“We’re taking it game-by-game, quarter-by-quarter, minute-by-minute. That’s been the whole output of the whole year and we’re winning games by close margins and the games that we’re losing are by close margins so it’s showing some really good ticker from the boys.

Collingwood        3.4  7.8  13.8  17.12 (114)
Northern Blues   4.5  9.7  12.7  17.9 (111)

Goals – Collingwood: Paine 4 Witts 3, Allan 2, Corr 2, Broomhead, Hellier, Oxley, Ferguson, Heagney-Steart, Yagmoor
Northern Blues: Laidler 3, Dorman 2, Lincoln 2, Dale 2, Wilson 2, Totevski 2, Temay 2, Bransgrove,  Meese

Best – Collingwood: Hudson, Witts, Allan, Broomhead, Yagmoor, Mangoni
Northern Blues: Lambert, Lincoln, Davies, Wilson, Laidler, Duigan

Disposals – Collingwood: Oxley 25, Hellier 24, Allan 22, Broomhead 22, Yagmoor 22, Witts 19, Ferguson 18

Marks – Collingwood: Witts 9, Allan 8, Oxley 8, Gault 7, Riddle 7, Hellier 6

Hitouts – Collingwood: Hudson 24, Witts 12, Grundy 11

Clearances – Collingwood: Hellier 5, Hudson 5, Collopy 3, Mooney 3

At Preston City Oval