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VFL: Gritty win sets up top-four showdown

Collingwood remain hot on the heels of the VFL top-four after recording an eight-point win over North Melbourne at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday.

A swirling breeze at Werribee resulted in a stoppage-heavy arm wrestle from start to finish. The Magpies were able to outlast their hosts to win their third straight match, 10.10 (70) to 9.8 (62).

AFL-listed players Ben Crocker, Alex Fasolo, Jarryd Blair and Sam McLarty were all among the goalkickers for the Pies.

The win sets up a critical clash with Box Hill next Sunday. The Pies have joined the fourth-placed Hawks on 36 points, trailing only by percentage.

Pies coach Jared Rivers said he was proud of the way his side rose to the task posed by the Kangaroos.

“These sort of days, you just take the four points and move on,” Rivers said to Collingwood Media post-match.

“To grind out the win the way we did was super. The boys got challenged and I think they responded really well.”

In a game full of stoppages, Rivers pinpointed his side’s improvement in that area as the key to victory.

“At the start we weren’t great in the stoppage area, we were minus-four or five in the first quarter,” Rivers said.

“But our ability to turn it around, with blokes like Blairy and Woody (Alex Woodward) on the inside and Sean Hetherington on the second half who worked through there a little bit, were all really important for us.”

The win was soured by a hamstring injury to forward Jamie Elliott. Elliott left the ground at the 22-minute mark of the fourth quarter and did not return.

General Manager of Football Geoff Walsh gave a brief statement on the injury:

“Unfortunately Jamie was unable to finish the game after reinjuring his left hamstring late in Sunday’s VFL match.

“We’ll know more about its severity in the next 24-48 hours.”

This injury, as well as concerns in the senior ranks following the weekend’s game against Richmond, means that Rivers is prepared for a spate of changes ahead of next week’s clash with the Hawks.

“We’ll look closely at (the make-up of our team) throughout the week,” he said.

“Come match committee, we’ll have a healthy discussion on who we think can help at AFL level.”

While the composition of his team is still to be decided, Rivers said that his side will be prepared for what Box Hill will bring next week.

“I went and watched them yesterday at Sandy,” Rivers said.

“They’re going to be a challenge for us, they’re in really good form.

“It’s always hard to win there. We’ll assess and watch their game pretty closely and see what we can do.”

The match against the Hawks will be hosted at Box Hill City Oval, with the first bounce at 2pm.

Tom Jok takes the mark of the day. Photo: Shane Barrie

Collingwood           3.0    4.4    7.7    10.10    (70)
North Melbourne    2.3    4.5    5.6      9.8      (62)

Goals – Collingwood: Crocker 2, Fasolo 2, Blair 2, McLarty, Chippendale, Wellings, Hetherington
North Melbourne: Northe 2, Hogan, Holmes, Junker, Davies-Uniacke, Leonardis, Larkey, Rippon

Best – Collingwood: Hore, Woodward, Jok, Blair, Hetherington, M. Smith
North Melbourne: Rippon, Nielson, Cunningham, Northe, Mountford, Davies-Uniacke