The 11.14 (80) to 11.7 (73) result sealed win number seven in a row for Collingwood, and no doubt came as a massive relief for coach Nathan Buckley, who was without seven of the 22 players who ran out in last year’s grand final.
They looked vulnerable for long stretches of what was a thrilling, see-sawing match. The spirited Swans walked that little bit taller with Franklin back in the side. Buddy’s direct impact on the match was minimal – he kicked two goals but collected just six possessions and was carefully managed by Longmire.
His sheer presence was enough, though. Franklin took away Collingwood’s best defender, allowing Reid to spread his wings and produce one of the best games of his career.
The result will bring the Swans back down to earth after consecutive wins over Essendon and North Melbourne breathed life into their flagging season. They finished with only two fit men on the bench due to injuries to Josh Kennedy (knee) and George Hewett (concussion).
But there’s still a lot to be optimistic about for coach John Longmire. His players pushed right to the end, with gun draftee Nick Blakey again showing an ability to hold his nerve in crunch situations with a late set shot that kept Sydney alive.
Brodie Grundy monstered Callum Sinclair in the ruck, his 64 hitouts allowing Collingwood’s star-studded midfield first use of the ball. Adam Treloar had a game-high 38 touches and nine clearances while Scott Pendlebury had 29 disposals, nine clearances and produced one glorious piece of skill while surrounded by bodies in the second quarter – a snap from deep in the pocket which bounced twice before crossing the line.
Steele Sidebottom, however, was kept to just 13 possessions by Ryan Clarke.
Daniel Wells was lively for the Magpies in his long-awaited AFL return, having not played since round 12 last year due to a lisfranc injury. The 34-year-old booted three goals but there was a tragic finish – he suffered a dislocated left knee while being tackled in the third quarter, and it could prove a career-threatening injury given his age and contract status.
Sydney made a hot start, kicking the first three goals of the game – two to Reid, the other to Franklin, who provided an early reminder of what the Swans have missed for the last month by shrugging a tackle from Wells and launching a raking shot from the 50-metre arc. It was casually brilliant, and classic Buddy.
But Collingwood dominated the key metrics, including contested possessions (153-138), inside 50s (63-47) and clearances (48-39), and would have dominated the scoreboard too were it not for wonky kicking. There was only so long that the Swans could hold out a team posting those sort of numbers, and it was to their credit that they did so to the dying moments.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.