0.3.0 0.5.4 0.9.4 2.13.9 (105)
0.2.2 0.6.5 0.12.9 0.14.10 (94)
NINE POINTERS – Collingwood:Dunn, Varcoe.
GOALS – Collingwood: Crisp 2, de Goey 2, W Hoskin-Elliott 2, Mayne, Moore, Aish, Elliott, White, Phillips, Varcoe.
Essendon: Fantasia 4, S McKernan 3, Green 2, Colyer 2, Tipungwuti, Howlett, Stewart.
BEST – Collingwood: Phillips, De Goey, Smith, Sidebottom, Varcoe
Essendon: Merrett, Parish, Fantasia, Goddard, Watson, Heppell
CROWD 16,521 at Etihad Stadium.
Looking fit and composed, Jobe Watson returned from exile at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night. The former Essendon skipper was one of six Bombers returned to face arch-rivals Collingwood in the first game of the AFL pre-season, after serving a season-long ban in 2016 for doping.
All got through the match unscathed. New captain Dyson Heppell and defender Michael Hurley moved well.
The Pies welcomed back small forward Jamie Elliot, who spent more than 500 days on the sidelines with a serious back injury. The fan favorite announced his return with a soaring overhead mark in the first quarter, much to the delight of Collingwood fans.
It was a good first hit-out for the two teams, in front of a crowd of 16,521 people. But there was no fairytale return to football for the Magpie Ben Sinclair. The quick midfielder suffered multiple concussions in 2016 and limped from the ground in the third quarter against the Dons, under an injury cloud again.
Captain during the Bombers’ ill-fated 2012 season, Watson became the face of the club’s supplements scandal and was the last of the banned players to commit to returning to Essendon. He handed back the Brownlow medal he won that year and even after he resumed training with the Bombers, questions remained about whether his heart was really in football.
Watson was one of his team’s highest possession getters, along with young gun Zach Merrett, a player who blossomed in his senior teammates’ absence.
Essendon fans gave Watson a warm round of applause when he took a mark at about 40m out during the second quarter and went back for a shot at goal. He missed to the right, but it hardly mattered.
Heppell also arrived at Etihad ready to play. The 24-year-old spent several spells on the bench as he eased back into AFL football, but still managed
Hurley put in a good first half before donning a tracksuit in the third quarter and sitting out the rest of the game but did not appear to have been hurt.
Elliot underwent back surgery in May for a pars defect, a lower back injury that left him unable to play for the rest of the year. The energetic 24-year-old showed no fear on his return and was one of the Pies better performers, particularly in the first half, when he kicked a neat goal from about 35m out on a 45-degree angle.
Essendon’s No.1 draft pick Andrew McGrath was in his first game in red and black and started on the bench.
He got his first touch halfway through the first quarter and made a solid contribution from the backline, showing no real sign of nerves even when under pressure.
Josh Caicos – son of club legend Peter – spent the first half of the game on the bench in his debut outing for the Pies. The slightly-built young forward, who the Pies chose at pick No.57 in last year’s draft, must have felt the weight of great expectations from the black-and-white faithful.
But when he did enter the game with fresh legs as the other players tired, he showed promise with a good instinct for the ball.
Essendon looked well in control at three-quarter time, when they lead by 23 points. But a pair of late super goals from Collingwood got the fans fired up and with just minutes to go there were less than six points separating the teams. Despite no points up for grabs, both teams fought it out to the end.
Orazio Fantasia was in fine form for the Bombers, booting 4.1, as were veterans Brendon Goddard and David Zaharakis.
Second year Magpie Tom Phillips was particularly good for Collingwood, helped along by 20-year-old Jordan de Goey and Steele Sidebottom.