The 2023 AFL finals series is here, with minor premiers Collingwood taking on Melbourne in the first qualifying final at the MCG.
But the drama unfolded pre-bounce with players forced off the ground due to severe weather.
Amid heavy rain, there were concerns over lightning so the warm ups for both teams was delayed.
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“I’ve spoken to the AFL – the warm ups for this clash have been pushed back,” Fox Footy’s Jon Ralph explained.
“The rule for the AFL is if there’s thunder and lightning within 10km of the MCG, they will stop the game for a minimum 10 minutes.
“There’s certainly no time limit on when the game can restart.
“The show will go on.”
Despite the warm up delays, the 7.20pm AEST start is expected to remain.
Collingwood coach Craig McRae has already delivered a cheeky parting shot to the Demons ahead of the big final on Thursday night.
McRae left his press conference on Tuesday telling reporters: “See you in a couple of weeks”, implying his side would enjoy a week off with a win.
The Magpies welcome back skipper Darcy Moore, Nathan Murphy and Beau McCreery to face the Dees; opting to use Jack Ginnivan as the sub while John Noble becomes the first heartbreak tale as he’s been dropped after 83 straight games for the club.
Melbourne have named Tom McDonald as the man to replace the injured Jake Melksham while Michael Hibberd is also back.
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Fox Footy’s David King believes it’s the Demons who head into the finals in peak condition.
“I just feel like they’ve timed their run really well,” King said on SEN.
“I think Melbourne are right now close to perfection with how they want to look.”
While Ginnivan was named early as Collingwood’s sub, Melbourne opted to go with Bailey Laurie.
This match gets underway at 7.20pm AEST from the MCG.
Watch it live on Fox Footy (channel 504) from 6.30pm AEST.
QUARTER BY QUARTER MATCH REPORT
Despite the earlier wet weather delays, play got underway on time – but it was only Collingwood who turned up in the opening minutes.
Bobby Hill had two goals in a matter of seconds – first through a high tackle free kick and the second with a brilliant crumb out the back.
“Collingwood off to the perfect start,” commentator Matthew Richardson said.
But the match soured moments later when Brayden Maynard clashed heavily with Angus Brayshaw in the middle of the ground.
As Brayshaw drove the footy forward, Maynard jumped in the air in an attempted smother and landed heavily onto Brayshaw – who did not move after the impact.
“Maynard had to go… he’s landed on him,” commentator Brian Taylor said.
“He jumped in the air to try and smother the ball – it’s really hard for him to stop. He can’t. It’s a really tough one that one,” Matthew Richardson added.
“He cannot avoid contact. What else can he do?
“It’s hard to know what else he can do there.”
Commentator Patrick Dangerfield also defended Maynard’s actions.
“Maynard plays on the edge … but there is nothing in this. Unfortunately in this game, there’s contact that occurs,” he said.
“He can’t protect himself in that position either (Maynard).
“He’s at the mercy of the oncoming player.”
As replays played around the MCG, Jack Viney went after Maynard to fly the flag – ending with his jumper torn.
Brayshaw was stretchered from the ground after Bayley Fritsch converted the downfield free kick.
At the same time, Pie Jordan de Goey limped off and went straight down to the rooms as a result of a slip on the wet MCG turf.
While a strapped up de Goey was able to return, Dan McStay then headed down for a HIA test after a big collision with Demon Jacob van Rooyen.
Jamie Elliott had two chances to extend the Pies’ lead but sprayed both chances in the wet.
A clumsy challenge from Jake Lever on Brody Mihocek gifted Collingwood another shot on goal – but he too couldn’t convert.
It took Jack Crisp from just beyond the arc to get Collingwood’s third goal of the match.
Darcy Cameron added another goal to ensure the Pies held a 26-6 lead at the first change.
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