Round 9 started with an exciting game in Perth where a gallant Melbourne were eventually overrun by an Eagles unit that is beginning to look a very good chance to make back-to-back grand finals, if not premierships.
Collingwood have secured a top-four berth after overcoming a major scare to beat Fremantle by nine points at Optus Stadium on Saturday.
The Dockers led by 15 points at the 20-minute mark of the second term, and still held an eight-point lead early in the final term when Hayden Ballantyne ran 60m to score his fourth goal.
But Collingwood lifted when it mattered most, with Brody Mihocek booting two goals within the space of a minute, and Josh Thomas adding another late in the match to secure the 11.10 (76) to 9.13 (67) win.
The Magpies could have slid to as low as sixth if they had lost.
But the win means Collingwood will now finish fourth at worst, and possibly as high as second if West Coast lose to Brisbane on Sunday.
Although Fremantle couldn’t come away with victory in Michael Johnson’s AFL farewell, they at least regained some much-needed respect.
The Dockers were bombarded by criticism in the wake of last week’s 133-point loss to Geelong, but they showed far more fight against the Magpies.
Magpies ruckman Brody Grundy starred with 24 disposals, 34 hitouts and five clearances, while Scott Pendlebury tallied 10 clearances from his 30 disposals.
Fremantle conceded the last 23 goals of the game against Geelong last week, and the tally rose to 26 after the Magpies booted the first three goals of Saturday’s game.
But from there the Dockers clicked into gear, booting five unanswered goals to take a 12-point lead into quarter time.
Former Docker Chris Mayne spent large stints on the bench with a shin injury, and he missed two set shots in the third quarter that could have given Collingwood a slight edge heading into the final term.
Instead, scores were level, and the 41,320 home crowd were in raptures early in the final quarter when Ballantyne scooped up a soccered ball and ran 60m into an open goal.
But two quick goals to Mihocek halted Fremantle’s momentum, with Thomas delivering the killer blow.
The Magpies received good news before the match when news filtered through that Tyson Goldsack made a successful return in the VFL.
Goldsack played about 65 per cent game time in his first match since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in March.
But Collingwood appear set to be without young defender Sam Murray for the rest of the season, with the young defender facing a four-year ban from ASADA after testing positive to a prohibited substance.