STAR defenders Darcy Moore and Michael Hurley are major pre-finals casualties as Collingwood beat Essendon by 11 points in their AFL blockbuster.
Ruckman Brodie Grundy and captain Scott Pendlebury were supreme for the Magpies in the 10.16 (76) to 10.5 (65) win on Friday night at the MCG as Collingwood stayed in contention for a top-four finish.
The opening match to a bumper final round of the regular season attracted 84,405 fans and lived up to its billing.
But the big news out of the game, a fortnight before week one of the finals, is the injuries to Moore and Hurley.
Moore, who came back on Friday night from five weeks out with a hamstring injury, left the field in the final term and finished the game on the bench.
The Magpies also lost fellow defender Matt Scharenberg to a concussion after a friendly-fire collision with Levi Greenwood in the opening term, but the pre-finals bye means he might not miss a game.
Essendon defender Aaron Francis was another casualty, hurting his leg in the second term.
Francis returned for the third term but spent the final quarter on the bench.
Capping a busy night for the two teams’ medical staffs, Collingwood small forward Josh Thomas left the field late in the last quarter with a sore knee.
Hurley’s second-term shoulder injury looks serious and scans will determine whether his season is over.
The Bombers back man was in a world of pain, clutching his right shoulder after a clash the second term, and he left the field immediately.
He spent the second half with his arm in a sling.
Essendon made six changes for this match, five of them forced, and also lost recalled swingman Cale Hooker as a late withdrawal because of illness.
It follows another six changes before their horrible loss to the Western Bulldogs and then five changes last week as they upset Fremantle in Perth to secure a finals berth.
Essendon will play in an elimination final, while Collingwood’s assignment in a fortnight depends on West Coast and Richmond.
If the Eagles or Tigers lose this weekend, the Magpies secure a top-four finish and the double chance.
Otherwise, they are in an elimination final and that could be against the Bombers again.
Despite Essendon’s massed changes, the Bombers took early control for a 19-point lead at quarter time.
The Magpies then shut down their speedy ball use and with Pendlebury exerting his considerable influence, they trailed by only one point at the main break.
Scores were level at three-quarter time, but Collingwood kicked clear in the final term.
They should have won by more, kicking a wasteful 2.5 in the last quarter.
Magpies small forward Jamie Elliott continued his return to form with three goals and Brody Mihocek kicked four.
Shaun McKernan was best for Essendon with 12 marks and two goals.
© AAP 2019
COLLINGWOOD 3.1 6.7 8.9 10.16 (76)
ESSENDON 6.2 7.2 9.3 10.5 (65)
Goals: Collingwood: B Mihocek 4 J Elliott 3 J Thomas 2 J Roughead. Essendon: A McDonald-Tipungwuti 2 B Ham 2 J Laverde 2 S McKernan 2 K Langford M Brown.
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Ray Chamberlain, Brendan Hosking.
Official Crowd: 85,405 at MCG.