St Kilda beat Collingwood by 15 points to send ‘sloppy, rusty, clunky’ Magpies into early-season crisis

St Kilda have stunned AFL premiers Collingwood by 15 points, relegating the Magpies to a 0-3 start to the season.

Saints forward Jack Higgins kicked a freakish but controversial goal during the final term to blunt Collingwood’s late rally in the 14.10 (94) to 12.7 (79) win on Thursday night at the MCG.

This was the Saints’ fourth annual “Spud’s Game”, honouring St Kilda great Danny Frawley, and the first of them they have won.

St Kilda’s first win of the season came at a cost, with Mason Wood taken to hospital as a precaution after he was concussed in the first term.

Two St Kilda AFL players fall to ground after an aerial collision, as a Collingwood player reacts in the background.

St Kilda’s Mason Wood (right) was taken off the ground on a stretcher after a nasty collision at the MCG.(Getty Images: Darrian Traynor)

Livewire recruit Liam Henry also left the field in the final quarter, apparently with right hamstring soreness, after he had been one of the Saints’ best players.

The Saints kicked the first two goals of the last term to take a game-high lead of 33 points.

But as has become their custom, Collingwood fought back with three goals, and with Henry out of the game suddenly St Kilda were vulnerable.

Then Higgins was on the boundary line in a forward pocket when he snapped his fourth, a goal-of-the-year contender, that steadied the Saints.

But there will be plenty of debate about whether Higgins was out of bounds when he took his miracle shot.

A Collingwood AFL player closes his eyes as he handballs over his head as he is tackled by St Kilda players.

Nick Daicos had a quiet night in his 50th match.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Michael Willson)

Magpie fans will point with frustration to Thursday night’s free-kick count, 30-15 in the Saints’ favour.

Saints half-back Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera starred with 32 possessions, while ruckman Rowan Marshall also was mighty.

Collingwood again looked well off their best, and Brisbane coach Chris Fagan was an interested spectator at the MCG ahead of next Thursday night’s grand final rematch at the Gabba.

Look back at how the action unfolded in our live blog.

Key events

Live scores

That’s it from the MCG tonight

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Big game. Entertaining game. A game with repercussions that could be felt for the rest of the season.

It’s St Kilda’s night, one for Saints fans to celebrate and go to bed knowing their team is firmly on the right track. I get the feeling that good days are ahead for St Kilda, and even if it doesn’t come to full fruition in 2024, the future is bright.

Collingwood head back to the drawing board and prepare for a game next Thursday that will bring the footy world to a standstill. We’ve got eight more games this weekend, and already I’m thinking about next Thursday night.

I’ll be back tomorrow night for Adelaide-Geelong, so please join me then. Thanks for your company tonight, see you again soon.

‘Sloppy, rusty, clunky’: Pies coach Craig McRae opens up on team’s woes

Craig McRae
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The Collingwood coach is thoughtful and honest about his side’s predicament.

“A bit of self-reflection never hurt anyone, so I let them sit with it a bit longer. Everyone can see it, there are fundamental things we are doing really poorly. Things that are uncharacteristic for us and our players.

“It’s just little things, that mean big things. And we’ve taken great pride in the last period at doing the little things really well.

“There are fundamental skills that are sloppy, rusty, clunky. I told them, let’s get busy. Let’s get busy on these things that we are good at. 

“The ball is going into packs where we have three guys, and all three say “you can get it”. Nah. I’d rather all three of you go in and get it. There’s hestitation that needs to change.”

On the improvements he saw this week:

“To use a cricket analogy, round one I thought we were just fending outside the off stump and nicked a few to the slips. Last week I thought we tried to hit too many sixes. This week I thought we played each ball on its merits.”

Ross Lyon is speaking to the media

St Kilda players celebrate
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As the Saints celebrate, Ross the Boss is talking footy.

On stopping Collingwood:

“When you’re the reigning premier, you’ve got clear signatures. It’s taken us a while, but I think the rest of the competition might be recognising those signatures. But it’s still hard to stop.”

“It was a step forward. We’ve got plenty of work to do, but confidence comes from action and we had pretty good action tonight.”

On the youth:

“We’ve got some exciting young players. Last year we were the fourth youngest team in the comp. I think that’s the exciting bit. We think we’re on the right path.”

On Mason Wood’s condition:

“He’s knocked himself out and broken his collarbone we think. It’s a shame for him.”

Where to next for Collingwood?

Disappointed Collingwood players
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In a literal sense, it’s Brisbane at the Gabba next Thursday night. Neither side will take a single win into that game, which is staggering. After that is Hawthorn in Adelaide to close out Gather Round, but they really wouldn’t want to be 0-4 by that point.

Is there a road back from 0-3? 0-4? I’m hestitant to write this Collingwood team off because they have been so enchanting over the past two years, especially with their backs against the wall. But this does feel a bit different. I’m not sure it’s as simple as “they’re not as hungry anymore”, I think there are structural and tactical issues that are becoming worse by the week.

It’s also true that they were outrun and outhunted by St Kilda tonight. That could be a “premiership hangover”, or that could just be that these Saints are the hardest runners in the AFL. Regardless, if this season is to be salvaged then significant changes need to be made. Across the board.

Jack Steele leads his team home

Jack Steele celebrates
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A lazy 26 touches, six clearances and 10 tackles from Jack Steele tonight. The Saints skipper spoke to Channel Seven after the game:

“It was very special to have so many people here on such a special game for us and our club. It was great to win. Walking away with four points and first one for the season, we’ve got to enjoy it.”

On Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera’s BOG performance:

“He’s been great, Nas, the couple of years. Great use off halfback and he is so strong. He’s very thin, but he is a hard kid and he goes about it well.”

Was it in or out? The Jack Higgins moment

Jack Higgins kicks the ball
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An absolutely incredible goal, but there will debate about whether Higgins kicked the ball inside or just outside the boundary line. Watch the replay below and you be the judge:

FT: Saints make a statement with 15-point win as Magpies go 0-3

St Kilda players celebrate
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Welcome to 2024, St Kilda. The Saints have laid down a marker and announced themselves as a team to watch this year, not only with this win but with the manner in which it came. This might be the hardest-running team in the league, and they have weapons on every line. They were tough in the contest, electric on the outside and steadfast in their belief they could knock off the Pies.

A lot of the conversation this week will focus on Collingwood, and understandably so. The reigning premiers are 0-3 and face a trip to Brisbane next week to face the side they pipped in last year’s grand final. There is every chance this could get worse before it gets better, because the Magpies look a step off the pace and more disjointed in defence than they have ever been under Craig McRae.

There is going to be a lot said about this game for the next seven days. I hope most of it is about St Kilda, because that was a highly impressive and highly significant win for this club.

McInnes pulls one back for the Pies

It’s a 16-point game with 1:55 on the clock. Beyond even the 2023 Magpies I’d say.

Into the last three minutes

An AFL ruck contest
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That Higgins goal sapped the life out of Collingwood, and St Kilda have very professionally shut this game down since then too. It’s going to be a memorable win for the Saints tonight, one of their very best under Ross Lyon.

This is a serious team in 2024.


He was in the carpark! Jack Higgins could not have been tighter to the boundary if he tried — in fact, was he out of bounds!? There must have been an inch in it!

But the kick from that angle, and that distance, was remarkable. It’s one of the goals of the year, and it’s surely just clinched the game for the Saints.

Battle takes down De Goey!

The Pies fans were SCREAMING for a De Goey free, and it did look like he may have been being held as he tried to run on the ball. But after he won it, he couldn’t find anyway through Josh Battle who sticks the tackle and saves the day.

Bobby Hill has two in a minute! Here come Collingwood!

It hasn’t been Lachie Schultz’s night, but that was his moment! A stunning smother on centre wing completely split the game open, and after an exchagne with Nick Daicos suddenly Hill was free out the back in a vacant 50.

He ran it to the goal line, punted it into row Z and set Collingwood pulses racing. They couldn’t, could they?

Bobby Hill! Crumbs and goals! Do the Pies believe?

Nobody picked up the most dangerous Pie once the ball hit the deck, and he streamed into an open goal after the old fashioned front and centre effort.

It’s 21 points. There is 11:46 on the clock. It’s very possible.

Elliott kicks his third, Pies trying to spark something

If anything is going to give Collingwood life, maybe a running Steele Sidebottom torpedo through the middle of the ground could do it.

It’s helped them to a goal here at least, as that incredible kick found McCreery who then had Elliott in an open 50. 27 points the margin, 14:30 to play.

Matteas Phillipou! From a mile out!

The young Saint didn’t mean it, but he will celebrate it hard! An absolute bomb inside 50 from young Phillipou cleared the deepest contest and bounced through from the top of the goalsquare.

It’s out to 33 points, and it is just about curtains for Collingwood. Oh BOY are they going to be feasting on this one for the next seven days.

Liam Henry slots a beauty! The Saints can taste it!

Just 31 seconds into the final quarter, the quite brilliant Liam Henry has extended St Kilda’s lead out to a game-high 26 points. How he found so much space streaming inside 50 I’ll never know. Perhaps he simply outran his Pies opponents.

Going to take something very special for Collingwood from here.

3QT: Saints take control and lead Pies by 20

Saints players celebrate
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A five goal to one quarter for St Kilda has the Saints on the cusp of a highly significant victory at the MCG.

And they’re doing it a number of ways. They’re kicking goals on turnover (which there have been far too many of for Collingwood’s liking), they are moving the ball brilliantly out of defence and they have been strong at the stoppages. That was a pretty complete quarter from the Saints.

Collingwood certainly aren’t out of it, and they showed in the second quarter that if the game gets frantic, they have a way back in. The Pies of 2023 were masters of comebacks from positions like this. Can the 2024 Pies provide something similar to avoid an 0-3 start?

Sharman doesn’t miss that one! Saints by 19

More scrambled defending by Collingwood, more relentless pressure from St Kilda, and another critical goal on the board for the Saints.

Liam Henry was nearly run down by Darcy Moore, but sent a high ball towards the goal square. It was a three on one against Sharman, but he read the flight best, took the grab and slammed home the goal.

Saints are leaving the door ajar

St Kilda have had some chances in the last few minutes to really get that lead back out again, but misses from Cooper Sharman, Darcy Wilson and Mitch Owens have kept the life in Collingwood.

Three minutes to play in the third.

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