St Kilda Saints v Collingwood Magpies


Ryan Byrnes (left) and Tim Membrey celebrate a goal during the R2 match between St Kilda and Collingwood at the MCG on March 21, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

CONVENTIONAL wisdom suggested there was no way on earth the reigning premier Collingwood would be 0-3 to start the season.

The Magpies had to turn it around at some point. Surely.

SAINTS v MAGPIES Full match coverage and stats

But St Kilda has ensured it’ll be at least another week before Collingwood sing the song, holding on despite a late flurry of goals to win by 15 points, 14.10 (94) to 12.7 (79) at the MCG.

In a somewhat controversial finish, Jack Higgins booted a stunning 40m goal from what appeared to be beyond the boundary line, with the goalsneak’s fourth major steadying the Saints after the Pies had kicked a quick three and put everyone on edge.

The opening term was marred by a serious head knock to St Kilda winger Mason Wood, who collided in mid-air with teammate Zaine Cordy at high speed while attempting to intercept and hitting his head on the turf.

The game was stopped for seven minutes as Wood was taken off on the motorised cart in a neck brace, but was seen talking to doctors and moving his arms.

The club said he was taken to hospital “for precautionary reasons” during the second term, where he was diagnosed with a broken collarbone in addition to his concussion. 

As scary as the incident was, it seemed to steel the resolve of the Saints players, skipping out to a two-goal lead at the first break after a run of four majors.

Somehow, the Magpies clawed their way back into the game, overwhelming the Saints with a weight of inside 50s in a sustained period of dominance to kick four consecutive goals of their own, inclusion Reef McInnes looking particularly lively following a strong pre-season.

But on slow plays, St Kilda would wrest control back its way, throwing big numbers into its backline and choking up any semblance of flow and connectivity for Collingwood, and Ross Lyon’s men piled on five goals in the third term to set up the win.

Skill errors in Collingwood’s back half – particularly from senior players such as Darcy Moore, Steele Sidebottom and Brayden Maynard – saw the Pies shoot themselves in the foot time and time again, particularly in a messy second half.

Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (32 disposals) was unstoppable off half-back, providing plenty of run and creativity for the Saints.

Mitch Owens battled admirably as St Kilda’s second ruck, standing a full 20cm shorter than Mason Cox but finding plenty of the footy around the ground and using it with poise.

Jamie Elliott was a constant threat in attack when the ball made it forward, Josh Daicos worked hard throughout the match, but brother Nick struggled to make an impact in game 50, wearing some attention from Marcus Windhager, who racked up the disposals himself.

Speedy Saints put in the hard yards
It’s all well and good to effectively flood the backline, but you’ve got to be able to maintain a semblance of a forward structure, which is just what St Kilda did. Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Bradley Hill, Liam Henry and Darcy Wilson covered an enormous amount of territory back and forth, exposing the Pies with their quick ball movement and finding goals equally through the team’s talls and smalls.

Pies’ defence exposed
Collingwood’s defence – the backbone of its premiership win last year – has been uncharacteristically shaky this year, and it was the case again on Thursday night. Nathan Murphy is still unavailable due to concussion, and Billy Frampton replaced Charlie Dean for the game. Darcy Moore at times opted to spoil rather than mark, and his stray handball was pounced upon by Bradley Hill. Frampton opted to knock Jack Higgins through the goal in a moment of panic, while the Saints small was the beneficiary of another error later in the match when Steele Sidebottom’s spoil went towards the goal, landing in his lap.

Spud’s Game
The round two match marked St Kilda’s annual “Spud’s Game”, recognising the mental health advocacy work of club legend Danny Frawley, and raising funds for the centre which bears his name at Moorabbin. A representative from all 18 clubs – ranging from former players like Tony Shaw, Majak Daw and Guy McKenna, administrators in Brendon Gale and Wayne Campbell, AFLW players and coaches including Ellie Blackburn, Maddy Prespakis and Matthew Clarke – joined the Pies and Saints in the middle of the ground, while Pete Murray played his classic hit Better Days. Saints AFLW players rattled tins outside the ground.

ST KILDA                 5.1     6.2     11.7     14.10     (94)
COLLINGWOOD     3.1     7.4     8.5     12.7     (79)

GOALS
St Kilda: Higgins 4, King 3, Membrey 2, Henry 2, Hill, Sharman, Phillipou
Collingwood: Elliott 3, McInnes 3, Lipinski 2, Hill 2, Schultz, Cameron

BEST
St Kilda: Wanganeen-Milera, Windhager, Steele, Higgins, Marshall, Owens
Collingwood: J.Daicos, Lipinski, Elliott, Crisp, N.Daicos

INJURIES
St Kilda: Wood (concussion)
Collingwood: Nil

SUBSTITUTES
St Kilda: Zak Jones (replaced Wood in the first quarter)
Collingwood: Fin Macrae (replaced Markov at three-quarter time)

Crowd: 69,517 at the MCG



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