COLLINGWOOD has finally broken its drought in 2019, defeating Brisbane by six points to record its first win of the season in the final round.
The result means Carlton and Geelong will be the Conference B sides to qualify for finals, as Brisbane needed to win in order to make its third consecutive appearance in the post-season.
It wasn't a match for the ages, but the Magpies were determined to finish a poor season on a winning note.
They withstood a second-half fightback from the Lions, scoring just two points in the final two terms but, thanks to some wasteful Brisbane shots on goal, had done enough.
The Pies simply denied the Lions the ball in the first quarter, up 65 to 41 in disposals and 10 to three in clearances.
Jaimee Lambert (16 touches) was busy as always, while Ash Brazill (23, including 19 kicks) wore the dangerous Jess Wuestchner like a glove.
The second quarter followed a similar pattern, with Steph Chiocci and Britt Bonnici in particular exploiting the wide wings of Victoria Park and the Pies willing to switch play.
The experienced Lauren Arnell (21 disposals, seven tackles) was the Lions' best, her cool head keeping them in the match, while midfielder Jacqui Yorston (21 and nine tackles) looks an excellent long-term player for the club.
Lambert's day ended early with concussion after an accidental head clash at the opening bounce of the fourth quarter.
A quiet leader
Collingwood forward Sarah D'Arcy is far from the loudest member of the Magpie team, but she has been forced to lead from the front this year among an inexperienced forward line. By her own admission in the post-match press conference, it was one of her better AFLW games. Predominantly playing on Sharni Webb, a good match athletically, D'Arcy had 20 disposals, 11 marks and kicked two goals in a four-quarter performance.
One to watch
Collingwood key back Ash Brazill has been a shining light in an otherwise disappointing season, not only negating opposition forwards but driving the Magpies' rebound. The 29-year-old has one of the busier schedules in the AFLW, combining her footy season with her netball pre-season (she plays for Collingwood's Super Netball side in a season which runs from April to September). The Pies would love to have her back in 2020, but will she be able to juggle both for another year? Coach Wayne Siekman indicated fellow netballer Sharni Layton may be in line for another contract, saying she would play VFLW and would "be a big-time player for us next year".
One last roll of the dice
With finals hopes on the line, Brisbane came out swinging after half-time. The Lions started taking on the game through the middle of the ground and getting inside 50 quickly. Unfortunately, the Lions just couldn't find the middle of the goals, kicking six behinds in the second half. It took some Emma Zielke magic on the outside of the boot (she was moved forward in the third term) to get the Lions' only goal for the second half.
Magpie hangs up the boots
The AFLW's oldest player, 39-year-old Cecilia McIntosh, has retired. The Pie hasn't managed a game since round four, with the team going for a youth-focused approach. McIntosh played 17 AFLW games over three seasons, primarily as an uncompromising half-back, but was also swung forward this season. McIntosh follows the retirement of Giant Courtney Gum on Friday night.
"The feeling is pretty good, it's just good reward for the players. You would have seen the past three weeks we've got better every week. Today was another example of that. Our first half was exceptional – some of the best footy we've played all year – Brisbane had everything to play for, we withstood their pressure and held out late in the game." – Collingwood coach Wayne Siekman
"It's disappointing to lose any week but we had seven scoring shots to two in the second half and had all the play and couldn't capitalise. The opposition got away a little bit early, but we got our match-ups right about halfway through the second quarter and steadied the ship a bit. A lot of scoring and we probably had the game on our terms in the second half and just couldn't finish." - Brisbane coach Craig Starcevich
Both sides will be left to lick their wounds after disappointing seasons. They'll move into list management mode in the coming weeks. Some Collingwood players will also represent the club's VFLW side when that season starts in May, while Brisbane players will be split among the QWAFL clubs.
COLLINGWOOD 1.3 3.5 3.6 3.7 (25)
BRISBANE 1.0 1.1 2.4 2.7 (19)
Collingwood: D'Arcy 2, Lambert
Brisbane: Wuetschner, Zielke
Collingwood: Brazill, Lambert, D'Arcy, Chiocci, Dargan
Brisbane: Arnell, Exon, Yorston, Lutkins, Zielke
Collingwood: Lambert (concussion)
Umpires: Lewis, Simmonds, Strybos
Crowd: 2030 at Victoria Park