NORTH Melbourne has kept alive its dream of capturing the AFL Women's premiership in its debut season with a comprehensive victory over winless Collingwood.
The Kangaroos provisionally returned to the top of Conference A thanks to the 7.11 (53) to 5.1 (31) result in the first match of Saturday's Marvel Stadium double-header.
Adelaide, the one team to beat Scott Gowans' side, will snatch that status if it trumps Greater Western Sydney on Sunday.
North poured more misery on the Magpies, who lost stars Jess Duffin, Emma King, Jasmine Garner and Mo Hope to the new franchise in a devastating off-season blow.
Hope was prominent early – involved in both of the Roos' first two goals, including kicking the second of them – and Garner was busy all match and capped her effort with a pair of majors.
Eliza Hynes succeeded King as Collingwood's No.1 ruck but copped a knee to her midriff from her former teammate at the first bounce in the second term.
RACE FOR FINALS Where is your team placed?
The Roos should have ended the game as a contest earlier than it did, but wayward goalkicking ensured Collingwood started the second half only 12 points down despite seven fewer scoring shots.
However, any hope of a quick Magpie start in the third quarter was dashed when the prolific Jenna Bruton (19 disposals, six clearances) won another centre clearance to set up an immediate North Melbourne goal.
It was party time once Garner then Kaitlyn Ashmore produced respective quality finishes barely minutes apart to blow the margin out to 31 points at the last break.
The terrier-like Brittany Bonnici was Collingwood's best, winning a game-high 21 possessions and laying 10 tackles while blunting League medallist Emma Kearney's influence in the process.
Jaimee Lambert (20 disposals) and defender Ash Brazill (18) also did everything they could for the Pies, who had some deserved late reward with the final two goals.
Collingwood defender Iilish Ross sustained an ankle injury in a goal line scrap just before three-quarter time and will undergo scans to determine the seriousness of it.
Four Conference A clubs will still be in the finals race entering next week's final round if Melbourne accounts for the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night.
That's gotta hurt
Towering North ruck Emma King, who departed Collingwood in the off-season, attacked the first bounce of the second term with genuine vigour.
Just ask her former teammate Eliza Hynes, who was left gasping for air and in pain after copping a King knee to her midriff.
Hynes managed to run from the field and she returned soon after once she composed herself.
Any focus on the defectors?
The four former Magpies going against their old side – Mo Hope, Emma King, Jess Duffin and Jasmine Garner – added an interesting narrative to the contest.
However, Kangaroos star Kaitlyn Ashmore, who also swapped sides in the off-season after playing the first two seasons for Brisbane, said there wasn't much focus on the reunion.
"We didn't really talk about … we just talked about playing Collingwood and obviously they've got the inside scoop of how they were last year," Ashmore told reporters.
"We kind of just asked them 'What would they do?' – we didn't really talk about them playing their old side."
No conference conflict
Don't complain about the lopsided conference system to North Melbourne coach Scott Gowans, because you won't find a sympathetic ear.
There has been a chorus of criticism about how the conferences are faring, given the teams in Conference A are performing so much better than their B counterparts.
Gowans, who says he's not one to complain about anything, thinks the format is working well.
"I remember having this conversation after round two about the conferences and I always thought to myself, 'Just give it some time'," Gowans said.
"And how well has it worked out that it's competitive in Conference B and it's competitive in Conference A and now it comes down to this?
"We have to go over (to Perth against Fremantle) and win.
"There's no just sneaking into finals on percentage or anything like that – every game counts … I think it's exciting for the supporters."
"I didn't feel the frustration with the game at all (when we were kicking inaccurately), because I could almost tell the way we were moving the ball and what we were doing in the contest felt right and it would eventually turn. No disrespect to Collingwood – I thought they were terrific as well – (and) some of their ball movement, their short possession, was really good. They've improved a lot over the last couple of weeks, so it's a credit to Wayne and the team there. (But) I always felt like we were, not in control, but OK, if that makes sense." – North Melbourne coach Scott Gowans
"There was no expectation on us as a team (before the season). It was about improvement and development and that was my job as the senior coach of this side … we're improving week by week and that's all I can ask for. It sets us up going into next season with a young group that's improving week by week individually and as a team that, who knows, where it can go to? But that's where we're building and I'm excited about that." – Collingwood coach Wayne Siekman
"I think we've jelled really well as a team, considering we've got the Tassie girls down there as well. We put in a lot of hard work in the pre-season just to get us jelling, because we can get the inside scoop, obviously, on what clubs were like last year – but that was last year. There is lots of movement that happened over the off-season, so you can't really judge what a team's going to be like, so we just kind of focused on ourselves and I think we're doing all right so far." – North Melbourne star Kaitlyn Ashmore
"There's no shying away from how good of a footballer (Emma) Kearney is, but that's part of the exciting role that I have in the club and I am the one that gets sent to these powerful players. I really like to take on board a challenge and some weeks it goes my way and some weeks it doesn't. But I learn a lot when I'm out there and when the footy's there, it's me and Kearney and she's taking me to the ball and I just take each challenge as it comes." – Collingwood tagger Brittany Bonnici
North Melbourne travels west to face the in-form Dockers for what may effectively be an elimination final at Fremantle Oval next Saturday. The Magpies will try to avoid a winless season when they complete their campaign against Brisbane at Victoria Park on Sunday week.
COLLINGWOOD 2.0 3.0 3.1 5.1 (31)
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.2 4.6 7.8 7.11 (53)
Collingwood: Guttridge 2, Grant, Rowe, Chiocci
North Melbourne: Garner 2, Bateman 2, Bannister, Hope, Ashmore
Collingwood: Bonnici, Lambert, Brazill, Rowe, Grant, Livingstone
North Melbourne: Bruton, Stanton, Garner, Kearney, Abbatangelo, Gillespie-Jones
Collingwood: Ross (ankle)
North Melbourne: Nil
Umpires: Adair, McPhee, Jones
Official crowd: 10,612 at Marvel Stadium