With the Grand Final played and won, the long dark no football months of summer lie in wait for us. In an effort to bring some light to this miserable time, The Pinch Hitters intend to take a look back at the season that was and celebrate the great moments of season 2018. Today we shine a spotlight on Collingwood, who exceeded all external expectations to reach the Grand Final. Lets count down the Top Five Magpies Moments of a 2018 season to remember.
5. Jaidyn Stephenson
It was a debut season to remember for Jaidyn Stephenson. Drafted with the sixth pick in the draft by Collingwood, he played all 25 games in the clubs Grand Final charge and became their first ever winner of the AFL Rising Star Award. Quickly becoming a vital part of the Magpies fleet of small forwards he kicked 38 goals, the most by a teenager since Chris Grant in 1990, including two on Grand Final Day.
4. USA! USA! USA!
Just four years removed from learning the sport existed, Cox produced a sensational exhibition of contested marking to outpoint the competition’s premier defender. He would take 11 marks for the night, including eight contested – the second most recorded in a final. His efforts at the start of the second quarter were especially memorable and set the MCG alight. In response to him kicking the first three goals of the term, the large crowd broke out into a spontaneous USA, USA chant.
3. Brodie Grundy
The author of our weekly Collingwood Commentary wanted a say in just one position in our Pinch Hitters All-Australian team in 2018, and it proved the decisive vote in the first ruckman debate. Brodie Grundy was been a major factor in the Magpies rise to the top four in 2018 and seen him recognised as the Herald Sun player of the year. Second in hit outs and tenth for clearances, his contribution as a tap ruckman was elite on its own but playing as a virtual fifth midfielder he added an X-Factor to the Pies that made him a worthy selection as first ruck in our All-Australian team
2. Mr September – Steele Sidebottom
Given the unstoppable force he was in September there was little surprise when Steele Sidebottom was awarded the Gary Ayres Medal as the AFLCA’s player of the finals. The pièce de résistance in a month of spectacular performances was his Preliminary Final torching of the Tigers.
After being surprisingly left unattended by Richmond Coach Damien Hardwick, the 27-year-old was the leading possession winner with an astonishing 41, the most ever in a Preliminary Final. Working on the inside and outside he won five clearances, hit his opponents at will and gained 545 metres.
1. Taming the Tigers to reach the Grand Final
What little chance the football world gave Collingwood was evident in the ‘Experts Tips’ in Melbourne’s two major papers which saw just six of 42 predict an upset win for Nathan Buckley’s men. With Richmond unbeaten in their last 22 starts at the MCG and victorious in six of their last seven against Collingwood, a victory for the Minor Premiers was considered a foregone conclusion. In front of 94,959 fans, the Magpies reminded everyone that there is no such thing as a foregone conclusion in the AFL.
Outplaying Richmond at their own game, Collingwood ambushed their opponents in a withering first half display. Led by outstanding performances from Brodie Grundy, Steele Sidebottom and Jordan De Goey, Collingwood went to the half-time break all but in the Grand Final with a 10 goal to two lead. Despite having winners all over the ground, the night might be best remembered for the performance of American Forward Mason Cox.
Their performance in the epic Grand Final that followed a week later suggests their underdog status might have been overstated but the shock felt at the time saw it recognised with fifth place in 2018’s biggest upsets.