COLLINGWOOD 4.3 9.6 12.9 15.13 (103)
ADELAIDE 2.1 3.4 10.4 16.7 (103)
A draw, it's like dancing with your sister they say; nobody wins. But sometimes in sport and in life, a draw can offer so much more than just the absence of a clear winner.
An insipid first half performance by Adelaide was dramatically erased by an extraordinary second half avalanche which set up one of the most remarkable comebacks the MCG has ever played host to. Trailing by a whopping 50 points early in the third quarter, the youthful Crows snapped out of their first half funk and, in the process, set about rewriting the history books.
To put it into context, all seven of Charlie Cameron, Rory Atkins, Jake Kelly, Matt Crouch, Wayne Milera, Riley Knight and Mitch McGovern hadn't been born the last time the Crows had played in a draw.
Collingwood came out of the starting blocks with fire in the belly; out-working and out-muscling the top of the table Crows at almost every contest. The Pies' midfield made light work of the Adelaide on-ball brigade with intense physical pressure, sublime spread from the stoppage and a willingness to work much harder when not in possession.
Collingwood’s work rate led to a chasm of space opening up through the centre corridor, which the Pies sought to expose at every possible opportunity. Taylor Adams, Steele Sidebottom and Daniel Wells were the architects of the Magpies' swoop en masse in the absence of their superstar skipper Scott Pendlebury.
On the opposing side, and missing a quartet of their own key personnel, Adelaide were chasing tails and looked all at sea. If not for the enduring work rate of their young ball magnet Matt Crouch, the Crows might have found themselves even further behind.
With Darcy Moore being afforded more time and space than an astronaut on a one-way mission to Mars, Collingwood's suspect forward line now had a focal point.
Second-gamer Alex Keath was handed the unenviable task of limiting the influence of the future game-breaker, but was dramatically exposed in his quest as Moore marked every ball sent in his direction.
Keath was unable to apply any substantial physical pressure on the young key forward, failed to block his leading paths, played from behind and was unable to keep his feet in far too many contests. The stand-in replacement for Kyle Hartigan had every reason to be disappointed with what can only be described as a first-half towelling.
Keath was not alone however, it can be argued that his teammates further up the field were only making life harder for him and his defensive partners. To Keath's testament however, he did not drop his head and fall to pieces as he so easily could have under such trying circumstances.
Under the pump and having to withstand a barrage of Collingwood forward 50 entries, the former Victorian First Class Cricketer turned mature age AFL defender would ultimately later stand up when it mattered most.
Rather than unleashing a tirade on the inexperienced back-man and his under-performing teammates, coach Don Pyke pulled his soldiers together at half-time and reminded them all of the belief they had in each other, what they had been through previously and what they were without any doubt capable of.
Collingwood came out of the break with just as much belief however, having just dismantled the League leaders to the tune of 38 points in the opening half, as they set about quickly putting the contest beyond reach.
With two goals in as many minutes to Moore and Treloar, the Pies turned their 38 point lead into a devastating 50 point margin with less than 38 minutes left to play in the match.
It was from that point on the Crows threw caution to the wind and began to play with all the vigour and flair that had seen them open up opposition teams with devastating effect all season.
Knowing the enormity of the deficit, and the permutations of losing their grip on top spot with arguably the toughest month to come of any team in the competition, Adelaide launched an all-out offensive; turning the centre corridor of the hallowed MCG turf into a one-way Crow expressway.
The chief architect of the swift offensive, Brodie Smith worked tirelessly to provide run and carry from half back, repel Collingwood attacks and would later have a damning say in the result.
Having been soundly beaten in the first half, it was young star forward Mitch McGovern and the oft-maligned Josh Jenkins who capitalised on the Crows' third quarter blitzkrieg.
Jenkins' two majors for the term came either side of three consecutive goals to McGovern, a rare set shot slot from Charlie Cameron and a high-arching snap around the body from David Mackay with only a minute left in the third. Jenkins' second major of the quarter inside the last minute would put the Crows within 3 goals heading into the last break.
The tide was turning; Adelaide were coming home fast with a wet sail and Collingwood could not stop the bleeding.
The Crows made their intentions clear early in the last quarter, they were going to spend every last ticket they had left to run away with an unthinkable victory.
Adelaide were now swarming Collingwood. Feeling the heat of Adelaide's immense pressure, the Pies turned the ball over twice in the space of as many minutes - the main man standing in their way was that man again, Brodie Smith.
Smith's gut run to spoil an opponent on the wing not only stopped a certain Collingwood inside 50, his subsequent gather and expert delivery to an Adelaide two-on-one would set up the first of Adelaide's last quarter goals.
After McGovern missed only a minute earlier, a goal to the rapidly improving Riley Knight in the opening three minutes of the term was fortuitous - only 20 minutes earlier had his direct opponent Treloar hammered home what he thought was to be the final nail in the Crows coffin, only 20 minutes earlier had the Crows trailed by 50 points - quite simply, remarkable.
Like Knight had already done on several occasions in his short career to date, he went back and delivered in the big moment, slotting the set shot on a difficult angle to bring his team within 10 points of the Pies. Knight would finish the game with 17 touches, operating at an exceptional 94 per cent disposal efficiency.
Brodie Smith's selfless moment that lead to the goal may be quickly forgotten in the aftermath and all the hysteria of the incredible climax; it was not however lost on his teammates.
After Smith quelled another Pies foray forward with a well-read intercept mark in a more advanced position than his earlier bout of brilliance, the Pies looked to send the ball to the boundary line repeatedly in the hope of winning stoppages and streaming forward.
Smith's efforts would not be in vain however, nor would the inspirational gut run and chase-down of Tom Phillips by David Mackay, after Daniel Wells had bravely tried to slice the Crows open with an inboard kick that would have surely resulted in a Collingwood score. Mackay's brilliant tackle would lead to another Adelaide forward entry, only for Charlie Cameron to miss a relatively easy snap from within 30m.
When Brayden Maynard executed the resultant kick-in and subsequently demanded the ball back, veteran midfielder Richard Douglas, who had toiled away desperately all afternoon, had already anticipated his movements and forced the young defender into a rushed handball. Charlie Cameron, smelling blood in the water, would again impact the contest allowing Josh Jenkins to capitalise with a left foot snap to bring the Crows within 3 points.
Collingwood were in damage control. Their backs to the wall, they would lift again for one final onslaught.
After a Ben Reid set shot sparked the Pies into action, Jarryd Blair would punish a Jake Kelly fumble and only seconds after the restart it would be Daniel Wells' third goal that put the Pies back out to a 21 point margin. The crowd were at fever pitch, the "Collingwood" chant ringing loudly around the MCG would have been enough to put any interstate visiting team and their supporters back in their shells. Not this young Adelaide outfit.
When Jack Crisp missed to put the Pies 22 points clear, it seemed a reach too far for a Crows outfit that had fought tooth and nail to get back into the contest. Out on their feet, the Crows somehow found the strength and nerve to carry on. They refused to stop, refused to lie down and accept their fate.
Don Pyke had one more move up his sleeve; enter comeback hero Andy Otten.
Pyke sent Otten forward in a last gasp attempt to overwhelm the Pies defence with another marking option up forward, entrusting the second gamer Alex Keath and All Australian defender Daniel Talia with shouldering the defensive burden of Collingwood's twin towers in Reid and Moore. Otten would not let Pyke down, nor would his key defensive duo.
After Charlie Cameron realised Collingwood had worked the overlap on the wing with Alex Fasolo set to waltz inside 50 unopposed, his superb 50m gut run would pressure the mercurial Pies forward into a misdirected kick.
David Mackay would read the ball best and hand off to Jake Kelly, whose repeated follow up work would result in a Tom Lynch mark deep in the forward pocket. Lynch knew there was no time to waste and played on, sending the ball over to Otten in the goal square as his opponent Lynden Dunn could only watch on in despair.
The Crows weren't going away.
Star ruckman Sam Jacobs immediately licked his lips as young Darcy Moore was sent to oppose the towering ruckman at the very next stoppage. Jacobs knew exactly what to do, and after expertly throwing the young key forward off balance with a well-timed run up, big 'Sauce' tapped the ball straight down the throat of Richard Douglas. It was another crucial centre clearance win as the Crows wrestled back ascendancy in the coalface.
Douglas streamed forward with the ball in hand and launched from 60m, only for Dunn to get fingertips to the ball on the goal line.
As Dunn sent the ball outside 50m towards his teammate Josh Smith, it was Smith's namesake Brodie who would again affect a spoil after a gut busting run to split the contest. The Crows' Smith would not only spoil the marking attempt, but in the process deftly tap the ball down to the waiting hands of Andy Otten who released Douglas, who in turn cleverly baulked his opponent then repaid Smith with a deft handball to send Smith on his way, kicking truly from just inside 50 to send his teammates and the Adelaide fans into a frenzy.
After Ben Reid's left foot snap found the post, Adelaide knew only bravery in their execution would see them home, and it took every bit of nerve for David Mackay to send the ball to Talia in a dangerous central position, but Talia would answer the call - taking an exceptional contested grab and immediately releasing Luke Brown to repel the ball out of defence.
Brown was equally as brave in his execution as he picked out Riley Knight in space in the corridor. Knight marked and immediately released Rory Atkins, who in turn released his captain Walker, and rather than blazing away 'Tex' calmly delivered the ball to Otten in space on a tough angle. Again, Otten delivered, bringing the Crows back to within four points.
The Pies would have two more chances to put the Crows away, but Moore's set shot would fade to the right, and Luke Brown's spoil on the last line of defence would see the margin out to six points - a draw was now on the cards but in the minds of all watching on, still unfathomable.
With every player now gasping for air, it took several displays of courage and heart from the likes of Douglas, Crouch, Mackay and Hugh Greenwood that would ultimately see their team rescue the most unlikely of results.
Crunching in at the contest, at the bottom of every pack and at the forefront of every Crows stoppage clearance, Crouch and Greenwood would outwork their midfield opponents and find a way to send the Crows forward inch by inch.
Tom Lynch's ferocious tackle and holding the ball on the paint of the 50m line with 40 seconds to play meant the Crows had one last chance to salvage the game - sensing there was little time left, the workhorse forward launched the ball towards goal only to see it spoiled back into play right on the goal line.
Josh Jenkins threw himself at the ball in a desperate attempt to gather and snap but was wrapped up immediately and pinged for holding the ball himself. The result now looked beyond doubt.
With seconds ticking down, the ball was sent back out to the spot Tom Lynch had just kicked from, but it was young Crows defender Jake Kelly who read the ball best and took the most important intercept mark of his blossoming career.
Getting the vocal hurry-up from his even less experienced defensive partner Alex Keath, Kelly wasted no time and sent the ball high inside 50 with five seconds left on the clock.
They came from all angles, the short, the tall, the broad and the rangy. The pack converged 30m out dead in front, but it was one young man who would rise above all others, coming from three deep, in from the side to clutch the most spectacular of all his highlight reel marks to date right before the siren echoed out around the MCG - The young forward who has caused both celebration and angst in South Australia this year with his mercurial marking ability and drawn out contract negotiations, namely Mitch McGovern.
He would indeed make a name for himself at the home of football, as he calmly went back and slotted the clutch goal to complete the most remarkable of comebacks.The Crows had done what no other side had done to the Pies in their long and storied history - they had recovered from a whopping 50 point deficit to take a share of the points, and in doing so, open up an all-important four premiership points and percentage lead over Geelong at the top of the ladder.
The contrasting scenes told a story of sheer jubilation from the Crows, and pure disbelief from the Pies. How could they have let this one slip through their hands they thought, how could they have possibly given up a 50 point lead with less than a half remaining?
If they needed an answer, they need only look to their opponents' resolve, their courage to throw caution to the wind and to refuse to accept the general belief that a margin so great, with so little time remaining, was insurmountable.
Few moments in sport will ever be as climactic.
For a game that had no result but that of the spoils being shared equally, this was truly a contest that will resonate long after season 2017 draws to an end.
Huddled together in the aftermath, captain Taylor Walker and his 21 teammates shared strong words with each other; the seriousness and enormity of what they'd just achieved deserved reflection.
It was clear in the demeanour of the 22 players in that huddle that this result was worth so much more than two premiership points to them all. They made a conscious decision to immediately address what lessons they could all take away from their endeavours.
Their late former coach Phil Walsh installed Walker as captain, when overwhelming expectation had Rory Sloane as the frontrunner for the job, because he believed in his ability to lead men, to stand up when it mattered most and to speak the words that needed to be said but not necessarily wanted to be heard.
Walker's decision to bring his teammates together and remind them of their inspiring efforts only served as credence to Walsh's brave decision; the enduring legacy of the brilliant coach lived on in the final 38 minutes of elitism and the contemplative moments of reflection shared minutes after the siren.
One would think that result, and the resultant discussion, will surely evolve into something far greater than the two points that were shared on the day.Whatever that may be, we will all look back on that contest and that moment of reflection to remind us that in sport, and in life, the only true victory exists in the lessons you gain from your experience and your endeavours.