Nathan Buckley and his players are united. Picture: Michael Klein
Nathan Buckley and his players are united. Picture: Michael Klein

How Bucks united the Magpies

THE footy gods can sometimes be a cruel and fickle bunch.

How else can you explain what happened in a pulsating final term of the qualifying-final clash between Collingwood and West Coast - a modern September classic, no less - at a packed Perth Stadium?

For the best part of three-and-a-bit quarters, the brave and undermanned Magpies stood firm against the odds and the Eagles, threatening to hijack this contest with extraordinary pressure and a fierce determination.

It wasn't until a late surge from the home side - bringing about a 12th lead change - that the Eagles finally wrested control, shook off the patched-up Collingwood defence that had performed so admirably all night, and booked a home preliminary final.

The Magpies will now have to regroup next week to take on Greater Western Sydney at the MCG in a knockout elimination final.

It could so easily have been different, given Collingwood worked hard throughout the night, with some incredibly selfless performance against the odds. The Magpies led by 10 points at the last change, but couldn't quite stop the Eagles' attack late in the game.

The last time Collingwood played in a finals match - five years ago this weekend - folklore had it that the opposition coach told his players they were playing against two Magpies outfit - one that supported coach Nathan Buckley and the others who might have preferred Mick Malthouse.

This 2018 Magpies team couldn't be any different, its trust in its coach, and, more importantly, each other has withstood so much adversity this season.

Nathan Buckley and his players are united. Picture: Getty Images
Nathan Buckley and his players are united. Picture: Getty Images

Tyson Goldsack and Travis Varcoe exuded that for different reasons, and to an extent, so did Jeremy Howe and Adam Treloar.

If he hadn't been so single-minded and stubborn about his mission to make it back for the finals, Goldsack might have been sitting back on his couch at home, yelling at the television.

Instead, he was front and centre in one of the most important match-ups on the field, locked in a battle against Josh Kennedy, one of the most ­potent forwards in the competition.

Only six months after a knee reconstruction following the last JLT Community Series game in March, and off the back of two VFL games (with the same coming with only two disposals), Goldsack was the shock selection on Thursday night.

Most people expected Treloar to play, even if his own comeback from double hamstring surgery suffered in the Round 14 Carlton clash was noteworthy. The same could be said for Howe, who hadn't played since suffering a bad corkie in Round 19.

But Buckley put his faith in the veteran, who was a member of the 2010 premiership side, and he did not let him down. That's the trust that this club exudes right now, and it filters through every line on the field.

Travis Varcoe celebrates a goal for the Magpies. Picture: Getty Images
Travis Varcoe celebrates a goal for the Magpies. Picture: Getty Images

Goldsack performed magnificently, restricting Kennedy to only two goals, and constantly spoiling from behind. On occasions, he even left his opponent to help his teammates who were under siege. They gave the same sort of support back to the 31-year-old.

Varcoe showed exceptional courage to even play, following the death of his sister, after a freak accident on the football field. But he insisted he wanted to play to honour her, and his coach and teammates backed him.

He didn't let them down. After a stirring minute's silence for her before the game, Varcoe kicked the most emotional goal of his career.

His teammates rushed to him.

Then he turned in one of the best run-downs in the second half, launching at Luke Shuey to claim him.

Josh Kennedy stood up late for the Eagles. Picture: Getty Images
Josh Kennedy stood up late for the Eagles. Picture: Getty Images

Varcoe was desperate all night, as were the Pies. There was a nice touch on the final siren when injured Eagle Nic Naitanui consoled him after the game.

As emotional as it has been for him, and his family, Varcoe will be back next week.

And so will his Collingwood family, who just keep on giving when it seems they have nothing left to give.

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