Combative All-Australian defender Brayden Maynard gave away a free kick to equally pugnacious forward Papley just outside the forward 50.
But as the ball was tapped away and a word of advice hit the umpire’s ear, Papley received a 50-metre penalty which allowed him to kick a certain goal that stretched the lead back to 25 points.
Maynard ran from the ground where he received counsel as he walked the boundary with club psychologist Jacqui Louder.
As McRae’s windscreen wipers flung from side to side at speed, the Magpies found it harder and harder to ignore what was happening on the scoreboard. The Swans had repelled a Collingwood surge and turned an 11-point lead back outside 20 points.
Even Collingwood’s Houdini-like qualities could not escape Sydney’s chains this time, the two teams they did not overcome in 2022, the Swans and Geelong, ultimately blocking the Magpies’ passage to a grand final.
It was impossible to find fault with the Magpies’ effort, even the impetuous yet loved Maynard who was not having his greatest night, perhaps battling an adductor, was wholehearted as they attempted to follow skipper Pendlebury’s lead and find a path to victory when none seemed to exist.
It was Pendlebury and Collingwood’s accuracy which brought the Magpies back into the game after the Swans settled local nerves when they kicked the first four goals, one of them importantly coming from Ryan Clarke who once again had the job of quelling the precocious Nick Daicos.
They will rue the fact Collingwood could not defend inside 50s as well as a final demands as they switched their match-ups so regularly they confused themselves with multiple Magpies drawn to aerial contests while multiple Swans crumbed goals.
Darcy Moore was outstanding, as he had been throughout the finals, but when a switch kick to Jeremy Howe hovered above the high-flier like a frisbee, the Swans’ Justin McInerney pounced to run into an open goal and roost the ball high into the Victor Trumper Stand it should have signalled the end.
But such is this team’s spirit the Magpies came again, with Moore leading the way to keep coming in one of the best seasons in the Magpies’ storied history, just short but no less memorable.
Unfortunately, the margin stayed just out-of-reach as it became clear the Swans were the only team with the potential to win the Holy Grail as the siren sounded and McRae’s directorial duties ended in a blaze.
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