Collingwood had just been given a taste of their own medicine.
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Collingwood built their stunning run to the finals on becoming the masters of the close finish, and they looked like doing it again until Max Holmes kicked the match-winning goal for Geelong with just over a minute left in the game.
Walking back to Collingwood’s training facility across the road after the game, Taylor Adams was confronted by a young Pies supporter.
Adams – who was not only musing about the chance his side let slip in an all-time epic, but also about the groin injury that forced him from the ground in the last quarter – was visibly upset.
And the young girl, who was with her dad, thought she’d try cheering him up.
Adams explained on Twitter what happened next.
“Magpie Army I need your help,” he wrote. “Following todays game, whilst walking back to the AIA centre. A young girl and her father could see I was flat.
“The young girl came up to me and offered to hold my hand crossing Swan street, she then gave a massive hug.
“I would love to find them”.
At last count, the post already had more than 540 retweets and 5500 likes.
The Pies may have escaped with yet another close win if it weren’t for Gary Rohan’s heroics.
Rohan, whose poor finals record has long been criticised, stood up when it mattered most to take a towering mark in the dying minutes and kick a 50m goal to drag Geelong back into the contest.
It helped the Cats also exorcise their first-week September demons to secure the pulsating 11.12 (78) to 10.12 (72) qualifying final win in front of 91,525 fans at the MCG.
The Cats were behind at every change against the Magpies, who have made an art of pulling off tight wins this season, but kicked four of the last five goals in the game to book a spot in the preliminary final.
Geelong and Rohan stood up when it counted to earn the week off as the gallant Magpies face a sudden-death semi-final next weekend.
While Collingwood coach Craig McRae was proud of his team and said they were not losers, the Magpies will be without Adams for the rest of the finals series with that serious groin injury.
Rohan was mighty, kicking three goals and earning high praise from Geelong coach Chris Scott.
“It is gratifying, I don’t mind saying that,” said Scott, who bristled earlier this week when asked about Rohan’s finals record.
“We are really clear on what he can bring to our team and the way we play. He’s absolutely an energy-giver, his teammates love playing with him and I’m just really proud of him today.
“Suffice to say his teammates are really happy for him because he was able to narrow his focus to what it was that we were asking of him, and he delivered in spades.”
Rohan’s soaring mark and booming goal from 50m to put the Cats back in front by a point 23 minutes into the last quarter was the 10th lead change of the match.
Jack Crisp’s missed shot tied the scores with two minutes and 30 seconds left and then Josh Daicos kicked the ball out on the full.
With 1:20 left, Rohan dropped an uncontested chest mark in the forward 50, but then ran onto the loose ball and dished off to Holmes, who kicked the match-winning goal.
The all-time great clash continued a bumper start to the finals series, following Brisbane’s last-gasp win over Richmond and Sydney’s upset of reigning premiers Melbourne.
Before Saturday, the Cats had won just 10 of 25 finals under Scott since he took over in their last premiership-winning year of 2011. They also had a dismal 2-8 record in the first week of September.
Jeremy Cameron kicked three goals for the Cats and captain Joel Selwood starred, while Darcy Moore and Jordan De Goey were Collingwood’s best.
But Adams needed help to the leave the field in the last quarter, having returned from the same injury for this match.
“It looks like (his) season’s done – it looks like he might have torn the groin off the bone,” McRae said.
De Goey, who put Collingwood 12 points up at the start of the last quarter, hurt his right shoulder early in the game and was icing it post-match. But he is likely to be fit for their semi-final.
Geelong defender Jake Kolodjashnij was subbed out before halftime with a knee injury.
Several Collingwood players slumped to the ground after the final siren, something that irked McRae.
“We lost the game, but we’re not losers – there is a difference,” he said. “For the lifetime I’m sitting in this chair, maybe barring a grand final, if we don’t win, don’t lie on the ground.
“We’re still alive to fight another battle.”
McRae added that several Collingwood tackles went unrewarded.
“I don’t know if that’s something we’ll look at and if AFL will look at that,” he said “We had a lot of awesome tackles that didn’t get rewarded.”
– With AAP