The Magpies looked outmatched with Essendon well on the way to securing consecutive Anzac Day victories for the first time in nine years.
Enter Dane Swan.
After key forward Jesse White broke the drought to get Collingwood back to within 30 points, the 2011 Brownlow medallist followed suit four minutes later to cut the deficit to 25, kick-starting the momentum shift.
Swan admitted his body had been letting him down to that point of the season and he was determined to conjure a form reversal against the Bombers.
“I was going shithouse at the start of the year,” Swan told the Pendles And Co podcast.
“I couldn’t get going and they [media] were following me around saying I was going to be dropped, all kinds of shit, saying I wasn’t getting a kick.
“But I thought being the footballer I had been, and what I had done, me at 70 per cent is better than most blokes on the list at 100 per cent so I thought I’d give something to the side.
“The pressure was starting to mount, and I was like, ‘Shit, I need a good one here.’ We got down seven goals, and I was like, ‘Oh well, here we go, this’ll be the last Anzac Day game I ever play.’ ”
But by half-time, the Magpies were already on level pegging, and by the final break, thanks to another pair of majors from Swan late in the third term, Collingwood had taken an 18-point lead on the back of nine unanswered goals.
One of those Swan goals was outrageous. From an acute angle in the pocket, after two bounces at near top pace and leaving a flailing Cale Hooker in his wake, Swan threaded the needle to send the Magpie army into delirium.
“I was actually trying to kick it along the ground, and I think I was just running too fast because I was running out of room and there was a bloke coming from the front of me and I couldn’t slow down,” Swan said.
“I couldn’t get it [the ball] on my right [boot], so I was like, ‘Here we go, I’m going to try and dribble it,’ and it hit my shin and just curved in – I couldn’t do it again if I tried.”
Bomber brothers Zach and Jackson Merrett booted the first two majors of the final term, after Essendon went goalless the previous quarter, to get back to within eight points.
However, Collingwood had all the answers as they registered the last three goals of the game, including another to Swan, to seal the deal in front of 91,731 fans – the seventh-biggest home-and-away crowd in VFL/AFL history.
Swan was absolutely brilliant, finishing with a game-high four goals, the equal-second biggest bag of his decorated 258-game career, as well as 26 touches (12 contested) and five tackles, to win his second Anzac Medal in three years and become just the fourth multiple winner of the award.
The result improved Collingwood’s advantage to 11-8-1 in Anzac Day games and with no match this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ledger remains comfortably in their favour 15-9-1.
Ronny Lerner is a Sports reporter for The Age.