COLLINGWOOD will officially play finals in 2022, locking up sixth spot after comfortably accounting for Richmond by 38 points in the final round of the home and away season.
It closes the door on the Western Bulldogs, who were holding out hope an upset win over Brisbane and a Pies loss would result in an unlikely finals berth.
Collingwood was just a step above Richmond the entire day, with its class by foot particularly on show when entering 50 in the 6.11 (47) to 1.3 (9) victory.
Both sides were missing valuable midfielders – the Pies without Bri Davey and Brit Bonnici, and the Tigers losing Sarah Hosking and Tessa Lavey – but it was the absence of spearhead Katie Brennan that was most keenly felt by Richmond, losing its structure in attack.
MAGPIES v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
Ruby Schleicher, Lauren Butler and Jordy Allen patrolled Collingwood's backline with ease, with Schleicher's run-and-carry an important part of the Pies' win.
Bec Miller and Sarah D'Arcy battled hard in defence, but the weight of inside 50s (40-21) and overall disposals (270-176) proved too much.
Jaimee Lambert had 20 disposals to half-time and finished with 31 and eight tackles, while Mikala Cann was also strong in the middle.
Collingwood key forward Sabrina Frederick kicked off the scoring in the third half with a classy snap against her former side, while the lively Emelia Yassir broke through for the Tigers' first and only major about 10 minutes later.
Christina Bernardi's day finished in the third term with what appears to be a serious left knee injury.
The Pies' thumping win boosted their percentage to such an extent, they've leapfrogged Fremantle – for now. If Gold Coast score an upset win over the Dockers, Collingwood look set to play North Melbourne in a grudge match. If Fremantle triumph, the Pies are likely to face either Brisbane or Melbourne in its knock-out final, given a St Kilda defeat of Adelaide is highly unlikely.
Finding the midfield mix
Collingwood coach Steve Symonds said the team is still experimenting with its ideal centre-bounce trio, two weeks on from Bonnici's torn ACL. He highlighted one centre bounce featured winger Steph Chiocci, defender Alana Porter and forward Aishling Sheridan, which would have been unheard of at the start of the season. For the most part, Lambert, Cann and Sheridan were the most frequent midfield faces against Richmond.
With a sudden-death qualifying final next week, the last thing Collingwood needs is cases before the MRO. Sophie Casey was reported for a bump on Tayla Stahl, who had bent head-first over the ball and played out the game. Allen looks likely to also come under scrutiny, appearing to hit Emelia Yassir in the midriff when the two tussled after a tackle. Yassir left the ground with trainers, but returned to the field.
"There's no secret we've been trying to get our game back a little bit over the last couple of weeks, and part of that is trying to be a bit more up-tempo. We just need to get the balance in our game, knowing when to go fast, when to go slow, when to kick, handball, and if we get that right, we're going to be dangerous come finals, I have no doubt there'll be a few teams who will be nervous to play us," – Collingwood coach Steve Symonds
"I thought we wanted to fight, we wanted to work, and that was outstanding, to be honest, but we were outclassed. Even with what we had out there, we didn't take our moments. They taught us a lesson in the fundamentals of the game – absorbing pressure and tackles, we had a lot of holding-the-ball free kicks against us because we coughed the ball up." – Richmond coach Ryan Ferguson
Collingwood will be waiting on results from the remainder of the weekend to find out who and where they will be playing their qualifying final, while it's season done for Richmond, who look likely to finish 11th with three wins, seven losses and a percentage of 81.3.
COLLINGWOOD 1.3 2.5 4.7 6.11 (47)
RICHMOND 0.1 0.3 1.3 1.3 (9)
Collingwood: Alexander 2, Molloy, Moloney, Frederick, James
Collingwood: Lambert, Cann, Schleicher, Sheridan, Butler
Richmond: Conti, McKenzie, Miller, Brancatisano
Richmond: Bernardi (knee)
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