BRISBANE has all-but wrapped up the minor premiership with a commanding 45-point win over Collingwood at Metricon Stadium on Friday night.
The 8.7 (55) to 1.4 (10) triumph puts the Lions a game clear on top of the ladder, with second-placed Melbourne now having to make up 42 per cent – almost, but not quite, impossible – in a win over West Coast on Saturday to upend the standings.
Brisbane showed just why it will be hard to topple in November, holding back a fierce Magpies challenge in each of the first two quarters before whisking the game away with moments of brilliance.
The goals were spread among five players, with Jesse Wardlaw kicking two to take her tally to 19 for the season and equal with Adelaide's Ash Woodland for the most in a home-and-away campaign.
It was the Lions' pressure that stood out though, barely giving Collingwood a second with any disposal, as run-down tackles from Dakota Davidson, Courtney Hodder and Cathy Svarc typified their hunger.
Collingwood's only goal came with 75 seconds remaining to Jaimee Lambert.
LIONS v PIES Full match coverage and stats
After they took an 11-point lead to the first change courtesy of late goals to Hodder and Wardlaw, the Lions exploded late in the second term to put the result beyond doubt.
Goals to Davidson, Taylor Smith and a brilliant running finish from Svarc in the space of four minutes sealed the win and consigned Collingwood to an elimination final.
Hodder was amazing both with the ball (12 disposals and two goals) and without it (nine tackles) as was Svarc (18 disposals, one goal and nine tackles) and the ever-reliable Ally Anderson (26).
It wasn't just the midfielders and forwards though, with Nat Grider and captain Bre Koenen patrolling the backline and again ensuring the Lions were difficult to score against.
The result for Collingwood had nothing to do with lack of effort, they were simply half a class below on the night and will now have an anxious wait for an update on star Chloe Molloy, who left the field in the final term with what appeared a head injury after a heavy landing.
Mikala Cann (22) and Lambert (17) worked hard all night.
Watching Jesse Wardlaw's first quarter goal was like jumping in a time machine and going back a month to the AFL Grand Final. Just like Tom Hawkins did twice for Geelong in the opening term against Sydney, Brisbane's key forward grabbed the ball from a forward 50 ball-up and threw it on her boot for a wonderful goal – her 18th of the season. She kicked a 19th and is now five goals clear of Melbourne's Kate Hore at the top of the goalkicking list.
Pressure, pressure, pressure. Even when Collingwood had the ascendency in general play, the Pies struggled to generate clean opportunities at goal as Brisbane harassed it at every turn. Hodder and Svarc finished with nine tackles apiece, with Koenen (eight), Jade Ellenger (seven), Emily Bates, Rudy Svarc and Belle Dawes (six apiece) all chipping in. The Lions had just 20 more disposals but won the tackle count 78-43 in a display of desperation that will thrill coach Craig Starcevich.
Brisbane will now certainly finish in the top two and await their qualifying final opponent for next week, while Collingwood will now finish fifth, sixth or seventh and face an elimination final.
BRISBANE 2.1 5.2 6.6 8.7 (55)
COLLINGWOOD 0.1 0.2 0.3 1.4 (10)
Brisbane: Wardlaw 2, Hodder 2, Smith 2, Davidson, C.Svarc
Brisbane: Hodder, Anderson, C.Svarc, Hickie, Grider, Koenen, Conway
Collingwood: Cann, Lambert, Sheridan, Allen, Brazill
Collingwood: Molloy (head)
Crowd: TBC at Metricon Stadium