Bobby dazzles on the big stage, and the Magpies love it

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Bobby Hill was in the rooms, family and friends smiling as he happily answered questions when Craig McRae suddenly appeared beside him and jumped into the interview with a squeeze of his player’s shoulders.

“How good was Bobby Hill?” McRae gushed.

Bobby Hill was electric for Collingwood in the qualifying final win over Melbourne.Credit: AFL Photos

Well, he was very good.

In a game that was won by Collingwood’s defence, Hill set the scoring base for Collingwood to defend.

In a game where Collingwood grimly repelled nearly double the number of inside 50 entries, Hill began the game with two goals in a minute.

And he grabbed his jumper and bounced in pure joy.

For anyone who has watched Ted Lasso, Hill is the Danny Rojas of Collingwood: “I like to bring joy.” Which is good because he brought that to the hordes of Collingwood fans there.

“How good was the crowd? The Magpie army. Perfect,” were the first words to come out of his Hill’s mouth when asked about the game.

He is the type of player who relishes the big stage. And there are few bigger crowds and games than 90,000-plus at the MCG for a Collingwood qualifying final. The crowd enlivens him and he them.

He was the little Giant who Collingwood had earmarked a long way out and sealed a deal for as soon as last year’s trade period started.

Thursday night was the sort of moment that Hill came for.

“Hundred per cent this is what I came for,” he said.

Bobby Hill with skipper Darcy Moore in the Collingwood rooms after the victory that sent them to a preliminary final.Credit: AFL Photos

“Don’t get me wrong, credit to them [GWS] for making my childhood dream come true but to come to a big club like this in front of the best crowd in the AFL, and with the team we have got, it is unbelievable, and to play in a game like this – it’s good.

“It is good. I love getting in love again with the game. I didn’t fall out of love, but I needed a new start and full credit to Collingwood to get me and let me play to my strengths, and to the boys to get me into spots and to back me in.

“It was the perfect start I wanted, and it was off the back of my defence. My tackle pressure is what I am in the team for and everything else came from that. I do a lot of deep running. Footy is a different game now with running. It’s good to get back and help wingmen and defence.”

The wingmen and defence needed a lot of help. Collingwood, after that Hill-driven beginning, were assailed.

The stats do not bear reading if you are a Melbourne fan. In a low-scoring game, Hill kicked three goals, two of them in minutes in the first term that established the buffer that Melbourne could not meaningfully cut.

Jamie Elliott could have joined him in that spree in the first term when he turned Michael Hibberd inside out several times, but he missed his set shots.

Hill was the hot forward and moved to the goal square. Brodie Mihocek was good, but he was also playing a game of deep hard running to drag Steven May with him.

Dan McStay, the bigger-name recruit Collingwood targeted at the end of last year, was just terrible for half the game. He couldn’t get out of his own way. He found ways to undo good chains of play.

But then, he suddenly wasn’t awful. He kicked two goals in minutes, the first after a nervous juggled mark and the next, when Hill was isolated in the goal square and all other forwards were high up the ground and McStay ran back with the flight. It was a tremendously good mark.

But this game really should not be described from this end of the ground, other than to acknowledge that in a low-scoring game Hill set the game alight and set the win up.

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