Pies heist that could deliver the flag
It is the Collingwood heist that could yet deliver the Pies the premiership.
Jaidyn Stephenson's ability to play a VFL game on Saturday is exactly the break Collingwood needed.
It is a bizarre own goal by the AFL, a decision that utterly fails the pub test and is almost impossible for the league to explain.
How could they land at a ten-game ban rather than ten weeks?
How could a player ruled out for the season be allowed to play a VFL game before Round 23 was complete?
It was the miracle Hail Mary attempt from Stephenson himself to ask the AFL that must have had the Pies hierarchy laughing and backslapping inside the walls of the Holden Centre when they got back the reply.
Even famously gruff football boss Geoff Walsh might have broken out in something resembling a grin.
The league, having already bent on a 22-week ban by suspended 12 of those weeks, have now handed the Pies a massive free kick.
Make no mistake, Collingwood's decision to ask was a masterstroke.
Imagine their conundrum had Stephenson been forced to play first-up in the first week of finals without a VFL contest.
They go into a potential cutthroat final with Jordan de Goey first up after a six-week hamstring issue and with Darcy Moore second up and with hamstrings that no one quite trusts.
Then add in Stephenson, playing for the first time since June 10 and with no real idea if all that match simulation and touch work will come up big in a final.
They would do it, but they sure wouldn't like it.
Now they get to play Stephenson on Saturday, give him a week off to avoid the second-week blues that often hit players after a spell, then inject him into a final.
And if they have to play De Goey deep given his lack of match fitness, Stephenson can rove far and wide because of his VFL run.
Imagine this scenario.
Brisbane beats Richmond, Collingwood beats Essendon and Hawthorn beats West Coast.
It would pit Geelong in a second versus third qualifying final with the Cats playing at Collingwood's home ground with Stephenson playing with a game under his belt.
Imagine how filthy the Pies week 1 finals opponent will be if Jaidyn Stephenson comes out and kicks six in that final after having a hugely important VFL run even the Pies don’t really believe he was supposed to get by their own words. Utterly ridiculous— Jon Ralph (@RalphyHeraldSun) August 21, 2019
Imagine the GIFs that would travel around the nation of Chris Scott doing his nut in the coaches box if Stephenson took control of that encounter.
Nathan Buckley must have wondered at times what curse has befallen him with the club's injury issues and litany of gambling and ASADA-related issues.
But he has caught the break that could just set up his club's entire September campaign.