The end of an era: Magpies shine in last home game in Melbourne

Saturday evening marked the final time that Collingwood would step foot on John Cain Arena as the home side, as the Magpies look to close out their time in the Suncorp Super Netball at the end of the 2023 season.

The team was welcomed onto the court by the clubs AFLW side with a number of players and staff sitting on the sidelines to cheer the netballers on in their final game in Melbourne as well as what also was a celebration of their teammate in Ash Brazill, who will hang up the dress at season's end.

Whilst the Magpie Army as a whole was split, with the Collingwood AFL team playing West Coast at the same time and in Perth, the fans still turned up to cheer on their Magpies for potentially the last time, with the next time the Magpies play in Melbourne will be in front of a Vixens-dominated crowd.

For the last six years, the players that have pulled on the black and white dress have inspired many, from the grassroots level to many netball fans right across the country, and on Saturday it was the Magpie army's chance to thank the current crop of players for the wild ride that the clubs have been on.

The love from the fans was evident; looking out into John Cain Arena, there were plenty of homemade banners in the crowd. One fan had sewn all their member scarfs that they had collected over the years into one banner, whilst another created a collage of all the photos she'd collated over the years.

The passion from the crowd wasn't lost on coach Nicole Richardson, especially those who've been with the club since the side was first announced in 2016.

"I think it's really important to give back to your loyal supporter base, I'm walking around there signing and looking at the faces of the young kids and there in tears. I've gotten a poster given to me with 'thank you Pies' and that means so much to us.

"So it's not so much about us and what we've lost, our fan base have lost too and they're suffering on with us."

Whilst cheers erupted, some out of their seats in the stadium as the Magpies went into the change rooms at half time when the Magpies were leading 27-23 at the main change.

The match will go down as probably one of the best Collingwood home games, at least since Sharni Norder's final home game in Melbourne all the way back in 2018.

The crowd rode every call, every pass and every goal with the black and white army riding the side over the line. Richardson said that it was the fans in the stands that helped the side over the line when the Thunderbirds were pressing.

"The crowd was absolutely amazing, it's a shame that our girls can't play in front of packed crowds but the crowd support that we've got, they're not big in numbers but they're big in voice," she said.

"It's the group that has been so loyal over the journey, I had a message from a supporter that sent a collage of photos. She was nine when she first joined and had a photo with Madi Browne and then she's now 16 years old and she's been on the journey with us.

"They were awesome, they were our 8th player out on court, so not only is it a great win for our loyal supporters."

Post match, the Pies celebrated the 50 game milestone of Molly Jovic, who reached the milestone the week prior on the Sunshine Coast and the career of inaugural Magpie in Brazill.

With Brazill along with fellow co-captain Geva Mentor addressing the crowd post match saying that whilst there will be no more Collingwood, they hope that Magpie army can rally around the players next season, in whichever colours they may be in.

"It's been a long ride all the way from the start, " Mentor said.

"We've got Braz here whos been in the since the inaugural season all the way through but it's every single one of you who've jumped on board the black and white army and we appreciate you so much but please don't forget to follow all of these girls where ever they end up next year and the years beyond. "

"It's been a really tough few weeks," Brazill continued.

"The support that we get from socials after every game and every team that we've been too, we've had the love and the fact that we could get a win this week is mind blowing but to come out here and feel the love that you've given us is second to none and we love you so much."