1980 A Personal Footy Almanac – Preliminary Final, Saturday 20 September, Collingwood v Geelong, VFL Park

As a neutral observer of sporting contests, I generally find some reason or other for supporting one team.

Today’s tricky. I want the team to win today that’s most likely to lose to Richmond next week. But which is that?

Logic tells me I should want Collingwood to get up. They finished fifth. We beat them twice this year. They’re a team of scrubbers.

By contrast, Geelong pushed us all the way last week and only a KB PB got us across the line. They beat us at the MCG less than two months ago.

I side with Geelong. Gut feel. Collingwood’s got momentum up. If they reach the Grand Final from fifth, the place will go off. We don’t want to confront that next week. Geelong’s dour, hard to break down, but there’s nothing mercurial there either.

We decide against confronting the Geelong family again this week, even though we’ll be passive observers today. Not worth the trouble. Instead we meet up with a Collingwood-supporting mate and stand in the concourse. It was a good vantage point at Waverley – about the right elevation and distance from the play. The ground’s chockers (it was the biggest ever crowd at a Waverley final – even topping the 1991 Grand Final attendance) and plenty of other folk have the same idea.

It’s funny how you can concentrate intently on a game at the time, but you’re more likely to remember it if you’re watching with passionate interest rather than studious disinterest. For me today, it’s the latter and, 32 years later, it shows. My memories of this game are hazy compared with those of the Richmond games of this year.

The Pies begin with plenty of chutzpah. I’m right about the momentum they’ve generated from last week. Their early dominance is not reflected on the scoreboard as they spray their chances. Goals are pinched and scrounged rather than crafted. My take on that is that it’s a reflection of the intensity of the game. With hindsight, perhaps it was simply a reflection of two dysfunctional forward lines!

Then controversy. A Collingwood attack is seemingly repelled by a strong mark from Ian Nankervis in front of Ray Shaw. Until the umpire steps in and controversially awards it to the Collingwood rover who dobs one of three decisive goals for the afternoon.

The decision causes paroxysms of anger among the Cats fans and I’m glad I’m not near the Geelong Dad. But by half time Collingwood’s managed barely better than goal for goal and I’m still optimistic that the Cats can wear them down.

However, the game takes a new twist in the third quarter, opening up into a freer-flowing, higher scoring contest. The normally resilient Geelong defence is being pummelled and late in the quarter. Collingwood senses its moment. An emerging star, Peter Daicos, is becoming prominent, kicking an important goal that sparks a late flurry that propels the Pies to a 20 point lead at the break. It looks decisive in such a tight game. When Daics takes a hanger early in the last quarter, Collingwood seems to have the edge.

But in what’s turning out to be a long, bruising finals campaign, fatigue starts to become a factor for Collingwood. Billy Goggin switches David Clarke to the forward line and he responds with three late goals. Geelong finally starts to play like a minor premier, dominating possession and attack. Their midfielders are running hot now, led by Michael Turner, who is playing a spectacular game amidst this gritty contest.

Through Clarke, the Cats are now getting some reward for effort but their other forward targets are abysmal. Terry Bright can’t get near it and Peter Johnston can’t kick over a jam tin. But still they plug away and manage to whittle the lead down to under a goal.

Then controversy again. As Geelong launch another forward thrust, Johnston appears to outmark Picken, within range. Again the umpire sides with Collingwood, awarding Billy the grab. Of course with Johnston’s wonky kicking, he’d have been no guarantee of goaling anyway, but try telling that to the now incandescent Geelong supporters.

The indefatigable Turner keeps winning it on his wing, hitting the ground running and pumping Geelong forward until his one last effort is thwarted by his opponent Leigh Carlson.

Right on the siren.

Collingwood has hung on – just – the first team under the Final Five system to make the Grand Final from the Elimination Final. It’s an extraordinary feat and I’m nervous about next week already. So much so, I barely notice their exhaustion.

The Wrap
Collingwood 3.5 6.8 12.10 13.15 (93)
Geelong 2.2 5.5 9.8 13.11 (89)
Goals
Coll: Davis, R.Shaw, Wearmouth 3, Daicos, Moore, Stewart, Young
Geel: Bos, Bruns, Clarke 3, Johnston 2, Bright, B. Nankervis

Major Stats
This was one of those games where you wonder how the losing team lost.

Geelong had a heap more of the ball than Collingwood and most of the best players too. Michael Turner played a blinder, underlining how good a job “Woosha” Welsh did last week to curtail his influence and dash. Thirty-two touches today and a dozen marks to boot in an outstanding display. He was ably supported by other Geelong runners – Bruns, Featherby and Witcombe – whilst Rod Blake had the better of the ruck duel against Peter Moore and Craig Stewart, although the Collingwood duo combined for 20 marks between them and a couple of crucial goals.

The Magpies were also ably served by Ray Byrne and Billy Picken in defence whilst Ray Shaw and Ronnie Wearmouth won plenty of the ball. In the end, it was the little rovers’ ability to kick goals (six in total) – albeit some controversial ones – that was probably the difference in a game where neither team could find a winning forward.

As always in close finishes, umpiring decisions are pored over obsessively, particularly by the losers. On a day where there were a couple of hotly disputed ones, the free-kick count (38-26) was one of the few stats that went Collingwood’s way.  Not for the first time – as my research has shown!!

Attendance
75,526 at VFL Park

Next Week – THE BIG ONE

About Sam Steele

Stainless (aka Sam Steele) started following Richmond in 1970 when he was 6. This occurred when his mother, under instructions to buy him a Melbourne jumper, found they were out of stock and purchased a Richmond one instead. Despite the decades of heartache and turmoil this fateful decision has brought on Stainless, he is grateful to his mum as he has at least seen his side win a couple of Premierships. After 30 September 2017, his mum is now officially his favourite person.

Comments

  1. Stainless – this game still gives me nightmares. Its one of the reasons why I enjoyed last year’s Premiership so much.

    The Pies proved themselves to be a lucky rabble the following week.

  2. Don’t give away the ending, Dips, we’re on the edge of our seats…

  3. Andrew Fithall says:

    “…the free-kick count (38-26) was one of the few stats that went Collingwood’s way. Not for the first time – as my research has shown!!”

    A bit more research Stainless will reveal that this was actually the last time ever Collingwood finished ahead of the oppostion on the free-lick count.

  4. Andrew Fithall says:

    “kick”

  5. LOL, a Freudian slip there AF!

  6. Stainless, I’m still filthy on us losing that game. Like everyone else I thought there were about three minutes left on the clock in the last quarter when we were killing the Pies. Siren sounded around the 27 minute mark. Despair!

    I reckon a Cats/Tigers GF that year would have been one of the all time greats, possibly as good as ’67. Can’t wait to be reminded about what happened in the Big One.

  7. Ah, next week. If I remember correctly that was the “stake in the sand’ moment for the still continuing saga of D. Cloke giving the Pies grief.

  8. The Cats had a problem with small forwards for a couple of decades.

  9. Exactly Pete. All the other team’s small forwards. We couldn’t seem to stop them.

  10. Phanto, I remember bloody Bewick cut us up one night at the ‘G in the lat 90s and after two decades of it, I was ready to go postal!

    Thank heavens for Corey Enright and Josh Hunt or Milne and Cyril would be unbearable!!

  11. Waddyamean Milne and “Squirrel” WOULD be unbareable?

  12. :-)

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