The Bont gathers a handball in the middle and starts running. His loping stride makes the chasers look like they’re running uphill. He hits it sweetly with his left, towards Travis Cloke. Cloke marks, relatively simply, over Ben Reid. There’s a thought of playing on but no one is ahead of him. There’s only one option from here.
As he walks back, the calmest man inside the MCG, it begins. Loudly. From all parts. The booing. The Collingwood supporters around me want nothing more than to see this fly out on the full. In the cheer squad, there’s spittle flying and fingers pointing.
There’s only one way this is going. Cloke’s kick flies through. It’s not perfect off the boot but it gets home. Joffa sits down in disgust. The expression on his face deserves to be painted on the wall of Flinders Street Station, so the whole of Melbourne can enjoy it forever. The Dogs supporters at the Punt Road End erupt.
It’s a perfect summary of the Cloke saga. Unwanted, even resented, at the Pies last season. Now he’s being embraced by the Dogs, quite literally. There’s a huddle of red, white and blue on the fifty-metre arc. And Cloke is the centre.
Is booing a premiership player, the son of a club champion and a club champion in his own right really necessary? I’m sure not every Collingwood supporter was booing him, but the noise was bloody loud.
If Cloke had left for money I would understand. If he’d left amidst a sea of controversy, I’d understand. But he didn’t. He was running around in the 2s down at Werribee last season. Collingwood forced him out and his move was beneficial for both the player and the club.
If a flag is the holy grail, the ultimate, the thing every fan dreams of, should you boo a man who was a key part of winning it? I’m sure that quite rightly, it was one of the happiest days in the life of every Collingwood supporter. Is it that quickly forgotten when a player changes colours?
As a Richmond supporter, I won’t boo Brett Deledio. No doubt some Richmond supporters will. But given Deledio has been a rare reason for Tiger fans to smile in the last ten years, he doesn’t deserve that. The trade was beneficial for our club, and for GWS. And I can’t begrudge any aging player for choosing to chase the ultimate elsewhere.
Cloke aside, the Dogs are keeping the Pies at arm’s length and have been all night. Every time the Pies rally, the Dogs just give them a little push away, to keep the distance. They’re a girl in a bar, shunning the bloke she’s not interested in.
The next great moment is Bob Murphy kicking it out on the full (yes, you read that correctly). He gathers in the pocket, turns on to his left, and decides he’s going to kick it. I’m sure that most of the crowd expect him to. His kick is a shank of the highest order. It very nearly hits the second level, just next to the closest point post. The crowd laugh. No fairytale is perfect, especially when Bob is involved.
At full-time, my sister Georgia and I can’t quite believe the final margin is only fourteen points. It just never seemed like the Dogs would lose. Watching Georgia slowly convert from a Tigers fan to a Dogs fan is a bit like watching Anakin Skywalker turn into Darth Vader. I’m unhappy with it and it makes me want to tear my hair out, but I’m totally powerless to stop the trend. That said, the Dogs aren’t really the Sith. I’m quietly pleased they beat Collingwood and I’m sure that isn’t just because of my disdain for the Pies.
COLLINGWOOD 1.5 7.9 9.11 12.14 (86)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 5.1 9.1 14.6 15.10 (100)
Collingwood: Fasolo 3, Sidebottom 2, Pendlebury 2, White, Mayne, Treloar, Goldsack, Hoskin-Elliott
Western Bulldogs: Hunter 3, Johannisen 2, Bontempelli 2, Picken 2, M.Boyd, Stringer, Cloke, Liberatore, Crameri, McLean
Collingwood: Pendlebury, Treloar, Sidebottom, Adams, Fasolo, Reid
Western Bulldogs: Murphy, Cloke, Dahlhaus, Wood, Liberatore, Bontempelli, Johannisen, Hunter, M Boyd, et al
3. A. Treloar (Pies)
2. J. Johannisen (Dogs)
1. E. Wood (Dogs)
Umpires: Deboy, Kamolins, Schmitt
Official crowd: 66,254 at the MCG