This game was a hard sell. None of my Collingwood mates were interested in going, nor was my sole West Coast supporting mate. So I’m at the ‘G on my own, which I don’t mind doing occasionally. Plug the headphones in and watch the game intently, without interruption. The Melbourne weather on the night was a pleasant surprise after leaving a drizzly, cold and windy Colac, great conditions for football.
West Coast look sharp in the opening minutes. Sharrod Wellingham has an early touch and receives the customary boos given when a player comes up against his former club. Wellingham is a classy player who has been a big loss for the Magpie midfield and should give West Coast years of quality football. Unlike 30 year old former Eagle Quinten Lynch, who after a good start to the season has really struggled in his new black and white colours. The big Q-Stick may be in for a change in fortune though as he kicks the first goal of the game. Minutes later Paul Seedsman kicks a fantastic running goal from the 50 which really lifts the crowd. The non selection of Seedsman the last couple of weeks since his return from injury is baffling to me. Two quick goals to Ben Reid and one to Josh Thomas puts the Pies 29 points up. West Coast looking sharp in the opening minutes has only lasted for the opening minutes. Impressive young ruckman Scott Lycett kicks the first for West Coast, before a mark and goal to Q.Lynch from 50 out, that never looked like missing. An end to end goal started by Heath Shaw finishes when Dane Swan throws the ball onto his boot from 40 metres out at full pace and kicks truly. Cloke goals after marking and receiving a 50 metre penalty, followed by Masten kicking the Eagles second major. Wellingham limps off as Collingwood take a 37 point lead into the first break and in total control of the game.
The second quarter was just as dominant from the Magpies as the first, but could have been more impressive had they kicked straighter. Reid, Cloke and Swan kick the Pies three for the term, while the lone Eagle goal comes from a brilliant kick by Jack Darling from a set shot 50 metres out on the boundary. 52 points up at half time. What has happened to West Coast? They’re a long way off the team that were so impressive in finals against Collingwood at the MCG in 2011 & 2013 and a very long way off my pre season prediction of them being the team the Pies would beat in the Grand Final. Collingwood are a long way off that prediction as well given we won’t finish in the top four. But along with the other 40 odd thousand Pies fans here, I’m enjoying every minute. We are all waiting for one thing though, a substitution being made and Alan Didak returning to the field in an AFL match for the first time since the Queen’s Birthday game.
Didak is subbed on early in the third quarter for Luke Ball and gets a huge ovation from the Magpie army. It’s all about Dids now. His first possession gets an even bigger roar from the crowd. Each subsequent possession gets loudly cheered. His teammates seem to be always looking to get the ball to him and when they do the Magpie number 4 is precise as usual with his disposal. Cloke, Reid and Ben Kennedy kick our 3 goals for the quarter as West Coast are held to just 2 behinds. Nathan Brown is smashing Josh Kennedy but like a good wicketkeeper the full-back goes largely unnoticed.
The intensity has gone from the game in the last quarter but the crowd interest is high, almost solely due to the interest in Didak. West Coast kick two for the quarter and Collingwood only one, but that one is the highlight of the night. Swan marks inside 50 and passes off to a running Didak who puts it through the middle. Dids is mobbed by every Collingwood player as myself and nearly every other Magpie fan at the ground jumps out of their seat and roars in approval. Wonderful to be there for this moment, despite his impressive performance Didak may not survive Jamie Elliot’s likely return to the team next week. At least he has given himself every chance of further selection and made a one-sided game very enjoyable for the Magpie army.
The solitary trip home went quickly while listening to the cricket and reflecting on a big win and a reminder of the ability of a fan favourite in the twilight of his career.
COLLINGWOOD: 8.3 11.8 14.10 15.11 101
WEST COAST: 2.2 3.4 3.6 5.9 39
BEST: COLLINGWOOD- Pendlebury, J.Thomas, Brown, Swan, Seedsman, Reid, Shaw, Williams, Sidebottom
WEST COAST: Rosa, S.Selwood, Masten, Priddis, Cox
GOALS: COLLINGWOOD: Reid 4, Cloke 3, Lynch 2, Swan 2, Seedsman, J.Thomas, Kennedy, Didak
WEST COAST: Masten 2, Lycett, Darling, Dalziell
UMPIRES: Meredith, Ryan, Jeffrey
CROWD: 41,198 at the MCG
3. Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)
2. Josh Thomas (Collingwood)
1. Nathan Brown (Collingwood)