Saturday May 18th, 3.30PM- I arrive at a house-warming party somewhere in suburban Geelong where my youngest sister has just purchased her first house. Many Geelong supporters in attendance, myself, my sister and the old man the only Pies fans there. I get asked how I think the game later on will pan out. Publicly I’m optimistic. “Should be close”, “hopefully it’s a good game” and “Collingwood-Geelong games are usually tight” are just some of the cliches that are muttered by myself. Privately I think we have no chance. The loss to Fremantle last week has hit hard, our insipid first quarter has left a lingering bad taste. Before the season I had high hopes. Our list looked good, I wondered how we could squeeze all the quality players at our disposal into the team. The great man Gerard Whateley even had us as his pre-season favourites. The losses to Hawthorn and Essendon weren’t great, but we had players out. The Dockers game was different. They had players out too. Good players. As I cursed and swore at my TV that night most of my 2013 optimism was destroyed. I couldn’t see any way back for the Pies. Especially with a rampant Geelong and then the reigning premiers in the next two weeks.
5.50PM- BJ arrives at my sister’s house for the trip to the MCG. He has recently started working for me on a part-time basis. The first ever employee for my (very) small business. He has been in Geelong watching the Colac Tigers play at Geelong West and was keen to come with me to watch his team, Geelong (next time I employ someone the “who do you barrack for question WILL be asked). BJ is confident and expects the Cats to start slowly but storm home.
7.30PM- We take our seats in the bottom level of the Great Southern Stand in the forward pocket. Not far from the (surprisingly entertaining) Geelong cheer squad. Sidebottom goals from a Geelong mistake within the first 30 seconds and already we have played a better first quarter than last week. A fabulous first quarter sees us with an 18 point lead at quarter time, but once again several shots at goal are wasted and the lead should have been more. The Pies are putting heaps of pressure on Geelong, with the Cats players, who have been so precise in their games I have watched on TV this season, making errors that they usually force their opposition to make.
8.55PM- Half time and 4 goals to 2 in the second term sees Collingwood increase their lead to 26 points at the main break. Very happy with our first half but will our first quarter inaccuracy cost us? BJ is confident it will. Pendles has been superb in the first half. So too Blair & Swan. I’m liking the Jolly/Witts ruck combination. But I’m most happy with contribution of Harry O’Brien. I have been extremely critical of him this year apart from his great game in Round 1 against North and would have had him back in the VFL if I was a selector (If you’re reading this Bucks, I am available). In my opinion he has been generally disappointing since the 2010 Grand Finals. But I’m happy to be proven wrong and if he can continue this form in the second half I will be well and truly back on the Harry O bandwagon.
9.40PM- Three quarter time and the Cats have dominated, kicking 8.4 to 2.1 to completely dominate and to take a 13 point lead at the final change. Stokes, Enright and Bartel are superb. As a non Cats fan I haven’t quite appreciated Bartel as much as the Geelong faithful, instead watching the efforts of Ablett, Selwood and Scarlett in awe. Bartel leads this team as much as anyone though and could well be the decisive factor in this game. I think I have bruised ribs from BJ elbowing me there after every Geelong goal. He is delighted and certain that the Cats will now run away with the game. And that is what I am thinking too. This feels like the Hawthorn and Essendon games. Against a better opponent. The excuses start forming in my mind. 6 day break compared to Geelong’s 7. Plus the travel back from Perth. Daisy’s untimely injury. Heath Shaw’s brain fade that saw him suspended for this game. After reading about Carlton fining Jarred Waite for his suspension I start to wonder how much we can fine Heater. The excuses keep coming. The free kick count. Me underrating Bartel. Leaving Victoria Park. Lee Walker’s knee injury in 1995. Ranald MacDonald’s presidency in the early 80′s. I’m almost dreading the last quarter.
10.20PM- A great last quarter from Collingwood, 4 goals to 2 and somehow we have won. By 6 points. Again we dominated the quarter but it wasn’t bad kicking for goal, just an inability to have shots to capitalise on our domination that kept the game tight. I punch the air as the siren sounds, BJ shakes his head. The song is sung loudly by very many of the 66,768 in attendance. Dwyer is brilliant in the last quarter, kicking the first goal of the term and constantly pushing the ball forward. His best game in the black and white. Krakouer kicks two including the winning goal in what has been a brilliant return to form. Another player who I had serious doubts about after his battling performances this year, looking like he’d lost a yard. Harry O continued his first half form to play probably his best game since the 2011 qualifying final against West Coast. Hope he can keep it up. There are still worries though. Geelong nearly beat us despite only playing one quarter. Quinten Lynch’s form has dropped off markedly since the start of the season. And Trav’s kicking for goal is very ordinary at the moment, especially compared to his opposite number on the night, Tom Hawkins, who looks a real chance to put it through from anywhere inside 70m.
May 19th, 12.15 AM- Arrive back at my sister’s house where BJ has left his car. The house-warming party is still going. Not easy walking stone cold sober into party that has been going for 7 hours. Have one beer while chatting to the Geelong fans present. The footy talk doesn’t last long. My sister’s partner and his brothers are all musicians and are sitting around a fire in a cut-in-half-44 gallon drum playing acoustic guitar. I leave at 1.30 and with no more footy talk on the wireless listen to the new Mark Seymour CD for the rest of the trip. Fantastic album, he is singing as well as ever.
2.45 AM- Arrive home. Normal practice is to watch the game again when home after a great win but this is much later than normal. Straight to bed. Looking forward to watching the game again during the week. Might skip the 3rd quarter though. Optimism has been restored.
COLLINGWOOD: 5.7 9.9 11.10 15.12 102
GEELONG: 3.1 5.7 13.11 14.12 96
COLLINGWOOD: Pendlebury, O’Brien, Dwyer, Sidebottom, Blair, Krakouer, Swan, Seedsman, Jolly
GEELONG: Bartel, Enright, Stokes, Taylor, Mackie, Hawkins, Corey, Christensen, Motlop
COLLINGWOOD: Dwyer 3, Elliot 3, Krakouer 3, Pendlebury 2, Sidebottom, Cloke, Lynch, Seedsman
GEELONG: Hawkins 4, Podsiadly 2, Bartel 2, Christensen 2, Motlop 2, Mackie, West
UMPIRES: McInerny, Mollison, Chamberlain
CROWD: 66,768 at the MCG
3. Scott Pendlebury (COLL)
2. Harry O’Brien (COLL)
1. Sam Dwyer (COLL)