AFL Round 8 – Fremantle v Collingwood: What if?

by Andrea McNamara

Haven’t felt this nervous before a game in ages, maybe since that final in 2007 against West Coast, the one that went into extra time. I was there, I flew over to see what could have been Bucks’ last game, if we’d lost. What a win at the House of Pain – it still send shivers up my spine. I saw us lose to Freo in Round 22, 2008 but I’d still rather be there than not.
Tonight commonsense prevails – it’s tough to travel to Perth and back just for the footy, even without actually playing. Such a long way back if we lose. And anyway, we play FOUR interstate games in 7 weeks so I’ll catch one of the others. But gee, I’d love to be there, especially if we win. And that gets me thinking. What if our NO STAR team is exposed as impostors in the top four? What if our CHAMPION half-back line is really flaky? What if our NEW FOUND FULL-FORWARD is a fly-by-night? What if SIDEBOTTOM is a flash-in-the-pan? And what if we win? Does that mean we’ll lose against the all-conquering Cats? What if we lose – does that mean we’ll give the Cats everything we’ve got and finally beat them again, like we did in 2008? What if, what if, what if.
What a relief when the game starts! In the frantic opening minutes, Jack’s on the board and Heater turns the ball over not once but twice. We look wasteful, a bit cocky down back. When Trav bombs a long one through and then another a minute later we look more in control and I’m loving Luke Ball and Beamsy. At quarter time we’re 4 goals up. It’s hard to talk about the Freo players because who the hell are they? Except for their Big Friendly Giant (who is doing whatever he likes) and Pav and Taz, their young ’uns like Hill and much-hyped rookie Barlow are very unfamiliar. They don’t look bad at all – they look potentially dangerous. Four goals isn’t a big enough buffer. I sense trouble but I’m enjoying our good footy.
Second quarter. Somehow, within about five minutes the margin is only 5 points because they’ve banged out 5 goals! I’m missing Presti down the back – he never tries to be too creative. Then it becomes a shoot out – then the Old Trav pops up for a minute, spraying a set shot from 15 metres out, but look, less than a minute later he’s righted that wrong and kicked a little fella’s goal in the square. We hang on to a 10-point lead at half-time. I’m loving Travis Cloke.
The third quarter starts and it’s all a bit sloppy but Trav is as steady as can be. He’s become a man instead instead of a man-boy, a man in his head, not just the youngest Cloke with the most promise who never really delivered. He’s strong and tough and is running rings around Taz, who – let’s face it – never got the head part of footy sorted out. They’re a man and a half down but I don’t think that makes it unfair. Sandilands gives them such a head start, McPharlin being off just evens things up a bit. Three quarter time, we’re 41 points up but I’m still nervous. Freo have played some great last quarters and they have the crowd on their side. The really interesting thing is that the ones who are lifting for us aren’t those who are vying for a place in the team, not the young ones. It is the regulars: Swan, Didak, O’Bree, Daisy, tireless Ben Johnson, Our Captain and co, all showing that they are reliable. And Ball – Luke Ball is one of us, for sure.
In the final quarter, Dennis Cometti sums it up for me: ‘Collingwood are sneaky, but good sneaky.’ He’s right: if one doesn’t get you, another will pop up out of nowhere and stop your run. There’s a passage of play where they verge on lairising but instead look Cat-like in their teamwork and it results in a Didak goal. Brilliant, so good to watch, I’d like the game to go forever.
So in the end, it’s not a 10-goal thrashing, just a tidy six. I love them all. And I love the fact that Presti, Josh and Tarks are all lining up for the twos today, not to mention the Anvil (who bagged SIX GOALS today against Frankston). And with Medders and Wellers and Dick all to come back – we are deep!
What I reckon is that after a shaky start this year in the goal-kicking department (who can forget the 4.17 against the Saints?), Bucks seems to have drilled them to charge purposefully towards goal. How many times is there someone lurking in the goal square on their own, waiting to convert? We have around 12 goal kickers per game, including several bags of five. It looks like they’re all having a great time out there. The problem is that we’re leaking too many goals. Our defence is wonderful, don’t get me wrong – so attacking – but the sides we’re thrashing are also scoring big and we need to be more miserly. Bring back Presti, I say, just for a bit of old-fashioned sensible down there. But when all is said and done, I would rather we had an attacking running fearlessly brave defence than a clogging ugly one. Sure, I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day, but while we run and carry and go in hard, we are SO GOOD TO WATCH. What if we beat the Cats too … although at the rate they’re currently disposing of the Lions with great ease, that’s unlikely to be something I have to worry about.
3 votes to TRAVIS CLOKE
2 votes to DANE SWAN
and the single could have gone to Pendles, Johnno, Ball, Daisy but I gave it to DIDAK because he epitomises ‘good sneaky’.

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