Thankfully I didn’t attend the last time Collingwood played Carlton at Princes / Optus / MC Labour / Visy Park in 2000, when the Blues handed the Pies an almighty flogging.
In fact, Collingwood supporters get the shudders driving down Royal Parade – even when Fitzroy played there we rarely extracted any joy from the experience.
But on a bleak Sunday afternoon with little to do, and perhaps in the afterglow of Friday’s win over the arch rival, the prospect of visiting the decaying suburban fortress to see a bunch of decaying stars of yesteryear had some appeal. It was also a good excuse to give my new camera a workout, and more so escape a house full of stir crazy kids.
Legends games can sometimes be a letdown. Apart from a propensity to resemble glorified circle work, seeing how the ravages of time have afflicted your once super athletic football heroes can be confronting to one’s sense of mortality.
Oddly, the first goal for the Magpies came via Simon Prestigiacomo, whose only other goal in living memory was also against Carlton in 2002 at the MCG. That was a night to remember - a 108 point drubbing of our nemesis in Nathan Buckley’s 200th game.
Stephen Patterson was a much maligned player at the Pies however by quarter time he’d kicked two of the side’s four goals. Collingwood’s other #6, Paul Tuddenham, also looked trim and played tidily.
Guest player for the Blues was Dave Hughes, no doubt living a childhood fantasy playing alongside the likes of flag heroes Anthony Koutoufides, the Dominator Wayne Johnson, Alex Marcou, Ang Christou, Peter Dean and Adrian Gleeson, to name a few. Hughesy (a fitness freak) won his share of the ball but alas his delivery was suitably comical. And he made a handy stepladder for Brodie Holland, who dominated throughout the afternoon.
Darker skies and rain made things difficult for the elderly and poor of sight, and particularly for those who struggled to bend over their girth or change direction any swifter than the Queen Mary. It’s rather amusing, especially in the conditions, the supporters who couldn’t help themselves bemoaning their tired old stars who’d dragged their ravaged bodies out to play for the Peter MacCallum and Ted Whitten cancer foundations. It was also a shame the weather consigned the crowd to sub GWS proportions. Maybe if Daics had taken the field as earlier anticipated a few more would have made the effort.
The game was an up and down affair, as tends to be the case when players at such varying fitness levels dust off the boots.
As a Collingwood fan it was heartening to see the likes of Paul Williams return to the fold. Trav Cloke’s two brothers also donned the stripes, and with comparative youth on their side, were quite damaging. Others to perform well included Gav Crosisca, Rupert Betheras, Matty Ryan, Frank Raso (Frankie who?) and Mark Fraser. And of course the big Monkenstein exerted his influence, getting some ball around the ground, and most impressively, with some deft ruckwork. Others such as Dougie Barwick, looking a little like Mr Magoo, appeared to struggle with the affects of their career.
Collingwood had the better of the Blues to the last change, although like Friday night squandered opportunities to be more than 11 points up. Unfortunately for the Blues their famed mosquito fleet was either absent or too far gone to combat the Magpies’ running brigade. Carlton also lacked for targets up forward, but truth be told, maybe approached the contest a tad less vigorously (despite coach David Parkin clearly wanting one last victory).
In the last term the Pies actually upped the ante physically, determined to record a rare win on this field of nightmares. Fraser, Williams, Gayfer, Holland, Paul Tuddenham, Rupe and Tranquilli came to the fore, meanwhile Cam Cloke and Leigh Brown were too big, too strong and too youthful for the Blues defence - though Glenn Manton and Ang Christou battled hard. Brown hooked three opportunities after strong grabs before roosting a 65m torp to seal the deal. Tired legs might have been to blame for other fluffed sitters, nevertheless the final margin was a comfortable 20 points. Tony Russell kicked the last from point blank range (if there is such a thing in these games), the #42 having the distinction of being the second last Magpie to ever wear the number (before the late Darren Millane).
It was an afternoon well spent, the camaraderie between the players pleasing to see, and the spectacle and skills pretty good. All things considered.