Collingwood 2010 – “Moving Forward”

At the start of season 2010 I was a little concerned about the Pies. Not about the playing stocks which seemed promising but the departure by some club officials, president, captain and ex-players from the well-worn and time-tested football clichés that we have all come to depend upon.

The life blood of any football club is an unending stream of familiar and largely empty clichés, no team is safe without them and to depart from this expected and generic script is to flirt dangerously with football karma. Hence I was rather anxious at President Eddie’s brash early season proclamation that our goal and expectation this year was to “win the flag”. If this wasn’t alarming enough, the madness was then transferred to other club personnel who began to echo such thoughts. Before long one began to suspect that Collingwood actually thought they could “win the flag”. I became deeply distressed at this disturbing lack of discipline. Where were the party officials and spin doctors who normally step in at this point to advise on the correct use of language? Where were the glib statements about “moving forward”, “Taking the next step” “continuing to develop the list” “winning enough games to secure a spot in the eight”“pushing for top four” or that favourite old chestnut “ just taking it one week at a time and happy to come away with the four points.”

Wise fans understand that these statements are all very boring and not great copy for journos but also that it is the job of a professional football club, like a political party to never, EVER say anything interesting. While Carlton may like to talk themselves up at every turn with some clever advertising slogan, theirs is a culture built on born to rule expectation. Collingwood should never mention the words “flag” or “premiership” until the cup is firmly in their tattooed grasp. While sanity was eventually restored by Club pragmatists and normal transmission resumed – usually Malthouse savaging some bright-eyed young journo for another innocent post-match query – this lack of professionalism, along with the insipid form of Jack Anthony remained the season lowlight.

On the positive side, there was a lot to be quietly confident about. Swan’s form seemed to blossom like the flowering of ink- filled cornucopias on a Collingwood midfielder’s arm. The players seemed young and wild and free and set for a golden age of “moving forward”. Magpie midfielders swarmed and surged out of every pocket and flank seeming to overwhelm opponents with the sheer weight and volume of behinds they were able to kick. My children Amelie (5) and Charlie (3) sensed this awakening and like I did, at the age of 6 watching Peter Moore and Ricky Barham, began to learn with fascination, the names and numbers of these TV demi-gods, Didak and Beams and Sidebottom and Swan and of course Harry O’Brien.

On her fifth birthday Amelie blew out the candles and wished that Collingwood would be on top of the ladder. This promptly eventuated. She now believes, as I did in ‘77, that we can simply wish our team to the top of the table. This is undoubtedly a dangerous misconception but she continues to hold to it as she innocently places footy cards into her Official AFL Season 2010 “alvum”.

Then there was Harry O’Brien, who somehow, miraculously, through a friend of a friend, came to visit our humble home one Thursday night late in the season. Being older and more circumspect I took all of this in my stride and was pretty cool about the whole thing, trying not to stage-manage the event too much. I just made sure the kids were all perfectly groomed and wearing their Collingwood jumpers, the house was spotless and anything that might transfer infectious diseases to this potential All-Australian Half-Back Flanker before the impending finals series had been assiduously sterilised. The children were drilled using football cards and internet images so that they knew exactly who Harry O’Brien was and could list his key team mates and their numbers. Charlie had shown troubling signs in the lead up of perhaps thinking that Harry O’Brien was a football team with the repeated claim “I barrack for Harry O’Brien”.  Both kids would argue violently about who “barracked” for Harry O’Brien and I would try to act as peacemaker by explaining that Harry O’Brien was a faith open to all.

When he at last strode into our living room that afternoon Charlie eyed him as though one of his mates from Kinder on a play date and said:

“Come on Harry O’Brien, let’s go outside and play Collingwood”

Charlie’s obsessive-compulsive attachment to his yellow Bob the Builder hat helped forge a connection, Harry was wearing a rasta- beanie. They spent the afternoon trying to steal each other’s headwear.

The day before the finals began, Amelie caught me reading the paper and as usual wanted to know what I was doing. I was compelled to explain to her that I was reading about who would be the next Prime Minister, what a Prime Minister was, who Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott were etc. Etc. She eventually understood the PM to be “the person in charge”.

Next day she watched the online highlights of Collingwood/Bulldogs with me and was disappointed that Harry O’Brien was pushing Barry Hall (in retaliation) She would later begin a grave letter asking Harry not to “hit people, because it’s mean” (as if Barry Hall can’t look after himself)

Then she spotted Malthouse in the box going berserk in the second quarter over an easy goal to Ryan Griffin and wanted to know who the Collingwood coach was and indeed what a coach is. The mandatory, inevitable and glacial explanation then followed concerning the person “in charge” of the Collingwood team.

In the end she just wanted to know one thing:

“Daddy, why was the Collingwood Prime Minister banging himself in the head?”

This was actually a watershed moment for me. After some earnest discussions with a close and long-term Magpie associate with some experience in politics we determined upon a future career path for Mick. He should enter Federal politics where his Confucian ramblings will have great currency and might even sound like a “vision” and eventually run for the seat of Bennelong because, let’s face it, anyone can win that seat.

At the time of writing Collingwood stands with the opportunity to … achieve their potential by moving forward in a really forward moving, stable, democratic and positive way that will be good for the Club and fans and the electorate and maybe even cause a boom period for tattoo parlours across the state. But regardless of what unfolds from this point, I have already had some pretty good highlights.

About james gilchrist

James Gilchrist is another Collingwood tragic who enjoys reading, writing, music, travel and teaching. A father of three, he teaches at Genazzano College, writes for the Footy Almanac and waits ever patiently for that next elusive Magpie Premiership.


  1. John Butler says:

    Superb James

    Almost makes me think fondly of the Pies. I did say almost.

  2. LOL! this piece was hilarious! :)
    Great to see you have your kids going in the right direction footy wise.
    My friend’s mother recently had a baby and while my friend wanted the baby to barrack for her team (Richmond) the father was appalled by the idea and saw fit that the baby should have a better childhood going for Geelong. Lol
    So much pressure on raising kids footy wise.
    Some seem to think its better to let the kid chose themselves but I think they should grow into the team that has history in their family. In conclusion there no cuter afl baby jumper than Collingwoods! :)
    go pies


  3. Ah, unfortunately for both your daughter and the Pies, birthday wishes only come true if they remain secrets

  4. Thanks for your comments. Danni I often think of that wonderful poem by Bruce Dawe “Life Cycle” about how our children come to mirror our football faiths. I’m told that it’s a good thing for our relationships with children. Although I would love for my kids not to have the field of continuous horrors of being a Collingwood supporter that was my youth. We can only live in hope.

  5. 4- :) i know that poem!
    infact we read it this year in my english class and i used to as the base of my imaginative piece! :)
    it’s a great poem.

  6. Nice one Danni. I really love it as well, even though I don’t think Collingwood get a mention. (Bruce is an avid Fitzroy fan) Its lyrical symbolism is great. Also, when I was a boy my Mum pointed out an old guy at the station who she explained was “Chicken Smallhorn”. Naturally I never forgot that name. It’s possibly the most striking name I’ve encountered until the arrival of the great Steele Sidebottom. I have taught “Sometimes Gladness” to a Yr 12 English class some years ago & really enjoyed it. My teaching was average but the poetry was wonderful. I hope you do really well in your writing & exams! Best wishes.

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