Floreat Pica Report: Ghosts of Preliminary Finals past

By John Ramsdale

What a strange week leading up the preliminary final. Collingwood having four players in an all-Australian team; Collingwood going into a game like this as favourite and most Collingwood supporters I spoke to, including me, being extremely nervous.  St Kilda and Footscray supporters must have been a bit bemused and annoyed this week as their game appeared to have attracted little media attention. Mark Thompson started the mind games being very defensive, talking about jealousy and hatred and whingeing about free kicks. Get over it! We have. You won’t hear us talking about past incidents that cost us games, like Wayne Harms and Kerry Good after the siren.  He seems to have become as grumpy as Mick.

The Piesimist and I, who have been watching Collingwood in finals since the 1964 Grand final, were very nervous about tonight’s game. Perhaps we couldn’t believe that we had done so well. We were also haunted by the ghosts of Preliminary Finals past. We knew that Geelong have been a very good team and have seen what they can do to us. Comments like “it’s only a game! It’s 36 blokes chasing a piece of leather.” From my wife and “The sun will still come up tomorrow if we lose ” from Mrs Piesimist, were less than helpful. Those two have a lot to learn. Suzy L , daughter of the Piesimist thought that we had no hope, only her partner Finney who doesn’t say much thought that we ‘had it in the bag.”

The Herald-Sun ran a double page spread on the 1970 Grand Final. At least it reminded us how good that team was, containing some of Collingwood’s all time greats. Pity about the outcome! Poor kicking was again a factor, 10.14 at half time.  As we were walking through the streets of East Melbourne towards the ground, memories of other preliminary finals were discussed.

1960; Collingwood got up to beat Fitzroy by five points only to be thrashed in a downpour the following week by Melbourne. We only kicked 2.2: at least it was 50% accuracy.

1965: Duncan Wright allegedly knocked John Somerville out behind play and Essendon beat us and went on to win the flag. Len Thompson a gangly teenager played his first game.

1973: Collingwood managed to lead Richmond by over 30 points at half time. Rene Kink played his first game. Tom Hafey brought an injured Royce Hart on after half time and we lost. The memories of 1970 were still strong and were revived. This game together with the 1970 Grand Final had a big impact on the Collingwood psyche and perhaps helps to explain some of the pessimism of more mature Collingwood supporters.

1978 Lost to North Melbourne at their peak at Waverley. Ronny Wearmouth played with a broken jaw. This game would have kept today’s match review committee busy

1980 Waverley:  Collingwood beat Geelong by 4 points and then lost to a rampant Richmond led by Kevin Bartlett and Travis’ dad, David

1981 Collingwood beat Geelong by 7 points at Waverley. Then we lost to Carlton the following week

1984: Essendon beat us by 133 points at Waverley, Ronnie Andrews, ex-Essendon, was Collingwood’s best player. The Piesimist and I endured the misery until the end.

2007. With no expectations of victory we got within 5 points of Geelong, with Marty Clarke playing well. Sadly it was James Clements’ last game.

2009. Started as underdogs against Geelong. It was a great start with goals to Ben Johnson and Harry and a fantastic atmosphere, only to be thumped by 73 points.

Not a lot in that group of games to inspire much confidence.

From the reception as the teams ran onto the ground it seemed like a very pro-Collingwood crowd.

Collingwood attacked from the start through Jolly, Leigh Brown and an early snap from Allan Didak scored a behind. Suzy L, thought this would be an ideal time to blow the siren. The pattern that we had seen in previous games of relentless pressure was evident early. The Geelong players looked flustered and with the exception of Ablett were having trouble getting the ball and disposing of it cleanly. Collingwood hunted in packs and it reminded me of a David Attenborough documentary where the jackals circle, attack and overpower a poor defenceless wildebeest or a gnu. A goal at the four minute mark from Travis Cloke came from good play and we were starting to look good. A minute and a half later a Cameron Ling turn-over was pounced on by Harry and passes from Brent McCaffer, to Allan Didak presented Scott Pendelbury with a running goal.  Another one to Wellingham and we were three goals up before Geelong had scored. Things were looking good. However, they got even better as Leigh Brown who was again starting to show his value kicked towards the goal. It appeared to be heading out of bounds when it broke awkwardly, did a “Warnie”  and bounced through for a goal. Even Brown couldn’t have claimed that he meant it. Geelong should have known then that it was not their night. Further goals to Pendelbury, Didak, and Ben Johnson meant that we went in at quarter time six goals up. When Geelong had a shot at goal through the dangerous Ablett and Chapman, Nick Maxwell hurled himself backwards to limit the score to a behind.

It had been a great team effort with everyone contributing. When Geelong looked threatening the backline held firm through Nick Maxwell, Harry, Toovey, Heath Shaw, Ben Reid. The usual suspects Pendelbury, Swan and Thomas were picking up many possessions and the big men Darren jolly, Leigh Brown and Chris Dawes were too good for their opponents.  Only a quarter gone but we were looking good. Some people are hard to please. Suzy L, “We have lost from better situations than this.”

Second Quarter

Luke Ball on hands and knees at the bottom of packs was feeding the ball out and an early goal to Steele Sidebottom resulted. Geelong were starting to look a little better, but Collingwood’s  pressure was relentless and Geelong continued to turn it over. Goals to Cloke, who was moving and marking well, and Dayne Beams extended the gap . Even this early in the game, given the way they were playing it was hard to see Geelong bridging it. Half way through the quarter, Dale Thomas, another one who was playing well gave away a free kick to Harry Taylor for a high tackle. It was hard to disagree with the decision. Let’s hope that it doesn’t come under video scrutiny.  Suddenly the orange flag from the interchange referee left over from the World Cup went up. Thomas received the free and 50 metres and he goaled. If the Brown goal were not a signal to Geelong that this was our night then  this certainly was. I actually felt sorry for them. It is a ridiculous rule with a ridiculously harsh penalty. Considering how hard it is normally for a player to get a free and a 50 metre penalty. Further goals from a great snap from Swan and Dawes meant that we went in at half time 63 points up. Time for a reality check from Suzy L “I don’t want to sound like dad, but the further we get in front, the more famous the victory will be for the opposition.”  Another great team effort! The backline led by Maxwell who looked to be back to his best form from last year was very tight. Toovey in particular had laid some good tackles and McCaffer was looking better. Luke Ball showed what a great asset he has been with hard work, often at the bottom of packs getting the ball out to the others. The body language of the two teams was a real contrast as they left the ground. Collingwood jogged off as group. Geelong trudged off with their heads down. Very few of their players had really made an impact on the game and some were looking well short of their best or past their best.

3rd Quarter

The mood in the crowd around us was quite subdued but more relaxed than at the start of the game. Collingwood again attacked regularly and applied more pressure to the Geelong backs, but only points resulted. The accuracy in the first half had been good. Was it now starting to come undone?  A goal to Swan at the six minute mark started the crowd on their “Collingwoooooooooood” chant. It reminded me of the film “Zulu” where thousands of Zulu troops come over the hill chanting their war cry and striking fear into the hearts of the small troop of British soldiers defending Rorke’s Drift. An ugly, awkward pass from Ben Johnson emphasised what a good player Dane Swan is. Many players would have fumbled it or struggled to control it, but he just took it matter of factly in his low centre of gravity style, weaved around a Geelong opponent and kicked it into attack. Goals to McCaffer and Wellingham put us 81 points ahead. There had been 12 individual goal scorers. Stokes kicked a goal from a free from Tyson Goldsack and a bit of a skirmish broke out. This was the first sign of spirit many of the Geelong players had shown. The cry went out” Don’t do anything stupid.” We didn’t need a report. Luke ball limped off and rumours of “a hamstring” began to spread. He had been playing very well. Geelong started to get back into the game with three goals in a row.  Chris Dawes was moving well and marking well, at one stage on the half back line. Did Peter McKenna ever take a mark on the half back line? The three-quarter time margin was 61 points. Suzy L thought we were ‘in with a sniff.”

4th Quarter

With rumours that Luke Ball had a hamstring, Collingwood began the last quarter 10 goals up but one man down. They had to ensure that there were no reports and no more injuries. Cloke kicked Collingwood’s 17th goal early on. My wife said, “Let’s kick 20.”This is unusual for her as usually if Collingwood are well on top of a team she feels sorry for them. She even did it once against Carlton. Perhaps she is learning. Our last goal came through Sidebottom in time on. The rest of the quarter was taken up with Geelong kicking some late goals and regaining some pride for themselves and making the scoreboard look more respectable and Collingwood playing it safe with kicking it backwards and retaining possession. Even though we had Mr Pedantic, Ray Chamberlin, they  were fairly unobtrusive.  Why do they have the out of bounds deliberately rule if they are not going to play blatant ones?

The crowd was posted as 95, 241 and given the number of people still left at the end of the game, most were Collingwood supporters. Most won’t make it next week because of the difficulty of obtaining tickets. Even Suzy L had relaxed by the end of the game. It was great night to watch a very good team in action against Geelong who have been a great team for a long time. They played well as a team, are very well led and well coached. Perhaps Magellan Mick’s around the boundary tactics are more effective than some of us thought.  No matter the result next week we have had a great year and a lot to look forward to. One simple sign in the crowd with white letters on a black background said it all, “Thank you”

We ran into other Floreat Picans Michael White, TAFKATBM, Paul O’Connell , Craig Atherton, and Mick Atta at the Baden Powell. All were very happy and upbeat about next week.  I look forward to reading the triumphant report from one of the FP’s who will be at the game and think of Haiku Bob in Sweden.

Next week. What to look forward to.

The Brownlow on Monday night with Dane Swan with a great chance. I think his speech if he wins could be one of the shortest on record. He will be no Rob Oakeshott.

The Floreat Pica Dinner in two weeks’ time

Newspapers will be worth reading and TV will be worth watching for another week.

The Collingwood haters in the media, and there is no shortage of them, and in the general community are going to have a thoroughly miserable week. May it last into the following week and beyond.

More nerves from the supporters. St Kilda worry me. Last time we played them Riewoldt was about 10% fit and Dal Santo didn’t play. Remember the Riewoldt purple patch in the semi-final last year

At this stage we can enter a grand Final without a suspension e.g.  Jason Cloke in 2002 and Anthony Rocca2003

We have a real chance. We haven’t limped in as a gallant team as we have so often have in the past.

Who will be the hard luck story like Ron McKeon in 1990?

Will Presti and Leon play?

Comments

  1. Sure Dal Santo didn’t play and Reiwoldt was 10% fit, but you’re forgetting that Maxwell and Cloke didn’t play for us and we still won by 48.
    Not saying it’ll happen again. The Saints have too many X-Factors. Collingwood will be as good as they’ll get for the game at the opening bounce. The Saints have about five players who can go from miserable to match-winning in the blink of an eye. Should be a ripper.

  2. Dave Latham says:

    If Collingwood get out of the blocks like they did on Friday, it will throw St Kilda’s game-plan into chaos.

    They are good at pinning teams before winning an arm-wrestle, but if they have to start chasing a decent lead, things can get ugly.

    A fit, quick, deep and highly rotated side with an extra days break and without having physoically battered themselves against the Cats should give the Pies a filip.

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