Geelong-Collingwood preview

I love a day like this, when everyone is thinking about the footy tonight. Game-plans, formulated ages ago, are being put in to action. Or plans are being made via email right now. Pre-match beers. Or lunch for those who have their lives well-organised. Watching the hours. Waiting to meet up with friends and family. Or thinking about that moment when the red hits the glass, the pizza man hits the door-bell, and the Mallee root hits the fire.

I love that this has been going on for years. More than a century. And a tremendous rivalry – long-term, and recent – has grown between these clubs. Geelong. And Colingwood.

Ever since a few thugs got together in the Grace Darling in Smith Street and called themselves the Collingwood Football Club and then went looking for the only bloke in Collingwood who knew Latin to come up with a motto.

Father Flanagan was found in the Bendigo taking confession from Molly behind the bar over a heart-starter and he suggested Ecce Homo (behold the man) would be appropriate, because there was no greater expression of manhood in the world than a bloke in the black and white stripes. That was rejected by the committee because they were having none of that in Collingwood. So Father suggested O quam cito transit gloria mundi. The committee rejected that on the grounds that there’d be no room on the jumper for Yakka or Emirates.

So they went with Floreat Pica or Flourish the Magpie which it did for many years while John Wren ran the show.

The Cats of course stopped the Machine’s famous run from 1927-1930 which Wren thought would extend until they ran out of Guinness in Mother Ireland and Mannix was Governor of the state of Punjab. But the Cats won in 1931 and both teams were in and around it through the Depression years before they met in the 1937 Grand Final – regarded as one of the finest.

We beat them in 1952 and then they got us in 1953, and Geelong people despised Collingwood. Funny thing is, if you read the reports and the stories from old players, the feeling wasn’t mutual. The Pies liked the pleasant excursion to Sleepy Hollow: the warm welcome, the generous sandwiches and bottled beer.

Into the modern day and both sides have had periods of strength, while stumbling at the final hurdle, not that I am suggesting any sense of empathy between the two. Especially not now, that Eddie has built on the tradition of the past, and done what it takes, while the Cats, like Lord Lindsay in Chariots of Fire, have continued to put the Great Western on the hurdles, and left it to the gods.

What a ripper fixture this is tonight. If all of that history isn’t enough – and if all of those rough finishes from your childhood aren’t resurfacing – just look at this magnificent (and somewhat crazy) modern rivalry.

I was in the Lizard Bar of the Top End Hotel in Darwin watching the Geelong-Pies match in 2006, our year of horrors. It was one of the low-poinst of my existence. Standing with a chippie from Kyneton or somewhere who was downing them magnificently and delighting in the Pies 100-point win.

Then the 2007 Preliminary Final: one of the great finals of recent times (in a pretty crowded showcase I might say). When all sense of play was sucked out of the MCG and the second half became this incredibly tense battle when the thought of defeat was too much for the Geelong faithful to contemplate. But somehow Otto (throughout), and G. Ablett (late) got us over the line. And the rest is history.

Then the Pies crunched us on a freezing cold Friday might in May; until we got back at them a couple of times before they were tired and sore in the 2009 Preliminary and we got away with a good win there. And another flag (you beauty).

Last year the Cats had an odd seaon, but still dominated a lot of sides, including a powerful performance early against the Pies. But they finished better amid the tumult of Geelong’s concerns and the result in the Prelim actually flattered us.

And so to tonight? What is different? The Cats have a new coach and the club has been purged of the toxins which affected it last year. Otto is sprightly. Joel Selwood is playing a leading role. Corey Enright is too, as if he has said, “Scarlo, trust me, Harry and I will sort all this out. You create.” Then there’s the young blokes who are showing something, especially Menzel and Duncan.

But you always have an opponent and Collingwood is a respected one. As reigning premiers, they are the rightful faves (although the Cats were value early in the week at $2.80). The extra year suits them better than it suits us: their youngsters are still improving, which is why they are such short-priced favourites for the flag.

Who wins? I have interviewed Ted Hopkins twice over the last fortnight. He has probably spent as much time thinking about footy and analysing footy as anyone. He loves the game, although he qualifies that by using that most-Almanac ­(and Geelong phrase) as it should be played. He thinks these are two top-class footy sides, by any measure. And he thinks this is set up to be a ripper.

He describes tonight’s match as the contest between the space invaders (Geelong) and the space-deniers (Collingwood).

The Cats have been able to find space in all of their matches this season (although it took us forever against the Saints). If they can find a way free tonight our chances will increase.

Ted’s other significant measure for this match is how the teams use the footy from half-back. He was less enthusiastic about the so-called Collingwood press, and more intent on explaining that both these sides have fine decision-makers with  fantastic skills in their respective back-lines.

I think there are two huge factors tonight: one is the weather. I cannot work out who it suits. For years there has been an argument over this, but I think in modern footy the better your skills, the better you go in the wet. Both sides have strong bodies. Both will play with their characteristic determination.

The other is Brad Ottens. Over the years I have written a lot about B. Ottens. Go back to the tapes and see the yoke he has been willing to carry. And carry it well he has. He was so, so good against Hawthorn at Easter time.

Only hours to go now.

Our footy plan is enacted. Family and friends are coming from around the country (the friends are bloody Collingwood fans) and whatever happens tonight we will sit around the table tomorrow, eating stew, and crusty bread, drinking fine red wine, and talking footy.

As Bobby Davis always says (and my Dad did too), may both sides play to their ability, and may the better side win.

Can’t ask for more than that.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo10, Anna8, Evie7. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    Nice one JTH.

    Hopkins offered really high praise towards Milburn.

    Keep that foot warm tonight.

  2. Should be a cracker of a game. I just can’t see it being anything but close, and if its close then a bit of luck can sometimes decide it. The Pies are probably the better side at the moment but battles between these two in the last few years have often ignored conventional wisdom.

  3. Hmm. Freezing cold Friday night in May (2008), eh. Hope the Cats can turn the tables by 15 goals or so this time for a narrow win. Maybe in honour of Joe Selwood’s 100th.

    Enjoy the stew and the reds tomorrow JTH, and hopefully the result tonight. If you hear a chattering noise in a few hours it will be the sound of my teeth at the G. It’s freezing cold and pouring rain out my way at the moment. Should be a great night for footy!

  4. smokie88 says:

    Call me a wimp. I was planning to go to the G as a neutral observer
    but the weather has deterred me somewhat.
    A couple of reds in front of the t.v.
    May the better team win.

  5. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Ottens becomes crucial on a night like this. Wood inspires no confidence in our mids and getting valuable metreage will be important. Cats might pinch it I reckon. I hope I’m wrong, but Geelong’s legs should still be fresh. Center clearances will also be pivotal for the Pivotonians.

  6. Peter Flynn says:

    130 km/h wind gusts at the Prom

  7. John Butler says:

    10.4 degrees in Ballarat

    ‘Feels like’ factor 6.7

    Warm for Tasmania.

  8. Stainless says:

    JTH – I’d still like to do that piece on clubs with Latin mottos at some stage. Whatever its origins, floreat pica is probably the least pretentious among the AFL clubs, but any footy club (or any other organisation for that matter) that chooses to adopt one is, in my view, suffering severe delusions of grandeur.

    Just to take the gloss of your wonderful preview – I’m afraid my last 2 experiences at Geelong-Collingwood games were awful. Last year’s prelim was a total fizzer (I left at 1/2 time) and the game before was tarnished by intimidating, obnoxious Collingwood supporters (in the MCC no less) who absolutely typified the worst of the stereotypes.

  9. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Stainless,

    the MCC accepted me 10 years ago. That institution is definitely going downhill.

  10. Stainless says:

    I’m surpised the MCC doesn’t have a Latin motto!

  11. smokie88 says:

    Absolutely belting down in Williamstown

  12. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Stainless, I don’t know what the Latin translation would be, but ‘May Bogans Prosper’ would be appropriate.

  13. Ian Syson says:

    Maybe the Collingwood motto should be in pig latin?

    Ay-may ogans-bay osper-pray

  14. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Tried to Google it Syso…Got nowhere. All I have to say is Northcote 5-South Melbourne 0.

  15. Listening to it here in my sunroom in Brisbane (that’s right), the Cats sound better

  16. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Cats deserved winners. Our Ruck is impotent without Jolly.

  17. John Butler says:

    A great contest.

    Probably leaves more questions hanging than resolved.

    But that’s for later conjecture. Round 24 could be interesting.

  18. johnharms says:

    PROSPERO CORIO

  19. John Butler says:

    So I gather you didn’t make it to the game JTH?

  20. John Butler says:

    That’s either you or Banksy editing the homepage. :)

  21. johnharms says:

    JB, Was receiving a lot of advice from those closest to me that it was unwise to go, and that it was better for me to feed the kids, bath the kids and nurse the baby.

  22. johnharms says:

    However, JB, this did not stop me from enjoying the Ottens-Selwood first quarter, or Joel Corey’s quiet achievements, or the sublime skills of James Bartel. But I do wish I was there.

  23. John Butler says:

    Bartel’s set shot was superb.

    But the Pies will reckon they’ve got a bit to add to tonight’s team.

    Let the debate continue…

  24. forwardpocket says:

    Too good and much harder at the ball Cats. Congrats – they are the benchmark for 2011.

  25. Danielle says:

    i cant believe im going to say this but…i feel bad for toovey.

  26. Angela Altair says:

    Dear John Harms,
    You are a sublime writer – the stuff about Latin mottos was choice! – and even though I feel hollow and empty after last night’s narrow loss – your wayward kicking kept us in the game – reading your piece almost made up for the Magpies losing.

    I braved the chill and climbed the Via Dolorosa to the third last row in the topmost stand (Q28 seat 5). Once there we marvelled at the ‘G’s design and the fine bird’s eye view it afforded. Two monitors just beneath the cantilevered roof-line afforded us close-in viewings. It was hot pie and sauce weather and we relished tucking into them. They were even reasonably hot!

    Anyway despite the final scores I had a ball and so glad I jumped on the computer to read your preview – it really did capture the unique thrill of Aussie Rules. Thank you for your great writing.
    Floreat Pica.
    PS Collingwood’s membership hit 70 000 yesterday. Remarkable.

    Floreat Pica!

    Angela Altair

  27. Steve Healy says:

    For a player who was best on ground (I agree) The Age must’ve been delusional by not even including him in ‘best players’. And strangely, the reports on the game seemed to praise him too

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