Suffering in Silence at the Bowl.

TO FOLLOW COLLINGWOOD IS TO SUFFER; it is to make friends with a person who keeps on letting you down; it is to have grief as a constant companion. All week I repeat the same mantra to my wife Melissa the Saint- “If we win it will be by a lot, if you win it will be by a little.” The luck never follows Collingwood in close Grand Finals.

Melissa drapes the house in Collingwood and St Kilda colours. This makes me nervous. I want the place to be bare, spartan . . . I don’t want to be thinking about the game any more than I already am, which is constantly. But she wins out and I end up having breakfast every day with Nick Riewolt staring down at my cornflakes.

As the week progresses the comments fly thick and fast on Facebook. Several people say they will leave Australia if Collingwood win. I make a mental note to get off Facebook when this madness is over. Fast.

On Grand Final morning Melissa the Saint kicks me out at 11am. It is a good call. Chris my Baptist minister mate and I fly past Victoria Park on the train and say a couple of silent Collingwood prayers.

We head for the Westpac Centre where there are thousands of Pie fans lining the street. Then that beautiful, elongated chant starts up- COLL-ING-WOOOOD, COLL-ING-WOOOD. It releases the nerves brilliantly.

The kids are deliberately put to he front of the line. It is like the children’s crusade in the middle ages. We head to the G. We sing and chant and dream. We suspend the cruel tide of history in our minds. Together we have hope.

When we arrive at the ground Chris and I head for the Myer Music Bowl to watch the game with the other unlucky Collingwood members. We march past people dressed in suits who don’t really seem to care about the game. They don’t have that anxious look that is shared by Pies and Saints supporters. The game has been robbed of its soul.

The next two hours travel slowly until at 2.30pm the Umpire holds the ball aloft and chaos ensues.

In the first quarter the Pies look fantastic. It is almost as though we’ve been writing a magnificent piece of music all year that is reaching its logical crescendo. Our tackling is incredibly intense.

When Daisy wobbles a tumbling torpedo through the goals I wonder if this might just be our day.

In the second quarter we have twenty-one inside fifties to four but we don’t convert our chances. This could be fatal. With minutes to go before half-time Trav misses two very makeable shots. This could be a problem. The lead is a slender four goals.

At the long break I can’t sit still, I am a jangle of nerves. I speak to Chris about other teams who lost by wasting opportunities- St Kilda in 97, North in 98 and Geelong in 08.

In the third term our poor conversion continues and St Kilda mount a serious challenge. Brendon Goddard is everywhere. By three quarter time we look gone.

In the last term the Pies play some sharp footy. Leon Davis emerges for a few moments to kick a great goal from a gather. At the Bowl complete strangers hug one another. But then I remember my mantra: “We will win by a lot, St Kilda will win by a little.” When Milne marks behind Harry O’Brien and goals from straight in front the Pies are in real trouble. The game tightens up.

And then Brendon Goddard takes an incredible mark. He soars out into the sky and hauls the ball down. As he does I am reminded of a quote from Annie Dillard- “Was everything beautiful so bold?”

We don’t talk about beauty or wonder much in football, but it’s there. In this moment Brendon Goddard encapsulates these qualities for his team. He goals. Game over.

This game has had everything- beauty and boldness and honour.

And horror.

I can barely watch the end of the match.

Somehow Nick Maxwell takes a brilliant pack mark and sends the ball deep into our forward line. The ball spills out and Trav goals. We are alive once more.

But Collingwood look flawed. Instead of chipping the ball around and wasting time, they keep playing at the same frenetic pace and make many mistakes. St Kilda kick one point when the ball darts away from Steven Milne. The scores are tied. The siren goes. A draw.

The Bowl is silent.

We are dejected and relieved all at once.

The tiniest moments of this match will now be dissected ad nausea but really it’s pretty simple . . . Collingwood missed their opportunities in the first half and St Kilda were magnificent in the second half.

After a few more minutes a few other things become obvious-

-Brendon Goddard was easily the most influential player on the ground and would have been a worthy Norm Smith medallist.

-Facebook is full of people who throw ill-considered opinions around like confetti at a wedding.

-And my mantra for this week . . . to follow Collingwood is to suffer.

I hope I’m wrong.

Comments

  1. Thumbs Up: Like – Arma

    …… just to continue the Facebook theme.

  2. David – your article may have actually changed my allegiance for the replay, magnificent stuff.

  3. ‘TO FOLLOW COLLINGWOOD IS TO SUFFER; it is to make friends with a person who keeps on letting you down’
    – That is SO true.
    i really don’t think anyone except Collingwood supporters can really understand each other.
    When i read that sentance in this wonderful piece I said- ‘wow he’s right, so why am i doing this to myself again?’
    I guess its just love, it’s my only explanation.
    As for Riewoldt staring over your cornflakes, now that’s a turn off for breakfast if there ever was one.

    Danni

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Heartfelt and bloody too close to the bone. However, it is how we choose to face our suffering that counts. Year after year we can easily walk away…but we don’t.

  5. Lucas Garth says:

    David,
    True suffering would have been Johnson leading Milne out, doing everything a defender should in a tense game, the ball bouncing over his head, Milne getting it walking into goal and drilling it high into the stands. And it was in the “Harmes Pocket” I do recall.

    Even if we get drilled by 10 goals this week, it won’t be nearly as painful as that bout of suffering could have been.

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