AFL Preliminary Finals: What’s this business that the Pies have the wood on Geelong?

Here’s one for the Collingwood fans.

At the completion of Geelong’s annus horribilis in 2006 the club was determined to trade Steve Johnson. Give us a second-round draft pick and we’ll throw in a set of steak knives, club officials said.

Collingwood seemed interested. Geelong would have thrown in two sets of steak knives if the Pies had agreed to take the erratic forward off their hands but the Pies decided against it and Johnson lined up for the Cats in 2007.

Now here’s one for the Geelong fans.

Newly crowned All-Australian Steve Johnson kicks three goals and has a hand in another to help the Cats beat Collingwood by five points in that year’s preliminary final. He was in the top five or six players on the ground that night and it’s fair to assume that, had he been in the colours of the Carringbush, it would have been the Magpies playing Port in that year’s GF.

How would the Pies have gone against Port with Stevie J. in their side? If he matched the performance he turned in for the Cats that day when he won the Norm Smith, probably pretty well.

So Collingwood fans are right. They almost won the 2007 Preliminary Final and they probably would have won that year’s Grand Final.

As it is, the Pies don’t have the 2007 premiership cup but they do apparently have a mental hold on Geelong. Their fans say it repeatedly and the same line was trotted out through official circles only hours after Saturday night’s win over the Crows (who beat only one of the top four teams all year – Collingwood in Round 1).

One of my favourite moments in football is when boundary rider Ricky Olarenshaw – he of the tied tongue and conflicting roles of Channel 7 boundary rider and AFL player manager – interviewed Mark Thompson after Geelong’s fifth straight win of the 2008 season.

Geelong had performed a similar feat 40 years previously before going on to win the flag and Olarenshaw gushed that Thompson must be pleased that the current team was similarly placed.

Thompson immediately asked Olerenshaw why 1963 would have any bearing on 2008.

Thompson’s response directly contradicted an unwritten rule that coaches must treat even the most inane questions from the likes of Olarenshaw, Andy Maher and Christi Malthouse with gravitas.

Olarenshaw’s response was much like a Christian being thrown to a Lion – pure, unadulterated terror – but the Geelong coach showed great kindness in bailing the spluttering reporter out.

Much like Thompson, I don’t think games of past years mean a great deal when selecting a winner but it may interest some to look at the history of the two clubs since 2006.

I say 2006 because that was the night the Pies laid to rest any hopes Geelong fans had that it was going to be their year.

Before a crowd of almost 70,000 on a Saturday night in May, the Pies smashed Geelong by 102 points in Round 6, restricting their vanquished opponents to six goals.

This thrashing seems to be a key plank in Pies’ fans’ theory that they have the wood on Geelong – but the Cats finished 10th that year, also beaten by Adelaide by a similar margin, Hawthorn (who finished below us on the ladder) by 10 goals and the Tigers (who finished 9th, therefore not only missing the finals but also Joel Selwood by one pick in that year’s draft).

The following year, the Cats beat the Pies by 14 points in front of 85,000 in Round 15 on a Saturday afternoon at the ‘G. With the Preliminary Final win later that year, the ledger sat 2-1 in Geelong’s favour.

Geelong’s only loss in 2008 during the home and away season was to the Pies and this was by 86 points.

The Pies dominated the match, with Travis Cloke kicking four and Dale Thomas, Anthony Rocca and Irish recruit Marty Clake best afield. Methinks the little Irishman may get a call up this weekend.

The Cats had been doing just enough to remain unbeaten until that Round 9 encounter but the Magpies dominated the game, finishing with 84 tackles to 49 despite having much more of the ball all night.

The two teams met in this year’s pre-season grand final, where six unanswered second term goals to Geelong saw them lead by 40 points at half-time on their way to a 76-point win.

Collingwood sought redemption in Round 3 but after leading by 20 points at quarter-time were unable to kick a goal in the second while Geelong kicked 8 to set up a 27 point win.

Chapman, Johnson, Ablett, Bartel and Selwood were best for the Cats with Stevie J. involved in two crucial goals early in the final quarter to put the game beyond Collingwood’s reach, while Swan, Fraser, Pendlebury, Beams and Medhurst were best for the Pies.

So by my reckoning the Cats lead the ledger 4-2 with two wins this year. That will be three wins come Saturday night as Brad Ottens recreates his 2007 Preliminary Final magic against an inexperienced Cam Wood, Matthew Scarlett gives John Anthony a comprehensive pantsing and Gary Ablett and Joel Selwood run amok.

Oh, and then there’s Stevie J…

About Stephen Cooke

Cumbersome ruckman of the garden variety


  1. Though I in part agree with using the NAB Cup Final as a match it was sure about half way through the second quarter the Pies had put the cue in the rack.

    I see it as 3-2 in the real stuff with the entire margin hinging on the 5 point prelim win.

    The Cats two other wins were workmanlike, and up for grabs before final assaults put the game to rest. The Magpies two other wins were probably their best games for the season in 2006 and 2008, where the Cats were not just beaten but demolished.

    Over the past few years, only Hawthorn has had a similar record against the Geelong team, one that has taken all before it in a super run.

    Some additional factors for this game:
    1) Not convinced about Geelong’s recent form under lights
    Losses to St Kilda, Brisbane (understandable), Carlton, Doggies and a 5 point win against Sydney.
    Is it a composure thing? Is it the dew on the ground? Is it opposition? Who knows?

    Pies at night are stronger, though losses to Geelong and St Kilda early in the season and Bulldogs late may present a counter argument. Still – Pies have beaten Adelaide, Dogs, Blues, Bombers and Lions (twice) at night.

    2) Rotations will be king. The Magpies game plan revolves around rotations. When injuries arise and this is stifled, Collingwood is very vulnerable. Collingwood cannot afford even one injury to occur during the game (Pendlebury, Fraser and Rocca are therefore highly doubtful). Touching Wood as we speak.

    3) Both teams have imposing forward lines against poor teams that struggle under intense pressure. Both rely on dangerous small forwards around erratic or inexperienced talls. Both would love a Koschitzke let alone a Riewoldt.

    4) Goals from midfielders will end up being a major key. Geelong has more forward penetration in this area, and it could prove crucial.

  2. SC – you are entirely correct. If you take this principle to its ridiculous extreme every team has the wood on every other team at some point in their history (see the Dees in the 50s and 60s).

    When the ball is bounced on Saturday night and players are throwing themselves at the ball, all the rubbish about “having the wood”, misguided as it is, will mean very little.

  3. Stephen Cooke says

    Make that 5-2 since 2006. Go Cats!

  4. It helps that the Pies are crap!

  5. Stephen Cooke says

    It sure does Budge, it sure does.

  6. Cookey,

    What were we worried about at half-time on Saturday night?

    The game was clearly in the bag.

  7. Stephen Cooke says

    I was nervous when the Cats were up by 55 points at half time in the 2007 grand final so 11 points at half time on Saturday night was never going to be comforting.
    Cracking game made only better by finding our Collingwood friend at the pub later in the night. Saw a couple of St Kilda fans as well and some genuine nerves in the St Kilda camp.

  8. It’s all hot air Daff. Collingwood are all huff’n’puff like the big bad wolf.

  9. A house of Micks …

  10. what are you guys talking about,geelong clearly have the wood over collingwood,2007 prelim,2009prelim thrashing,2011 thrashing in the the end after we were a goal away from being in serious trouble in the second quarter,there the wins that count,not round 8 were collingwood thrashed geelong in a home and away season no one remmebers thAT,we denied collingwood 3 flags.

  11. Michael i’m old enough to remember the Pies winning the preliminary finals of 1980 &1981. 1980, credit must go to the umpires for whisking the game away from Geelong. 1981, when Gary Sidebottom missed the bus, then you have the scoring end in the final quarter,and manage only a goal,,well Geelong only have themselves to blame for that loss.

    1964, well that’s another story,which is probably best left unsaid.


Leave a Comment