AFL Round 12 – Collingwood v Western Bulldogs: Word associations and unanswerable questions

On the Queen’s Birthday holiday, as the Woods ran over Melbourne at the G, we were navigating the maze of IKEA in Richmond. That’s not a bad day out, if you’re not prone to claustrophobia. And for the kids, the whole place is like a giant doll’s house. Superb. Six flat-packs later and we were on our way home.

So I’ve spent a good part of the following week assembling and while assembling, marvelling (again) at the genius of marketing that has us punters assembling our own furniture. Today is Sunday and I’ve one bookcase to go. As always, when appropriate, Scott Pendlebury tweets: “Game day.” I’m ready.

The footy bookcase is superbly book-ended this weekend already, by a narrow Friday night loss to Carlton. The matching book-end I’m after for Sunday evening is a comfortable Collingwood win (without injuries).

So I’m among screwdrivers and packaging and I’m aware of game time approaching. If the game was properly scheduled (2pm anyone?) I would be at the game with the kids. But some advertising executive somewhere feels that a TV audience is more important than live attendees. People who have kids (check) and who don’t much enjoy the idea of being out til 8 on a mid-winter school night (check), and who choose not to pay for television subscription (check), won’t see a kick of this game.

But there’s always ABC radio, isn’t there? Stan “the Pies are really struggling this year” Alves and Drew “oh, well, they’ve played a lot of kids” Morphett are warming up like an old carnival act. CJ appears with car keys and then she’s off to the pub to meet a mate. It’s now 4.30pm and the kids have been in pyjamas all day. Brilliant. It’s going to be tricky to listen to the footy in any real way, but already Drew and Dan Lonergan are playing that old word association of Pendlebury = Basketball. It works, I guess. The Woods have come to play, I’m told. Josh Thomas has a goal reviewed and then awarded.

Two children appear in front of me dressed only in underpants, including pairs hanging from elbows, necks, knees, toes, ears and over heads. At least the pyjamas are off. They’re dancing around the hallway in full song: “It’s the spare pair of underwear; Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.”  “Play on,” is the call. Bob Murphy creates something and my own word association says: talk, dark, creamy pint. He’s smooth, isn’t he?

The first quarter ends with a flurry of confounded voices on the radio: “the dogs are ahead in all the statistics, except the scoreboard!!” Ahh, statistics. I sit the kids down for half an hour of calm and they choose the DVD of “Horton Hears a Who?” to accompany them. Great choice, including that little gem of a parenting line: “A person’s a person no matter how small.”

I have no visual aids for this footy game, though my imagination is going well. Check the twitter feed and find: “Swanny. Take my advice and have a shave. It takes 5 mins.”

Second quarter. I decide to make tea for the kids. Kangaroo kebabs. Swanny is getting heaps of it. Don’t bother with the shave, son. Elliott kicks one as he does most weeks. He’s a good one.

I’ve burnt the kebabs. Drew calls a fifty-fifty contest that “Swan wins, just because he’s good.” Collingwood kicks away. The half hour of DVD time is up and we’re all at the dinner table. The kids are as high as kites. Cabin fever after a day inside. I’m not hearing much of the game. The siren goes and with it all the sting of the game. The kebabs are going pretty well, though a bit Chewbacca. Probably should have taken longer about cooking them.

A change comes over the game in the third quarter. For all the expert analyses of tackle counts and quarters won and whatnot, the analyses fail to pick up on VIBE. The vibe of this game is that it’s over. The rest of it is junk time. I’m not really listening, though. I’m thinking of how aligned I am with Martin Flanagan’s view, expressed yesterday in his Saturday Reflection piece in The Age, where he wrote: “when I look after little kids I have to stop doing anything else and just concentrate on them…” I’m cheating here, keeping an ear on the footy. Instead of doing one thing well, I’ve been doing two things badly. But I’m back with the kids now. Again, present. I’ve tuned out of the game.

But I leave the radio on in the background. Just in case. To catch any crescendo rising above the fever pitch. The Dogs have “won” the third quarter. Ridiculous, meaningless analysis.

No bath tonight. So it’s the last quarter and I’m reading Ruby the Red Fairy, sitting on the bedroom floor. She is one of the rainbow fairies. She has been trapped under a big black pot, but saved just now by new friends Kirsty and Rachel. We finish the chapter. Lots of unanswerable questions. Where do fairies come from? Why are they so small? To this Stan Alves adds “What is holding the ball these days?”

CJ arrives home. The game is over. Collingwood have won well. (Ahh, but the Dogs have won the second half.) I’ve multi-tasked (a bit), remembered I’m better off single-tasking, I’ve not seen a single second of play, yet I’ve got the picture. And my weekend book-ends are complete.

That makes six times on the trot that Collingwood has won the Robert Rose Cup. Yesterday I greatly enjoyed reading Mic Rees’ piece “Remembering Robert Rose”. It is with twinges of all of wonder, happiness, sorrow and relief that I write this. Like Robert Rose, I suffered a broken neck in a car accident. Fractured the C5 vertebra. Unlike Robert Rose, I got to walk again.


Collingwood              4.2      11.4     13.6     15.9 (99)

Western Bulldogs     0.2      2.5       4.9      9.11 (65)


Collingwood: Cloke 5, Elliott 2, Pendlebury, Blair, J Thomas, Seedsman, Dwyer, Kennedy, Jolly, Martin.

Western Bulldogs: Giansiracusa 2, Stringer 2, Griffen, Liberatore, Boyd, Stevens, Murphy.


Collingwood: Shaw, Swan, Pendlebury, Cloke, O’Brien

Western Bulldogs: Murphy, Griffen, Stringer


Please see Stan Alves

Crowd: 32,253 (at least 3 short of what would have been possible with a 2pm start)

Votes: Pendlebury 3, Shaw 2, Swan 1


About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Wow, great ending David. Glad you got out of your car accident in good shape. Mic Rees’ piece on Robert Rose was just outstanding.
    I won’t be calling on you to cook the kebabs at my next BBQ. And yes Swanny does need a shave.

  2. David Wilson says

    Good on you Luke. Brilliant effort to be commenting on Almanac posts just hours after the birth of your little Emily.
    I’m perfectly happy to give a miss to BBQ duty. Excellent.. The whole blokes-at-the-barbie, ladies-in-the-shade non-spoken arrangement drives me quietly mental. I wonder why that divide exists.

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