AFL Round 12 – Melbourne v Collingwood: Hunting Woozles

In which P Roos and the football media go hunting and nearly catch a Woozle

One fine winter’s day when Piglet was brushing away the snow in the front of his house, he happened to look up, and there was Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh was walking round and round in a circle, thinking of something else, and when Piglet called out to him, he just went on walking.

“Hallo!” said Piglet, “what are you doing?”

“Hunting,” said Pooh.

“Hunting what?”

“Tracking something,” said Winnie-the-Pooh very mysteriously.

“Tracking what?” said Piglet, coming closer.

“That’s just what I ask myself. I ask myself, What?”

“What do you think you’ll answer?”

“I shall have to wait until I catch up with it,” said Winnie-the-Pooh.


About last year, 2013, the footy industry would say that Melbourne Football Club had a shocker. For most, the paradigm of success is measured only in the W/L column or in premierships won.

That happens in a footy competition; for every winner there must be a loser. So poorly performing clubs always strive for improvement. Yet successfully performing clubs also always strive for improvement. How is one to get a leg-up in such a competitive field?

Life is tough. And so, M Neeld was out.


“Now, look there.” He pointed to the ground in front of him. “What do you see there?”

“Tracks,” said Piglet. “Paw-marks.” He gave a little squeak of excitement. “Oh, Pooh! Do you think it’s a – a – a Woozle?”


About last year, 2013, the footy industry would say that Fremantle Football Club had a beauty. Applying the same W/L paradigm, Freo made their first Grand Final. In finals, they beat Geelong in Geelong and Sydney in Perth before losing the Grand Final to Hawthorn.

Brilliant, right?


“It may be,” said Pooh. “Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. You never can tell with paw-marks.”

With these few words he went on tracking, and Piglet, after watching him for a minute or two, ran after him. Winnie-the-Pooh had some to a sudden stop, and was bending over the tracks in a puzzled sort of way.


But no, no. Upon their defeat in the Grand Final (the Grand Final, no less), Fremantle Football Club and Ross Lyon in particular, were roundly criticized by the commentariat. “Too defensive.” “Ugly grand final Ross’ fault,” “Need to score, Ross, not just block.” “Freo ugly footy never going to win.” The Age carried a story called: “No offence Freo, but a winning score is as important as a good defence.”


“What’s the matter?” asked Piglet.

“It’s a very funny thing,” said Bear, “but there seem to be two animals now. This – whatever-it-was – has been joined by another – whatever-it-is – and the two of them are now proceeding in company. Would you mind coming with me, Piglet, in case they turn out to be Hostile Animals?”


I was surprised. This was new. But I tried to understand. I wanted in on the Groupthink. The W/L column wasn’t the arbiter of a successful coach at all; no. To be successful, a coach needed to create an attacking team.

Ross Lyon’s Freo? (2013 runners-up) Unsuccessful.

Ross Lyon’s St. Kilda? (2009: 19 consecutive wins, minor premiers, lost the Grand Final by 12 points; 2010 drew the Grand Final) Unsuccessful.

Paul Roos’ Sydney Swans? (Premiers 2005) Could you have an unsuccessful premier? By this measure, YES.


Suddenly Winnie-the-Pooh stopped, and pointed excitedly in front of him. “Look!

What?” said Piglet, with a jump. And then, to show that he hadn’t been frightened, he jumped up and down once of twice more in an exercising sort of way.

The tracks!” said Pooh. “A third animal has joined the other two!


Right. I got it.

Ken Hinkley gets it, too, looking at Port’s dash this year. But Melbourne? They have the attacking inclination of the Dalai Lama. I expected them to be roundly condemned during today’s Queen’s Birthday game. Yet today L Darcy, B Taylor and H MacIntosh couldn’t have spruiked harder for P Roos; about what a genius he was.


“I think,” said Piglet, when he had licked the tip of his nose too, and found that it brought very little comfort, “I think that I have just remembered something. I have just remembered something that I forgot to do yesterday and sha’n’t be able to do to-morrow. So now I suppose I really ought to go back and do it now.”

“We’ll do it this afternoon, and I’ll come with you,” said Pooh.

“It isn’t the sort of thing you can do in the afternoon,” said Piglet quickly. “It’s a very particular morning thing, that has to be done in the morning…”


It’s inconsistent commentary. But worse, it’s the same people pissing in the same pockets. It’s Woozle Groupthink Type #1. If P Roos said that he thought he saw a Woozle, it seems that Channels 7, 9 and 10 and News Limited and most Fairfax reporters would be declaring Woozles At Large in breathless headlines. L Darcy would no doubt bet his house on it. Observing this, I reckon P Roos should start a pyramid selling scheme. Or a religion. Melbourne kicked three goals for the entire game today.

Winnie the Pooh

(Bouncing Hamish, Roosy Bear, Luke Darce-eeor, Wise old Dennis and Tigger BT gather to discuss footy)


Christopher Robin came slowly down his tree.

“Silly old Bear,” he said, “what were you doing? First you went round the spinney twice by yourself, and then Piglet ran after you and you went round again together, and then you were just going round a fourth time – ”


R Lyon upset a few with his move from St Kilda to Fremantle. Perhaps former players and staffers now in media mark him harshly for that. Perhaps media types who were scooped or blind-sided by that also mark him harshly. Together, they set up Woozle Groupthink Type #2.

With growth and experience, J Viney and others will grow into their roles. Perhaps they would still have grown and developed under M Neeld. We’ll never know. For now, Melbourne has the Messiah. And despite instilling a near-identical philosophy, R Lyon remains a very naughty boy.


“Wait a moment,” said Winnie-the-Pooh, holding up his paw.

He sat down and thought, in the most thoughtful way he could think. Then he fitted his paw into one of the Tracks . . . and then he scratched his nose twice, and stood up.

“Yes,” said Winnie-the-Pooh.

“I see now,” said Winnie-the-Pooh.

“I have been Foolish and Deluded,” said he, “and I am a Bear of No Brain at All.”

“You’re the Best Bear in All the World,” said Christopher Robin soothingly.

“Am I?” said Pooh hopefully. And then he brightened up suddenly.

“Anyhow,” he said, “it is nearly Luncheon Time.”

So he went home for it.

(All excerpts from Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A.Milne)


I’ve always loved that last part: Pooh sitting down and thinking in the most thoughtful way he could think. A wonderful thing to do.


MELBOURNE     1.3    2.4     3.6   3.10 (28)
COLLINGWOOD 1.2   3.7  5.10   8.13 (61)
Melbourne: B Vince J Howe N Jones.
Collingwood: D Beams 2 T Cloke 2 B Macaffer J Elliott S Pendlebury T Goldsack.
Melbourne: N Jones, B Vince.
Collingwood: S Pendlebury, J Frost, P Seedsman.
UMPIRES Robert Findlay, Chris Kamolins, Leigh Fisher.

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a hydrologist, climate reporter and writer of fiction & observational stories. 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. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Making your team competitive is one thing, but 3 goals in a game on a big ground on a dry day? Roos is killing the game in order to save it.
    I spent the afternoon cooking with the radio on the ABC and the muted TV so I could watch any highlights.
    I scarcely looked up.
    16 men on the field. Soon. Please. So we have a game and skills worth watching. Roos can retire or learn a new trick.

  2. Mind you, Collingwood were nothing to write home about.
    8 goals against a bottom 4 side
    Buckley was outcoached

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Very profound and spot on , OBP commentators are certainly in love with , Roos but you do have to hand it to him that he has turned a rabble in to a competitive combination . I also am becoming more a have the radio on and do other things such as the Knackery when the footy is on less and less games are compulsive watching .
    OBP like , Litza love your imagination well played

  4. Gregor Lewis says

    Now that’s how you paint a picture!
    Nicely done! Spot on … And such.
    But kind to the destructive Mark Neeld I think you are – too much.

    While I think Lyon will have his detractors and adherents always, he succeeded to a point because he built an inviolable belief system first. Unfortunately for him, no matter how much you believe, the Grand Finals he has taken his teams to were against Elite Teams with just as much self-belief.

    When there is no tomorrow and your opponent is ready, motivated and unafraid of today – as we would hope for and expect in a GF – then Lyon’s method will always result in at best, a tight lead for his team, until they can break their opponents.

    Unfortunately, in the Grand Finals Lyon has coached in, those elite teams, waxed, waned & wilted … But never broke.

    It allowed St. Kilda to get ‘unlucky’ twice, through inspired opponents’ play and uninspired choices allowing unfavourable bounces to carry the day away, on your own side.

    It allowed Fremantle to choke as the pre-post media favourite, thus becoming the past-the-post Mondays’ experts whipping boy.

    Neeld managed to further destroy an already reeling sense of self-belief. He instilled the reek – “it rhymes with weak” – of defeatism in his players’ bones. With further apologies to George RR Martin, the best comparison I can give the players under Neeld’s stewardship is, they remind me of Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones.

    Hamstrung into losing their identity and too afraid to do anything about it, even when apparent salvation is at hand. Every one of them but Nathan Jones succumbed to the insidious environment.

    Their name was Reek. It rhymed with Freak. That’s what they turned into. Superfreaks for losing. That’s what they ended up believing defined them.

    Roos’ teams have always been defined by responsibility. Melbourne hasn’t shirked that since they played West Coast this year.

    Lest we forget, the Dees were a poorly adjudicated denial of advantage and a wretched last second lapse of responsibility away from going into the final change, one goal down.

    I don’t like Roos’ ‘style’ much at all. But what he’s doing with his team is IMO, more than admirable.

    Sure, I prefer the ‘Tigger Approach’ (my Hawkers’ Coach – Angry Ant version and Interim Coach – Bouncy Brendan version, seem to have it down) myself, but much as we both ‘love to bounce’, Melbourne needed to remember how to compete first.

    Whether they ever become more bouncy, or Swans circa 2005/6 MkII, I expect Roos to create a competitive team. It will be good to see them evolve from that base, without being jerked like some poor chicken under a Jamaican sunset.


  5. Now that is interesting. (piece and comments alike)

  6. John Ryan says

    What a load of pretentious rubbish

  7. E.regnans says

    G’day all,
    Mixed thread here.
    I’m not suggesting P Roos has done good or done ill.

    But I do reckon the subjective, uniform and unquestioning reporting and commentary we get is worth thinking about. What evidence do we have for claims of P Roos brilliance? There’s no randomised controlled trial here of course (Group A treatment, Group B control). There’s no evidence whatsoever. Yet the commentariat speculate, a commentator with charisma and gravitas takes up the cause, lesser or less confident commentators repeat it, they tell each other what to think, repeat. A mantra is born.

    The same phenomenon happened around R Lyon’s Freo. It also happened around J Gillard and K Rudd and is happening now around T Abbott.
    This is Brave New World -stuff. The passing off of opinion as fact by mainstream media, effectively brainwashing a populace.
    Eyes open.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Eyes open indeed. Well said E.R.
    Great post by the way. Go pies.

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Oh the irony – I was going to reference the Zhou Enlai – “too early to tell” anecdote, when it turns out that indeed that tale itself may be a media driven myth.

    What I was going to say is that if all Roos is able to achieve is to make the Dees more competetive, but still unable to win games, then what will have been achieved? On the other hand, if he is able to first staunch the bleeding, (give the club stability, stop it sliding further into the mire) then go on and produce wins in the future, he may have achieved something. Too early to tell?

  10. “What a load of pretentious rubbish.”
    Funny, I said the same thing about the Eagles performance.

  11. Gregor Lewis says

    What should have been an unnecessary clarification from Mr. Wilson makes clear just how pointless my rant above was.
    In every meaning of the word.
    Out on the full, when I thought I was kicking goals eh?

    Oh well.
    Live and learn…
    Apologies for the misinterpretation.

    But i’m not sorry for what I wrote.

    Just that I misplaced it coz I didn’t ‘get’ the article.

    I hope at least, this makes my extreme contempt of established media narrative clear, as well as my propensity for windbagginess.


  12. outstanding E.

    Brazil will kick more goals against the Socceroos than Melbourne kicked. But everything has a context.

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