AFL Round 14: Collingwood v Essendon: Tangents provide food for thought

By David Enticott

It has been a long day. At 6.29pm I am running to catch the train at Boronia station, having briefly popped in to a family dinner (making the briefest of cameo appearances). I guzzle down the ribs and then race for the train to Richmond station. As I sit down I wonder about the strange fizzy sensation in my stomach . . . perhaps the American ribs weren’t the best choice after all or maybe it was the three glasses of Coke. Either way my mind won’t settle as we rush past the stations on our way to the ‘G. Memories of Zaharakis’ rushed kick in the Anzac Day rain keep flooding back.

I arrive at the ground at 7.30 and meet my cousin outside the NAB ATM. Steve has an unusual perspective on football for a Collingwood supporter: he sees the game through both his eyes. He studied philosophy at university and clearly this has rubbed off on his view of the game. He takes everything in . . . the crowd, the umpires, the opposition, the tactics. Yet underneath it all he has an incredibly simple philosophy about football: that mostly it is about moving through the centre corridor. His clarity and simplicity are just what I need having spent the day racing from holidays at Aireys Inlet to work and then a family dinner.

In the first quarter the Bombers carry out Steve’s prescription to the letter. They win the ball in the backline (generally from Fletcher or McPhee) and then bring it through the centre corridor with incredible precision. They are like surgeons, cutting the game open with the deftest of motions. Lovett and Prismall both win the ball around the ground. At quarter-time the Bombers have kicked 2 goals 6 points, with two out of bounds on the full. Their lead is just three points and this is an injustice.

In the second quarter the Pies find a way to block the centre corridor and the game changes direction. The Bombers struggle to release free men in their backline. The endeavour of several Collingwood players is noteworthy. At one point Dale Thomas runs 100 metres to lay a tackle at another point he runs just as far to give a clear option in the forward line. Maybe that’s the problem with the modern emphasis on statistics . . . they don’t show endeavour. Thomas’ efforts will never register on a highlights reel or a stats sheet and yet they lead the way for others to follow. Another silent man on the stats sheet, Presti, is playing well on Lloyd while the unheralded O’Bree wins countless contests around the stoppages. By half-time we are neck and neck in most of the statistics but six goals ahead on the scoreboard.

Steve and I go off on several tangents during the break . . . the Ashes (we are worried about team selections and wonder why Brad Hodge is not picked in the squad); the Tour de France (is Cadel’s team up to it); motor racing (Steve finds it boring and may have a point); team changes for the next few weeks (perhaps bring in either Clarke or Cox).

When the game restarts Collingwood continue to assert their dominance on the contest. Josh Fraser is relentless in the ruck and on several occasions finds our players in space from his hitouts. It is as if Josh is carrying the headlines from Anzac Day on his black and white back and shaking them off one by one. At the end of the quarter he lays his stamp on the game by kicking a snapped goal from a forward-line ruck contest. He finishes the night the most influential player on the ground.

Maybe this is the whole reason that we go to the footy . . . because you can never quite tell how things will turn out. Life rarely runs in straight lines, more often it is like a series of tangents running in all sorts of unpredictable directions. One week a villain, the next a hero.

On the way home Steve has a surprise of his own. He is off to Adelaide tomorrow to play with his melodic death metal band. I’d never have picked him as the keyboard player in a death metal outfit, but then life always has its surprises. I believe the lead singer of the band is a lawyer.

David Enticott is the Minister of the Rosanna Baptist Church, who enjoys preaching sermons about the many mysteries of life.

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