AFL Round 15 – Collingwood v Carlton: Sacred kingfisher positivity

“Memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else’s version more than his own.”
– Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

I am everyone and I am everything. I am thought and event and intention and action. And I am with you when you articulate this curious business in which so much football continues to be written and spoken and shown, and yet most of it is of such little substance. But I, Señor Miguel Gaston, whose life-long ability to maintain the clear-eyed vantage of the circling raptor had won me both admirers and enemies of formidable yet equal strength and equal number, noted the following things as I made my way this evening on the back of an oversized Growling Grass Frog named Geronimo, to the MCG:
– N Buckley was yearning for positivity with a clarity of voice and purpose rare except among those rarely challenged or those unaccustomed to rolling waves of personal or existential doubt.
– M Malthouse was yearning for… what? It was hard to say. Respect?
– A Demetriou and now other administrators and commentators were yearning for a place in history. Something beyond even their collective control.
– Most punters were yearning to be treated with common (or perhaps not-so-common) respect.

“Geronimo, my splendid frog,” I began, for I felt an unwavering affection for my amphibious mount. “This is a game. It is only a game. And as such, let it be fun.”

“Agreed,” agreed Geronimo, who was not only over-sized, but also capable of conversing in English. “Once we had footy as a destination of escape from life’s miserable distractions. Now, footy carries the stench of those very distractions. What is to be done?”

“I know, I know,” I agreed. “I know.”

“Great,” enthused Geronimo, leaping along the Merri Creek, swollen by the afternoon’s drainage of northern Melbourne. “How?”

“The only way for one to shift the burden is to unburden oneself.”

“If it’s to be, it’s up to me?”

“Precisely,” I said. “Let’s forget grim. The violence is fine, but let’s do away with forlorn despair.”

“Footy more Tarantino, less Scorsese,” offered Geronimo, whose life ambition it remained to appear alongside Margaret and David on their weekly movie review show, and anticipating such an event, had worked hard to develop a not-without-credence knack for impersonating classic scenes of movie dialogue.

“Very good, Geronimo. Now, drop me at the Dight’s Falls, good frog. I’ll take the Sacred Kingfisher from there.”

Torrential rain of the afternoon had ceased, though the sky remained darkened by thick grey cloud. All heat energy had vanished from the immediate surrounds.

Alongside the rushing water, I thrice whistled, heralding such a rapidity of sacred kingfisher movement that two pairs of cyclists, heading in opposing directions, wet and cold, were sufficiently distracted to collide with each other.

“Now, Shivioli, my magical sacred kingfisher, let us keep our eyes tonight upon magic,” I charismatically declared.

“No wuckers, China. So far I’ve already ignored an appalling scheduling disaster of 7:10pm on a Sunday.”

“An impressive start. Can you weave between these cables above the G, Shivioli? This cold and wet takes me back. It’s brilliant. Let’s get amongst it.”

“Sure. We’re missing only a gluepot in the centre from an otherwise classic winter scene. Tell me, Señor Miguel Gaston, shall I ignore this Collingwood Dance Crew performing now in the pre-match vacuum?”

“Yes, yes. Magic, remember. We’re looking only for magic.”

“Grand, China. Then I’m not commenting on this Carlton banner, either? ‘Proud supporters of a backdated league competition #22 flags.’ What would Jeff Dowsing have to say, I wonder?”

“That’s the spirit. Ignore all of that.”

Shivioli circled down towards ground level in the bitter swirling southerly, with me, Señor Miguel Gaston, gamely astride her back. On this last approaching leg, the pair of us shrank progressively smaller until the sacred kingfisher and man were together no larger than a European wasp. With the shrinking size came a matching increase in capacity for both speed and acceleration.

“What the bloody hell is that?!” Shivioli cried, as thunderous booms and crackles filled the concrete void. Fireworks ignited the night, coincidentally burning unnecessary dollars and carbon, as Collingwood ran onto the field. “Is it New Year’s Eve?”

“Eyes down, Shivioli,” I entreated. “That’s showbiz; definitely not magic.”

And so, with the absence of fanfare, a footy game commenced in the now usual way of unnatural silence.

Shortly thereafter: “What if a bloody goal umpire needs a score review to be sure it’s not hit the post?” asked the incredulous kingfisher.

“Eyes down, Shivioli.”

And then, bit by exciting-on-the-field bit, magic happened. Aware of it, expectant of it, we were rewarded in the way I was certain that we would be:
– J Elliott tackled unaccountably and unbelievably well.
– D Swan, in characteristic high-speed waddle, had the cake of slippery pig-skin on a string.
– S ‘Neo’ Pendlebury feigned, weaved with jaw-dropping awareness.
– D Beams, T Goldsack anticipated as if using premonition.
– Everywhere together, and in side-by-side cliche, the black and white gypsy troupe was up. The magic on display was of fast hands and of fast positioning and of fast decision-making. It was the magic of speed.
– C Yarran, too, danced with the magic desperation of a fire-walker.
– And Z Tuohy, in a moment of pure magical inspiration, unloaded a barrel from a full back kick-in.
– D Beams controlled and then picked up a moving, skidding, loose, wet ball while moving at pace and under threat of imminent physical harm in the centre, leading directly to a T Goldsack goal.
All this, and it was only quarter time.
CO 6.3.39
CA 2.2.14

Shivioli flew low over the Olympic Stand. “This mum with three kids has done superbly to bring the Bag of Infinite Preparation,” said Shivioli. “So far she’s revealed a towel to dry the seats, lollipops, two extra jumpers and a raincoat.”

“Magnificent,” I agreed. “I feel some continuing magic now.”

Whereupon L Henderson theatrically and skilfully sold dummies to both L Keeffe and T Goldsack deep in the pocket, creating a goal for B McLean.
– H Lumumba took them on. Magically. Heroically.
– Beams continued as conjuror.
– L Keefe continued his one-man high wire act, seeming to operate at once at both full throttle and at the very margins of his ability.
– C Yarran lit up the crowd from half back.

CO 8.8.56
CA 6.3.39

Shivioli darted over the Great Southern Stand crowd and then over the Auskick kids. “N Buckley was right. Positivity is the way to go,” she said. “Though there aren’t many here, are there?”

“N Buckley was right,” I agreed. “But footy, as life itself, takes many forms. The genius of positivity is in picking the moments. It’s a noticing. An awareness. And no, this is the smallest AFL crowd I’ve been amongst all year.”

The third quarter was underway.
Again we saw D Beams perform minor miracles of ball-handling at pace.
But the highlight, almost knocking Shivioli out of the sky in awe, was a rapid fire example of decision making, at pace, under pressure, requiring skill, courage and dexterity, from S Sidebottom.
“It’s the little things,” garbled Shivioli.

CO 10.12.72
CA 7.7.49

Without warning, Carlton were right back in this. The scoreboard even became a point of interest for the first time in the game, as Carlton continued to make the running early in the last.
Yet from a full back kick-in, against the run-of-play, the pill ended with D Beams (“he won’t miss”) who marked spread-eagled, date pointing heavenwards, and assumed the upside-down dog position for an uncomfortably long time. Adults of particular upbringing averted their eyes.

“That Neo Pendlebury pulls some moves, doesn’t he?” observed an understated Shivioli, as S Pendlebury again swerved and dodged and moved effortlessly through his full range of gears, all while making crucial decisions under pressure.

C Yarran continued to use his pace as a destructive weapon off half back and through the middle. And when L Henderson gave J Frost the slip, Carlton were coming home strongly.
Then, with the stocks in trouble, some timely D Swan magic dazzled both Shivioli and me. With desperately quick thinking as the defensive square was under siege, D Swan toe-poked the pill out to his own advantage, and with a ping-ping-ping of possession and one inglorious intercept, S Sidebottom kicked a goal to steady the game.

“You were right, Señor Miguel Gaston,” the sacred Kingfisher said, as she lifted me high over the centre square. “Magic is where you look for it.”

And with that, D Swan smothered a Carlton forward move with his bum.

“Goodnight, Señor Miguel Gaston,” called Shivioli as she dropped me at home (thankfully, as trams were running with a frequency of one per 38 minutes on this Sunday night). “I love watching D Swan.”

“Goodnight Shivioli. Likewise. Keep your memory of this night. You never know who may try to take it from you.”


Collingwood 6.3  8.8  10.12    13.13 (91)
Carlton          2.2    6.3    7.7     11.10 (76)
Collingwood: C Young 2 L Ball 2 S Pendlebury 2 S Sidebottom 2 D Beams J Witts L Keefe T Cloke T Goldsack.
Carlton: A Everitt 2 L Henderson 2 B Gibbs B McLean C Judd D Thomas L Casboult M Murphy T Menzel.
Collingwood: Swan, Pendlebury, Beams, Sidebottom
Carlton: Yarran, Gibbs
Umpires: Ben Ryan, Scott Jeffery, Mathew Nicholls.
Official Crowd: 40,936 people and 1 sacred kingfisher at MCG.

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. I take it that Clarrie Grimmet has now officially been put out to pasture? Or is he reserved exclusively for transcontinental trips?
    I think the AFL scheduling is to fill in the gap to the first World Cup game because of the Wimbledon rest day.

  2. E.regnans says

    G’day PB,
    Clarrie snuffs and stamps and throws his head around, as does stablemate Harry Collier, but only when an event of consequence looms.
    Both horses were wisely still and under blankets last evening.
    Had a seat in row L.
    Could hear the players breathing. And the runners coaching. Eerie quiet.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks as always , OBP ironic out and about selling raffle tickets for , Down Syndrome having the game on in the background on the tv I must have been 1 of the very few enjoying the idiotic time slot of the game ! What odds would you have got that the crows v power game would have been the largest attendance for the round at the start of the year ? Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee wouldn’t have taken , 500 to 1 odds !
    Amazing that , Adelaide crowds are propping the afl up to some extent .
    Sidebottom v impressive after a spell back from the paddock thanks OBP

  4. JfzWfN1tTgiKYHjY6tVyTIMJ5Hn4dThvw1ZOgSfWkQo. says

    Excellent review David capturing all that was good about a stoush that in a weird way channelled Collingwood Carlton games of yesteryear. Just a shame the ‘G was so lacking for atmosphere to capitalise on a compelling contest of good versus evil!

  5. E.regnans says

    Cheers OBP,
    S Sidebottom and T Goldsack both impressed on return to the side.
    E Maguire making news here calling for compensation from the AFL regarding the scheduling & poor turnout. Again proving the maxim that people start listening/ acting when dollars are threatened.
    Hope you avoided frostbite on your raffle ticket rounds.

  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Dave, loved how you found a positive view of the match. We won, which is good and Kennedy showed a bit. However, by the end I wanted to read Bukowski. So many errors from overpaid frail young men.

  7. E.regnans says

    Thanks JD (nice pseudonym)
    Glad to know you also found it compelling. Reckon we can avoid the doldrums by choosing to avoid the doldrums.

    Thanks Phil, excuse my ignorance, but I don’t know Bukowski.
    Is it the ‘rather stick pins in my eyes’ equivalent?

  8. LOL, bloody iPhone!

    You can call me JfzWfN1t for short.

  9. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Dave, agree re: not choosing the doldrums, but the AFL is doing its best to task us!
    Bukowski is more ‘metho down the gullet’ than pins in the eyes. Cheers.

  10. “Footy more Tarantino, less Scorsese” is a fantastic line David. Sadly, I fear it may become more Adam Sandler under the current administration.

    As always a wonderfully evocative, Lewis Carroll-like report. Well done to your Pies too!

  11. E.regnans says

    Cheers Mickey,
    That’s a worrying thought.
    Though I’d favour a Happy Gilmore -themed Round.
    But we’d need to cast a “pretentious and arrogant star” as Shooter McGavin…

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