AFL Round 16 – Gold Coast v Collingwood: Pies eclipsed by Suns as old and new tribes meet

Please note that I have written a separate, much longer and (even more) Pies-centric report for the Floreat Pica Society which can be seen on the site later in the week

Tribalism. I reckon it is what the old VFL was built on, and like most things it had its light side and its shadow side (apparently Vic Park was not a pleasant venue for opposition supporters, nor the area adjacent to the Animal Enclosure at Moorabbin).  Certainly my memories of growing up and going to the old suburban grounds are that you knew that you were either on our patch or their patch and were acutely aware of the difference.

There are many things that have changed in our game and the home or away experience is one of them.  The eerily impassive atmosphere of last Sunday evening’s Pies versus Blues scheduling fiasco disturbed me, despite the Pies winning.  These clashes used to fizz like Bombe Alaskas but this one was more blancmange and this is a growing trend – quiet, widely spread crowds with the most populated and passionate areas often situated behind vast unoccupied expanses of reserved and higher cost seating.

One situation where tribalism still feels present is when your team plays interstate.  I have made a habit in recent years of getting to one interstate Pies game each season.  It is a good excuse for a trip but the tribalism is also a great hook – interstate I am acutely aware of other Pies, and that there are larger numbers in the other tribe.

This year Metricon Stadium was my interstate destination.  I first journeyed here in 2011 to see the Pies take on the first-season Suns and that game went along the lines of:

Ladder position pre-game Pies 1st Suns 16th (remarkably the only team below them was Port Adelaide)
Number of those on bus pre-game that could sing the Suns’ song 0
Pre-game atmosphere The carnival is in town, crowd 80% Pies 20% Suns
My pre-game estimation that we would win the game 100%
Result Pies by 54 points


Three years on it was a very different scenario, with the Suns hot on our heels in the bottom half of the eight and deserving favouritism for this game on their home ground which they have built into somewhat of a fortress. They have come a long way in those three years.

My daughter Holly and I made the drive down from our holiday accommodation on the Sunshine Coast.  This time the shuttle bus trip to the ground was about 50/50 and inside the ground it was more Suns than Pies.  A record Carrara crowd saw what Peter Landy would have called a game of two halves.

The Pies controlled the first half, with Cloke marking everything and Witts dominant in the ruck.  Unfortunately we yet again kicked inaccurately, racking up ten successive points from early in the second quarter, and took only an eleven point lead into the main break.

A couple of early defensive errors in the third quarter meant that the Suns quickly took the lead and they had the run and the apparent conviction.  When Ablett suffered a game-ending shoulder injury, the odds shifted to the Pies’ favour, and moreso when further injuries meant the Suns had no interchanges possible from early in the last quarter.

The atmosphere in the last quarter was electric, with a raucous crowd seeing a pulsating finish, the ball slingshotting from end to end.  The Suns got their lead out to fourteen points, which could have been more as they missed a few, before a late Pies surge had the margin at less than a kick with a couple of minutes remaining.

The Pies won the ball in their forward half and had numbers ahead of the ball when an extraordinary event occurred which would have seen an inquiry into sub-continental bookmakers in other sports.  Clinton Young made the biggest blunder a Pie has made since Phil Manassa handballed to an opponent in the goal square in the 1977 drawn Grand Final, dropping an uncontested mark twenty metres out nearly directly in front.  The moment was gone for the Pies and so was the game.

The Suns had four injured players on the bench, were comprehensively outplayed in the first half and were on the wrong end of the umpiring but scored a famous win.  One of the newest tribes had beaten the biggest tribe and did they make some noise.  I went home dejected with the result and the opportunities we frittered away but having greatly enjoyed attending a game with a passionate, tribal atmosphere.

Suns                      2.2          5.3          8.7          11.14 (80)

Collingwood:      4.3          6.8          6.13        10.15 (75)


Suns: Day 4, Dixon 2, Lynch 2, Hall, Prestia, Bennell

Collingwood: Cloke 2, Young 2, Kennedy 2, Goldsack, Sidebottom, Thomas, Seedsman


Suns: Swallow, O’Meara, Day, Harbrow, Bennell, Lynch

Collingwood: Sidebottom, Pendlebury, Witts, Cloke, Seedsman, Kennedy

Votes for Malarkey Medal

3 Swallow (Suns)

2 O’Meara (Suns)

1 Sidebottom (Coll)

Umpires: Ryan, Mollison, Nicholls

Crowd 24,032

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