AFL Round 18 – Collingwood v GWS: Bullfighting

“He couldn’t really remember life before the children. He couldn’t feel it as something he’d once lived. It was too far away, and buried. Something as simple as walking down the street – he was always a father. Or looking at a woman – he was a father.”  Bullfighting, Roddy Doyle.

– Come on Yum, we’re leaving.

She’s around the back. She’s been to get her shoes from the back door.

– Here I am Ooon. Oh, you’re ready now.

– Let’s go. Are we going to the tram stop Dad?

– Yep, the tram stop. Let’s go.

They’re chiacking down the street, down the laneway.

– Did you splash in that puddle?

– Here he comes.

– Dad, a tram just left.

– How long til the next one? Dad, can you check on your iPhone?

– It won’t be long. Look, up there. Let’s count how long it takes for the tram to arrive here.

– No, let’s use the timer.

The tram arrives 2 minutes and 31 seconds later.

We’re on the tram. The fold-up seats. Three-in-a-row. There’s a new Dad opposite. Young one giggling and bouncing on his knee.

– I used to do that with you girls. Look, can you see the MCG?

– Yes.

– Where?

– There, Ooon. See the big lights?

– Oh. There.


We’re at the Yarra Park. No cars in the garden this day.

– Dad, I’m going to run down to that statue. Do you think I can?

– Go.

She’s fast. It’s a statue is of Betty Cuthbert.

– Is that where we buy icy-poles?

It’s 12 degrees.

Walking around to Gate 4.

– Is this where we buy icy-poles?

– No. No icy-poles today.

People milling around. Not a lot. Ground announcers impose their voices loudly on the parkland.

– Dad, why do you have to have your bag open for inspection?

– Oh, people aren’t allowed to bring alcohol or glass or dangerous things into the MCG.

– What if people bring those things?

– Well they need to either go home, or put those things in the bin at the entrance.


30 minutes to game time. There’s barely anyone here.

– Dad, what if we didn’t have a reserved seat?

– We could have sat anywhere on the top deck.

– Oh. Dad, can we go up there to have a look?

– Sure.


There are even less people up here.

Melbourne is playing a home game at Docklands today. Shouldn’t they be playing here? Ten minutes to game time.


The bottom deck at the Punt Road end is pretty full now. That was fast.

– Look Yum, there are the Giants fans.

– Oh, there aren’t many of them.

– Dad, is that the Giants song? We’ve never heard that before, have we Ooon?


We’re on. Living history. I’m watching Giants for the first time. It’s K. Sheedy’s last competitive outing at the MCG. Yum & Ooon’s first full footy match.


– Dad, what does “rushed” mean?

Ooon has taken on the Record. It will be her role today.

Jeremy Cameron is moving well. Attacking the pill. Looking likely every single time. Why are they chasing Buddy?

The lights are on.

It’s quarter time. 3.3.21 to 4.2.26. Jeremy Cameron has all four. He’s the forward from central casting.


Second quarter much like the first. Only a couple out there really having a crack.

– Dad, I’m drawing a sad face next to Jeremy Cameron because he’s beating us.

– Dad, that’s his fifth goal in a row! Now I have to do a tally line and it’s only the 2nd quarter.

It’s a very low intensity game. None of that manic tacklesmotherchasetackle business.

– Dad, can I have some food?

Half time 4.6.30 to 7.4.46. I expect Collingwood to win this. Still playing in second gear. Must be hard to get up to manic level week in, week out. But that’s why they’re paid the big bucks.

Yum and Ooon meet their Aunty, Uncle and a cousin at half time. There’s a lot of running up & down & chasing & energy among these three young uns. The Woods need to find their inner 6-year-old.


– Dad, it’s night time. Look, Yum, it’s dark.

Swan goals in the first minute.

Cloke in the third.

Sidebottom (Dad, is that really his name?) in the fourth.

HarryO in the sixth.

The chant is up. Yum and Ooon are looking at each other with sparks in their eyes. Clapping along. This is the good stuff.

Jeremy Cameron kicks another.

And another.

– Dad, that’s seven. If he gets any more I’ll run out of room.

Three quarter time. 9.12.66 to 10.4.64. The Giants haven’t missed a shot at goal. Four rushed behinds.

– Dad, I’m tired.

– Dad, can we have the cheezels?

– Nah, I’ve got something else.

– What is it?

– Chocolate. Look, Top Deck.

– Oooh, look Ooon, Top Deck. Dad, can we have some chocolate?

– After your apple.


Last quarter and Collingwood kick away.

Yum is slouching on my arm. Tired. Would have been grand to have this game scheduled for 2pm start rather than 4.40pm.

Ooon is defacing all photos in the Footy Record. Moustaches. Gary Ablett has a hair piece.

– Dad, look I’m drawing tattoos on this guy. Look.

Kids observations again as a bellwether of popular culture.

– Oh, look Dad, Ooon has drawn tattoos.

– Dad, look, the tattoo says “Pop Goes The Weasel.”

– Yum, Ooon, that’s the best I’ve seen.


Siren and we’re all singing the song.

Yum tells me to stop.

– Dad, stop singing.

The Woods found the correct gear eventually. The Giants looked lively. Jeremy Cameron looked a capable footballer. And time kept marching on.


Collingwood  3.3  4.6  9.12  15.15(106)

Greater Western Sydney 4.2  7.4  10.4  10.6(66)


Collingwood: Swan 3, Sidebottom 3, Cloke 3, Reid 2, Beams, O’Brien, Elliott, Witts.

GWS: Cameron 7, Shiel, Smith, Scully.


Collingwood: Swan, Sidebottom

GWS: Cameron

Umpires: Ryan, Armstrong, Fila

Crowd: 32,691 at ground level of MCG.

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. Beautifully written again.
    Got a lump in my throat.
    Could imagine the whole story.
    Go Yum and Ooon! Great family times.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Great work David. I was there too with my oldest son, 5 1/2, his first AFL game, seems it was a great night for introductions to the big time. Enjoyed watching Jeremy Cameron, what a super talent. The top deck chocolate sounds good for next time.

  3. e.regnans says

    Thanks Ma.
    I should say that we didn’t give our kids those names. Yum and Ooon are (just some of) their self-proclaimed nicknames. Good fun.
    These days can feel exhausting.
    I went to hear Roddy Doyle speak in Melbourne last year; talking about the life and about his “Bullfighting” work of short stories of men coming to the crossroads in their lives. He recounted how when his kids were young, he would find himself standing in the cold and rain on a Saturday morning in Dublin, alongside a football pitch, watching his kids perform badly at sport.
    And he would think: ‘How did my life come to this? What decisions did I make to deliver me to this point right now?’
    He then said, that that’s all behind him now. The kids have all grown up.
    And that he misses those Saturday mornings like hell.

  4. The only top deck I do is the chocolate variety. Thankfully we found a great spot down low for a perfect view. I just wish I was watching through my son’s eyes, his version of reality was a lot more positive than mine! Nice account David, they take in EVERYTHING don’t they. I know I did.

  5. e.regnans says

    Thanks Luke.
    With yourself and JD, yes it was quite the first date night.
    Hope you managed to field the avalanche of questions that no doubt spilled from little Reynolds.
    May that be the first of many MCG outings.
    Thinking back to when we were each ~5/6/7, we never would have expected to watch the Giants. I wonder what our kids will see unfold there in their lifetimes…?

  6. David Wilson says

    Thanks JD, they sure do take in everything. It’s brilliant.
    Up until recently I’ve been happy enough to sit anywhere at the footy. But the more I go, the more I’m inclined to get as close to the playing surface as possible. Had a good crowd of people around us on Saturday. A group of friendly & vocal older ladies (“Oh my GOODNESS! Don’t tell me! Oh my GOODNESS! Who’s on him? Pick them UP!!)
    That makes a difference, too.

  7. e.regnans says

    Yesterday I fond myself in a running race with 7-year-old Ooon down by the Merri Creek. She was quick.
    At the end she said
    – Just like Betty err… Cuthbert.
    – Good memory, Ooon.
    – Do you know how I remembered? I remembered the Betty bit and then I remembered that it was something to do with Tintin. So I tried Betty Tintin and I tried Betty Haddock and I tried Betty Calculus and then I remembered. Cos Dad do you remember what Professor Calculus’ first name is? It’s Cuthbert. So I got Betty Cuthbert.
    Taking an interest.

  8. Jim-Jam Tinklebottom says

    good-o good-o

    The joys of fatherhood, a bliss which outweighs beating Carlton in the granny.

    But only just.

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