AFL Round 19 – Collingwood v Essendon: Emotional Rescue

By Rob Scott

I’m sitting in my apartment in Stockholm. It’s 8.30 in the morning. Another long, summer day dawned hours ago and I’m waiting for the live feed from the MCG to kick in. And the coffee.


My nerves are shot. I’ve been up most of the night working on a project and feel decidedly ‘underdone’ going into the match. I could get emotional. Which spells trouble for the family, who are still asleep.


I miss the footy. Nothing can replace being there. And though I’ve come to enjoy my expat match day routine – the coffee, the croissants, the post-match nap – I miss the days of emptying my lungs into an unsuspecting outer.


Things could get ugly in the outer today. The build up to this game has been chaotic. The ASADA investigation continues to run roughshod over the emotions of the football community. And Essendon continues to tear itself apart. Almost forgotten in the build up has been the game itself.  I can’t recall a prelude to a game quite like it and have no idea what to expect.


Emotion in footy. It’s complicated. It’s everywhere.


Even in the postmodern, hard-nosed, corporatized culture of professional football, emotion is bubbling away. At every level. Ready to explode. To engulf. To overwhelm. It can win or lose games. Flags even. It can sack coaches. It can move supporters. And lose supporters. Football’s narrative is driven by its emotion-charged moments. Moments of exhilaration, exasperation, pride, guilt and shame. We see it every week. It can be a team’s 19th man, or its Achilles’ heel.


And it can drain the life out of you, which is what Essendon is about to find out.


The live stream finally kicks in just as Collingwood runs through what remains of its soggy, wind-swept banner. Befitting the lead up, the game starts under a blanket of low cloud and rain. The four points will have to be earned if they’re to be won.


In somewhat of a surprise, the Pies begin strongly. Something they haven’t done for weeks. Months. They are controlling the ball and their emotions. Collingwood’s new heartthrob, Jamie Elliot, summing up the conditions, toe pokes the ball to himself, Wayne Harms style, scoring the first goal.


Early in the game, Harry O’Brien lays a crunching tackle on Jobe Watson. It makes a statement. Often, the emotional wellbeing of a team (& its supporters) derives its sustenance from one act of individual bravery, application or brilliance. In 1990, it was Daics’ first goal. Today, Harry O is the donor and Collingwood is feeling good about itself.


Harry O is, if nothing else, an emotional character. His life turns on his emotional responses to the world, and the injustice he perceives. He talks about ‘non-football’ things, like fear and conscience. This has won him many admirers. But the emotion he expresses on field is equally compelling and today he will play with the freedom that is his wont. There is no greater force on the ground. It will be one of his finest performances for the club.


The weather is having an impact. The unflappable and unemotional Dane Swan is in his element, executing one of his trademark grubber kicks that aquaplanes across the MCG wing, setting up Collingwood’s second.


On a wet day, the Maggies are first to the ball. Keeping their feet. Keeping their heads. Keeping it simple.


And they are playing like a team. When a team plays like a team, individuals disappear. Their frailties, too. Due to a solid run of ‘form’, Ben Sinclair has become the poster-boy for the Collingwood skeptics. Today, he is running, linking and backing up his teammates. Like Luke Ball. Like Dayne Beams. Like Jarrod Blair. Like everyone else. It’s been the hallmark of great Collingwood teams, and has been noticeably absent. This is Collingwood being Collingwood.


Five minutes into 2nd quarter, the Bombers are wilting. The only way they look like getting a goal is through a dodgy free kick. Which they get. It sparks a mini-revival and though still 5 goals adrift, Hird’s men look recharged. They hold up Collingwood, and all of the Magpies’ frailties come rushing back – the fumbling, the missed shots for goal, the general reluctance.


Enter Heath Shaw. For Heath Shaw, footy without emotion would be like playing monopoly without money. The quixotic defender re-enacts his goal saving heroics of the 2010 grand final replay, laying a flying tackle on a hapless Brendan Goddard. It stops Goddard and Essendon in their tracks and the ball is rushed down the ground into the waiting arms of Elliot who restores Collingwood’s mojo.


The siren sounds for half-time, and the Collingwood players, led by Harry O, surround Goddard, who resembles a totem pole for a group of men desperate to rekindle memories, and the emotion, of their most recent flag.


Collingwood are clearly winning in the emotion stakes.


The Pies have had their own dramas this year. Inconsistent results, accusations of player discontent, questions about coaching tactics, even their own drug use revelations. They’re in need of their own emotional rescue of sorts.


But there will be no let up today. They are playing a demoralized team. Their tackling remains fierce and the greasy Sherrin becomes a pin-ball, ricocheting from one rag-doll to another until eventually, inevitably spilling into the arms of the next Magpie goalkicker in the queue. It’s stirring stuff. The Dons, in simple terms, have been unable to adapt their game to the conditions. But it’s much more than that. It’s like they don’t know where they are.


Ten minutes into the last term, the Dons execute their first toe poke. It‘s not enough. The turmoil which they have been at pains to keep away from the field of play, has now entered it. It’s in their heads. And it’s messing with their emotions. There may be no way back.


For the Pies, the emotional rollercoaster might just be about to begin. I might be needing more coffee.

COLLINGWOOD         5.3    8.6   14.9   20.13 (133)

ESSENDON                 0.2    2.4     5.8      7.12 (54) 



Collingwood: Cloke 5, Elliot 3, Reid 3, Blair 2, O’Brien, Ball, Beams, Lynch, Pendlebury, Macaffer, Sidebottom

Essendon: Kommer, Bellchambers, Melksham, Hardingham, Goddard, Dell’Olio, Gumbleton



Collingwood: O’Brien, Sidebottom, Swan, Ball, Shaw, Elliot, Pendlebury, Cloke


Essendon: Watson, Heppell, Goddard
Official crowd: 69,821 at the MCG

Our Votes: 3 O’Brien (Coll.) 2 Sidebottom (Coll) 1 Swan (Coll)

About rob scott

Rob Scott (aka Haiku Bob) is a peripatetic haiku poet who calls Victoria Park home. He writes haiku in between teaching whisky and drinking English, or something like that.


  1. Peter Flynn says

    Superb HB,

    You need a cone of silence.

    The Pies at the Liffey (Irish pub in Stockholm) perhaps?


  2. The tattered banner said it all. Memories of Davey Crockett spring to mind. Standing defiantly on the shell scarred battlements of the Alamo, bullet riddled Lone Star Banner fluttering forlornly in the biting south Texas winter wind. Only this time the history was reversed.

    Great coverage HB. Great win CFC.

  3. Steve Baker says

    The Bombers are cooked. Been going up and down on the spot since the Bulldogs game. If he was a horse, Dyson Heppell would have been in the spelling paddock weeks ago. Connections need a G.H.L.a.T* for overworking him. David Zaharakis has been lame since the mid-season break.

    The Rocca Borthers, Travis Cloke and now Harry O. It’s like we’ve got an agreement in place with Collingwood to help key players work themselves back into form.

    Well done Pies. Put the foot on our throats from the off and never let up.

    *Good Hard Look at Themselves

  4. Brilliant report HB. Never thought I would enjoy a Collingwood win and match report this much.
    Distilling it into a haiku will be a test for the loss/good win/bad theory. Just putting the pressure on you. I look forward to reading it.

  5. Love it Steve – the Bombers are cooked. Like a bad batch of meth? ’twill be interesting to see how they play out the rest of the season. If they fold again there’s going to have to be a serious investigation held into what’s been going on out there where the big jet engines roar.

    And not a contrived one either. Keep the politics right out of it. Not one structured to save the EFC, Shoeless Jim’s rep, nor AD’s place in its history. We’re talking about The Game here. The Commissioners – we still do have Commissioners don’t we — need to call an arms length investigation to go over the whole program the so called football department’s been running out there at Melrose Drive. Nothing less will clear the air and let us move on.

    And Essendon can have their licence suspended until the Inquiry’s report is tabled. That should make sure there’s no filibustering.

    As you can see. I’ve had a gut full of the whole sorry mess. Ahmed Saad’s treatment did it for me.

  6. Collingwood V Tigers final at the ‘G’ in Sept?


  7. Steve Baker says

    Agree Wrap. A no-holds barred external investigation would be nice. Like by, say, the ACC or ASADA? That said, it’s not like Ziggy’s report whacked the club with a wet lettuce leaf. It was pretty damning.

    The AFL won’t do anything as the TV rights deal guarantees broadcasters 9 games a week. Instead, it will be fines and loss of draft picks that will make Carlton look like they got a stern talking to from the headmaster in 2001/02/03 by comparison.

    This whole thing has been like an episode of Absolute Power meets The Thick of It that’s gone on way too long and is begging for the screen and the 12-gauge. While watching Charles Prentiss and Malcolm Tucker going head-to-head would make a great TV show, in real life, its been unedifying and disgusting, to say the least.

    Cynical? Moi? *feigns indignation*

  8. Nice read, HB. It’s almost like being there, (which I was … and at the Cric’s pre-game, drinking sweet, sweet beer). P.S. For the record, you watch these things on a ‘Live Steam’, not ‘Stream’.

  9. haiku bob says


    It’s funny.
    Reckon I see more of the game now.
    Or miss less.
    It’s either the beer or the coffee.

    Thanks for the comments chaps.

    Now for the haiku…


  10. Phil Hill says

    Agreed with the votes but I paid big bucks to see teams that i do not barrack for. Paid for the family as well. Remind me to only go to Anzac day games.

    Essendon owe me some excitment.

  11. e.regnans says

    HB, love it.
    “Emotion in footy. It’s complicated. It’s everywhere.”

  12. Stirring stuff, HB. Always love any reference to Daics and THAT goal on THAT great day!

    Speaking of stirring, you nailed it with Harry’s tackle (please don’t take that the wrong way punters), his inspiration on his teammates/supporters and his BOG status. Also with Heater’s killer blow on Goddard and the symmetry with 2010.

    The long slow loud Collingwood chant at half time, as the players left the battlefield after the push n shove (not sure if it came across the stream/steam), was probably the first time since its springtime 2010 chart topping status, that it seemed to be back to its instinctive and passionate self.

    Essendon usually brings out the best in the Pies (since 1990 thru good bad and ugly times, we generally grow a leg) and Sunday was another great moment. Add to that the spice of Pincushion-gate, and it was an emotion charged event. And you captured it brilliantly as usual from the other side of the world.

    Floreat Pica.

  13. Excellent synopsis from Stockholm, HB.

    It was cold, wet and windy at the G.

    Just the way we like it.

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