AFL Round 2 – Collingwood v Melbourne: Pies juggle form without dropping the game

by Steve Merry

It has been said that there are no easy wins in football. In the lead-up to this clash between Collingwood and Melbourne, however, the football world seemed to have forgotten the old cliché, with even club stalwarts Garry Lyon and David Schwarz conceding that Melbourne had no hope of winning. The only thing to be salvaged from the game for the Dees, apparently, was pride. Bookies had Collingwood at the unbackable odds of $1.02, with Melbourne’s odds stretching beyond $14 at some betting agencies.

Despite club officials’ assertions to the contrary, it is unlikely that players are able to ignore such pre-game expectations completely. And so, as I walked from my ever-reliable parking spot near Hoddle Street to the MCG, the question that I pondered was whether or not our boys, now carrying the baggage of heavy favouritism, would be able to display the same level of intensity that had helped them to upset the Bulldogs in round one.

For Melbourne, this Easter weekend match represented many things, with the most obvious being the chance to hit back after having been disgraced in their first game of the season. Also on the line was an opportunity to properly toast the talented and highly respected Brad Green in his 200th game.

As the first bounce drew closer, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy. In some ways, it was as though the Pies had nothing to gain, with a win not merely expected, but seemingly a fait accompli; virtually written into the results column before leaving home. It was like getting your Easter eggs early… but then being asked to juggle them for a couple of hours, without dropping any. Melbourne, on the other hand, had no eggs, but relished the thought of playing with Collingwood’s for a while, and hopefully grabbing them for themselves (all the while knowing that simply taking it up to the Pies would probably be enough to please the critics). And it must be said: Melbourne were superb, with Dean Bailey’s favourite word – “competitive” – finally being an entirely apt description of their play. From go to woe, as it were.

The first term began unassumingly. Melbourne got off to a good start, with Jamar dominating at the stoppages – a trend that would continue all day. Dave, my cousin and regular footy-going partner, remarked that Melbourne had set up better than Collingwood around the ground and looked to be more tactically switched on. I felt that it was too early to tell, and that Collingwood would soon assert itself on the contest.

It turns out Dave was right, and I was very, very wrong. As the quarters came and went, it became clear to more than just the most astute observers that the Pies were struggling. Melbourne was successfully clogging Collingwood’s attacking fifty with extra numbers, but they were also the side that was more readily prepared to run hard the other way, often leading into space in a Pagan’s paddock style setup. Ricky Petterd was a constant danger, kicking four goals and creating several others. Aaron Davey found his best form and fuelled regular forays into his team’s forward line. Brad Green delivered in his milestone game, kicking three himself and inspiring his teammates with fist-pumping celebrations after each and every one.

In the end, a hectic final five minutes decided the winner. With the Pies 11 points behind, a hasty kick forward was fortuitously marked by Jack Anthony. Though he had been quiet all day, he kicked truly, and the difference was less than a kick. Minutes later, Leon Davis weaved his way through traffic and kicked a great goal from 40 to put the Pies in front. Having fumbled their Easter eggs all day, it now looked as though Collingwood would nevertheless scrape through.

Yet the game held one last flurry. After marking strongly in defence, Nick Maxwell inexplicably kicked long to a contest despite having Heath Shaw in space on a wing. The ball spilled free and Melbourne surged forward. Down by a point, and with plenty of room (again) in their fifty, the game was there for the taking. The kick went deep. Dale Thomas somehow managed to spoil on the goal line, without conceding a point, and kick it clear. The Collingwood crowd cheered and then groaned, almost simultaneously, as they realised that these heroics had in fact handed the ball back to Melbourne for one last assault. Another long kick to the goal line saw the day’s best forward, Petterd, poised to mark.

And then – somehow – he didn’t. There were a strange few seconds there where all three results (win, lose and draw) were possible. But everything was happening too quickly to make sense of it all.

And then the siren went. The Pies had won, but it didn’t feel like it.

The Dees had lost, but they had not lost face… or fans.

Getting your Easter eggs early is good, but after today, I think I prefer being the underdog.


COLLINGWOOD 2.2 7.5 10.10 12.14 (86)
MELBOURNE 4.5 6.6 9.11 12.13 (85)

My votes:

3 Petterd

2 Jamar

1 Green

Leave a Comment