AFL Round 21: Walk across half-back upholds the Magpie name

There have been many great football monikers down through the years, from the Flying Doormat to Plugger and the Galloping Gasometer. My favourite football name is fictional. It was the thinly veiled title given to the suburb of Collingwood by the writer Frank Hardy in his novel Pride Without Glory . . . Carringbush.

There’s something about this name that harkens back to when Squizzy Taylor and John Wren ruled the cobbled streets of Magpie Land. This name carries power, for the 1920s were the only era when Collingwood were truly dominant. They won four Premierships in a row. Despite the Depression and lack of technology I would have given anything to have been alive during the ’20s; to have marvelled at names like Coventry and Collier.

The times since have not always been kind to the Pies and their supporters. In the hapless 1970s a new name was struck by one of our own, the Colliwobbles. How we would love to rid ourselves of this tag that hangs around our collective necks like an albatross.

This game against Sydney forms a small piece in a giant redemptive puzzle for the Collingwood Football Club. The Swans have been playing well in recent weeks, having narrow losses against competition leaders St Kilda and Geelong. Parking around the ground is terrible so Chris and I start the long trek from the borders of Carringbush. The high rises are not far away. We have three kids in tow. It is like Mao’s long march. When we reach the ground we rush for refreshments.

In the first quarter the game is a scrap. The wind is howling from the west and this affects the skill level. Passes are missed from less than twenty metres away. It is unlikely that this game will feature on many highlights packages. As the game begins Paul Medhurst and Jack Anthony both present well for the Pies. By quarter-time we lead by just eleven points with the benefit of the breeze. This does not augur well.

The second quarter is more of the same. What is impressive about Collingwood is the wall that they seem to be building across half-back. Nick Maxwell, Heath Shaw and the Big H all dominate. They have each enjoyed excellent seasons. Adam Goodes is easily the best player on the ground. He looks like a heavyweight amongst a bunch of middleweights. He may as well have CHAMP written across his back and be done with it. In many ways his performance reminds me of Nathan Buckley as he gathers kicks from every part of the ground. By half-time the Collingwood lead has been whittled to nine points, but considering the breeze this is a good effort.

The third quarter begins with Rhyce Shaw being called a few choice names by the people around us . . . this tendency to dislike someone as soon as they change stripes is a bit disappointing. I found it hard to boo Chris Tarrant (but still managed to in a moment that I regret to this day). After all, guys like Rhyce and Taz have given us years of service. As the quarter progresses the Pies use the breeze well and charge to a thirty-point lead at three-quarter time. Jack Anthony plays well but for some reason our forward line still seems to lack structure or fluency. It is the Berlin Wall across the backline that makes all the difference.

In the last quarter the CHAMP from Sydney kicks a goal from sixty out on the run. He is a monty for the Brownlow this year. His best is simply better than anyone else in the competition. Like Buddy Franklin he treats the ground as if it is a stage. Dancing Harry O’Brien finishes the game well for the Pies with several dashes through the middle. In the end the Pies win by 41 points, which is a good result on a blustery day.

After the match we walk back through the empty streets of Carringbush. The factories and recycled lofts and apartments are all around us. I dream of the days of Coventry and Collier and wonder if in a few weeks’ time names like Didak, Davis and Maxwell might be just as immortal.

David Enticott is the Pastor of the Rosanna Baptist Church with September on his mind.

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