AFL Round 22 – GWS v Collingwood: Sitting on my watch


Sitting On My Watch


I’m gazing out the window of the Templestowe Hotel.  It’s not dark yet but it’s getting there.  The Pies are locked in a desperate struggle with the Giants.  GWS have led for the entire game – we are not quite out of it just yet, but the hour is getting late.  The rain rattles hard on this lazy stadium night.  Toby Greene is having a whopping good time and is the third player to amass 40 disposals against Collingwood in as many weeks (after Priddis and Rockcliff).  Mumford is thriving in the hard rain, continually propelling the ball forward (this man could knock a team out with just one punch!), and a couple of surfie-looking dudes up forward are hurting us on the scoreboard.  Sometimes I think Bucks spends more time preparing for his press conferences than he does on the game plan.  The newspapers all go along for the ride.  Is Bucks a manipulator of crowds? Yes, we’ve had injuries, but the big screen here in the sports bar shows me that GWS are missing perhaps their five best players: Ward, Cameron, Patton, Davis and Scully.  All sides have injuries, look at what Hawthorn have had to contend with this year.  Bucks has shown the footy world in these press conferences that he is articulate and has banged on about youth, but who has questioned him about the haphazard recruiting of Lynch, White, Clarke and Young.  And yet in the same time we have traded Shaw and Dawes, and delisted Didak, Krakouer and Jolly.  It seem that with Bucks you’ve either got faith, or you’ve got unbelief, and there is no neutral ground.

The Giants jump us early.  They are working harder in the greasy conditions.  My brother Chris and I ask a waitress to bring that bottle over here.  The waitress has blue circles around her eyes, black eyeliner, dark eyes. She had a beautifulness, but not for this kind of world. Poor wretch, doomed to walk this bar for a thousand years.

It’s just after half time now and for every couple of goals we kick, the Giants seem to respond.  Pendlebury is showing his class in the wet and Sidebottom, Thomas, Armstrong and Broomhead are starting to get a bit of it too.  My wife Linda is expecting me home at 7:20 on the dot, as she is heading out for a girls night, so I’m sitting on my watch so I can be on time.  Tragically Macaffer is laid low in a cloud of mist, then Dane exits the lake of the black swan, and forever Young is hampered by hamstring strains.  This does allow Ball to come on, and his attack on the footy is just what we need in this sort of game.  But the Pies are down to just one interchange player. It’s bad out there. With White our only tall option up forward, there’s really not much Bucks can do now, and besides what’s the sense of changing the horses in midstream.  It seems as if this entire game is being played for the sole purpose of frustrating me.  My brother on the other hand appears to be nonchalant.

“How does it feel?” I ask him.

“I used to care but things have changed.”

The rest is a blur, we sound a battle charge in the last quarter and are once again within a kick.  The ball is locked in our forward 50.  White drops a sitter.  The ball rebounds and some surfie-looking dude takes an unlikely mark and slots a goal from the boundary.  They are 10 points up with a few minutes to go.  It’s unbelievable, strange but true.  I have had enough.  There is no sense in trying.  The sports bar crowd is stirring, while the jury cries for more.  And while everybody kneels to pray I quietly escape.   Linda is expecting me home at 7:20.

I jump in the car and play music. The sublime harmonies of Gram and Emmylou, the twanging of the guitars.  I am transfigured.  The healing has begun.  Ten minutes later, when I arrive home, I discover I have 4 unread text messages.  What? The Pies got up! We can still make the 8.  I can’t believe it, can’t believe we’re alive.


GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY    3.4   6.6   8.11   9.13  (67)

COLLINGWOOD                              2.3   5.5   7.7    11.9   (75)



Greater Western Sydney: Smith 2, Boyd, Hunt, Palmer, Whiley, Bugg, Greene, Hoskin-Elliott

Collingwood: Thomas 3, White 2, Broomhead 2, Williams, Blair, Sinclair, Sidebottom


Greater Western Sydney: Greene, Mumford, Smith, Kelly, Shiel, Hunt

Collingwood: Thomas, Pendlebury, Broomhead, Williams, Armstrong, White

Umpires: Donlon, Fisher, Hosking

Crowd: 10,851

Malarkey Medal:

3   T. Greene,

2   S.Pendlebury

1. J. Thomas

About Damian Balassone

Damian Balassone is a failed half-forward flanker who writes poetry. He is the author of 'Strange Game in a Strange Land'.


  1. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Beautifully written Damo. Mumford would have been a handy recruit. Gotta go with youth now. I’m pro Bucks, but I don’t know for how long.

  2. His Bobness salutes you. Lots to mine in that lode. Your writing more enjoyable than the match, DB.

  3. Dave Nadel says

    Never leave a footy match early (not even a sports bar broadcast of a football match) Things can change quite quickly. The loser now will be later to win.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    After the disappointment of most of the game, the ending was a beautiful thing to watch. Hope you get to see it. Pendles a class above everyone else on the field in the wet conditions. Great read Damian.

  5. Love this, Damian.
    I opted for the Bledisloe Cup; at least you bore witness to some of this fixture.
    I’m already haunted by visions of yer Templestowe Hotel waitress.

  6. Stephen Marmo says

    Just letting you know Damian that your piece got a guernsey on the “Expecting Rain” Dylan website. Congrats and the article and lyric placements were terrific!

  7. DBalassone says

    Cheers all, and kudos to Peter, Dave and Stephen for picking the Dylan references (there’s about 28 of them if anyone’s got too much time on their hands).

  8. DBalassone says

    And before Dylan’s legal team pursue me, here are the acknowledgements…

    I’m gazing out the window – Blind Willie McTell
    it’s not dark yet but it’s getting there – Not Dark Yet
    the hour is getting late – All Along the Watchtower
    the rain rattles hard – Walls of Red Wing
    lazy stadium night – Catfish
    a whopping good time – Spirit on the Water
    hard rain – A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall
    could knock a team out with just one punch – Hurricane
    newspapers all go along for the ride – Hurricane
    a manipulator of crowds – Jokerman
    you’ve either got faith, or you’ve got unbelief – Precious Angel
    bring that bottle over here – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
    poor wretch, doomed to walk this bar for a thousand years – Chronicle, Volume 1
    I’m sitting on my watch so I can be on time – Bye and Bye
    laid low in a cloud of mist – Who Killed Davey Moore?
    the lake of the black swan – Highlands
    forever Young – Forever Young
    it’s bad out there – Highwater (for Charlie Patton)
    what’s the sense of changing the horses in midstream – You’re a Big Girl Now
    how does it feel? – Like A Rolling Stone
    I used to care but things have changed – Things Have Changed
    sound a battle charge – Wedding Song
    It’s unbelievable, strange but true – Unbelievable
    I have had enough – It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
    there is no sense in trying – It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
    crowd is stirring – Drifter’s Escape
    while the jury cries for more – Drifter’s Escape
    and while everybody kneels to pray – Drifter’s Escape
    I can’t believe it, can’t believe we’re alive – Where Are You Tonight?

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