AFL Round 3: Collingwood v Geelong – Midnight’s Children (avoid sperectomy)

Score a footy and Cats gear


Although I’m well aware that I am providing any future commentators or venom-quilled critics (to whom I say: twice before, I’ve been subjected to snake-poison; on both occasions, I proved stronger than the venenes) with yet more ammunition – through admission-of-guilt, revelation-of-moral-turpitude, proof-of-cowardice – I’m bound to say that he, the buddha, finally incapable of continuing in the submissive form of his duty, took to his heels and fled. Infected by the soul-chewing maggots of pessimism futility shame, he deserted, into the historyless anonymity of rain-forests, dragging three children in his wake.
– Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

A fiction. Feigned. Which parts? All? No no no. My name? It is not important. Names change Heretier Harry; but identity does not. I was born into Collingwood. No no, I must be more precise. I was born as the siren rang at Jolimont the siren to commence the third quarter, 1970 Grand Final*. My first life (and I was to have more) commenced with Collingwood seven goals in front and being chased pursued hunted down. I was born on the river bank at Abbotsford, opposite mighty sandstone cliffs of status and wealth of Kew, and born into and a child of the tumult of Collingwood’s midnight. I was not alone in this hardship. All throughout the State other children were also born during this fateful half of football. The other children of Collingwood’s midnight. Together we were Collingwood’s midnight’s children. Taking our first breaths during this forging half of improbable suffering. And uniquely together we shared the alarming and impossibly noteworthy characteristic of possessing supernatural gifts. The closer was the moment of our birth to that of the 3rd quarter opening, the more remarkable was our gift. There was a fire breather from Birchip. A contortionist from Warburton. Twin girls with the ability to levitate from Wangaratta. A time-travelling boy from Diamond Creek. And there was me; whose birth coincided precisely with the blaring of that siren, with the greatest gift: the gift of reading the minds and thoughts of the population. My head was a cacophony. Until I learnt to control my gift. Until I coordinated the first Collingwood’s Midnight’s Children’s Conference (CMCC); an event whereupon I mentally communicated with every one of the 58 children of Collingwood’s midnight. For the first time we were connected; or rather that we knew ourselves to be connected. We knew of each other’s gifts. Our unique abilities. And yet, unable to harness them or to use them to collective advantage, we despondently carried our unique abilities through the suffering of our formative first minutes in 1970, and on through Grand Final defeats in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981.

Only twice since our inglorious arrival have we known the sing song sing of the big big win; with abacus-like measurement of precisely 20 years’ suffering between each: 1970 to 1990 to 2010.

Outside to this, my own childhood was of inconsequential character testing junior football and hardship. Inconsequential may be partially incorrect, for even today I carry vivid memories from those times with me. Being punched in the face on the half back flank at Traralgon. A string of ruck nemeses against whom I would wage personal and years long wars of attrition and tactical guile. Premierships. And though I grew tall; unexpectedly so to look at boughs of my family tree; my footballing endeavours failed to gain the attentions of anyone (at all).

But as did other Collingwood’s Midnight’s Children, I watched viewed observed. I stood with my brother on the untouchables side of the member’s gate at Victoria Park; climbing a rock wall and enjoying the view and carrying home-made signs of bed sheet and broomstick and tacks and hobbytex declaring “Peter 35 Daicos” and “Matty 45 Ryan”. Visits to the cavernous MCG rare but memorable perhaps for being so but perhaps also for what I saw there. A G Ablett screamer on G Pert’s head. A particular G Ablett goal from 55 on the run. G Ablett and G Hocking and that little surfy flanker R Scott catching my attention and M Blight’s cavalier vaudeville high wire act Geelong leaving impressions on my mind like fingerprints in playdough. Was I flirting? Now despite (or because of?) these fingerprints asserting themselves, a dark character in long coat and pork pie hat swiftly began to frequent my dreams. Jock McHale approached and he told me again and again of the power of the collective and of loyalty. And how teamwork bests all. Through Jock and the Collingwood’s Midnight’s Children’s Conference my Collingwood allegiance at this time was not only maintained but was strengthened. The purpose, what is the purpose of the CMCC?, became a question not to be asked instead of being my reason for living. The CMCC was born into hard times and is steadfast in hard times and while undeniably true it has also experienced times better than those of some others and here to name some of them would be at once both rude and polite but I you we all know about them so: enough.

I must tell you quick quick what brings me here. I am already too late. But no. Time rushes by. That is simply the way of things.

Collingwood v Geelong is was always will be an occasion befitting a large and expectant knowledgeable witty crowd. I can think now of exquisite Preliminary finals in the 2000s.  I can think unhappily of a recent Grand Final. But then what is recent and what is not? What is a trick of the unknowable fact and what a trick of the unknowable memory?

Come now. It’s getting late. Close eyes. With closed eyes see. I see G Ablett senior and G Ablett junior and I see D and T Cloke and I see fathers and sons taking the field.

And now with open eyes I spend the night of Saturday 5th April 2014 in a fire-lit field outside Leongatha. Long lost now a previously held historyless anonymity. A long far extended way from the MCG and a long far extended way from mobile phone coverage and indeed electricity mains power. The engagement party of my niece. My niece, with whom as a young girl (not very long ago no no no) we famously made a bowl of chocolate cake mixture and ate the lot (without cooking it or even pouring it into a tin). Where where where did the time go?

Groups of people stand by hay bales. People chat. Bob Dylan on loud. Lone men occasionally drift to the dark fringes, phones held up forlornly towards orbiting satellites. Gimme a reception signal score.

Yet even without the electrical grid and the (publicly) secretive slithering serpentine world wide web the CMCC is aware of this loss tonight. I felt it. We all did. Later much later approaching Korumburra the rest of the world and its web entraps me again. The first and final score of the night arrives via phone and simultaneously illuminates and darkens my face:
Collingwood 11.10.76
Defeated by
Geelong 12.15.87

And rapidly following is the text message of a Richmond supporter friend sent seconds minutes hours earlier saying only: “Go Cats!” and thus stirring the tribal pot. And now the CMCC carries on to Richmond next Friday and as ever we are hopeful of success. As ever we avoid sperectomy and so optimism is our curse. We ask not why we are here only that we are. Optimism: growing like a rose from the dung-heap. It is ours to carry. Go pies.

*Fiction: something feigned, invented, imagined.

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a hydrologist, climate reporter and writer of fiction & observational stories. 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. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. A thing of beauty and a joy forever. Thanks David.
    I felt like you took me on a magic carpet ride, not knowing the purpose or the destination, but revelling in the experience.
    Magical magic realism. A real feat of imagination. You almost made me not care about the subject.

  2. Were Collingwood like the chocolate cake mix eaten raw? Hinting at a higher purpose, yet ultimately not quite achieving the desired end.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Enjoyable read OBP , Peter B summed up your article perfectly !

  4. Steve Fahey says

    A great read David. I believe that the Buddha said that the essence of life is suffering.

    Sperectomy is a great word, I have just expanded my vocabulary.

  5. Very enjoyable David

  6. E.regnans says

    Thanks all.
    Peter_B: fly on.
    Gus: raw chocolate cake mix has remained an altogether unexpected and alluring presence in my life. A bit like Collingwood, yes.
    OBP: thanks for the trip.
    Steve: I believe you to be right. It seems that the Buddha nailed it,
    djlitsa: thanks & for posting.
    The road to optimism is well trod and is hardly the refuge that those seeking it or indeed those shunning it assume it be. Thanks again.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    There’s not much more I look forward to than a weekly dose of E.regnans magic.

    Collingwood v Geelong games have been something special for about 25 years. Probably better games in these times than those against Carlton and Essendon. The highlights have certainly been better.

    Matty Ryan was a very good player for a couple of years. And then that was it.

    Great work David. Keep ’em coming.

  8. John Butler says

    What they said E Reg. :)

    Though in truth, it wasn’t a game with much poetry.

  9. Ripper work DW. Poetic and enthralling. Bit like some of the recent Cats v Pies battles.

  10. E.regnans says

    G’day Luke, JB, Dips.
    Thanks a lot, gents.
    JB – I didn’t see hear read about any single minute of the match, but as you say Luke & Dips, there have been some beauties recently.
    I should thank Mathilde for her inspiring work of last week, too.
    adios. e.r.

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