AFL Round 5 – Collingwood v North Melbourne: Oily skins and intelligent hands

They were new gypsies, young men and women who knew only their own language, handsome specimens with oily skins and intelligent hands, whose dances and music sowed a panic of uproarious joy through the streets, with parrots painted all colours reciting Italian arias, and a hen who laid a hundred golden eggs to the sound of a tambourine, and a trained monkey who read minds, and the multiple-use machine that could be used at the same time to sew on buttons and reduce fevers, and the apparatus to make a person forget his bad memories, and a poultice to lose time, and a thousand more inventions so ingenious and unusual that José Arcadio Buendía must have wanted a memory machine to that he could remember them all. In an instant they transformed the village.
– Gabriel García Márquez (died 17 April 2014), One Hundred Years of Solitude

Many years later, as they faced the rat race, 8-year-old Colonel Buddy Ooon and 7-year-old Colonel Buddy Yum were to remember that distant afternoon when their father took them to discover ice. At that time, conjecture and popular opinion had morphed seamlessly from belonging in the realms of speculative palm readers and soothsayers of dubious lineage through to finding a home amid the realms of latter day fact with the solidity of Aristotle. It was absurd.

After Round 4 Hawthorn and Geelong, the population were relentlessly told from sources purporting to be different but merely solidifying one another’s group-think, were offering the only pure form of football and that to follow anyone else or indeed to watch any other team was to be colossally wasting one’s breath and one’s very life and one would be infinitely better served scooping guinea pig droppings from one’s back lawn with a teaspoon than to invest any form of hope or interest or opinion of positivity in teams other than those two vanguards of early-season poise Hawthorn and Geelong. Four rounds in and cockiness was all the rage.

Upon examination, the anthropogenic record would show that all perceived facts must start as opinion, or rather as hypotheses to be tested. Colonel Buddy Yum faced such a fork in her metaphysical road as she swiped through the train station gates at a beacon of northern suburban architecture, Northcote train station, for not only did her myki ticket scan with an embarrassingly loud and resonant DECLINED signal, there were no staff present to remedy this fearsome imbroglio. What to do? Is my card of any value? Am I petty criminal? Should I be issued a fine, would it be a just course of action to passively resist its payment? Am I really here?
Further examination of the anthropogenic record would almost certainly show strong and uncanny links from one story to another, across time and across continents, across topics and across meanings, and as the humans of this village are in most respects the same as those from any other village, it was of no surprise to Colonel Buddy Ooon to see the name “Jack Frost” in her footy record shortly after arrival at Jolimont and on the downslope walk towards Betty Cuthbert.

Their father, however, momentarily dropped his awareness of humans as story tellers sufficiently long to ask: “Who’s Jack Frost?” and while knowing that one possible answer and the most likely answer to be found had he surveyed the throng walking in their general direction would have been “Young bloke; full back; number 45; goes alright,” he was greatly heartened when a shining vision of an answer issued forth aboard the back of a golden Pegasus. “He’s from the Rainbow Magic books, Muz.”
This unexpected tying of the stories of Ruby the Red Fairy and Abigail the Breeze Fairy, among scores of others, to the footy narrative of today had three of them, Colonel Buddy Ooon, Colonel Buddy Yum and their father, climbing aboard this Pegasus in good order, soaring over the Hilton and around light tower #2.

From their vertically advantageous and constantly shifting vantage points they witnessed the writhing form of a many headed black and white gypsy troupe wake from a fitful sleep and shed its skin. The Pegasus maintained the proud and lofty carriage of its head in spite of the hurtling decibels spewing AC/DC’s Long Way To The Top through the lower atmosphere, which in another time and in another place would undoubtedly have lead to an unbridled unhinging and mutinous revelry among 57,000 closely packed omnivores, though in the reflective ambiance of a pre-game build-up served only to distract and clatter the auditory canals of all present.

Despite tuning in most perceptively and most attentively and with much anticipation to conversations between them all, the father’s eardrums were definitively defeated by the pounding of an afternoon’s set of sound-tidal-waves .

The black and white many headed gypsy troupe played with oily skin and intelligent hands and the intercepting panache of a sea eagle swooping, talons primed, and crashing through the water surface of a full Nourlangie Creek in April and emerging from the splashing maelstrom clinging heroically to a sizable adult barramundi. It was clear that both the defensive awareness of the many headed gypsy troupe in the forms of B. MacCaffer doing a job on N. Dal Santo and A. Fasolo creating havoc and the attacking awareness of the many headed gypsy troupe in the forms of the outrageously large and mobile J. White and T. Cloke were on. Foot passing and general ball handling were less precise than in a pressure-less scenario, but were of a standard sufficiently high to draw praise from the Pegasus, herself. These were good, but the tackling was something else.

By half time they had seen mark-and-kick goals and chain-of-handball-goals and even once saw a S. Thompson-roundhouse-punch-to-the-unprotected-nay-totally-exposed ribs-of-T Cloke-as-T-Cloke-marks-a-high-ball–and-subsequent-50m-penalty goal and the black and white many headed gypsy troupe was up 10 goals to 5 and suffered ignominy only once when its captain and resident matrix operative S. Pendlebury was outfoxed by S. Atley in a glorious piece of field football. The gypsy heads and gypsy sleeves of J White and D Swan were astounding in efforts of effort and of application to a team cause and of physical prowess above that seemingly within their grasp. And with that, Colonel Buddy Yum loudly and decisively declared “Easter egg time!”

All intensity slipped away from ground level for the second half and made its way up, up , up where it collided with the 16:30 flight arriving in Melbourne from Queenstown and so settled grimly upon all of the people within that aeroplane to such an extent that the flight became and was to remain for the next 27 years, 3 months and 6 days, the only flight to arrive from New Zealand without a single smiling occupant. The party of three aboard the Pegasus then watched autumn sunshine spread theatrically across the playing surface while players and umpires went about their thing displaying a brave absence of fuss and an apparent disregard for spectators.

A mischievous golden monkey of exploration and chance took the three-quarter time interval as her cue to leap surreptitiously from clipboard to clipboard, earnest visage to earnest visage. Tap-dancing invisibly on the faces of coaching staff from both teams, the golden monkey of exploration and chance made thrillingly exotic curls and clicks of her tongue of such frequency that they could only be heard by very small marsupials and footballers with exhausted blood coursing through their eardrums.

The party of three were soon able to gather that D. Swan had received the golden message as he rapidly made things happen in a wonderfully rolling, shambolic and creative style, with intercepts, blocks, tackles and kicks. He was alight. Colonel Buddy Yum, surprising no one, asked out loud “Do you think Steele Sidebottom is embarrassed by his name?”

The many headed black and white gypsy troupe of oily skin and intelligent hands had too many heads of valour and trickery for the valiant Kangaroos, who though going some way towards asphyxiation in the third quarter, had insufficient machetes to decapitate this dragon. Later, the awakening of this gypsy troupe along with the flight of the Pegasus and the dance of the golden monkey would give pause for thought to followers of other clubs and to groupthinkers the world over.

It was only when ice was discovered on the wing tips of the Pegasus that the heroic party of three gratefully and graciously alighted her frame and instead caught the packed train home.

Pegasus votes: 3- D Swan, 2- S Pendlebury, 1- D Beams

COLLINGWOOD 5.4 10.6 11.9 13.15 (93)
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.3 5.3 5.7 8.10 (58)
Goals: Collingwood: T Cloke 4 D Beams 2 J Elliott 2 J White 2 H Lumumba S Pendlebury T Goldsack.
North Melbourne: L Thomas 2 R Bastinac 2 B Harvey D Currie L Greenwood S Gibson.
Umpires: Mathew Nicholls, Dean Margetts, Brendan Hosking.
Official Crowd: 57,116 at MCG.

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. 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. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A amusing dig at the hawks and cats OBP , with the pies at least there is a plan there with the youth to end up having a legitimate crack at a flag unlike a lot of other clubs
    ( pure footy wise hawks v cats is 1 of the few games I get generally excited about )
    Entertaining as ever with your vivid imagination OBP and the pies are building thank you !

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Jack Frost is actually from around the corner and up the street.

    And his attack on the man with the ball comes from his mum.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    “Who’s Jack Frost” wont be asked in footy circles much anymore. He’s been great all season and was superb yesterday. Took younger son for the first time yesterday as well as his older brother, we went out to Victoria Park to watch the first half of the seconds on a near empty train, then returned to the ‘G on a standing room only train. As a country boy there’s nothing like an occaisional trip to the ‘G on a packed Northern Suburbs train full of Pies fans.
    An enjoyable read about an enjoyable win, thanks David.

  4. E.regnans says

    G’day all.
    OBP: ahh, thanks. A little stir of the tribal pot.
    I’m happy with the direction the pies have taken. Things are looking up.

    Swish: Jack Frost is such a brilliant character name through many disparate adventures. Looking forward to more in the #45.

    Luke: grand idea to head to Victoria Park first. Interested on your thoughts on how time at the VFL compares to time at the AFL. You’d have a solid perspective going there with your little ones.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    David, the VFL was great to take the kids to. They could run anywhere around the stands or grassy slopes as well as having a kick on the oval at 1/4 and half time. But while keeping an eye on them you miss a lot of the footy. The AFL is of course very different, but they were happy to just sit there and watch with players they actually knew playing. Definitely didn’t hurt them to do all that running around at Vic Park first though!

  6. E.regnans says

    Thanks Luke – the VFL sounds like a beauty. By chance we had aisle seats behind the Punt Road goals. That was handy; the kids spent most of the second quarter running down to the fence and back up to to our seats (near the back).
    Would have loved to have joined them.

  7. E.regnans says

    And what was that today?
    Cats? Hawks? Pffft.
    Get on the magpie gypsy troupe of oily skin and intelligent hands.

  8. David- thanks for that. GGM was a giant. Loved his short stories too, with The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World being among my favourites. Can’t bring myself to watch the film version of Love in a Time of Cholera for fear of what may have been done to it.

  9. Hi Mickey – no, no, thank you.
    Yes, yer man was indeed a giant. Superb.
    Earlier I read of memorial ceremonies yesterday in Mexico and Colombia featuring much classical music, flowers and even dancing…
    From the BBC:
    “Although it was a memorial ceremony, this wasn’t just a solemn occasion. Outside the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, thousands of fans of Garcia Marquez waited patiently to pay their respects.
    Some held yellow roses, others clutched copies of his books. Around the palace there was music, Colombian flags, book readings and smiles. Perhaps because he’d left so much for his loyal readers to enjoy after he’d gone, saying goodbye to “El Gabo” didn’t have to be a sad day. Rather many had come to say “thank you for everything”.
    One woman in the queue told me she was heartened to see so many young people coming out to honour him. It was a sign, she said, that his literature would last long after his death.
    Ordinary readers and political leaders were all fulsome in their praise of their favourite author. ”
    – adios.

  10. John Butler says

    Careful there E Reg. To speak ill of the Cat in these parts is an insurrectionist act.

    Enjoyed the piece (as usual).


  11. E.regnans says

    Aye thanks, JB.
    What is insurrection if not a questioning?
    Mortality assured.

    Wilful blindness a fascinating notion.

  12. John Butler says

    Willful blindness is an oft required ability for the modern sports fan ER.

Leave a Comment