AFL Round 6 – Collingwood v Essendon: Days like this

Collingwood versus Essendon

14:40, Friday 25th April

MCG, Melbourne

William Schack

There are some days when you get to the MCG and you can feel the excitement hit you as you walk through the turnstiles. The hum of the crowd and the expectation that hangs in the air has an extra punch to it. On days like that, you can sense that victory means more than just 4 premiership points to the fans, and you know the crowd is going to be louder than usual – cheering every good play, ruing every poor play, booing every poor umpiring decision. On days like that, you know that you’re in for a special game.

There are days when you watch your team play and you wonder what the hell they are doing? There are days when every player seems to be a metre or two behind their opponent, when it seems like your team has to expend vast amounts of energy to even just get an inside 50, and when they finally do they can’t score a goal from it, and then your opposition go freely inside 50 and score with ease. There are days when you feel like the game has barely started, yet you’re five goals behind. When coupled with a day when victory means more than 4 points, you wish you didn’t like football, because you’re way too emotionally involved in an event that is more than likely going to cause you serious pain. You wish that you could just stick to the safe world of books and movies and not have to be screwed over so often by people you love. On days like that, when you go to the toilet at quarter you hear your fellow fans cursing your team’s effort and they start to make angry claims about not having access to the same performance enhancing drugs as your opposition.
The first quarter was like that.

And there are days when you’re team is down and they stage a gutsy comeback. Firstly they stem the flow a bit and just stop the opposition scoring, then they finally have a fluent forward entry and the ball goes over the back of a pack and bounces into the hands of a forward who then kicks a goal. When that happens, on days like that, you jump up out of your seat and into the aisle. You pump your fists in the air with the aim that your actions will encourage further improvement. Then when another goal is kicked in a passage of play in which your team’s two best players combined, your confidence starts to rise. Then when another goal is kicked, the whole mood of the crowd changes. You and your comrades, cursing your fortunes only minutes before, are all of a sudden praising the football gods. On days like this, when goals like this are kicked, the Ponsford Stand roars in a voice so loud that even if you didn’t like football, you could not help but be swept up in the moment. On days like this, when you look down at your shaking hands and notice that you already have a bruise in your left palm from punching it so much in frustration and celebration, you realise that you will need to take a walk at half time to try and settle down.
The second quarter was like that.

There are days in football when you are not sure if your team can keep it up. When you look at the scoreboard and realise that there has been six goals kicked with no response from the opposition, and you think that surely they will fight back soon. There are days when your favourite player gets the ball on the 50 metre line near the boundary and he decides to run in towards goal and leave his opponent seemingly standing still, then after taking two bounces he decides he will try and kick a goal and the ball floats in the air and does not spin in any of the ways you would expect it to, but it still goes straight through the middle of the goals.
Sometimes on days like that a player on the other team has a chance to kick a goal, but as they run in towards the goal, a young defender tackles him and stops him from scoring. Sometimes you’re walking to the bar when that moment is happening and you can sense from the crowd noise that the ball is at your end, so you jump up on the back of the platform of the standing room section, just in time to see the tackle. On the way to the bar you’re so happy about the tackle that you yell out “Carn the Pies!” to no-one in particular and you high five a stranger who is smiling at you.
The third quarter was like that.

On some days, after two quarters of dominance, your opponent begins to fight back. After kicking just one goal and 3 points for the middle two quarters, they all of a sudden have a zest for the game that was completely absent since early in the second quarter. Some days they will kick the first goal and strike fear into the heart of the thousands of fans watching. Sometimes they will kick the second goal and you really start to worry as the momentum, which has been with you for so long now, seems to have turned.
And on some days, you’re team is resilient enough to withstand the pressure and are also lucky that their opponent kick a few points instead of a few goals. Some days, the best player on the ground is able to be in the right place at the right time, and the ball falls into his hands and he is able to kick the ball through the goals and into a beautiful sea of black and white fans. On days that a young man playing his 13th League game kicks the game sealing goal, sometimes what you will do, is go across to the man who sits opposite you every week and give him a hug because you know that this win means just as much to him as it does to you. On some days, after a goal like that is kicked, you chant COLL-ING-WOOD with all of your might. On days like that, you feel so grateful to live in a city where two clubs that were born out of small suburbs are able to attract 92,000 people to a ground that started out as a field and has become a modern day Colosseum. On days like that, in a year in which the AFL has struggled to capture the hearts and minds of Australian’s like it normally would, you finally feel like the season has started and you’re reminded of why you love football so much. You feel privileged to be able to attend a match like that in late April, when it has the same atmosphere as a match in late September. And on days like that, when you’re in the Ponsford Stand, hugging and giving hi-fives to strangers, you feel so thankful that as a kid you became a fan of the Collingwood Football Club, because even though they have caused you so much pain, on days like that, all the losses, all the scandals, all the classist jokes, all of it is worth it – because on days like that, everything is just perfect.

In 2014, ANZAC Day was just like that.

COLLINGWOOD0.3   6.5   9.7   12.11 (83)
ESSENDON5.4   6.5   6.7     8.12  (60)
Collingwood: Swan 4, Sidebottom 3, White 2, Goldsack, Elliot, Grundy
Essendon: Stanton, Daniher, Watson, Winderlich, Ryder, Melksham, Z. Merrett, J. Merrett
Collingwood: Swan, Sidebottom, Macaffer, Beams, Pendlebury, Langdon, Frost
Essendon: Hibberd, Hooker, Heppell, Stanton, Melksham, Ryder
Umpires: Farmer, Nicholls, Chamberlain
Our Votes: Dane Swan (3), Steele Sidebottom (2), Scott Pendlebury (1)


William Schack is a loyal Collingwood fan and an amateur writer. His sporting idol used to be Mick Malthouse and his dream is to see Nathan Buckley holding a premiership cup.


  1. Nick Gibson says

    Well WIlliam, even as a Bombers supporter I just have to say … beautifully written.
    Isn’t it a glorious, shining, wonderful game that we love.

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