AFL Round 6 – Collingwood v Essendon: Suspending judgement (muddling along)

We usually think of ourselves as sitting in the driver’s seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we make and the direction our life takes; but alas, this perception has more to do with our desires – with how we want to view ourselves – than with reality.
– Dan Ariely, “Predictably Irrational”


Quarter time.
COL 0.3.3
ESS 5.4.34

I’ve missed the start. Missed the whole Last Post and military portion of the day. Missed the first quarter. It’s looking ugly as Essendon goals again in early in the second.

ANZAC day and it’s meaning have been debated again today. The place of sport on this day has been debated again. It’s been done before, it will be done next year. Essendon FC and their supplements program have been debated again. We haven’t heard the last of all that, either. Who am I to judge any of this? An opinion is one thing, judgment another. Life is hard. We make decisions. We’re all just muddling along.

I’m late to the viewing today. I’ve just a couple of beers with a mate. She’s recently separated from her partner of 20 years. 20 years. Three kids. A whole history. A life. Three lifetimes. It’s messy (can it be any other way?) But again, I am in no position to judge any of this. I’ve not walked in her shoes. We all make decisions in our life. We’re all just muddling along.

So I’m home and it’s the second quarter. S Pendlebury is getting a lot of it. J White is on the end of a crescendo of team football. Goal. D Swan is on the board following a spoil from S Pendlebury. Aren’t goals from general play wonderful? They lift the roof that little bit higher. S Sidebottom goals after a contentious goal-line mark. It’s raining black and white and grins and tattoos and I can’t shake the image of Gabriel García Márquez and a black and white gypsy troupe of oily skin and intelligent hands of last week.

A Transport Accident Commission ad appears after a goal and it shows a lady nodding off. Crashing her car. The catch-phrase this time is: “You can’t fight sleep”. Nineteen years ago a young woman lost concentration and crashed our car. I was badly injured. And though I’m told that these TAC ads have proven effective, this one is a bit too close to home. I’m a bit wobbly.

I’m kind of watching from afar now. Mind elsewhere, as the black and white gypsy troupe are on. T Cloke is denied a scintillating goal on revue (deemed touched off the boot) before S Sidebottom goals from the end of a chain-of-team-endeavour-and-handball-to-support. S Pendlebury featuring strongly. Junkyard dog T Goldsack even slots a left foot snap.

I imagine the jungle drums beating loudly. The gypsies are dancing now. J Frost irons out D Heppel with a cracking hip and shoulder on the back flank and S Sidebottom again goals from the square, after a chain of swarming black and white handball. This is now a swarming gypsy troupe of colour and verve and music and zing. White, Frost, Keeffe, Elliott, Ball, Lumumba, Maxwell, and on and on and on it goes.

Half time
COL 6.5.41
ESS 6.5.41

Third quarter and A Fasolo is subbed off. His winking ideas from the back half will be missed. JYD T Goldsack tackles ferociously and J White slots a set shot.

I’m awash with the tribal beat and squint-eyed with hope as D Swan takes possession in the Millane pocket. He’s running towards the goals, angle slimming, degree of difficulty rising with each further step, but he blithely slots the goal anyway. Of course he does.

Before me, the buds have a mate over to play with them. They play an intricate game of imagination and role-play in the lounge room, between me and the TV. Ahh, it’s brilliant. The buds’ mate is here now playing. Her mum will come for tea, another who has recently separated from her husband. We’re all just muddling along.

Much was made of D Swan’s apparent trevails in the first game of the year. He was up and about last week against North. And he goals again now from a classic give and go from general play. Muddling along.

COL 9.7.61
ESS 6.7.43

The game closes up now in the last. It’s common enough in a fierce game of tackles and exhaustion. The black and whites do enough. From the last, some observations:
Observation #1: Despite recent concerns about the style of footy on display in 2014, this is great.
Observation #2: Chappy is a gun.
Observation #3: Suspending judgement is not always easy. To even watch Essendon today I’ve had to put aside personal emotions. Yet who knows what pressures another individual faces? Pressures of upbringing, circumstance, ego, opportunity (or lack thereof)? Not Atticus Finch. Not anyone.
Observation #4: Swanny is a gun.
Observation #5: No one knows what’s going to happen. Enjoy each moment.

COL 12.11.83
ESS 8.12.60

And then it’s a memorable dinner of roast lamb and red and conversation and dress-ups and hope and ideas and sadness and insecurity and back again to hopes and dreams. Good moment(s). Muddling along.

I can give you the present. I don’t know about the future; that’s all stuff and nonsense.
– Split Enz “Stuff and Nonsense”.

COLLINGWOOD 0.3 6.5 9.7 12.11 (83)
ESSENDON 5.4 6.5 6.7 8.12 (60)
Collingwood: Swan 4, Sidebottom 3, White 2, Grundy, Elliott, Goldsack.
Essendon: Stanton, Daniher, Melksham, Merrett, Watson, Winderlich, Ryder, Merrett.
Collingwood: Swan, Sidebottom, Pendlebury, Beams, Keeffe, White.
Essendon: Heppell, Stanton.
Umpires: Chamberlain, Nicholls, Farmer.
CROWD 91,731 at MCG.

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. Beautiful David. Love the Split Enz song, it’s just perfect. Dane Swan could be the most engimatic, unlikely, astonishing footballer ever.
    As luck would have it I was able to watch the pre-game ceremony and the first quarter at my desk here. The fifteen minutes before the bounce on ANZAC day is my favourite fifteen minutes of the AFL season.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Too true David.

    I could only listen to this on the radio, gardening duties finally took precedence.

    One of those games where plenty of Bomber folk probably went the early crow, regretting it later on. Another life lesson courtesy of football.

    Split Enz lyrics (esp the early days) greatly overlooked (e.g. Titus)

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Wish I’d missed the first quarter….pies were wonderful after that.

    Stuff & Nonsense is one of T.Finn’s best. Swish is spot on about the early Split Enz work, Mental Notes and Frenzy are two great, underrated albums that deserve to sit alongside the more popular stuff that came along later.

  4. Enjoyed reading your report and your observations…especially no.5


  5. E.regnans says

    Thanks for posting, everyone.
    Mickey- I love D Swan and his disarming approach to footy and life. It seems all instinct. Poetic.
    Swish- hope the garden is well done now. Life lessons sneak along, don’t they?
    Luke- I only came to know of “Stuff & Nonsense” through the cover recorded by Missy Higgins. It’s on the “she will have her way” compilation. Brilliant interpretation.
    Kate- thanks very much.
    Happy long weekend.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great summary on the game and life , OBP . Has Buckley bought in the team rulle you are not allowed to miss a minute of a pies game the rest of the year ? !
    Maxwell continues to silence the knockers and , Grundy makes recruiting staff look more incompetent by the minute his , 1 per centers are brilliant . Will be interesting how , Essendon come back mentally from this loss . Thanks, OBP

  7. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    A lovely read with all its reflective space. Feels very much like footy watching in this house too, David.

  8. My Anzac Day was full of emotion. Watched the dawn service from Gallipoli ….very moving and made more so by our recent trip to that peninsula . Then the commemoration at the G before the game….a favourite part of the AFL calendar for me too….91,000 people hushed and respectful. Then the game….at quarter time I was tempted to turn it off and do other things…glad I didn’t . Felt inspired and uplifted by what the pies did. No voice by the end. Sang and was thankful for ANZAC day in all its meanings.
    Love your work Dave , let’s keep muddling.

  9. Great MR David.

    I was muddling along the outside concourse come the formalities – nice touch that everyone stops and observes the silence outside the ground.

    I moved standing position at qtr time to a luckier spot in the Millane pocket, right behind Swanny’s special. I claim a poofteenth of credit for the turnaround!

    We are lucky to have the G spot. A couple West Coast supporters and an American girl next to me were blown away by the atmosphere of the day. Yet a silly academic campaigning for Melbourne to be given the prime time gig based on casualties is given oxygen. Now that’s what I call muddling along.

  10. E.regnans says

    Thanks OBP – yes, I failed to mention B Grundy by name there, but he continues to impress. Stirring late goal he kicked.

    Thanks Mathilde – I’m glad you recognised something.

    Thanks Mum – muddling is about it, isn’t it?

    Thanks JD – Nice observations on the outside concourse and on the G.
    I was interested in that campaign you mention there – simply from the view of someone challenging the dominant paradigm. I’m usually happy for people to try that. But of course any argument needs to be sound.
    Happy to have been reminded through it all, though, of R Stremski’s “Kill for Collingwood.” We’ve been reacquianted over the past few days.

  11. Great story Big Dave.
    To follow a pies win with Roast Lamb and Red Wine is almost the perfect day isn’t it? I took the whole family to the G and agree – the 15 minutes before the bounce on Anzac Day is simply wonderful. I thought playing the NZ national anthem before the ours was a great touch – the AFL gets some things right!
    When contemplating the all important badge purchase before the game at the merch stall, my middle daughter was adamant she wanted Jesse White’s. I wasn’t so enthused – not being sure if our new number 18 was duffel coat worthy just yet. However when the pies were 37 points down without registering a major and then Jesse bounds in to kick our first and get the black and white army going, my daughter’s knowing grin from ear to ear just said it all.
    Love observation #4 – Swannneeee!!!

  12. E.regnans says

    G’day Philo,
    Thanks. Middle daughter backed a winner. I wonder what her thoughts were.
    Buddies Ooon and Yum have no inclination for player badges, so far preferring a club badge and a slap-band. I accidentally wore one of their CollingwoodFC slap bands this afternoon as I picked them (& other mates) up from school.
    Rightly castigated. Rightly embarrassed.

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