AFL Round 9 – Adelaide v Collingwood (Floreat Pica Society): Tick. Tock. It’s an ambush!

This was an ambush. The ambush has a rich tradition in combat. Hannibal’s forces defeated the Roman army using this tactic. As did the Germanic people of the Rhine. If you deeply understand local territory and environmental factors, you’re a good chance to ambush an outsider, however large and strong.

On this floodlit Adelaide evening of Thursday 15 May, Collingwood walked straight into one. 50,051 supporters should have been some cause for warning. Tex Walker being talked up like a Big Brother star on his comeback from knee surgery should have offered a clue. But like the Roman army before them, Collingwood was powerless in the face of a well-organised band of local highwaymen.


“…And you run and you run
To catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older
Shorter of breath
And one day closer to death…”
– Pink Floyd, “Time

It’s the May full moon. This is it. The symbol of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death all at once. It’s magnificent. Even without the stories, you can see why stories were attributed to her. Birth, enlightenment and death. There’s not much else, I guess. We ask why. Enlightenment. Tommy Hafey died on Monday. Tommy Hafey was 82. Tommy has been claimed as a Richmond person. But he’s probably above all else, a people person. I state that without having met him. It’s the conclusion I’m drawn to after reading and listening to accounts of those who had.

A Collingwood person. More than that, Tommy Hafey coached young men. His teams of young men achieved great things together. Rhett Bartlett, son of Kevin, wrote this week that Tommy would often answer, when asked ‘how are you?’, with this pearl: ‘fantastic and getting better.’ Among the stories of Tommy Hafey this week was one from Nathan Buckley. N Buckley reflected on T Hafey’s positivity during a chat they’d shared when N Buckley was a youngster. On a bus in Tasmania. The message was: “Aim high. You can achieve anything if you work for it.” It’s a view of the world probably shared by the successful. Or at least those that see themselves as successful. “Look what I did. You can do it too.” It’s probably not the view of a female in Afghanistan or of a schoolgirl in Nigeria. Or of a pensioner in Australia this week. But then, as Nothafgus cunninghammii, mother of my children, says with disarming alacrity: “It will all work out in the end. And if it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end.”

Tick. Tock. Tick Tock.

Tommy Hafey stories this week have been heartening. Inspiring. Positive.
As advocated by Tommy, I’m up running. Google maps says it’s 7.4km to work. I’ve been running this stretch every Thursday for years. It feels a bit further today. In the CBD I’m overtaken by a petite woman in hot pink, carrying a back-pack. My vantage point as I slip further behind affords the unfortunate view of scores of stationary men turning their heads as she passes.

Tick. Tock. Tick Tock.

It’s lunchtime. I’m turning the wheels of commerce and trade without once interacting with a human.
Thanks for using Australia post’s self-serve kiosk.”
Jackets are off.
School kids are wagging.
It’s a summer’s day in May.
But windy. Substantial metal chairs blow over outside. The homeless and destitute huddle against walls. What would it take for me to be among their number? Relationship breakup? Family drama? Accident affecting my health? Job loss? We skate on a thin veneer of whimsical happenstance.

Tick. Tock. Tick Tock.
I’m at Victoria Park station inside a sardine tin of a train. In bygone days the packed train on game day here would have been full of black & white. Tonight it’s tired workers clocking off.

Tick. Tock. Tick Tock.
I’m walking over to Brunswick. A spectacular endless swarm of bats heads north in the black sky, following unseen acoustics of the Merri Creek below. On the western (or Brunswick) bank I stop and look behind me. I need another look at those bats. And there she is. The May full moon rising majestically in the east, like a giant bauble. Bats fly in silhouette across her face.

Years ago when N. cunninghammii and I walked the Bibbulmun Track (Perth to Albany) we would come across other travellers in the towns along the way (Collie, Pemberton, Denmark, etc). They would invariably ask why we didn’t drive it, as we would “see so much more”. But I think that’s wrong.

“…Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I’d something more to say…”
– Pink Floyd, “Time”

Night. The May full moon rises above us all. The birth and enlightenment and death of the Buddha are being celebrated tonight by millions.
Here it’s the Thursday of a regular working week, and the footy is scheduled. It’s odd. But that’s life. Accept. I’m home.
“Hey bud. How was your day?”
“Ahh, wonderful. What was great about it?”
“I just loved every little bit of it.”

We read Andy Griffiths’ “Just Tricking!” in the bath. How can you top a grand story of spew and laughs?

Home again
I like to be here
When I can…”
– Pink Floyd, “Time”

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
And then I’m parked in front of the box. Kids marshalled into bed around me. Time passing.
The Collingwood banner says:
Hafey’s heroes
Side by side forever
RIP Tommy

Adelaide win the toss and kick to the grandstand end. Collingwood to the hill. Seeing the Adelaide Oval kitted up like this is strange; like seeing your workmate in bathers.
Richard Douglas gets the first of the game after a couple of minutes.
It’s frenetic. S Pendlebury involved. With D Swan, J White, D Beams.
H Lumumba streams into goal, taking the pass from T Cloke and it’s one goal each. L Ball appears as a battering ram. R Sloane is getting a lot of it. T Walker is in the game; a terrific character. J Elliott making the terrier-like most of his chances. It’s intense.
Pressure is on with man-on-man pairings all over the ground.
J White profits from some T Goldsack junkyarddog forward line pressure. The turnover leads to a soft goal in a tight game.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Kids are down. Asleep. It’s a school night so they’ve seen none of this.
J Elliott, D Swan, S Pendlebury and then we see S Pendlebury saunter in from the Matrix and slot it from 45 on the boundary. Time.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
ADE 1.4.10
COL 3.3.21

Second quarter and P Dangerfield is coming alive.
C Cameron looks a real prospect.
Yet the Collingwood defence is holding up.
J Jenkins is held dead in front by a conflicted Keeffe, battling to deal with the advancing E Betts as well as his man. Slots the free kick.
And now a running goal to Adelaide and it’s 24-27. A tight game feels tighter.

Here’s now the first marauding run by the gypsy troupe. For a behind. Regardless, it’s stirring. It’s the band of warriors running, charging, cavorting, darting, in black& white vertical stripes and beards and tattoos.

Lots of skill errors here. And now Grundy makes a quick entry, J Witts drops it, fights for it, dishes it out the back to D Beams for a great break out goal.
J Blair snaffles another built on a rock of a mark from L Ball on the wing. J Witts contesting well again.

N. cunninghammii pops in and asks: “Why are all the players in one half of the ground?” I have no answer.

J Jenkins kicks a goal off the ground from the goal square. He’s causing problems for L Keeffe. And now J Jenkins scores a pinball goal to give Adelaide the lead.

J Witts taps cleverly to H Lumumba, who finds L Ball, to D Swan. Goal.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
ADE 5.6.36
COL 6.6.42


“…When I come home
Cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones
Beside the fire…”
– Pink Floyd, “Time

Our neighbour Bob died last week. He was in his 80s. Often when he saw me he would ask: “How’s David?” I loved that.
Bob lived in our street for his whole life. Different houses. Same street. He told us stories of men driving sheep over the Merri Creek from Northcote and up Victoria Street. They would carry on to the Sydney Road, where they would turn down the hill to the Queen Victoria Market.

I pop outside at half time. Look at Bob’s roof. Stare at the moon.
I think the ambush may be on.

Back in Adelaide, J Jenkins gets first crack, P Dangerfield is getting too much of it and King-for-a-day T Walker snaps a miss.
Warrior totem L Ball suffers a gash to his noggin and is off for the blood rule.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Scores are level when Adelaide collect a scrappy goal from a Keeffe fumble.
It’s a scrappy kind of ambush game now. I don’t like it.
I’m happy to see J Elliott released from the forward line, though.

But J Podsiadly marks with one hand against H Lumumba and goals.
There’s a stalemate of tackling and scrapping on the wing before Adelaide maul it forward through R Sloane. C Cameron goals.
They’re two goals up.

N Maxwell makes a great run from defence, splitting an indecisive passage of play to find T Cloke out wide. He nails it.

Nugget L Ball is back on the field (of course he is) with a taped headband to staunch the bleeding.

And mayhem now as staid Adelaide nearly boils over on three quarter time. J Jenkins slams his fourth goal after some deft footwork from C Cameron, right on the siren. The siren itself is unable to be heard over the noise. This is brilliant.
What an occasion. It is increasingly clear that Collingwood is playing the part of villain tonight.
P Dangerfield had an influential quarter, working his way into it off half-back.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
ADE 9.10.64
COL 7.8.50

T Goldsack has been moved to defence for L Keeffe.
Yet still, Collingwood cannot hit a target. It’s deplorable.
C Young hooks a kick-out from full back out on the full. From the resultant forward move, Adelaide goal through E Betts. T Walker is playing a big part in the evenings entertainment.
It’s 73-50 with 15 mins left. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

But for a messy, protracted period of footy in the Collingwood forward line, no one is able to make it stick.
Eventually, probably too late, D Beams (“he won’t miss”) gets a set shot from 40. He misses. The gig is up.
“…Far away
Across the field
Tolling on the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spell.”
– Pink Floyd, “Time”

J Blair leads and marks. And then misses too.
Incredibly, 50,051 voiceboxes have attended this heist. It really does look a superb night in Adelaide.
The ambush was on, but this defeat is heavily self-inflicted.
Collingwood are the better side, but they’ve been off tonight. Missed targets, missed shots, skill errors. Back to work. There are skills to refine.

ADE 10.16.76
COL 7.13.55

And I’m outside again. Beneath the full moon. Acceptance, it preaches. All things must pass. Far away, across the field, the tolling of the iron bell. I’m floating away to hear the softly spoken magic spell…

Malarkey Medal Votes:
3-P Dangerfield, 2-J Jenkins, 3-S Pendlebury

Horsburgh Medal (Floriet Pica):
3-S Pendlebury, 2-D Beams, 1-S Sidebottom

Grant Fielke Medal for best on ground (Floriet Pica):
P Dangerfield

Adelaide       1.4   5.6   9.10 10.16.76
Collingwood 3.3 6.6   7.8   7.13.55
Adelaide: J Jenkins 4, R Douglas 2, C Cameron, J Podsiadly, M Jaensch
Collingwood: D Beams, D Swan, J White, S Pendlebury, J Blair, T Cloke
Adelaide: P Dangerfield, J Jenkins, C Cameron, S Thompson
Collingwood: S Pendlebury, D Beams, S Sidebottom
Umpires: S McInerney, H Ryan, R Findlay
Crowd: 50,051

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. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Very we’ll written perspective on life as well as the game love your next door neighbour bobs mention respectful and tasteful , OBP . While I have loved how we as a society have basically been in awe of the great man t shirt , Tommy I have always felt some how wouldn’t this be better if the person was still with us .
    Enjoyed your report on the game also , OBP it will be interesting what happens re
    Keefe who has been v good so far this year and he was beaten by a good player in the very quick , Jenkins also Macaffer no shame to get torched by a star in Dangerfield . T Cloke 1st dropped chest mark was important he is such a confidence player . Adelaide will still rue there pathetic effort against the dees . The pies will rebound significantly I suspect also thanks OBP

  2. Beautifully written David. Do you sleep?
    Very even comp after Hawks, Cats and Power. Maybe Swans. Whoever is “UP” – has the edge in most games. 5th to 14th is even stevens.
    Your Pies looked strangely languid. Like things would click next quarter, next team mate, whenever. Manana? Noone told them the bye was only for a week.
    My Port Adelaide supporting Dad says that if the Crows lived and trained in Oodnadatta and only flew in for the games, they would be a top side. Too much media hype and small town adulation.
    As for all of us, it is dangerous to believe your own bullshit : (Note to Federal Treasurer).

  3. E.regnans says

    Thanks OBP and PB.
    It’s a mystery, this flatness, this languid fog.
    Top 4 teams probably wouldn’t drop a game like that, or miss so many targets (both teammates and goals).

    The goldfish bowl media hype must be interesting psychologically. As for the Eagles, I guess. I wonder what was the effect of having 2 weeks to stew on the Melbourne defeat, versus 2 weeks of feeling content after knocking off Carlton & Essendon?

  4. Just beautiful writing David. Love the moon references. One aspect of life here in Singapore that I enjoy is the allocation of public holidays. We had Vesak Day on Tuesday, and there’s something very pleasing about living somewhere that acknowledges Buddha Day.

    “Gypsy troupe” captures the character of Collingwood wonderfully.


  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks David.

    The skill errors, it was as if the ball was a cake of soap for a while there – Imperial Leather?

    And surely it should be the Chad Rintoul medal ?

  6. Very enjoyable David, beautifully written.

  7. E.regnans says

    Thanks all.
    Swish – it was very nearly the Bruce Abernathy medal.
    Mickey – As Vincent Vega noted: “it’s the little differences” isn’t it? It’s been great following your stories. And I’d love to learn more about the little differences in life you observe up there. A Buddhist public holiday… hmm.
    Thanks djlitsa

  8. Danielle says

    What a shite game

  9. E.regnans says

    Ahh, in some ways, Danielle. But then, lots of lessons come out of it, too.
    That S Pendlebury looks a good prospect.

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