AFL Round 9 – Collingwood v Sydney: Acceptance under the May full moon

It’s a jarring thing to see a Sydney jersey being worn about Melbourne town. You know Sydney supporters exist, but only in an abstract way. Like the Higgs boson. Even as reigning premiers, Swans supporters seem to be either elderly Lakeside Oval types from south of the river, or flighty hipsters. Either way, Swans supporters, like the club and the team and the whole bloods image, are hard to dislike. And they’re not historically prone to public displays of chest-beating jumper displays.

Leaving work on a Friday night and navigating the John Bracks painting (look tense, emotionless), I’m surprised to see half a dozen Sydney jumpers in half a city block.  That’s great, I condescendingly think. Good on them.

Collingwood is coming off a big win over Geelong last Saturday night. The reigning premiers are still the reigning premiers. And these reigning premiers continue to be underrated by most. Soon enough I’m cross-legged on the loungeroom floor with a beer and a spaghetti bolognaise.

I’ve tipped the Swans to win. And they do. At half time the game is pretty well over. Adam Goodes is putting on a clinic. I hope the Auskick kids are paying attention.  Following recent discoveries of foreign digital lands, I’m again tuning in to the Twitterverse. The descent into vitriol has been swift. Fairly unconstructive and personal things being floated across the ether about Collingwood FC and some individual players. I’m shocked but not surprised. I guess this is the human zoo, unfiltered.

And then I look up, raising my horizons, and there is the enormous May full moon. Of course. I’ve been drawing attention to that all week (“Look kids, it’s a bit more full than last night. Can you see the lunar seas?” “There’s no water there, Dad”). Now full.

I’ve come across some fairly devout Buddhists in my time. And I remember the May full moon being The Big Deal. I remember it represents Buddha’s birthday, no less. So as the moon rises mightily, I close my eyes, nearly knocking over the glass of red (“careful with that over the carpet”), and breathe. Deep breaths. In, hold, out. In, hold, out. Clear the mind. It’s brilliant.

I land back on Earth, eyes open. And I’m wondering, what would the Buddha do if he was five goals down at half time?

So I watch the second half through new eyes. Blurry eyes. I remove the individual and concentrate on the whole. I remember austerity. I remember selflessness. And before long, I find it’s like an Under 10s game. Great rolling mauls of contested footy. All 36 players in one half of the field. Fast breaks. Players running off half back with NO ONE IN FRONT OF THEM TO KICK IT TO. Sideways handballs. Sideways chip-kicks. Forwards running into space, leading TOWARDS goal, seeking to mark, running with the flight of the ball.

Sydney are masters of this style of footy. They’re doing it easy. But what would the Buddha do now, as coach of the team getting flogged? I’m racking my transcendental mind. No answers. And then, as Adam Goodes’ dial again fills the screen (very well done, him), the answer arrives with a celebration of gentle and serene fervour. I think the Buddha would accept it. That’s it. Embrace the great impermanence.

With that, I’m at peace. Collingwood is copping a whack but the struggle is gone.  The struggle is gone, but so is any whisker of competitiveness. It’s liberating.  Am I floating?

I’m left though, with some nagging questions: how would the Buddha reconcile football’s “whatever it takes” culture?  Is it even possible to be a fiercely competitive Buddhist? Brett Kirk springs to mind. Perhaps the trick is to control what you can, acknowledge what you can’t. That sounds right. And from the loungeroom floor on this Friday night, I’m flat out acknowledging. Well played, Swans.


Collingwood 8.7.55

Sydney 15.12. 102


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 is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their 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. Catherine Jones says

    What a great piece bringing together as it does two widely worshipped philosophies -Buddhism and Aussie Rules football.

  2. Lord Bogan says

    Beautiful work E.Regnans. Life is pain…and so is following Collingwood.

  3. David Wilson says

    Thanks Catherine. Well put: two widely worshipped philosophies. Funny where the boundary around “religion” is drawn. Perhaps the AFL could look to qualify?

  4. David Wilson says

    Thanks LB.
    It’s a special pain that’s been there forever. I don’t even notice it, most of the time. Would we miss it if it was gone? Perhaps a question for someone better qualified to answer; like Geelong fans.

  5. Love this piece, David.

    Even at the game, a mysterious, calm “acceptance” settled down on me half way through the third quarter. I didn’t realise it at the time, but clearly it was the May full moon at work.

    What a week it’s been in footy, hey Ed?

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