Round 1 – Collingwood v Geelong: Giggles and fumbles


A beaming Geelong supporter adorned in scarf and jumper strolls up to me under the Footy Records‘ stand at Jolimont Station.

“Do you wanna hear a joke?” he offers. Always one for a laugh while working, I willingly comply.

“Why will Collinwood be troubled by the new 6-6-6 rule?”

Following the time-honoured conventions of never offering an answer and ruining the joke, I implore him to deliver the punchline. Like an overflowing bath tub, it seems ready to spill out of him.

“Because they can’t count to six!” he laughs way too heavily.

If only there were a miniature drum kit present for a “badum tish”.


Obviously, everyone’s excited – Round 1 is back and horrendous jokes that have taken the summer months to devise can finally be painfully delivered.


By the time 78,000 heads fill the MCG’s maternal arms once more, Collingwood players decide it’s their turn to play a sick joke on the avoid supporters yearning for a Premiership that was tantalisingly close last year. The celebrated substance of  ‘Grippo’ was left at the Holden Centre, and the players turned on their best ‘Travis Cloke having a nightmare game’ impressions by fumbling the ball whenever possible.


Black and white clad people are baying for goals, for wins and for the song to ring out again. You can sense it spilling over the Great Southern Stand, toppling from all tiers. Meanwhile, Geelong people sit back smugly, quietly confident that their measured game style will cause an upset.


Other than the return of Elliott, us Pies faithful have little to smile about. He is putting the dangerous Blicavs to the sword early. Haven’t we all missed his freakish ability to move like lightning yet take strong marks like a tall forward? On a fumble-friendly Friday night, he puts the X-factor of De Goey to shame, booting the Pies’ opener after an opportunistic gather and dashing snap. Howe attempts to begin the year with a Mark of the Year contender and isn’t paid the mark that had a lot more control in it then Ablett Senior’s did all those years ago. Now that’s stoking an argument.


Despite this, the Cats accustom quicker – Ablett celebrates his predominant forward role by slotting a running goal from 40 metres that wound back the clock ten years. Dangerfield is shoving Pendlebury aside with ease, Selwood is relishing in the freedom of playing Collingwood Levi Greenwood-less for once. And Kelly – oh Kelly. He is the young star – he won’t touch the ball as much as his comrades, yet every time he does he slashes through hapless Pies and dynamically creates goals.


Geelong remain steady – holding their level. Collingwood perform in surges throughout the entire game. They go from sloppy and inaccurate to slick and daring at a click of the finger. In the last few minutes of the opening quarter they switch to unstoppable – Cox and Elliott boot majors within minutes and Beams dictates terms. He is the key – he’s the only one who can do what Kelly does for Geelong.


The second quarter sees Geelong fall behind in general play, as their stagnating style of defence is thwarted by Collingwood’s manic pressure and running. They lock it in, for point after point. In what will ultimately cost us the game, the likes of Treloar, Cox, Pendlebury, Grundy and De Goey all squander easy chances and don’t put the Cats away. Grinning like their Cheshire kind, Geelong revel in their experienced side that is always ready to pounce and claw them from behind.


With the aid of yet another high-free kick (this time from a Varcoe tackle that got him on the bicep), Selwood rallies his troops with a stellar set shot. Dahlhaus gains new fans at Geelong with another solid goal that allows the Cats to establish a buffer. Just when Geelong appear set to pull away and leave the inaccurate Pies in their wake, Treloar finally uses the ball efficiently via a hurried snap that sails through. It seems that’s the only way Collingwood can get one through the big sticks – when they have to stop and think about it they get nowhere near.


The Pies pick up their game again – the forward line goes from 2017 clunky to 2018 dynamic, plus Elliott. Leave him and De Goey open in the arc like Pagan’s Paddock and see what happens. When they do that, Elliott takes a screamer and then kicks it onto the running De Goey, who stumbles, fumbles, falls and regathers to kick a tantalising goal.


Just like that, Geelong cover this danger. Constable breaks the last quarter deadlock with his first major – a ripper snap that curls through. Collingwood aren’t pulling away – the game is on. Friday night footy is well and truly alive. De Goey has the chance to tie the scores, yet inexplicably turns away from goals and handballs to a teammate who has two players on him. That could be costly. Luckily, the favourite son of Beams busts through to slam through a goal with force, like a representative frustration of the team’s poor performance that allows the cheer squad to roar.


Six minutes is on the clock and a draw is well and truly on the cards.

Mainly unseen, the mini whippet figure of Brown crumbs a pack and kicks a miraculous snap. One more goal and the match is over.

But Geelong don’t want to go home with no points – Parfitt replies instantly. Stuck on 499 goals and 3AM nappy-changing shift, Hawkins finds space thanks to his dominant midfield to snap through the winning goal.


Howe tries to open up the game for the first time with some risky kicks that only gift Geelong more scoring shots. Rohan uses his pace to ensure that no last thrust forward will ruin victory. The siren goes, and the Cats deservedly rise to the occasion for a gritty win. Collingwood will rue a match that they threw away, or kicked away.


Leaving the MCG in a state of frustrated disappointment, the chuckling Cats comedian that I met hours ago comes back into my mind. He’ll definitely be laughing now, walking back up to Jolimont ready to tell anyone who will listen the latest joke that is proven to make any Geelong fan roar with laughter.


COLLINGWOOD 3.5 4.9 7.10 9.11 (65)
GEELONG 2.2 3.4 7.10 10.12 (72)

Collingwood: Elliott 3, De Goey 2, Cox, Treloar, Beams, Brown
Geelong: Ablett 2, Hawkins 2, Duncan, Selwood, Dahlhaus, Dangerfield, Constable, Parfitt


Collingwood: Treloar, Moore, Elliott, Cox, Langdon
Geelong: Kelly, Stewart, Dahlhaus, Ablett, Selwood

Collingwood: Nil
Geelong: Nil


Reports: Nil
Umpires: Stevic, Harris, Haussen
Official crowd: 78,017 at the MCG

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