Almanac Preliminary Final – Sydney v Collingwood: Magpies and blood





Bare-knuckled, I grip the bar as the light begins to fade. There’s thunder in the distance. I look to shake off that crap feeling you get late on a Sunday afternoon. ‘This’ll only be quick’, I say.


As I hit the incline, I sit up, hunch my back and lean forward onto the balls of my feet. Side-to-side my rhythm slows, and then I feel it.


His sharp claws hit the back of my neck.


I ride faster, but not enough. He strikes again.


I’m flying now and as I anticipate the third contact, I turn and swerve. I shoot forward, up and over.


I hit the bitumen at pace and I slide to a stop. My pale hands are dripping red, and my elbows and hip are raw. I roll over and I’m a shouting.


The bastard swoops me one last time. This can’t be a good sign.


Bloodied and angry, I march away. Soph picks me up and later that night I scream in the shower.


With much carry on, I carry on through the week. The bandages and my skin, they stick together.


At work, I’m introduced to Cadel Evans over email. He sends me a video of him riding through vineyards around sunny Lake Como. I don’t share any of my photos back.


Still sporting my cuts I head to Dad’s place next Saturday afternoon. This is it – the big one before the Big One. I’ve been thinking about it all week.


Uncle Grant’s got a red and white scarf on, as does Dad’s mate Des. Dad’s gone all out and is wearing his favourite South badge. There are two full wheels of blue cheese on the coffee table as we sit on the couch, dare I say it, side-by-side.


Good old Parker drills the first one through. He’s on fire early.


Stephens, Clarke and Paps follow, and my nerves dissipate. How good is this? A miracle snap bounces through – it’s clear Warner’s been practising his leg break.


Crisp is instrumental. His charging goal from the centre bounce keeps the Pies in touch.


There’s no room to move, there rarely is in finals. Maynard and Bud exchange pleasantries.


Bud marks cleanly and scores but it’s the Pies’ accuracy that’s sparkling. McCreery kicks his second and they’ve got seven straight.


After the main break, McDonald drives it through. The lead’s out to 36 points and I’m thinking about the Grand Final more than I’d care to admit.


McInerney intercepts a lazy switch and streams into an open goal. He’s flying.


Then Daicos snaps truly. He’s so good it’s like there are two of him out there.


Ginnivan is buzzing around. Papley too. Imagine sharing a road trip with those two?


Pendlebury is having another vintage performance. The 358-gamer still moves like a Rolls Royce.


Mills, on the other hand, is more like a Kia. Not your rust-bucket type, but perhaps one of those Stingers? He’s got penetration and is slick in the centre.


Hollywood Errol is shining on the big stage. He’s got pizazz and a bone-crunching tackle. Rowbottom is workman-like but, without him, the Bloods would be stuffed. In the ruck, Hickey’s impact can’t be understated.


But the momentum’s with the black and white, Collingwood is closing in the final quarter. De Goey and Daicos paddle it to Bianco. He kicks it forward, up and over. He’s been good for them tonight.


One-on-three in the square, Papley gives the Swans a settler, but the Pies keep on coming – Mihocek goals.


Hoskin-Elliott turns and swerves. His snap makes the margin nine.


With less than three minutes to go, Sidebottom pounces on the loose ball, slamming it onto his foot to narrow the margin to three. My face goes pale.


Bud takes a contested mark, and Hickey too moments later. Time is running down but one last roll of the dice remains.


The players are out on their feet. My voice is becoming hoarse. The TV’s at maximum volume.


A desperate clammer in the Pies’ goalsquare ends as the ball is carried onto the post.


By day and by night, the siren blows. Onwards to victory.


Elation, cheers, hi-fives and hugs. The blue cheese is all gone.


“We could only ever dream of making the granny back in the 80s,” Dad said to Des.


Next week will be the sixth time I see them play in the final game of September. I’m living a lucky dream indeed.


Driving home on a dark road, I see a flash of white on my left under the bonnet. I shudder as I feel the small bump on the rear wheel. I hope to god it wasn’t a cat.




SYDNEY                      6.3       11.7       13.10       14.11 (95)

COLLINGWOOD         3.0        7.1         10.5        14.10 (94)



Sydney: Papley 3, Franklin 2, Clarke, Heeney, McDonald, McInerney, Parker, Reid, Rowbottom, Stephens, Warner

Collingwood: Elliott 2, Hoskin-Elliott 2, McCreery 2, Bianco, Cameron, Crisp, N.Daicos, J.Daicos, Ginnivan, Mihocek, Sidebottom



Sydney: Rowbottom, Parker, Mills, Papley, Hickey, Gulden 

Collingwood: Crisp, N.Daicos, Pendlebury, Moore, Quaynor, Sidebottom



Sydney: Reid (groin)

Collingwood: Cox (groin)



Sydney: Braeden Campbell (replaced Reid in the third quarter)

Collingwood: Nathan Kreuger (replaced Cox in the third quarter)



45,608 at the SCG, 4 at Dad’s place


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About Jake "Cobba" Stevens

Cobba Stevens works in sports social media and content. A keen middle-distance runner in both the ammos and the pros, he's also one of the youngest 'old bloods' supporters in Melbourne.


  1. I hate swooping season, Cobba.

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