AFL Round 20 – Sydney v Collingwood (Floreat Pica Society report): Beam us up, Scotty

by Andrea McNamara


I’m writing this on the flight back to Melbourne. I’ve been to many of our interstate games in the last eight years and I have to say that win last night is up there with the best. Perhaps the drawn final against West Coast in 2007 tops it, but only just.

We’ve become a hard team to watch in 2013. Unpredictable, unreliable, a rabble one week, showing promise the next, and sometimes just plain awful. We’ve even been all of these in the one game. We’ve been cruelled by injuries (again) and the talk about whether Bucks can coach and the reported division amongst the playing group was taking any enjoyment away and the effort and expense of going interstate seemed out of proportion to any gain. I would like it on record that I committed to going to Sydney just after we lost to Gold Coast. I decided to give them one more chance in Sydney and then review going interstate next year.

My pre-game entertainment was watching the scores of the Carlton game, willing the Doggies to hang in there. If we lose, I was thinking, at least Carlton did too. The Swans got off to a flyer – they looked ruthless, precise and shrugged us off, blowing us out of the game in 11 minutes with a 4-goal-to-zip lead. Weirdly, though, it didn’t feel like we’d thrown in the towel. It felt like we hadn’t settled into the game’s rhythm yet.

What we didn’t know is that the Swans’ fourth goal at the 11-minute mark of the first quarter would be their last until Tippett’s second after the siren heading into the long break. Halfway through the first quarter we stemmed their flow of goals, and then plugged away to be 3 points up at half-time. The Swans had gone from 4 goals straight to 5.9 and our pressure caused that.

We carried on from last week. Pendles was back to his old self, Swanny looked purposeful, Ball continued his good form, Harry O did too, and I forgot to be worried about how our makeshift ruck would handle Mumford and Pyke – we just kept getting the ball out of the centre! When I’d thought about it before the

game, I couldn’t see how a topknot-wearing teenager with bucketloads of ability and two games under his belt, with a dinosaur for backup in Lynch, could take on the sausage-munching Mumford and international sportsman Pyke.

Poor old Browny was clearly getting toweled up by Tippett (who I am starting to loathe in a Tom Hawkins way – there’s something really poncy about him) but the trick to stopping Tippett is to keep the ball away from his end of the ground and that’s exactly what we did in the second quarter. We hassled, tackled, ran and carried, handballed, backed up, and generally played as a team so that eventually the Swans could not get a good run anywhere.

Early in that second quarter I remember marveling at how the Swans found ways out of our forward line – in heavy traffic they had Vespas and we were in 4WDs. But our heavyweight approach paid dividends and Grundy finished a magnificent passage of play with a goal that might have been coast-to-coast.

Things I loved. Jarryd Blair – unsung hero of the pack, always at the bottom of the action shoveling that ball out. Jamie Elliott – he’s worked out how to shake a tag and claim that ball with assured hands, or to crumb it from the big guys. Steele Sidebottom – back to his old smooth-moving self but more defensive, intercepting, surging forward, knowing where the ball is going to be and pinpoint delivery. Sinkers – for effort. Marley Williams – for replacing Ben Johnson’s run and carry and Leon’s cleverness with something that is a bit of both with a never-say-die attitude. But mostly I loved our big names lifting now that Beams is back.

What I saw last night was another total team effort. Beams allows this team to play Bucks’ game plan. He straightens us up – they seem to know where each other will be all of a sudden. Those lovely strings of handballs to someone running on to receive – what looked inept against the Gold Coast three weeks ago now looks deliberate and deadly. And Bucks’ game plan clearly requires a team-based approach, it’s not one for individual stars. The role players (Macaffer and Goldsack types) are also required. Pendles is an extraordinarily good footballer but he needs those around him in the support roles so he can create space where no one else can. When he is alongside Swan on song, Beams streaming past and Ball going in hard, we look unstoppable.

A special comment on Rhyce Shaw, my ex-Badge Man. I loved his goal, and I wish him more success at the Swans. He was much maligned – a bit like Sinkers – for his disposal. But if Ben Sinclair becomes half the player Rhyce Shaw is now, he will have been worth the heart-in-mouth moments where he throws a man down, grabs the ball and takes off … only to kick it straight to the opposition. One day, he might grow up to be Rhyce Shaw like.

A few other things have helped kick start the machine. Ball has hit form, with a vengeance. Harry O is back to his creative best pre-meltdown, prowling the wings. Lachie Keefe in his 18 games has picked up where he left off last year so it’s fair to assume he’ll be a great defender in the next few years.

Lynch played a role, missed a goal he should have kicked, but has enough footy smarts to tap the ball to a carrier, or to use his big body to block and bump. He has the turning circle of a garbage truck but they cause a fair bit of damage too if you run into them. I’d still rather have him than Dawes, and this year has revealed that Reid is probably the real answer up forward anyway.

The third quarter was wonderful. We kept driving the ball forward, JThomas showed what he’s made of with a couple of cool-headed goals, Trav toe-poked one through and at one stage it seemed like three Blairs were chasing the ball. Tippett brought it back to two goals and I wondered if Reid would be swung down back then he out-bodied his opponent and kicked one after the siren for some breathing space. I thought, We’ll be OK (and I haven’t thought that for a long time).

The final quarter showed Keefe goalie-like in the last line of defence. He stopped two certain goals. In another beautiful passage of play, Trav headed off with nothing between him and the goals and missed from about 3 metres out. This is a tweet from his old mate Cameron Wood: ‘Oh Trav, that miss was worse than Hannebery’s haircut.’ Couldn’t have put it better myself.

At the 15-minute mark, the Collingwood chant is loud and proud and the Swans fans were leaving in droves.

I will always remember walking back into the city after the extra-time win over West Coast in Perth, and falling into step with other Collingwood supporters. It was real side-by-side stuff before that was our marketing slogan. Last night, I caught the train back to Central. Most of the Swans supporters had left the ground before the end so it was pretty much black and white on the train, plenty of good natured drunks among them. We were all walking underground to the Chalmers Street exit when a couple of young blokes in suits (a big night in a corporate box?) started the chant, long and low at first, then one bloke started working the crowd, Joffa-style, until many other joined in. ‘Coll-ing-woooo-ood’ echoed throughout the underground of Sydney’s Central Station. We hit the outside believing that the Mighty Pies are back and that the Hawks are next on the list of big scalps.

Dayne Beams has transported us to a new level in his five games this year and Scott Pendlebury could lead us into finals form. Can we keep this intensity up for four more games and get past the first week of the finals? I hope so, especially for Bucks’ sake. He deserves to finish a difficult 2013 on a high. Actions speak louder than words and he knows that better than most.

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