Collingwood dreaming 2018: When the war is over

“Things separate from their stories have no meaning. They are only shapes. Of a certain size and color. A certain weight. When their meaning has become lost to us they no longer have even a name. The story on the other hand can never be lost from its place in the world for it is that place.”
-Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing


This Collingwood team.
Their collective effort brings me joy.
Their creativity, their hope, their determination, their laughter all bring me joy.
And for that I am grateful.


My Dad’s Dad played for Collingwood. There he is. George Wilson.
He didn’t talk about it much. I had the impression that footy was a game, as opposed to the real issues of having a job and providing for the family.
It is via George, an Abbotsford and Clifton Hill bootmaker, that I support Collingwood.

[click to enlarge]

George was the older brother of Betty Wilson.


A soft rain falls on corrugated iron and on compacted Merri Creek mud and on a canopy of eucalypts overhead which sway and drip and cry this day.

I wake to the nudge of a hoof. My imaginary horse Harry Collier who I named after the fantastic Collingwood footballer named Harry Collier stands above me. I am dry. I am cold. Harry Collier nudges me awake. We have a day ahead of us.

This is the very end now of Australian Football League season 2018. Grand Final week. In this season now ending, our ragtag Collingwood finished the home and away season third. In March, in May, imagining a third-placed finish required a leap of imagination.



Ain’t nobody gonna steal this heart away
Ain’t nobody gonna steal this heart away

In September, we’ve seen that narrow loss in Perth to West Coast, the inaccurate win against GWS and the roaring steamtrain of a win over Richmond. Disarmingly, throughout September, people have relayed to me their blessings for Collingwood.
“Mate, I’m a Hawk through-and-through, but gee I like your blokes this year.”
“Maaaate. All the best. Can’t believe I’m saying that.”
“Never thought I would barrack for the Pies – but these are strange times.”


When the war is over
Got to get away


It’s Grand Final week 2002. Collingwood is not supposed to be here. A team with no all-Australians. None. I’m on the bike down Elgin Street from the University of Melbourne. Leaving moneyed Carlton, cruising the bohemian Fitzroy rise and over Smith Street. Freewheelin’ down the hill to Wellington Street and onto the Collingwood Flat. The river flats of industry and poverty.

It’s a Grand Final week training session and I feel 8-years-old again.

There’s Rupert Betheras. We played school footy together and a season of Under 15s – and now he’s off to the Grand Final with Collingwood.

There’s Christie Malthouse interviewing her dad.

This is Victoria Park. This is Collingwood.


Pack my bag to no place
In no time no day


It’s Grand Final week 2010. Collingwood is a chance. The Saints have been incredible for a couple of years. And my St Kilda-supporting well-connected colleague is off for a photo op with the Premiership Cup. It’s the Grand Final parade and she later sends through a photo.  She’s holding the bloody thing.

You and I we used each other’s shoulder
Still so young but somehow so much older


At our campfire, Harry Collier nods slowly to himself.

Collingwood supporters are lazily typecast as hostile, objectionable, smelly, offensive ne’er-do-wells. Kind of Dickensian in bearing; rather more Fagan’s urchins than Jarndyce & Jarndyce. And that’s fine. There are reasons for this. History, geography, opportunity all play a part. And with supporters of other clubs, war has been the normal setting.


How can I go home and not get
Blown away

In the years 2012-17, it seemed that much of the (one-dimensional) football world rather enjoyed the slide under Nathan Buckley. People read ladder results as a clear case of cause and effect. (Buckley’s coaching “causing” the “effect” of dropping ladder positions annually).

There were many happy to sink in the boot (2017 media had Carlton ahead of Collingwood in the race for “success”).


You and I had our sights set
On something

Whereas the truth was (as ever) much more nuanced.
Some spotted the philosophy of N Buckley.
Some did not.
Some spotted the role of luck.
Some did not.


Hope this doesn’t mean our days are numbered
I got plans for more than a wanted man


Anyway, cause and effect is very hard to prove in the absence of the scientific method. And in any trial involving humans, even applying the scientific method is virtually impossible.

You need the bearing of Socrates to maintain a level head through such chaos and madness.
The bearing of Nathan Buckley.
And the wit to understand that we all have emotional needs.


All around this chaos and madness
Can’t help feeling nothing more than sadness
Only choice to face it the best I can


That Nathan Buckley understands footy has never been in doubt.
But doubt did surround his reading of people.

The off-loading of Heath Shaw, Alan Didak, Travis Cloke and others supported a view that N Buckley did not want to coach mavericks. That was an easy (and false) line carried by many. The ongoing career of Dane Swan, the fledgling careers of Jordan de Goey, Josh Thomas and others suggest that he welcomes mavericks.

Those that choose to face things the best they can.


When the war is over
Got to start again


Much has been made of the Collingwood Football Club review of 2017. Fair enough. I’ve never read it. Typically, another “cause and effect” narrative has grown legs around this topic: Geelong reviewed club functions and won flags, Richmond reviewed club functions and won a flag, Collingwood reviewed club functions and is into the Grand Final. What role luck?


Whatever, Collingwood had to start again.
That means people had to start again.
From the outer, the difference I see is people enjoying themselves; backing themselves.


After Round 4, I wrote a love letter to Brodie Grundy. I liked what I saw.

In Round 6, Collingwood lost to Richmond. But I liked what I saw.

In Round 8 Collingwood lost to Geelong, but I liked what I saw.


Try to hold a trace of what it was
Back then


And as Collingwood rose up the table, I thought back to my character of Little Jenny in 2017; little Jenny of nuanced understanding; of curiosity.

“Journeying home, the train platform is alive with nervous energy. For people wearing Little Jenny’s shared colours, sadness and disappointment mix with anger and frustration. Men, groups of men, yell solutions, argue solutions to this everlasting, repeating, strangely guaranteed conundrum of a footy club that has lost another game. Punctuated by swearing and voluminous roars, these speeches further divide the throng.

 “He’s got to go! He should resign!!”
“Nah, the coach is alright! Sack the players!!”
“It’s time for President to walk. It’s a dictatorship!”
“Lining their own pockets! Jobs for the boys!” 

People shuffle, stare at their feet. An old man on the train platform catches Little Jenny’s eye and simply shrugs his shoulders.””


You and I we sent each other stories
Just a page I’m lost in all its glory


And now, here we are. In this final week of the 2018 season, we’re away.
It’s Grand Final week 2018.
I’m on the tram to Parliament, walking down to the Glasshouse.
I’m with the buds at a Tuesday open training session.
I’m shaking hands with President Eddie.
(“Congratulations, Ed!”
“Ho – it’s not me mate – it’s these fellas out here. Good on them.”)

And I am aware of the words I wrote in late August:
“Well Harry, here it is; it is a “New Coat of Paint” kind of day,” I say. I take my billy from the fire; fill my cup.

It is time. Time to dream.


How can I go home and not get blown away


Grand Final week 2018.
Harry Collier turns from the fire and I board his bare back.
Collingwood is not supposed to be here.
And yet Collingwood is here.
Leading up to the Tigers game, the most positive sign I noticed was Lynden Dunn, recovering from anterior cruciate ligament tear, joining in club training. He was wearing an afro wig and pink leotard. To hilarity.
Each member of that team and each member of the support staff has contributed.
What a ride.


“Harry. Fishin’ for a good time starts with throwin’ in your line. Maybe this will be our year.”
Harry shifts. He lifts his head and says in a low voice: “Maybe it already is.”


To be a Collingwood supporter used to be to be permanently engaged in a war.
It used to be a war on all fronts.
Internal, external.

But now we proudly watch this spirited and hardy and creative and tenacious band of footballers gather together, play together. We watch the cast of injured on the sidelines.
We nod and clap and cheer.
We don’t bother about the war.
It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter.


Harry walks and then trots towards a clearing.
In this Grand Final week, Harry Collier my imaginary horse trots and canters through the acacia to the south. Approaching a flowering golden wattle, my imaginary horse called Harry Collier suddenly leaps into the air and he flies. He flies. He flies higher and higher as I hold, I sit, aback this magnificent totem of Collingwood.

We are up.

We fly over Diamond Creek and the Coventry boys.
We fly over Preston and Daicos country.

We fly along the Yarra.
We see the Yarra Park.
We see the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Ain’t nobody gonna steal this heart away
Ain’t nobody gonna steal this heart away


And Harry wears an afro wig as we soar above the light towers and descend on the north side of the ground, where Harry lands effortlessly outside the Olympic Stand; alongside the statue of Betty Cuthbert.
People mill about; oblivious. It is Grand Final week. Harry sees this and knows this and Harry leans back. In my ear Harry Collier whispers:
“Enjoy this. For this is all there is.”

I’m so glad Jimmy Barnes will lead the singing. I’m 8-years-old again and anything is possible.

#gopies #grateful



Collingwood dreaming 2018 (part 1) – new coat of paint (August 2018)


For more of David Wilson’s work, CLICK HERE:


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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. E Reg, I’m contractually and spiritually obliged not to wish Collingwood well on GF day, but that’s a great piece.

  2. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    I never thought I’d say this, Mountain Ash, but …

    Because of Bucks. I think he’s really been very open to and obviously worked very hard at changing the way he coaches, the way he builds and nurtures a group of players and carries them through something or helps them to carry each other through something. I’d like to see that kind of thinking/feeling work amount to something that would be hyper meaningful to him. And it is true what they say. Playing a great kind of footy. That Prelim was just about the most aesthetic pleasure I’ve had from a game this year. The Pies were Buddha with the armies of Mara approaching, claiming their absolute right to be there. The only problem with the Collingwood romance in 2018 is … Eddie. Sorry Mountain Ash, but he represents the absolute opposite of all of the above to me, which doesn’t warrant rewarding.

    Enjoy the ride. Take care of Harry and have a cube of sugar ready on Saturday evening!

  3. Keep them coming David. Always a fine read. Thanks

  4. Jeanette wilson says

    Love this piece David. You do your heritage proud.
    It moved me. Go pies!!!

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    This is such a beautiful and uplifting read ER. I love Jimmy and Cold Chisel. The lyrics intertwine with your history, George, Betty, Harry Collier, feeling 8 again !
    Is there really anything better than feeling 8 again? Footy can do that and isn’t it why we come here to write and express what it all means to us?
    ” You and I we sent each other stories
    Just a page I’m lost in all its glory”
    Go Pies !!

  6. Colin Ritchie says

    Fab stuff ER, you’ve nearly convinced me to change colours! Weave some Bob in there, and you could further convince me to swap the red for white.

  7. JB – understood. And thanks. Very kind.

    MdH – “The Pies were Buddha with the armies of Mara approaching, claiming their absolute right to be there.” Super image. Thanks very much for your thoughts, as always. I guess we never really know what’s inside another, do we?

    K Richards – thank you.

    Mum – Ahh, thank you. And I didn’t even mention your supporting history…

    P Dimitriadis – Who knows what’s next? Nobody.

    Col – give it a try on Saturday. See how you like it.

  8. Marvellous. And glad to have witnessed some of this with you. Enjoy it all.

    As for N.Buckley – he is the one drawing us all in to the Collingwood story. Him, and T.Varcoe, and B.Grundy, and christ, M.Cox, and then suddenly you’re wondering if there’s anyone you dislike in the bloody place anymore. Strange.

  9. Thanks Jack. All of pretty high quality, I think.

    And MdH – I re-read your comment on N Buckley just now. I find it as concise and as accurate and as thoughtful as I’ve read.
    Very happy for him.

  10. Luke Reynolds says


    Feel like I say this about all your pieces, but this is truly magnificent.
    I’ve been a Buckley man all the way through. Despite the hard times and media pressure and Grumpy Mick, he has handled and presented himself superbly, humbly and with warmth and humour.

    Hopefully when the war is over on Saturday we are celebrating with Barnsey.

    Go Pies.


  11. Way back when Bucks may still have played for Brisbane he turned up to the Kapunda footy club one Saturday (I think his wife has a connectiion) and had a kick and a catch with some kids. Not many saw it. I did and thought it a great gesture. It’s remained central to my view of him.

    Rupert Betheras always struck me as an interesting, left of centre football and I suspect, bloke.

    Good luck Er and Harry.

  12. Poetic. Epic.
    Here’s a slow for your boys – May the Clarrie Grimmett be with you.
    Let the War begin.

  13. Thanks Luke – very kind. It seems that N Buckley has that ability to cut through the noise, the distraction, and speak to the truth of matters.

    Thanks Mickey – little things make a diffrerence, I agree. I wouldn’t say I ever knew R Betheras well; he was always a man apart. I believe he moved to central Australia and followed the path of art. Seems right.

  14. Superb OBP and in this redleg train wreck week I hope,Aishy is wearing a premiership medal on Sat night

  15. Frank Taylor says

    Tall Man, a fabulous, moving piece, again.
    I hope you are writing a book mate.
    Go Pies!

  16. Thanks for this e.r.
    An extremely satisfying and enjoyable read (despite the Magpie-related theme).

    As a Cold Chisel fan, naturally I kept thinking of the late Steve Prestwich while reading this piece. and how the few songs that he composed for the Chisels were absolute crackers: “When the war is over”, “Forever now”, “Best kept lies”, “Water into wine” & “Flame trees (co-writer).

  17. Great piece ER. Not sure I entirely agree with you on Bucks. His coaching style and support coaches took a young team that had played in successive GFs virtually straight out of the top 8 for years. The game plan was all wrong; no defensive structure to speak of and it took the critical review last year to change things. For example, until this year we had a midfielder, albeit a great one, coaching the backline and it leaked like a seive! Now there are more suitable support coaches and Buckley has lightened up and changed his style everything is moving in a cohesive direction. The softer than usual draw this year also has helped the players gain confidence. Winning is happy! The power forwards of WC loom large this week.

  18. Wow, ER, just wow. Some great lineage there. It’s becoming the Black & White Almanac over the past few days. Bliss. But I have to keep reminding myself that Eagles deserve to be slight favourites – have beaten us twice this year and have 2 star key forwards, playing against our makeshift, undersized defence (and I never bought this home ground advantage factor – MCG is a neutral venue – there will be more people barracking against us than for us – it’s not as if it’s Vic Park.

    Fingers crossed. Hope springs eternal.

  19. Art.

  20. Brin Paulsen says

    Terrific stuff ER. As always. JTH summed it up perfectly.

    Good luck on Saturday

  21. David Conallin says

    Great article, Not sure that that the war is over, even if we win, Too many Buckley/Collingwood haters out there just waiting for a slip up, ready to pounce

  22. Been away for a while ER and missed some terrific writing. This is wonderful. I wish my Cats displayed the same tenacious spirit as the Pies. I actually wish them well.

  23. Congratulations Regnans, great stuff. Being a Tragic Don means I view this GF as a similar contest to Hitler v Mussolini. However many years ago on the Cood a beens, (Trilple R and then ABC),I co-foundered “Let the Eagles fly at Yarraville Action Faction” opposing this WA side when the Yarraville FC in the VFA were proudly known as The Eagles.

    Hence with a very quiet and muffled voice I will whisper, go pies.

  24. Earl O'Neill says

    Great piece, Swampy. Lovely style, that combo of verse and prose in yr writing. The shifting perspectives, dreamlike elements, the quotes…

    Except that I can’t bear Cold Chisel.

  25. Great stuff DW and I’ll have what your smoking.

    Something happened with the Pies and you can’t help feeling that Bucks has looked into the deep dark truthful mirror. Whatever, it has come together beautifully. I won’t be wishing you well (it’s Collingwood after all) but it promises to be a ripper of a game. Go well.

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