Colliwobbles: fact or fantasy?

by Andrew Fithall

The Colliwobbles. I thought I would get that word in early because it has already come up in football finals discussions. The other common statement I have heard/read recently is that for the past eight (?) seasons, the premier team has been defeated by the runner up in their previous meeting. I haven’t actually checked the validity of that statement, because as a predictor of what will happen in future games, it is as useful as me giving someone a tip for the Melbourne Cup.

Coming back to the Colliwobbles, if you key the word into Wikipedia search you get taken to the Australian Folklore section with the following definition:

The “colliwobbles” refers to the Collingwood Football Club’s apparent penchant for losing grand finals over a 32 year period between 1958 and 1990. During this premiership drought, fans endured nine fruitless grand finals (1960, 1964, 1966, 1970, 1977 (drawn, then lost in a replay the following week), 1979, 1980, 1981). The term “Colliwobbles” was to enter the Victorian vocabulary to signify a choking phenomenon.

For the purposes of this analysis, I have looked beyond the grand finals and analysed Collingwood’s finals performance in all years from 1958 to 2009. In each year where Collingwood has played in the finals, I have marked their performance as “over” “under” or “neutral” based on their finals performance relative to where they finished on the ladder at the end of the home-and-away season. The table is below:

Collingwood Finals Performance 1958 to 2009
Year End Ladder Position Finals System Finals Over / Under / Neutral
58 2 4 GF win Over
59 3 4 Out week 1 Under
60 4 4 GF loss Over
64 2 4 GF loss Neutral
65 2 4 Out in straight sets Under
66 1 4 GF loss Under
67 4 4 Out week 1 Neutral
69 1 4 Out in straight sets Under
70 1 4 GF loss Under
71 4 4 Out week 1 Neutral
72 3 5 Prelim Loss Neutral
73 1 5 Prelim Loss Under
74 4 5 Out week 2 Neutral
75 5 5 Out week 1 Neutral
77 1 5 GF loss Under
79 3 5 GF loss Over
80 5 5 GF loss Over
81 2 5 GF loss Neutral
84 4 5 Prelim Loss Over
88 2 5 Out in straight sets Under
89 5 5 Out week 1 Neutral
90 2 5 GF win Over
92 3 6 Out week 1 Under
94 8 8 Out week 1 Neutral
2002 4 8 GF loss Over
2003 2 8 GF loss Neutral
2006 5 8 Out week 1 Under
2007 6 8 Prelim Loss Over
2008 8 8 Out week 2 Over
2009 4 8 Prelim Loss Neutral

A count reveals the following:

1958 onwards Last 20 Years
Under 10 2
Over 9 4
Neutral 11 3

To briefly enter the world of Andrew Gigacz and Peter Flynn (ooh – it’s a bit weird in here), I don’t think there could be any statistically significant conclusion to be derived from that data. To analyse the Grand Finals more closely reveals the following:

End Ladder Position Finals Over / Under / Neutral
58 2 GF win Over
60 4 GF loss Over
64 2 GF loss Neutral
66 1 GF loss Under
70 1 GF loss Under
77 1 GF loss Under
79 3 GF loss Over
80 5 GF loss Over
81 2 GF loss Neutral
90 2 GF win Over
2002 4 GF loss Over
2003 2 GF loss Neutral
Under 3
Over 6
Neutral 3

I probably cheated a bit by including 1958, but even excluding that, the performance comes out on the positive side of the ledger . So Wikipedia has it correct by classifying the colliwobbles under Australian Folklore. It is a myth and has no credence as a predictor of what will happen this finals series.

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.


  1. Seriously, Andrew – what sort of idiot would resort to using superfluous statistics from days gone by just to make a point?

    Oh yeah… me.

  2. AF – I guess that settles it, the Pies are certainties. Thanks.

  3. Andrew,

    good to see the Pie supporters are relaxed about the up coming finals. Up all night were you?

    Those Stats are interesting. But you know the old saying.

    Statistics are like a bathing suit (Tony’s budgie smugglers). What they reveal is interesting. What they hide is vital.

    While on the subject of CCCCCOOOOLLLLLIIIWWWOOOBBBLLLEEESSS I lived a shelterer Tasmanian suburban life as an child. I was unaware of the Melbourne underworld and to me CCOOOLLLLIIIIWWWOOOOOBBBBBLLLLLEEEEESSS were some thing my mother would insist you got if you ate too much rich food, like yummy puddings.

    “You can’t have any more pudding, you’ll be up all night with CCCCOOOOLLLLLIIIIIWWWWWOOOOOOBBBBLLLLEEEEESSSSS” she would say.

    Now you tell me that there is no such thing as CCCCCOOOOOLLLLLLIIIIWWWWWWOOOOBBBBBLLLLLEEEEESSSS and I am shattered.

    Firstly because my dear old mother was fibbing to a trusting son and secondly because she is no longer here to make those lovely puddings that I was able to have second helpings after all.

    I feel so cheated.

  4. Andrew Fithall says

    Thank-you Phantom. It did keep me up all night. But what is the point of going to be if sleep is impossible because of nervous anticipation.

    And no Dips, Pies are not certainties, because, before anyone else picks up on one glaring historical (last 50 years) bit of evidence, Collingwood did not win the premiership in any of the five years they finished on top of the ladder. Which again has zero implication for the current year. Regardless of where Collingwood finish.

  5. Andrew,

    I didn’t ever ‘choke’ on mum’s puddings. I was never given a sufficient quantity to choke. However there may be a link.

    An interesting hypothesis may be gleaned by identifying a ratio between your ‘overs’ conversions to eventual success (premierships).

    Also this year can only be a ‘neutral’ or an ‘under’ and those don’t yet have a ratio because there is no figure of success to factor in. So this data can be discarded.

    The data does, however support Dave L’s hypothesis that the Pies biomass is bigger, and therefore better, than everyone else’s. Looking at Gig’s figures from a few weeks ago and quoting Dave recently the nearest to the Pies, ten losses, for grand final disappointment is the Cats with six. That is a definite ‘bigger’ for the Pies.

    The trauma derived from Cats deficiencies, however, is considerably mitigated with the three wins, giving a 1 to 2 win loss ratio with the Pies having a 1 to 10 win loss ratio.

    My understanding from the old Cuisenaire blocks, of my sheltered Tasmanian suburban childhood, is that 10 is a much bigger number than 2.

    Which brings me back to the first bit. 10 to 1 is big and more likely to be associated with choking than 2 to 1.

    I believe I have been able to demonstrate through thorough data analysis that there is a very close relationship between CCCCOOOOLLLLIIIIIWWWWWWOOOOOBBBBBBLLLLLEEEEEESSSSSS and choking.

  6. Andrew Fithall says

    Phantom: Huh?

    Using your logic, there would be many happy 60 year old Melbourne supporters because their wins in ’55, ’56, ’57 and ’64 more than compensate for their losses in ’58 and ’00. 46 years in the premiership wilderness is meaningless!

    By the way, I am still disturbed by your swim-suit simile in #3. The image in my head… Yuk! If you hadn’t made it gender specific with the Abbott reference I may have coped better.

  7. Andrew Fithall says

    And ’59 and ’60. Sorry. Left them off.

  8. Andrew,

    when I first heard the swim suit analogy it was ‘a ladies swim suit’ but I considered that I would get into trouble in these modern times for being too gender specific so I used the other one.

    I sincerely appologise for any discomfort I may have caused. It was not my intention.

    The cartoonist (Zanetti)in our local wrag has him in the speedos all the time now. It is rather scary – but funny.

    The alternative may be frightening as well. You would need a lot of 30+ with that complexion.

    Who’s Melbourne?

  9. John Butler says

    Andrew, just who are you trying to convince? And of what?

  10. Andrew Fithall says

    JB. In my work I do a lot of recruitment. When assessing a resume or in interview, a common maxim is “past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour” (Leon Davis’ finals performance?). If someone has changed jobs on a frequent basis, telling me that they are now ready to settle in to a long-term position is not usually sufficient to overcome my doubts about their prospects of employment longevity. On the other hand, to apply a general characteristic to an individual or group of individuals based on previous performance of individuals from the same group is unfair, and usually discriminatory. People need to be judged on their merits of their own performance, not some generalised behavioural trait or mythical handicap.

    Sorry – did I suddenly go all serious then? I think I need more levity in my life.

  11. Ray Walston was into levity

    Sorry that was levitation.

  12. Interesting, very interesting. Of what I could understand anyway.

    Being of a more simple persuasion, I think in these terms: In one corner, the football world has nick-named Collingwood’s lack of ability to win a Premiership in the last 50 years as ‘colliwobbles’. In the other corner, standing proud and tall, is the Pies assertion that the Premiership is a ‘cakewalk’.

    Mathematically, the Pies have been correct in their assertion once out of 50 chances. The football world’s claim has been correct 10 out of 11 times. Therefore, in simple terms, the colliwobbles is a more fair, accurate and unmythlike expression of the Pies capacity to move forward come Finals time.

    But what would I know. My team purports to be mighty.


  13. AF #4 – OK that settles it, the Pies can’t win the flag. Thanks

  14. Dave Latham says

    I think what’s more pertinent is that we are now in a professional era that is a million miles away from the 70s/80s.

    If anything cost the Pies GF’s (Esp 70), it was a combo of hubris & plonkerishness – average lists punching above their weight.

    In terms of pressure and history, none of the top 4 have much to shout about as regards strong GF form. Carlton and Hawks are incredibly successful when in the GF, but this crop’s finals record is ‘meh’.

    In addition, 1990 broke the 32 year hoodoo. A 72 year gap for Swans didn’t seem to spook them, nor 44 years for Cats, 56 for the Dogs or 44 for the Saints.

    On the Cakewalk, don’t make me go all semantic and devour opposition club songs. Happy team at Hawthorn, Blues the team that never let’s you down?

  15. John Butler says

    AF #10 Time for a good gig. This footy stuff is getting all too serious.

  16. John Butler says

    David #14

    “The team that let’s you down less than Collingwood” doesn’t scan as well.

  17. Dave,

    ‘YOUR’ banner’s flying high, from dawn till dark, down at Kardinia Park.

  18. After all these years being sucked in by fantasy and such like Santa, the Easter Bunny, the boogey man and my all time favourite the tooth fairy, i have learned not to be so naive and to question before i believe.
    This is why i refuse to believe any of this ‘Colliwobbles’ nonsense!
    It is a new time in history, a new team, a new beginning and I conclude by saying
    “There is no such thing as the Colliwobbles!”


  19. Not even after one of those wonderful sounding ‘Big’ Lebanese breakfasts Danni?

    Refer #3

  20. lol no Phantom.
    You know what, just to make sure it this myth of ‘Colliwobbles’ does not spread on with my own kids,i will make sure to keep remind them during story time that, that there is no such thing as Colliwobbles and that fairy dust is essential in life.
    Tinkerbell is my favourite, at year 12 and i have a Tinkerbell pencil case :)

  21. David Downer says


    As an Econometrics (fancy Stats) graduate back in the day (I’ve forgotten everything of course), I applaud your “intent” at proving the theorem.

    In dissecting your over/under/neutral ratings baseline, with my own Saints-tinged glasses on now, should we lose another GF this year I do hope I possess the character and strength of mind (coming as they will from 3rd or 4th spot), to declare “ahh it’s ok, we’ve still OVER-ACHIEVED!”.


  22. Danni #20,

    I’ve got a Cats premiership coffee cup.

    My Tigers supporting daughters gave it to me for Christmas.

    See daughters can defy their daddies and follow a different club. Come over to the Cats.

  23. Dave Latham says

    And I can have a six pack every night. The question that has to be asked is if it’s a good thing.

    Leaving your daughters to follow the Tiges is considered in some quarters tantamount to gross dereliction of duty.

  24. #22 Phantom, i dont know how you let your daughter follow another team, yet im the one your seem to be always trying to convert!
    do all your kids follow richmond?

    i wouldn’t ditch my team, even though i considered it ONCE after there was a rumour of a fev to magpies for Jack anthony and Nathan Brown.
    Nah i jst couldnt do it, its not right and i dont look good in hoops!

  25. Danni, it’s time you left this post and checked out this week’s stats. There’s a “good” one for the Pies in there…

  26. I’ve given up on them Danni.

    My son lerves the Cats. We had a blokey bonding weekend at the ’07 GF and afterwards took the train down to Cat land for the street party and the ground on Sunday. Memorable.

    All right Dave, you win that one but it could have been worse. A lot worse.

  27. well Phantom while you have a ‘blokey’ time at the footy, i get to have ‘Daddy and me time’ :)
    i wouldnt trade that for amything.
    ps- how long will it take until you give up on trying to convert me? lol

  28. I reckon you will put in a written application some time in September.

    I’ll pass that onto the leadership group and you may have to do an interview.

    Your passion for football should get you over the line.

    We are careful you know.

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