Debt demolition

by Andrea McNamara

It’s Women’s Round in the AFL – something I find quite unnecessary to draw attention to, since females make up about half the crowd every week and that’s not a new thing either. Anyway, as it turns out, I go to the footy with three other females, and this year we upgraded to Legend status. We leave the men folk at Gate 1 and they go off to their Secret Men’s Business seats.


We’re aged 77, 52, 51 and thirteen. The 13-year-old and 51-year old are reasonably recent converts to Collingwood. The younger one moved from the UK, arriving in Grand Final Week 2009, and I did my bit for recruitment and gave her a membership for her first Aussie Christmas. By Round 4 2010, she knew all the players, and the rules, more or less by osmosis. Now she’s in charge of stats, filling in the Record with the fervour of a convert. The 51-year-old used to barrack for the Tigers many moons ago but was converted to black-and-white by Nathan Buckley himself – she edited his book. Me and my mum are lifers.

Things from the past are spooking me today. It could be a danger game  – Rhyce Shaw (my badge man at the time) did his knee on a Queen’s Birthday. There was the draw last year. And there’s also the memory of last time we played with a very depleted team, against the Saints in 2009 when we were thrashed on a Monday night by 88 points. Today there are SEVEN players missing from the premiership team. This will test our depth, not to mention commitment.


We settle in to our seats and I say, ‘Sharrod Wellingham had better stand up today.’ And that Dids needed to light up the G. I remember what Kevin Bartlett said, that ‘structures and processes don’t win games, players do’ in reference to Mick’s words before the game, that the actual players don’t matter as much as the structures. I’m not sure I agree with Mick on this point. The Dees will smell blood.


When the team runs out without Daisy, it just doesn’t seem right – it’s like playing without our mascot. And who stepped up to do the pre-match kick-to-kick with Mick?


Now, rather than give a blow-by-blow account of each quarter (you can read a much better version than mine in the papers), I thought I’d share what it’s like to watch a game from our Legends away-game seats, in the bay next to the cheer squad. Yes, in our first year as Legends, our seats are row H, right behind the goals.


This means a couple of things. First, the warm-up is harrowing – balls coming thick and fast in goal practice. Second, once the game starts, it’s pretty exciting because you see things up real close. You can practically hear Travis Cloke thinking.


So, in the first quarter, Davis is the King of Leons – he is absolutely the best Leon imaginable. He lurks, he steals the ball, he baulks and tackles, and his second, third and fourth efforts are fair dinkum unbelievable. Fasolo looks like he belongs – no surprise, I’ve seen him in the Twos a couple of times recently, and he looks sturdy, not like a twig who will snap when playing with men. (Poor Brad Dick.) And smart. I don’t mind him wearing Presti’s number at all. And Trav is ON. As is Sharrod. I’ll come clean, I haven’t been Shaz’s biggest fan. I like the flashy things when they work but so often he turns the ball over. And a few weeks ago, I thought he was destined for a spell in the green vest, if not the Twos. But today, he’s pirouetting out of packs with grace and driving the ball forward with precision and intent. Pendles is Mr Reliable.


The only real disappointment at quarter time is our dopey kicking for goal. It feels like we should be 8.1, not 3.6. But I don’t feel as panicky about the bad kicking for goal as last year (although 4.17 is seared in my memory forever). I’m worried about Sylvia – he’s also ON. But he doesn’t have any mates backing him up, and the ball doesn’t get down his end too many times.


The second quarter belongs to Trav. All the action is at our end. Behind the goals you get to see up close all the clever little things that he does for his teammates. He uses his bulk to protect them, he knocks the ball on. Every one of the Pies must feel bigger and better when Trav’s there, and Dawes is not far behind. And Leroy – while he doesn’t look sharp like those two, he really does play a vital bullocking role. Andy Krakouer must love him. We’re looking like men. Jack Watts is still a boy. The cheer squad are beside themselves, inventing new chants to keep it interesting.


In the third quarter, we’re finessin’ a bit too much at times. But the poor Dees can’t break through to their own goals. When they gallantly manage to steal the ball from a rampaging Collingwood player, they head goalwards only for Ben Reid or His Harryness, or Taz or Leon to throw them aside, or punch it long, or mark it and kick it forward. ‘Moving forward’ takes on a whole new meaning. We watch Taz and Harry and Maxy with great interest from behind the goals, but they must feel a bit like we do: all the action is down the other end. We increase the margin by 3 points only.


At three-quarter time, we’re amazed at how quiet Heater has been, and how ‘off’ Dids is. He’s busy enough, but his kicking is pretty woeful, especially by his standards. But Cameron Wood is looking like he belongs, at last, and McCarthy doesn’t feel so new any more. We wish we would bury the Dees, not just taunt them with the possibility of a thrashing, letting them get junk-time goals so we come away with a 6-goal win. We decide a thrashing is 10 goals or more and we’re 41 points up.


So the last quarter is party time at the G. They get the first of the quarter at the 3-minute mark and then we pile on 8 unanswered goals. Joffa is on fire, urging us all to give our all to Coooolliiiiingwoooood. When the Sack is released from the green vest, he tackles everything in sight. I’m amazed as how tough Luke Ball is – from our vantage point, when he’s sent forward, he gives his all, every time.


So the final margin is suddenly 88 points. The same as the thrashing the Saints gave our undermanned side only a couple of years ago. How much has changed since then – Luke Ball plays for us, we have SEVEN missing players but we don’t miss a beat. We have a whole lot of disciplined foot soldiers who deliver the game plan. In Mick we trust.


It’s a complete demolition, but the Dees get the gate takings. That will pay off some of their debt and it’s nice to do our bit for them. More importantly, we make amends for the silly draw last year when we didn’t rate them enough to give our best. Our boys look hungry – every one of them must feel like they could get the green vest if they’re not giving their all, or that they could be back in the twos to let more new blood in.


We leave the ground talking about this time last year. We were pretty good, but not great. We’d just had a draw against a team on the rise. We knew the second half of the season would matter most. It’s the same this year – and we’re looking forward to it.


Oh, and by the way, Mick did the pre-match kick-to-kick with Daisy, as usual. Some structures and processes rely on personnel after all.



3 Sharrod Wellingham. OK, he’s won me over.


2 I love Trav. It was worth putting up with Jase and Cam. He’s a man mountain. A marking machine. And today, a goalkicker.  What’s not to love?


1 Leon Davis. I have always been a fan, and this year, in the Men’s Department, he’s joined my other favourites in Harry O, Heath and Prodigal Taz. He was everywhere in the first quarter and then steady.





  1. Steve Fahey says

    Loved your report Andrea.

    A couple of stats that may have escaped folks’ attention :

    * The Pies have now won their last 14 quarters of footy (since half-time of the Adelaide game), a phenomenal effort, although still some way behind Geelong’s record of a couple of years ago which was in the early twenties

    * The Pies have kicked more than 100 points in 10 of our 11 games, the loss to the Cats being the exception. I’m confident that this would be a club high/first but one of you stats-heads out there will either know or check it out

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