Finals Week 1 – Geelong v Collingwood: My new umbrella



As Thommo would say, “it’s farkin’ pissin’ down”. For the first time ever I’ve chucked an umbrella in the backseat – the one my daughter got me for Father’s Day. I’ve never owned one before. Merging onto the Eastern Freeway at the Donvale entrance is a goddamn nightmare. It’s bumper to bumper already. Rain pounding. This is shit. This is my reward for taking an annual leave day and attempting to cruise into the game a tad earlier. I curse Melbourne and its purgatorial traffic. It occurs to me that it perhaps takes longer to get to the ‘G from Warrandyte than it does for the Geelong bus to get there from the Cattery.




Bizarrely, by the time I get into town and find a park off Victoria Parade the rain has stopped and the setting sun is shining. The city skyline is covered with a strange luminosity. I momentarily consider leaving the umbrella in the car, but common sense prevails. Surely it could start pissing down again at any minute in this town without pity. As I strut down Clarendon towards the ‘G, tapping my new umbrella on the pavement, I feel like a dandy in a Kathmandu jacket. I arrive to meet the lads at M32 on the bottom deck of the Ponsford Stand right behind the big sticks. They inform me that Stanley is out for Menegola. This obviously means that Blicavs will play in the ruck. To be honest, I’m not surprised by this late change given the dismal weather and the fact that the Pies have an abnormally small forward line, although it does occur to me that perhaps Harry Taylor would have been a more logical omission, given there is no match up for him.


The game is a strange one. The Pies dominate the first 45 minutes, bombarding their forward line with innumerable chaos balls. Geelong are terrible and hand over three goals on a platter. Nerves can do that on the big stage. It seems that Collingwood’s unusual forward structure has taken the Cats by surprise. Elliot, the Hyphen and Stephenson are live-wires. Grundy is feasting at the stoppages. Sidebottom and Pendlebury are creative forces, while Adams is giving us the grunt around the contest as well as nailing a couple of crucial snaps. Howe is holding everything together in the backline. And Moore seems to be getting better and better as the game wears on.


The Cats peg a couple back late in the second term. We have a game. Dangerfield and Kelly are superb and Stewart is just magnificent in the back half, highlighting just why he has two All-Australian jumpers in his kit. The third term is an arm wrestle. The Pies have lost De Goey (who was struggling to find the footy) and the courageous Greenwood. The Cats have lost a key midfielder in Duncan. The class of Pendlebury and Sidebottom stands out. Not just because of their crucial goals, but because of their poise when the ball is in hand. On the other hand, Ablett has been blanketed by Maynard and Selwood and Hawkins are largely ineffectual. I feel the third quarter is one of our best of the year given the circumstances. We lead by 25 points at the last change.


For the entire final quarter the Cats surge into attack, but are constantly repelled by Moore and Howe. We start trying to run the clock down from about the 18-minute mark. This worries me. We need another goal or two. Inevitably the Cats hit the scoreboard courtesy of a wonderful snap from Dangerfield, and then a long set shot from Kelly – the two players who have kept coming all night. A quick centre square clearance allows Dangerfield to bomb the ball long to the goal line. The ball is frantically rushed through for a point, after Hawkins spills a difficult marking attempt. The Pies hold on. There is joy and relief when the siren sounds. But it makes you wonder if the Cats can play that poor early, and yet still only lose by ten points, then you’d be foolish to write them off for 2019 just yet.


The great Pendlebury is chaired off the ground in his 300th. The faithful stop and applaud the man who has been stopping time for 13 years. Then ninety odd thousand people slowly file out of the ground, wondering what on earth September has in store for them. As I head back down Clarendon Street towards the car, I tap my umbrella, which is still as dry as a dingo’s donga, on the pavement.



To read more from Damian Balassone, click here.



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About Damian Balassone

Damian Balassone is a failed half-forward flanker who writes poetry. He is the author of 'Strange Game in a Strange Land'.


  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    A Kathmandu dandy paraphrasing Thommo ! Brilliant.
    Damo, They’ve given us cause to hope again. Dangerous thing for Collingwood, that.
    This team’s resilience has been something to behold this year. Elliott’s first half sublime. Moore’s second half decisive. Varcoe in for Brown ?

  2. I couldn’t believe Varcoe wasn’t in the side – he’s inspiring to watch. How Geelong let him go a few years ago truly amazes me.

  3. Resilience is the word Phil. Backline has stood up very well this year. If we are to go close this year, our backs will have to hold firm, because I don’t think we’re capable of high scores with this unusual forward line.
    Varcoe might just have to come in for DeGoey, Fisho. I love his pressure. The other change could be Scharenberg in for Greenwood (who will be sorely missed). Aish also waiting in the wings. And maybe Reid if we need a tall target up forward to bring the ball to ground.

  4. There’s 2 things I like about Collingwood – Aish and Varcoe – love watching those two.

  5. Frank Taylor says

    Nice one Damien.
    The Pie’s Prelim selection will be crucial (naturally) to try and build some sort of settled structure at this late stage.
    The bottom line is, anything can happen……
    Go Pies
    Frank Taylor

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