Finals Week 2 – Geelong v Collingwood: Space and time





Geelong v Collingwood
Saturday, October 10, 2020
The Gabba



I don’t write enough footy these days.


And it’s already Wednesday afternoon and all those ideas I had while watching Geelong and Collingwood – a bizarre game in many ways – have been either visited by others or disappeared from memory.


I was going to write something last week, after the Port Adelaide-Geelong final – a bizarre game too in many ways – but I didn’t get around to it.


I’m sort of glad I didn’t because it would have been a ridiculously flighty, emotion-charged, prejudiced rant about coaches who love their players and are willing to show it, and coaches who could have written 1984. It would have ended with a lament for the error Geelong made when, at the end of 2010, they chose process over art.


That Port-Geelong game was a shocker for all but the Power faithful.


And that was the Geelong mood – at the time.


In the lead-up to that first week, I was feeling pretty good about the finals. So Family Harms planted a Geelong Spring garden of blue-ish pansies and alyssum, clicked and collected from Bunnings. The idea for the garden had emerged after Gary Newton (voice of the old Clive Peeters ads) had asked if we were planning a 2020 garden prompting me to dig up a story about the 2007 Harms garden. I found the yarn and re-published it. The decision to plant that 2007 garden was made by Susan, known as The Handicapper then (free-er times), who took the bull by the horns when at the nursery and brought home blue and white seedlings. We planted them while Buddy was kicking that ridiculous goal to beat Adelaide.


[The Handicapper had form though. In 2006, while we were visiting the ruins of the temple at Delphi, a crazy-looking hippy Canadian jumped from behind the bushes and startled us. “Who’s going to win the 2006 AFL premiership?” he asked The Handicapper. Startled, she blurted out, “The Eagles.” That summer, The Handicapper was known as The Oracle of Delphi.]


Anyway, when we sat down to watch Port and Geelong we were expecting an end-to-end classic. But Port’s pressure was too intense. Our Cats had no space, and Tom Hawkins had chewy on his boot; not that straight kicking would have cured much (it seemed). When things looked grim, Paddy Dangerfield invoked the spirit of the Under 12s and tried to win it on his own. What a moment in the game when he ran 60 metres to score an Under 12s goal. What a bigger moment when he thought he could run through Darcy Byrne-Jones and next thing was running down the race for some treatment. Port were impressive and should have won by more – it was ridiculous that we were so close so late in the game.


I suffered the post mortems. I liked Ken Hinkley’s response. I liked his press conference. I liked that Stevie Motlop had snagged three and his other touch resulted in a goal. I learnt what a superstar Tom Jonas was – his post-match interview showed respect for the game, his club, his team-mates and the fans, and conveyed a sense that they had a long way to go.


I did not like Chris Scott’s press conference. I felt it was soul-less. Functional. Aloof. What would fans know? What would analysts know? (Well, we know it’s like life: a chaos game.)


The emails flew around all week. Some Cats fans had given up, and worse, one or two mates didn’t care: “Win and it papers over the cracks. At least a loss will shake things up.”


I was disillusioned. But, as Saturday got closer, I started to get involved; started to feel the moment. It was The Cats. Our Cats. In a semi-final. Against The Pies. The (once) despicable Pies. I wished for sunshine in Melbourne. And warm rain. Fast-growing pansies and the masses of mini-blooms that is healthy, prolific alyssum.


We gardened all day. We had take-away Thai for dinner. And we sat down to watch.


It was like being an old Geelong supporter again: I had no idea what to expect.


What would happen?


The Pies had the early touches, and were cautious, and we were well set up behind the ball. When we won the footy deep in defence, we were cautious too. We formed the Italian soccer grid and chipped it around.


Oh dear, here we go! Ho hum! Keep it 0-0 to three quarter time and score the winner in the last.


But wait on, Tom Stewart has just wheeled – in the back pocket. And, what’s that, Bewsy has played on from the back flank, and taken on his man. (“He thinks he’s his old man”). The Cats started to move the ball quickly and freely. There was space in the forward line. And the disposal was precise.


Young Gary Ablett came on as the game was opening up, and helped to open it up. The Pies were plodding. Dips O’Donnell thought this might happen. Given the hint of time, Ablett’s touches were simply beautiful.


In the selection-chat of Tuesday and Wednesday, I didn’t have Sam Simpson in my consciousness. I didn’t even have a magnet with his name on it. I had magnets for Fogarty and Clark, Ratugolea as a second target up forward, perhaps Narkle for his acceleration (great first two steps) and maybe even the sure-handed but inexperienced Close. I even had a magnet for Josh Jenkins.


But Simpson?


Well, Sam Simpson was tested a few times in the first half, and he was really good. He helped build belief. The memorable Simpson moment was when the Sherrin was forced forward from the centre. The half-kick hung in the air and Sam Simpson made it his, with strength, athleticism and skill. He didn’t pause. He thought he had his opponent beaten and played on to his right. His opponent recovered more quickly than expected, but over-committed. Simpson baulked, which meant he was now on his left. He went with his left, putting enough oomph in the kick to get the footy over the back to Hawk. Tom held his ground, pushed off into space and swallowed it. It was instinctive footy from the son of Sean. Good footy.


And then there was Paddy Dangerfield. He’s had enough attention this week, but I’ll add my two bob’s worth. He played an explosive game and was a key influence. My conclusion: he’s at his best as a finisher. He’s not the most natural mid-field creator the way Joel Selwood (what a captain’s game of sheer strength and will he played) or Scott Pendlebury are. He’s not a rugby scrum half, he’s a breakaway (and had he grown up Up North he would be a Wallaby) or a full back. But playing the local game on Saturday night, he was outstanding in his role.


Collingwood looked had it.


Geelong were clean and pure. Space will do that. Quick ball movement means space. Space and time make Ablett and Menegola more effective. Space and time help Tom Hawkins. Duncan shines in space.


My faith was restored. My spirit lifted.


The Cats are alive.


I quite like this writing caper. I might have another crack tomorrow. Because, having watched the Brisbane Football Club emerge in the `90s and early 2000s, I am totally invested in this game. Indeed, Geelong versus the Lions at the Gabba in a Preliminary Final is my dream game.


And I won’t be there.




Read the story of the 2007 garden HERE.



Read more from John Harms HERE.




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About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Terrific analysis. Particularly your take on Port’s pressure in the qualifying final and they should have won by more. Tigers have been underwhelming and undermanned Saints could have run them close if they’d held their nerve. Tigers are past their best (like my Eagles) and Mr Wrap will owe me a bottle of red after their Prelim loss (to even up the bottle I owe him from our Pies debacle).
    Harder to pick the other one. Brisbane are the better side. Will they hold their nerve at home with the pressure of local expectation on them? Cats flattered by the Dead Parrots last week. Their best was dominant mid season but there are a lot of ageing warriors defying the dying of the light. Brisbane by plenty or Cats in an arm wrestle? Cats.
    I may even watch (muted).

  2. Reports that Dangerfield trained exclusively as a forward last evening.

    I think the homegrounds and the fresh legs are contributing factors, as are the psychological factors you mention PB.

  3. And this is why JTH gets the big bucks.

  4. I ride every bump with you JTH. Thanks for another great piece!

  5. Kevin Densley says

    Enjoyed this piece a lot, JTH. Great analysis and some terrific lines, such as “It was like being an old Geelong supporter again: I had no idea what to expect.”

    Nice self-reflexive touch near the end, too: “I quite like this writing caper.” – So do I.

  6. Danielle Hakim says

    Miss your stuff JTH :)

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