Floreat Pica Society: 1st Qualfying Final vs Bulldogs

The anticipation is heightened when the teams come out on Thursday. As expected, Josh, and McCarthy are omitted for Leigh Brown and Alan Didak. Conjecture that Goldsack might lose his spot is confirmed as Ben Johnson is named. However Presti is still out, so Nathan Brown keeps his spot. The Bulldogs’ “ins” are worthy – a team supposedly decimated by injury reads fairly impressively “on screen”. The nervousness also increases, as this Floreat Pica first-gamer-correspondent is starting out in a final. A strange selection, but not unprecedented in Magpie history.

My fears of a negative result relate generally to finals football but specifically to two finals games of the last decade. The most recent of the two is the elimination final of 2006. This game was also Collingwood, who that year had finished 5th versus the Bulldogs who finished 8th. Against the odds, the Bulldogs won. My depression was mitigated somewhat by the opportunity that win gave Rohan Smith to play his 300th (and final) game the following week. After the MCG game Rohan wandered inside the boundary accepting the plaudits of the fans. Close examination of the post-match footage showed that at one stage he leant over and hugged a 9-year-old girl in a Collingwood jumper. That girl was my daughter whom Rohan knew as a school-friend of his own daughter. I was pleased for Rohan, but not pleased with my team. The other game of relevance is the 2002 qualifying final – the equivalent of this week’s game. Collingwood (4th) was away to Port Adelaide (1st). Not unlike the Bulldogs of 2010, Collingwood had limped into the finals while Port reigned supreme. In a huge upset, Collingwood prevailed and Port was eventually bundled out of the finals in straight sets. Would Collingwood on 2010 be the Port of 2002? This was my biggest fear.

As we drive to the game, the rain is the heaviest it has been all day. However, it eases and then stops during the walk through the botanical gardens. Contrary to forecast, there is no more rain for the night. We take our seats in the open on the members’ wing. Five Collingwood supporters, two Bulldogs, and a Geelong supporting wife. In the bar for a pre-game beer, I run into Bulldog-supporting Almanacker Chris Riordan. Coincidentally, his seats are just in front of ours. He, like the other Bulldogs I encounter, has no expectation of success.

As the ball is bounced, I am concerned that Collingwood are in white shorts – why does the higher placed team have to wear the away strip? The game starts in a flurry of activity with little result. Griffin, who has come into the game with suspected injury is prominent early but misses a very gettable set-shot. From this “point” through to the end of the game, Bulldogs have a worse goal to point ratio than Collingwood. So how is it that Collingwood’s conversion has attracted so much focus? Mainly because it is deserved. Tonight however it seems different. Other than an early miss by Cloke and a third quarter one by Jolly, most of the points come from kicks in general play with Dayne Beams one who misses several from kicks across his body. Then again, by half time, having absolutely slaughtered the Bulldogs, Collingwood leads by “only” thirty-two points.

At the twelve minute mark of the game, the teams have a combined score of five behinds. The first goal is to Pendlebury after Swan drops a contested goal square mark. Collingwood is never headed from this point. When Cloke prepares to kick from forty on the left side boundary, we have a discussion on the ball trajectory for a left-footer and how from this distance, with late right to left movement, it should suit, even from apparently the wrong side. However, none of us is confident enough to declare a goal. Cloke slots it, but on replay, the trajectory is dead straight.

 Collingwood’s first goal in the second quarter was an advantage goal to Daisy – probably a better alternative than the free-kick to Cloke fifteen metres out directly in front. At the four minute mark Bulldogs’ Lake leaves the ground with what is, to me, an obviously broken arm. However, with the Dogs having recruited specialist medical staff from Hogwarts, Lake is back on within two minutes. Bulldogs first goal for the game comes from a 50 metre penalty. Swan is already dominating the game and Leigh Brown is repaying coach Malthouse for the faith he has shown. In the Dogs’ forward line, Barry Hall is being frustrated by his direct opponent Nathan Brown who is being assisted by Nick Maxwell amongst others. Consecutive in-the-back frees against Hall don’t prevent a Higgins goal.

Collingwood wins the second half of the game by thirty points, but somehow, it is more satisfying than the first half. There are several reasons: firstly, as the game progresses it is obvious that Bulldogs are not going to be able to overcome the deficit – Collingwood missed opportunities are less worrisome. And there are fewer misses. Even though Bulldogs score five goals seven for the half, Collingwood scores ten goals seven. That thirty point second half win comes from five goals STRAIGHT. Potential Dogs match winners such as Grant (an extra from the Twilight television series I believe), struggle to have an influence. When Leigh Brown makes up four yards in a forty yard sprint (deliberate use of pre-metric measurement because it just seems more appropriate) against mid-fielder Daniel Cross, to hold up a Dogs forward thrust, it is greeted by rapturous applause from the Pies fans. In the last quarter, when Didak kicks one very good goal and then one extraordinary goal, he earns a standing ovation (from me at least). And in the last five minutes, when Heath Shaw, Dane Swan and Ben Reid play a defensive game of piggy-in-the-middle, with Hall as the piggy, the fans cheer every meaningless statistic.

Any complaints? I have two (I am Collingwood supporter – it would be unnatural to be completely satisfied), but neither relate to the team. The first is that the AFL’s objective seems to be to maximise income rather than maximise attendance and fewer than 70,000 were there to see this game. Prices in the first two weeks of the finals are too high. Budgeting fans have to decide whether they fork out the excessive admission cost or, given there is a double chance, hold off for later in the finals. My other complaint is the finals system itself. Collingwood finished top of the ladder. Having won in the first week they now face the very real prospect of encountering the second placed team in the preliminary final, with no “double chance”. St Kilda finished the season in third position, two places below Collingwood. Their win in the first week, when they had a double chance, means that on preliminary final day, they face a team that finished no higher than fourth. The solution? I am still working on that.

About Andrew Fithall

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


  1. Andrew,

    do you remember “The Sting”?

    Could we have withessed one on Friday night?

    A very cleverly thought out and executed plan by the Saints, the Cats and the last minute “maggot” to set up the senario you have identified in your last paragraph?

    It is a nervous time for all and there is an elephant in the room that is likely to be a crucial catalyst in the out come of the 2010 season. Dip’s lucky undies.

    Intriguing, isn’t it.

  2. AF – excuses already creeping in? You’ll have to beat the best at some stage. Finishing on top doesn’t mean a nice easy GF against West Preston.

  3. Phantom – haven’t worn them yet. They’re sitting snugly in the drawer just across a bit from the Premiership T-shirts.

    Should I get them out this week or hope we get through and save them for the Prelim? Not sure how many wears they have left.

  4. Lucky jocks are a very personal thing Dips.

    I probably finally crossed the line by mentioning yours; and if so I am sorry to cause such grief.

    They are yours and so it is your choice alone.

    But…..they wouldn’t have a hat trick left in them would they?

    Greater love have no Cat fan than to lay out his ‘lucky jocks’ for the cause.

    Or, cometh the hour, cometh the crusties.

  5. Peter Flynn says

    In a moment of clarity out on the Endeavour River in Cooktown a few weeks back, I had marked Collingwood to be a 3-4 goal better team than their nearest rivals.

    The Saints have good GF experience and the bitter taste of defeat.

    This should narrow my ‘feel’ margin between the two.

    Good call re the crowds AF.

    Inaccurate kicking is less of an issue when you are having about 40 scoring shots a game.

  6. Andrew Fithall says

    To Phantom et al

    I am amazed at the level of confidence the Cats fans retain. Maybe Geelong is equivalent to the Brisbane of 03 – a loss in week one is followed by two weeks of wins and then an easy win over their first week conqueror (can’t remember which team that might have been).

    PF – you may be an exception. But you, like all Cats fans I am sure, would like “just one more”.

  7. Andrew,

    I am not sure whether it is confidence, defiance or plain stupidity. At least we are not sookies; we used to be, but not anymore.

    I am not overly confident about this Friday night. It may be as the rest of the world says our golden era is finished, but there may be one last sting in the Cats’ tails.

    I know that Bomber did some servere chastising last Friday night and I also know that they tend to get a bit grumpy after a loss.

    I also know that if they manage to get through next Friday night unscathed the next week will be a lot longer for the Pies than the Pussies.

    I see you as a voice of reason amongst a mass of raucous riff raff but notice there is a slight amount of doubt in your stoic stance regarding the prelim.

    If it were the case that we’ll meet again, in true Vera Lynn positivity, both clubs will be going for vastly different “three in a rows”

    I just hope that both Dip’s old jocks and Ginger Cat’s old frame can get through the physicality of it all.

    Isn’t finals footy a beautiful thing.

  8. Andrew Fithall says

    Phantom. There is doubt. A small level of confidence. A great deal of hope. But always there is doubt.

  9. We are but the same species in different tribal colours.

  10. i agree, about the shorts. :(
    i hate us in white shorts!
    i dont even own white shorts or pants, i just cant do it LOL.

  11. David Downer says


    I agree wholeheartedly with ticket prices in finals. They wont show the bl00dy thing live on TV to protect the gate, yet the incentive for those umming and aahing attendance is diminished given the $$$. And no doubt many people, particularly families, are forced to pick and choose their finals as it just starts to add up. I do realise supporters of the other 8 sides probably wish they had this problem.

    The definition of finals Premium / Prime / Standard seating seems to have evolved (de-volved?) also over the last few years. Premium represents a fair whack of seats now.

    If you dont wish to sit directly behind the goals or in the nose-bleeds, your seat is Premium. In week 1 this cost $70. Week 2 is $77. Now you can’t budget how the cards will fall in finals match-ups, but as we look toward week 2, Cats fans are paying $77 for the Freo SF clash. But of course, better them than me!

    Premium PF tix are a whopping $123. Even a Prime seat is $103.

    And these are before service fees.

    Alas I do hope I’m in a position to whinge about the cost of a GF ticket.


  12. AF – Interesting to hear complaint from Collingwood supporters regarding having to make concessions regarding their playing strip.

    DD – Surely you mean “working families”.

    That is all

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