Grand Final – West Coast v Collingwood: The Circle is Unbroken




The West Coast Eagles – the Family Club?  Who would have thunk it?  So many young fathers holding children on their victory lap of the MCG.  


Adam Simpson now father to a group of boys become men.  


Lewis Jetta – lost soul become leader.  Arm around Ryan and Rioli in the quarter breaks imploring them to keep their focus in the fog.  “Your time will come mate.  Keep at it.”  Become Pop Staples and Sammy Davis leading the song and the shuffle on the MCG stage in the gloaming dark of the post game.


A Grand Final the epitome of modern Australian Rules Football.  A bloody good ordinary side against a very good ordinary side.  The West Coast Corporation against McGuire’s Melbourne Monolith.


The pre-game banners foretell the fates.  Black and White imperial over-reach shredding under the weight of its own expectations.  Side by Side weighed down by Eddie’s Emirates Empire.  The centre cannot hold.


Game plans more complicated than war games.  My rook takes your knight.  Queen to King Four.


The pawns will decide.  Sheed plods and plots his way around the arena.  A body check here, a knock on there, a scrubber to no-one.  Never excelling.  Never defeated.  Stronger longer.  Until…….


Collingwood have guarded the Grail until the weight is unbearable.  Handed it from soldier to soldier along the trenches.  “We want it.  We need it.  We deserve it?  Only three minutes.  Hang on.  Hang on.  Hold the line.  Hold tight.”


But the noose has tightened and Treloar is now gasping for air on the wing.  The Guvnor won’t die wondering.  DeGoey the Artful Dodger hesitates – hanging off the back for the chance to pick a pocket or two.


But Bill Sykes is off with the spoils as soon as his feet land, chipping to a vacant Vardy – the Cat who got the Cream – who wheels and………..


Liam Ryan whose eyes have darted all day like a kid who can’t believe he is in the lolly shop – and looked for policemen where there were none.  Now thinks of nothing.  Thinks of the ball descending between taller Magpie defenders.  Thinks of Lewie and how much he owes him and how much he has told him.  What was it again?


Thinks of the strange love that he feels when he is safe alone in the whirl of bodies.  Thinks of how many times he has done this.  In the dirt. With his mates.  With kerosene tin goal posts.  And querulous roos in the outer.  


Wait.  Wait.  Wait…………….a spring…….a snatch………I’m off………..the rozzers can’t be far behind.  There’s Willie.  There’s Dom……Saint Dominic


And it’s a long way to Buffalo
It’s a long way to Belfast city too
And I’m hoping the joist won’t blow the hoist
‘cos this time, they bit off more than they can chew
As we gaze out on, as we gaze out on
As we gaze out on, as we gaze out on
Saint Dominic’s Preview
Saint Dominic’s Preview
Saint Dominic’s Preview
All the orange boxes are scattered
Against the Safeway’s supermarket in the rain
And everybody feels so determined
Not to feel anyone else’s pain



And the finger stretches down from the cloud and says: “You.  I pick you.  You on behalf of you who have struggled and searched longest in the desert of footy trials and heartbreak.  You because you have kept the faith.  In the game.  In the hope.  In each other.  In the belief that faith can sometimes be rewarded.”


When you were a child you played as a child.  Understood as a child.  Thought as a child.  Now you are become man and can put away childish things.  For now you can see through a glass, darkly.  Now abideth these three – faith, hope and love – but the greatest of these is love.  You have loved longest and best among my footy tribe.  I have parted the sea for you.  Lifted the scales from your eyes.  Take this stone and cast it into Goliath’s heart, so that it beats no more.  The grail is yours.  Take this Cup and drink from it.  In memory of the blood that was shed along the journey.  In remembrance of all that is worthy and good.


And that is how the story was written.  Or how I choose to write it.  It can be written a thousand ways in a thousand hearts and minds.


But for my Eagles.  The blue and gold faithful of first West Torrens and then West Coast.  Mary the Avenging Eagle and her brothers and nephews sharing this weekend.  For the Footy Almanac community – those at the Friday communion – and the broader church that shares their hopes and dreams and defeats each day.  


One of the strangest and most wonderful and unexpected experiences was wandering the Richmond pubs last night.  Randomly meeting Swan Valley Eagles Slavs of the Avenging Eagle’s childhood.  And Beau Waters in the Cricketers Arms.  Generously sharing a half hour instead of the conventional minute.  Pre-destined.





And constantly having Magpie supporters tap us on the back and say “well played” and “you deserved it”.  Through gritted teeth and bleeding hearts.  But sincerely.  Communion was shared.  Bread broken.  Wine spilled.


And I thought of ER and Luke whose writing I admire, but respect more for their devotion to family.  And Phil D who has trodden a similar road in life.  And MOC and Andrew Fithall – Magpies who have generously extended the hand of community.


And how the Magpie Army has become more than toothless tatts stereotypes.  More than the Lexus/Holden Centre and Eddie’s Emirate Empire.


It is a vibrant thread in the rich tapestry of modern Australian life.


Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.


The circle is unbroken.



  1. Was thinking of you and yours when that final goal sailed through (even though at the final siren, hearing that song, brought back 2006 memories!).

    Great game.

    Hopefully you managed to get tickets.

    From a fan whose team managed to beat you twice in the year of your glory. Congrats.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Congrats PB and AE – now piss off and give someone else a go.

    You must tell us the story of how you and AE snagged tickets and the surge of relief that you no doubt felt when the green light came on after you scanned your barcodes (facing up of course).

    Sorry that I didn’t catch you yesterday but I wasn’t giving up my prime possie at Coodabeens Central for you (or Luke Reynolds either).

    Send your captain back over to Centrals so that he can add a couple more flags at the Ponderosa. Beau Waters, Happy Valley’s finest.

    May Bobbie Gibson be with you.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Congrats to you and AE. Sorry I couldn’t make the lunch to catch up for a chat. Eagles were terrific yesterday after the first 15 minutes. A victory for the ages. With Nic Nat, Gaff and Sheppard back next year you’ll be tough to beat again. Enjoy !!

  4. Good on you PB.
    Faith is where you find it.

    Very kind of you.

    Monumental game.
    Thoroughly enjoyable footy of contrasting styles,
    The traditional and the heist.
    To support the pies through September was to hope for the heist again & again.
    Came unstuck just – the zippy little getaway car caught by the V8 highway patrol.

    Better team won.

    Just enjoyed Timothy Boyle’s piece in the age. It’s here:

  5. And maybe not the best spot to post this, but I feel the need to share N Buckley’s continued marvellous form in post match interviews.
    Composure, wisdom, perspective… roughly an hour after defeat.

  6. Joe De Petro says

    Congrats, PB. If it can’t be us then let it be those who are furthest away.

    Great piece, especially the Pop Staples reference. Footy Almanac needs more Staples Singers references.

  7. Wonderful all-encompassing report, PB, particularly the post-match festivities that you and the Avenging Eagle deservedly enjoyed.
    I hope Beau Waters didn’t swallow a goldfish (as allegedly happened in 2006) to celebrate the Weagles’ latest flag.

  8. DBalassone says

    Congrats PB and AE (and Beau!). Great game of footy. As gut-wrenching as it is to lose that way, I have to concede it was a richly deserved victory for the Eagles. They totally dominated the last 20 minutes. And to pull it off without Nick Nat and Gaff shows the greatness of that playing group. Enjoy the spoils mate!

  9. Colin Ritchie says

    Fab Stuff PB! Lovely to have met you and the AE at church on Friday. A wonderful day!

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Congratulations PB & AE. Great to see you both on Friday.
    Gutted, but we were beaten by the (slightly) better team on the day.
    Glad you got tickets, enjoy being reigning premiers for the next 12 months!

  11. John Butler says

    Always wished Beau Waters was a Carlton player.

    Everyone is being terribly, terribly fair minded about the result.

    It’s quite disorientating.

  12. Congrats to the AE and to you, PB.

    Many thanks for this – and many apologies for not being able to catch up on gf eve.

  13. Dennis Gedling says

    Can still hear the chirping over here in Bayswater. Congrats PD. I’d never seen the Basso Hotel so full last Saturday.

  14. Dennis Gedling says


  15. Thanks for this PB. I love your poetic impressions of the game and its combatants. And Van Morrison. Always love a Van reference, especially from his early career. Congratulations. to you and AE. Early Saturday as we strolled about Clare and her golf course I wondered if you’d jagged tickets. Pleased that you did.

    Partly because he’s from my neck of the woods, and I played briefly against his dad (and my dad played bowls against his grandfather) I’d love to read a profile piece on your premiership captain. I really don’t know much about him.

  16. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Only just getting to these GF pieces, almost a fortnight on!

    I have probably said it a million times on this site … but one of the things I love most about and seek in sport writing is … the account of movement. Actual physical movement and the mystery of how language can ever account for it. Your Liam Ryan mark is a beauty!
    It was a beauty of a game! Enjoy, PB.

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