Grand Final 2023 – Collingwood v Brisbane: Yes, and…


Back in July, Brendan Hunt posted this on Instagram.


The world of improv theatre had already caught my awareness. And this post seemed very much related.



[click to enlarge]


I started showing it around.


“You know what we talking about the other day? Check this out.”
“Oh, wow. That’s the stuff.”
“It sure is. Found it on Instagram.”
“Who posted it?”
“Brendan Hunt. Coach Beard…”
“… Coach Beard. Of course he did –  he’s an Improv Guy.”
“Is he?”
“Oh sure. Long history. And Jason Sudeikis, too. Ted Lasso. They’re long-time improvisers. This is what they DO.”


That news sat with me and wormed its way into me through the back end of AFL season 2023.


And all during the Women’s World Cup – as Brendan Hunt posted daily on Instagram – it sat with me. I thought of the Matildas’ culture. Of Ted Lasso’s fictional AFC Richmond. Of Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic and his (right-now-at-the-time-of-writing-second-in-the-premier-league-after-defeating-Liverpool-with-a-goal-in-the-98th-minute-on-the-weekend) Tottenham Hotspur.


“Yes, and…”


What a way to interact with a person.


I thought of Schitt’s Creek and Moira: “When one of us shines, we all shine.”


I thought of my Dip Ed from 2006. I thought of a book on child-raising Clare gave me back during the sleepless days of young ones called “Children are people, too.”




As I pick up a circle of flatbread, it is 2:15 pm Saturday 30 September, 2023.
Earlier I’d texted: “What is best for me to bring?”
“We’re having souvlaki and salads so – maybe some felafels and veggie-friendly extras?”
I catch my t-shirt in the mirror.
“Oh, Greek/ Macedonian. Perfect. I’m calling that an omen.”





As I cover the bread with marinated lamb chunks, chicken chunks, potato and even a few chips (“Oh that’s a TOP IDEA!”), I look around the room. Friends – across two generations. The buds. Already this had been a wonderful occasion.


And I think: Nobody performs better in life when they are scared.
Or nervous. Or anxious. Or feeling unsupported.


I look at all the kids here. Teenagers.


I look at the TV, game time now imminent. A split screen of the two teams – each sits on tiered seating, facing their coach. Unexceptional scenes beam from the Brisbane rooms. Everyone in the Collingwood rooms seems to be laughing.


“Yes, and…”


I think of yesterday’s Footy Almanac lunch. Of Anthony and Joanne Daniher. Of their boy, Joe, right now about to play in a Grand Final – 33 years after his old man did the same. I think of Peter Daicos – who played on that same day 33 years ago – and whose sons Josh and Nick are also about to play in a Grand Final.


It’s all set.
The grass is green.
The sky is blue.


“Yes, and…”


Five years ago, the buds and I went to Collingwood’s Grand Final week training. We decked out the house in black and white. Waved banners. And watched forlornly as West Coast snatched the 2018 premiership away.


Since then, we’ve had the covid years and much else besides.
Footy has not been on the radar.


But today – one warm calm day in the midst of our living – today we are present.


The game feels like a cracker.
There are people in the room who know footy.
And there are others who feel it.


At one point I feel the terrible curse of venom upon me – as Mason Cox has a clearing stoppage kick smothered – a curiously lenient interpretation allows a Lions forward to leap virtually from M Cox’s own pocket to affect the kick – and the Lion then takes the loose ball and slots a goal.


Black splotches of bile Dalmatian across my vision.


No, I think. That is too far.
I cannot – WILL NOT – care so much.
Which is poppycock.
No, instead, what I must do is control the only thing I can – myself.


It is half time and this is brilliant.
J De Goey (I think), with an after-the-siren lifter.


No complaints at half time.
Part of me hears the wafts of speculation.
“Those Collingwood misses might be costly.”
“Oh, Brisbane will finish better in this heat.”
“You’ve gotta take your chances in a final!”


“Yes, and…”


And I’m out the back, into the yard, and into the pool.
There’s a laptop set up next to the pool.
Two of us – oh three of us – no four of us – five – watch the third quarter from here.
All my Woods are performing as expected.
Poor N Murphy and his battered head have been subbed off.
And everyone else is playing their role.


There can never be a team of 23 champions. That’s the nature of sport, the salary cap, the psychology of being human. And we don’t want that, anyway. What we want is everyone playing their role. Everyone acting for the greater good. (You can only control yourself).


Shade takes the pool.


I think of Bobby Davis when asked his thoughts on a looming Grand Final: “may both teams play to the best of their ability, may there be no injuries and may the best team win.”


“Yes, and…”


Three quarter time.
“Oh, we need the big screen for this last quarter.”
We’re out of the pool, towels around waists.


I think of the 2002 Grand Final defeat – texting my Collingwood supporting mate Seona the quarter-by-quarter scores from my balcony in Carlton North to her phone somewhere in suburban Dublin. I think of the 2003 Grand Final defeat – sat at the open door of a Toyota Hilux, ABC radio crackling away somewhere out the western end of the Simpson Desert – and D Parkin on early commentary saying “oh watch out – the Lions have Come To Play.”


The ball is red hot.


I think of my 2023 Collingwood playlist from this week. Oleg Markov runs a missive from half back. I thought a saw a man brought to life.
Josh Daicos takes possession, twists his torso and wrong-foots his opponent. I’m not sure all these people understand.
Bobby Hill zigs. And zags. Now you do what they told ya.
Jack Crisp. Can’t stand it – I know you planned it.


Emotions are high. The tide is high but I’m holding on.


And oh – here he is again – Shipping Steele. Still presenting, still arching his back, still crafting kicks under pressure. A Geppetto-like artisan of creativity and skill. Look at Scott Pendlebury – whose arms in 2023 approach the girth of boa constrictors – look at him stop, pivot, fend off, handball, chug along like a flatbed diesel truck. And watch him – while running and pointing – as he lets the nearest three teammates know what is about to happen. He’s seen this one before.


And J Howe. And B Maynard.
And I Quaynor, D Moore. Look at B Mihocek – the half forward takes another release mark at defensive 50.


I think of Jim Pavlidis and of his story of the Ross Faulkner via V Daicos, of finding a place, and of his lithograph.


“Yes, and…”


J Elliott. P Lipinski. W Hoskin-Elliott. M Cox. B McCreery.
D Cameron. N Daicos. T Mitchell. J Ginnivan. B Frampton.


All playing their role.


I think of Steele Sidebottom reaching 300 smiling games this year.


Yes, Brisbane have been huge.
And very well done to them.


The clock counts down.
There is coach McCrae. Tilted head. Seeking to understand. He later reveals that his partner had given birth to a daughter at 7:45 am this day(!)
I feel no nervousness, no anxiety. Why should I? This is wonderful.
Whatever happens – these magpies have given us such a wonderful couple of years.


I remember J Elliott’s goals after the siren.
I remember S Pendlebury hatching a plan from a fullback kick-out – Collingwood 4 points down with seconds to go – and winning.
I remember B McCreery’s mum giving the team a rev-up speech on Mother’s Day 2023 before the Giants game.
I remember N Murphy’s expansive ways.


Whatever happens, I think, these have been years of joy.
Years of positivity.
Of care and support.
Of us.


Look at them out there.
In the arena.
These guys know how to win close games of footy.
It will be alright.




“Whoah, Dad!”


Well done Collingwood.


This is alright.




COLLINGWOOD   4.4     9.9     10.15     12.18 (90)
BRISBANE            3.0     9.3     11.5       13.8 (86)


Collingwood: Hill 4, Crisp 2, De Goey 2, N.Daicos, Mihocek, Pendlebury, Sidebottom
Cameron 3, Daniher 3, Bailey 2, McCarthy 2, McCluggage 2, Robertson


Hill, N.Daicos, Crisp, Howe, Mitchell, Pendlebury
Brisbane: McCluggage, Daniher, Coleman, Andrews, Bailey, Cameron


Collingwood: Murphy (concussion)
Brisbane: Nil


Collingwood: Patrick Lipinski (replaced Nathan Murphy at quarter-time)
Brisbane: Jarryd Lyons (replaced Callum Ah Chee in the fourth quarter)


Crowd: 100,024 at the MCG

2023 Norm Smith Medal voting


15 – Bobby Hill (Coll)
5 – Keidean Coleman (Bris)
4 – Nick Daicos (Coll)
3 – Tom Mitchell (Coll)
2 – Jack Crisp (Coll)
1 – Scott Pendlebury (Coll)


Judges’ voting
Luke Darcy (Chair) – B Hill 3, N Daicos 2, S Pendlebury 1
Eddie Betts – B Hill 3, T Mitchell 2, K Coleman 1
Jude Bolton – B Hill 3, K Coleman 2, T Mitchell 1
Sarah Olle – B Hill 3, K Coleman 2, J Crisp 1
Luke Shuey – B Hill 3, N Daicos 2, J Crisp 1




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About David Wilson

David Wilson is a hydrologist, climate reporter and writer of fiction & observational stories. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and likes to walk around feeling generally amazed. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Yep, my heart was about a metre out of my chest the whole game, but somehow I felt they would save me!

  2. Frank Taylor says

    Totally with you Tall Man.
    Nailed it.
    Thanks from the very bottom of my soul.

  3. Splendid piece full of spot on observations. It’s been a long journey for me to admire and respect Collingwood – but you and Luke and Frank made it possible. Then coach Kotter, Captain “Vinnie”, Arnold Horshack on the wing, and Pendle’s “Epstein” made it hard to dislike the team.
    A good not great group of players who got everything (and more) out of each other as a unit. Lots to admire.

  4. Well played, e.r.
    Very well played indeed.

  5. Thanks all.
    Very happy for those Magpies – especially the old nuts S Pendlebury, S Sidebottom, J Howe, J Elliott.
    ‘Howabout that Tommy Mitchell’s game?
    Very happy for all of them, really.

    Play on.

  6. Matt Zurbo says

    Beautiful writing
    tempers my dislike
    of the winning team.

  7. Richard Poynder says

    Well summed up. Yes it is not just about the Premiership but the 2 years journey we have been taken on. After last years Prelim loss I said it was the most enjoyable football year since 2011.I had hoped it would continue and it delivered beyond my expectations. So many highlights every week.

  8. Oh thanks old dog. Thanks R Poynder.
    I’ve really enjoyed the “Top 5” post that the CollingwoodFC media team post on Instagram after the game each week. The things they view as top 5 have been quite telling.

    Here’s a better link of J McCreery’s pre-game speech from May. That is a changing room you’d want to be part of.

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