Grand Final – West Coast v Collingwood (Floreat Pica Society): Heartbreaker

 

 

Floreat Pica

Grand Final Report – Collingwood v West Coast

September 29 2018

by Peter Butler

 

 

When asked to do the Grand Final report by Steve I was a little apprehensive, since as a soccer loving Pom (Port Vale is my team?), who has only adopted Aussie Rules since arriving in the country from New Zealand in 1977. I adopted Collingwood as the team to follow (barrack for) despite being told not to by a work colleague.

 

Lots of column inches and electronic media are devoted to a Grand Final so I am not going to try to replicate the ‘experts’. Grand Finals are about individual stories of players, coaches and fans, with many who wish to not being able to get there in person. My report begins with the week before as the Preliminary Final is quite a different animal to the ‘Granny’.

 

The Mighty Pies performance against Richmond in the prelim was the best I have seen since the 2010 and 2011 seasons, especially the first half. Walking back to the city after the game I reflected on the journey the team has taken since the end of 2017 season, and that we found ourselves in a grand final, after finishing 13th just like Richmond in 2017. Were these omens of good or ill? The rest of the week leading up the big game had such thoughts running through my mind and I expect all of yours.

 

During the week I sent a text to all my non-Collingwood supporting friends urging them to barrack for the Pies to ward off the passing of the cup to another interstate team. Only two of the replies said ‘no chance’ and ‘pigs might fly’ and both were from Essendon supporters. The other who replied in the positive came from a range that included Richmond, Footscray, Melbourne, North and Carlton!

 

Our history of grand finals is not that great when we get there, especially when we appear to be underdogs at the beginning of the season from the media pundits. That we defied expectations in 2018, as we did in 2002, 1980, 1979 and 1977, all in my time in Australia, as well as in years before is testament to the club its fan base and obviously the coaches and players.

 

The day dawned bright but chilly with some rain forecast, but not during the game. I had arranged to meet Dave & Jim, with whom I sit at home and away games in Melbourne. I have been going to games with Dave since 1995, and we have only experienced one flag in that time, while, Hawthorn have won 4, Geelong and Brisbane 3, North Melbourne, Sydney & Adelaide 2, Essendon, Port, Carlton, Footscray, West Coast and Richmond one each. We have been in 4 grand finals, with only 2010 being the winners, after a kind bounce gave us a replay and 2002 valiant losers?

 

Why do I dwell on these statistics? Well it affects the psyche when approaching another grand final after a thrilling and comprehensive win the week before as this year and in 2010, 2003 and 2002. 2011 was thrilling but by no means comprehensive and it showed a week later.

 

When we met up in the city for a bite to eat and cogitations on the game ahead it is interesting that after initial conversation about our prospects talk turned to other matters such as family, rather than trying to dissect what might happen. Were we trying to repress our inner fears of doom or confident of the result we wanted? I am sure all who read this had similar trepidations about the outcome.

 

I am not a great fan of pre-game entertainment but we got to the ground in time for most of this American incursion on our culture. In fact, one of my pet hates is the volume of the announcements at the football, particularly the MCG which stifles conversation, and it was particularly bad on grand final day. The atmosphere itself at a game like a grand final does not need hype; the crowd provides enough of that in spades.

 

The Collingwood banner was particularly seasonal with “Warning; Swooping Magpies” the only message on the side that we saw. I clean forgot to look for the other side if it was on the big screen.

 

First Quarter

We started just like last week and raced to a lead of 29 points before another Rioli scored a goal by mistake (a ‘Claytons’ goal; the one you score when you do not mean to!) and Kennedy did what he always threatens to do: marked & goaled. 17 points up but we had not had it all our own way like last week. There were a few worrying signs like the fact that we only scored one goal through a mark and kick. The other 4 were typical of the way we have played our football most of the year. The Wet Toast defence that seemed all at sixes and sevens early, had begun to tighten up and take intercept marks.

 

Langdon, Mayne, Stephenson, Sier, De Goey and Adams were standouts but all the players did their bit. Sidebottom was being well tagged though the few possessions he did get were effective.

 

Second Quarter

A really tight 20 minutes saw no goals until De Goey launched a 50 metre bomb. Wet Toast replied with two of their own, to leave the half time score at 12 points up. The tightness of the game and the physicality was suiting the Eagles and we were beginning to lose control of the contest. The stats were in our favour up to half time, especially in contested possessions and tackles, though the marks inside 50 still favoured the West. I do not think we took a mark inside 50 in the second quarter though we did have the ball in there a lot, but with little result.

Langdon, Mayne, Adams and Sier were continuing to star and were joined by Treloar, Howe, Phillips and Mihocek. Grundy was getting his hand to the ball but was not nearly as effective around the ground as he needed to be. He was being worked over like Gawn last week. Stephenson and De Goey had largely been blanketed in this quarter and the slack had not been taken up by WHE, Thomas, Varcoe or Cox, though Varcoe was tacking and harassing strongly.

At half time it looked really tight and we needed to come out firing in the premiership quarter.

 

Third Quarter

A Kennedy goal straight from the start is just what we did not need. This was equalled by Mason Cox with his first mark and goal. Goals were then swapped until the Eagles scored two to bring teams equal at three quarter time. Control of the game was being wrested by the West bringing the ball into their 50 more often and putting strain on the defence, which was standing up well to the pressure.

 

The same players kept up their standards, though Howe let Darling off the leash. Cox began to take marks around the ground, as well as his goal. Pendlebury who had been quiet in the first quarter and picked up in the second but was not being given or finding the space he needs. Sidebottom was again well tagged and had little influence.

 

All square and the lot to play for. Could we come out firing?

 

Final Quarter

We did come out firing and kicked two goals within the first 2 minutes, but then allowed the Eagles to score quickly, before restoring a two goal buffer through Mason Cox. Another Kennedy goal brought the game to under a goal, which persisted, with four behinds from the Eagles before Sheed kicked the winner with less than 2 minutes of real time to go. The latter part of the final quarter had been relentless pressure and attack on the Collingwood defence which stood up under the stress really well. We had not been inside our own 50 for ten minutes between the seven and 17 minute mark on the scoreboard clock, and only a couple of times after that. We could not even get the ball forward after the winning goal to put the wind up the opposition.

 

It is notable that the two best midfielders Pendles and Sidey did not have the influence they needed to for a win. Sidebottom had only 14 possessions after 41 last week. There must be something Chinese about the number switch. Pendles had 20 touches but could not find the space enough to weave his magic, a bit like the drawn game in 2010.

 

The final wash-up is heartbreak for fans, which you could see on all their faces around us. It is more pertinent for the players and coach who got ever so close but did not get the chocolates. No one can fault the effort of all concerned and as supporters we can justifiable be proud of the 22 players who wore the black and white in the 2018 decider.

 

Many theories will abound as to what should have been done, who should have been picked, but let’s not forget that the same 22 played in all four finals, won two, but lost two to the same mob but by less than in the qualifier.

 

Where to from here? The players are hurting and need all the support we can give to come back stronger next year.

They need to remember the words of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:

 

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

 

Also important is that part of Rudyard Kipling’s great poem “If”:

 

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same”

 

We will all be back next year with great expectations, and rightly so. There is so much to look forward to and not be pessimistic, like my eldest son who thinks the club has a culture of failure with occasions of glory once in a while. All experiences in life teach us lesson we must accept and learn from. The club learned from the extensive review last year now they need to learn from this loss, as well as the season as a whole.

 

Then to improve and go one better next year.

In the words of that other great football anthem:

 

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on Walk on

 

 

With apologies to non-Liverpool EPL fans

 

Go Pies

 

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