Grand Final – West Coast v Collingwood: Omens and a sea of heartache



Footy people can be a superstitious bunch. Collingwood assistant coach Neil Mann offered Bob Rose a Collingwood troll doll for luck just before the 1966 Grand Final. Rose refused, deriding Mann’s dalliance with the dark arts.


We lost to St Kilda by a point.


For years Mann believed disrespecting the doll brought bad juju to the Pies.


In October 1990, I attended the ceremony for the death of the Colliwobbles along with a few thousand other diehards who thought the misery of losing Grand Finals in cruel and unusual ways was finally over.


Yesterday I sat on the shallow turf of the Holden Centre with my daughter Anastasia and we witnessed our first Grand Final loss by under a kick together.


“We should have waited another week before getting Arlo fixed.” said Ana, as we walked to Jolimont Station amid a sea of heartbroken Magpies.


Arlo is a our black and white cat who joined our family just before ANZAC DAY.


“He brought us luck,” offered Ana and maintained that the cat could be the difference as the Pies tilt at the flag became more pronounced.


I’m not a gambler, but I like to have flutter on the Brownlow every year.


In 2003 I backed Bucks and in 2011 I had a nice win on Swanny.


On the morning of the Brownlow we took poor Arlo to get his nuts removed. The little fella came back groggy, subdued, still affectionate, but neutered.




I had a look at the Brownlow form and thought that Steele Sidebottom was a good chance to finish top 5. At 7 to 1 Ana now had a nice deposit for her first car in the bank. Thanks Steele!


While chuffed with the unexpected financial windfall, my mind went back to 2003 and 2011. “Bad omen.” It couldn’t happen again could it?


Feeling ebullient and full of expectation I greeted the Magpies that have been hovering in my backyard since late August. I then went out front to check the mail and one of them decided to swoop on my bald patch. A warning about not getting my hopes up?


The experience put me in a weird mood.


I started watching DVDs of That Was The Season That Was with particular emphasis on 1979 and 1981. Lou Richards’ 1981 lament: “Have they thrown away another one?” kept ringing in my ears through Thursday and Friday. Why do I do this to myself? Was it to guard against hubris or somehow prepare for the pain that lay ahead?


Bucks is coach of the year before he wins a premiership. What kind of halfwits hand out these awards before a Grand Final? Bucks also won the Normie in 2002 and the Brownlow before the 2003 disaster. I have to stop thinking.


On Friday night I slept well, no foreboding dreams of dead magpies, troll dolls, Bucks or castrated cats.


As we headed to Watsonia Station the first Pie fan I bump into is a young monobrowed fella who reminded me of Eddie McGuire when he was still at Channel 10.


“I had a bad dream last night. I haven’t got a good feeling about today. I hope I’m wrong,” he said.


“We’ll be right mate,” I offered while inside I said: “Oh, fuck off!”


The train was full of Pie fans but there was no banter, singing or positive vibes. When we got to Victoria Park I thought that might arouse some reaction. Nothing. Not a whimper.


At the Holden Centre (the most soulless, unfooty-like venue I’ve ever had the displeasure of attending) Magpies were in picnic mode. Lots of blankets, smiles, relaxed body language.


Then the banner broke.


People began looking at each other fearfully until Bucks came into view and consoled the cheer squad. Muted cheers from the crowd. These fucking omens are doing my head in and the game hasn’t even started yet!


Mike Brady is dragged out again to sing ‘Up There Cazaly’. Just as he did in 1979 when we lost to Carlton by 5 points. “Nah, could happen again, surely?”


I reckon when he finally kicks the bucket there will be a hologram of Mike Brady singing the song and kids will ask what else this bloke did and we will revel at his “SPC Baked Beans and Spaghetti” jingle along with his lesser known hit: “The Whole World is Playing Tennis.”


Jimmy and the Peas were okay. Better than Meatloaf in 2011. Beans? Peas? Meatloaf? Food? Mike Brady.


The Eagles prevail in an epic encounter.


I try to butt my cigarette into the shallow turf. There is no give. It’s almost as if it is fake. I singe my finger and we head back across the MCG to Joilmont. A sea of faces in pain greets me at every glance. Many are crying, most are shell-shocked. They did it to us again.


The Hurstbridge Line is like a wake. One woman, pissed as a newt offers to sing ‘Good Old Collingwood’. She then realises that it’s not the time and stops before she reaches ‘Forever’.


A young girl sitting across from me has the number 2 painted on one cheek and 46 on the other. She has been crying. She had dared to hope.


We get home and Ana is great. “Don’t worry Dad. We’ll win it next year for sure!”


I go to pat Arlo.


He runs away.


Bad Omens.





You can check out more of Phil Dimitriadis’ work here. He is also the Footy Almanac’s Patron Pie of funny/novelty teams.






About Phillip Dimitriadis

Carer/Teacher/Writer. Author of Fandemic: Travels in Footy Mythology. World view influenced by Johnny Cash, Krishnamurti, Larry David, Toni Morrison and Billy Picken.


  1. *ahem* ;)

    Good article Phil. Grand Final losses are tough. But you at least had that start, you got to watch one of the classic Grand Finals, and you’re well placed for next year.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    So Ed’s empire of dirt has fake grass. It figures.

  3. Classy season. Solid contributor in a variety of positions. Returned from injury to play a pivotal role in many dazzling performances. The team wouldn’t be the same without him. Spiritual leader.
    Your Pies went ok too.
    My Johnny just trumped your Johnny at the end. Keep a close watch on that heart of yours.

  4. Not good Phil. We watched the encounter @ Epping RSL; wall to wall Pies supporters.

    Your first term seemed a portender of a win for the Carringbush, but it then moved into repeat mode , a repeat you don’t want to see.

    You’ve got some good young players. Treloar, Adams, Cox, De Goey, Stevenson should give you cause for optimism.

    Despite the gloom and doom the Carringbush are feeling i’ll surmise a consensus amongst very many :Barnsey should be a regular on the GF stage.


  5. Commiserations Phil. So close to a mirror image of Richmond’s 2017 season except that you came up against a far more resolute opponent on Saturday than we did. Not sure that the Tigs would have done much better if we’d been in it.
    Lots to look forward to (including plenty of Magpie-Tiger blockbusters, I reckon).
    Chin up…

  6. Anthony W Collins says

    I wish I had $100 for every time Josh Frydenberg has blamed something on Bill Shorten. Seriously … he gets blamed for everything bar the Gatton murders. But this time … Bill might have to wear it … came out supporting the Pies and the Storm …KISS OF DEATH FOR BOTH …

    Omens are of course deeply important… I blame JT for the loss in 1981. Eric and I had caught the train from Brisbane to Melbourne for the slaughter in 1980. (read about it vaguely in “loose men everywhere.”) Eric was and still is a life long fan…

    The next year our mate JT … was employed and owned a brand new Celica.
    it was a spur of the moment thing … but it seemed like a great idea. We took off to the grand final… just outside Warwick … JT collided with and killed a Magpie… we should have turned back there.

    As for cutting your cat???

  7. Kasey Symons says

    Great piece Phil and my commiserations – it was a battle for the ages and Collingwood were very classy in defeat. And apologies for my social media spree of Eagles content – you might need to mute me on twitter for a few weeks :)

  8. Phil – what does all this mean? Omens are usually right in retrospect.

    The Pies were enormous and nearly pinched it. When the Eagles got the Eaglewobbles with a few minutes left and missed four set shots at goal I thought the Gods might be smiling upon you. But alas they had one more trick to play.

    As one of Kate’s friends said (she’s a mad Pie) – “I’m really happy because we came second.!”


  9. You capture the emotion, and that famous sentiment that it’s more important than life and death, so well as always Phil.

  10. Peter Fuller says

    Commiserations, but I hope that you’ll reflect on a wonderful season that surely far exceeded your expectations. You should also find consolation after a few days’ mourning in the Magpies’ contribution to one of the greatest Grand Finals. Like horses that finish runner-up to Winx, you just found one better.
    When I learned about the extra time rule which disappoints me (especially the sudden death rule if ten minutes doesn’t split the contenders) I was thinking of Nick Maxwell’s reaction in an interview immediately after the drawn game against St. Kilda (wtte) why do we have to come back next week, why don’t we play extra time? I wonder if that was as influential in the AFL decision as was the end of runners-up medals following Peter Moore’s disgusted reaction after a heartbreak loss. I reckon less decorated players might value such a memento after their initial distress had died down. Dips’ daughter’s friend is on the money, IMO.
    There is no disgrace for Collingwood as a team for being better than sixteen other clubs, and plenty of the players from Saturday’s team deserve to feel proud of their effort. I’m looking at you Adams, Langdon, Grundy, Cox (for his 2nd half redemption), Mayne, Sier and Howe, among others. You should also feel proud that your Club’s leaders, Pendlebury and Buckley especially and McGuire conducted themselves with such dignity and grace.

  11. Phil,
    Commiserations. A terrible way to lose.
    And what a club you love: after the Saints and all those wooden spoons, your Maggies are the most consistent team in the history of the VFL / AFL.
    As one Pie mate once quipped to me: At least we give good loss.
    Reckon you’ll do okay next season. Better than my lot, anyway.

  12. Phil,
    Sending u virtual hugs.
    I still cannot believe it.
    What an empty feeling, i hate it.

    If you woulda told me in January 2018,
    That at age 26 id be crying between the support of a hawks man and an eagles man at Crown Sports bar bc we would lose the grandfinal by 5 points i woulda told you, you’re mad.

    Seeing the boys on sunday was bitter sweet
    What a crazy year.
    Bring em on in 2019 WE ARE GOING AGAIN!

  13. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Oh, and it was the 6:15 TO Hurstbridge:

  14. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Oh, and it was the 6:15 TO Hurstbridge:

  15. Luke Reynolds says

    Phil, I’m feeling your and Arlo’s hurt.
    Go Pies in 2019.

  16. Matt Zurbo says

    Great piece Phil, beautifully written!

  17. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thanks to all for your comments and perspectives. Pies have been great this year. At least they make us feel things. Bucks, Travis all class over the last month. Hope fate smiles on them in 2019.

    We always seem to find cruel and unusual ways to lose the close ones. At the beginning of the year if you’d said we’d win the flag, I would have laughed. If you’d said that we’d make the GF and lose by 5 points, I’d have believed you. That’s Collingwood Football Club in a nutshell.
    C’est la vie …

  18. LB,
    It may be cold comfort, but what a brave season by the Pies.
    They (and Bucks) have won plenty of admirers.
    And to think that the media wanted NB sacked after Round 2!!

  19. Well done.,,, I felt for all pie fans on Saturday.

  20. Love it Phil.
    The story demanded that ending.
    And that’s alright.

    I felt an uncomfortable shiver last week passing an advertising gimmick at Southern Cross Station. A shipping crate emblazoned with the words: “museum of missed opportunity.”

    On we go.

  21. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Cheers Smokie, Kate, ER.
    The Pies took us on a wonderful ride. If the worst thing in life is Collingwood losing GF’s then I think we’re doing all right.

  22. Uncomfortably numb.

    Sums up my feelings 8 seconds after and 8 days later.

    It was 2002 all over again. The Granny we were never meant to make, the granny we gave an almighty shake, the granny that FFS we coulda, shoulda stole and finally, finally, restored our place at the top of the all-time tree.

    The only way I can reconcile the many hard luck sliding doors moments is that ultimately WC had our measure twice already and had they lost would justifiably felt they were equally as unlucky.

    I so wanted this one for Bucks and for my two young ‘uns who were at Holden Centre with their mum while I lived the pain first hand.

    I guess as Pies supporters it was a right of passage.

  23. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Et oui, c’est la vie, Phil. La vie est dure parfois!

    I guess Eeyore must live a life of focus-pulling omens.

    Felt for you all as a neutral, well satisfied with a great match!
    Hope the spring is slowly taking hold.

  24. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Hi JD. Have you recovered yet? Very much like ’02 and ’79. Pie fans are now displaying how many GF defeats they have witnessed as war wounds rather than tattoos. Think with a bit of luck we can give it a shake of the next couple of years.

    MdH – We need a new collective noun for an Eeyore? As Magpies we began as a ‘charm’ , then a ‘gulp’ and then a ‘murder’ – An Implausibility (perhaps?) of Eeyore’s were seen and heard in and around the G lamenting their fate.
    Yep, life is hard sometimes and there would have been an ostentation of triumphant ‘focus-pulling omens’ had the Pies saluted. Better find that troll doll and give it to Bucks for 2019. Cheers

  25. DBalassone says

    Bravo Phil. Glad to hear Ana was there to help you through it. I think the thing that hurts most about this one, is not any sense of injustice – Eagles were thoroughly deserving winners – but more so, that we were so close to so much joy. It would have been such a beautiful moment to have pulled this one off.
    But as you say, ‘The Pies took us on a wonderful ride. If the worst thing in life is Collingwood losing GF’s then I think we’re doing all right.’

  26. Don’t know how I missed this one, Phil. Nothing more to add, than hasn’t been said above, except, two weeks on, I hope you’re feeling a bit better, as the pain dissipates. Really enjoyed your piece.

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