How we tried to lose the unlosable game.

By John Ramsdale

What a ridiculous time to play football; marginally better than a Monday, but still ridiculous. The only advantage is that it puts off thought s of returning to work or school for a couple of hours. I hate this ground: its location, its surface, we do not seem to play well there, I cannot remember too many great wins here, and it changes name regularly which can be confusing. What is wrong with having a traditional long standing name that people can recognize like Princes Park, Kardinia Park or Lexus Centre?

The usual group was severely depleted this week. The Piesimists were in Katherine for work, Suzy the Piesmist’s daughter had elected to go and see Sex and the City 2, (I propose a two week suspension from the Floreat Pica society, not for a lack of priorities ( see the timing comment)  but for a lack of taste)and my wife had elected to stay in the maternity hospital with her new grandson. Another lack of priorities. At least I would be spared a stream of invective about Josh Fraser and his performance.

Even though we had lost two in a row I approached this game with more optimism. The inclusions looked good and Footscray’s forward line looked thinner without Murphy, Johnson and Akermanis, all of whom have caused us trouble in the past. The game began at a brisk pace with Didak kicking Collingwood’s first goal within the first minute. Collingwood did most of the attacking but with little return from their entries into the forward line. They were applying the pressure and the Dogs’ players seemed to lack confidence and were not playing as well as earlier in the year. The backline was providing plenty of attack from Harry, Toooooooovey, Heath Shaw (including two courageous running backwards marks) and Ben Reid and the usual group of midfielders of Dane Swan, Scott Pendelbury and Luke Ball were getting plenty of the ball. The pressure being applied produced a series of mistakes. Having created a new category for the Guinness Book of Records during the Geelong game “kicking to the opposition”, the aim tonight appeared to be an assault on the kicking into the man on the mark record, with Wellingam (twice) and Beams being involved. Leigh Brown  while not getting a lot of possessions was making his presence felt and Leon was moving a lot more freely and was getting into the game. It looked like the others were going out of their way to get him involved. Travis Cloke produced a Ray Gabelich -like1964 Grand Final lumbering, fumbling goal from the goal square and Leon goaled on the siren after a strong chest mark in front of his opponent. The other players ran from everywhere to congratulate him. The script was working. We had had most of the play but were only 7 points up. It could have been a lot more.

Collingwood dominated most of this quarter kicking five goals to the Dogs’ three. Two of these goals came in a Doggie purple patch of a minute. The game had become very crowded with almost all players in Collingwood’s forward line. Ben Reid was picking up a number of possessions on what would once have been called the half-forward flank. A series of handballs out of the scrum from McAffer to Thomas resulted in a Josh Fraser goal. The crowd came to life when Leon was awarded the most obvious free of the night. Instead of running around on a wide arc and trying to kick a banana goal, he handballed to Harry running past who kicked a Ryan Lonie style goal from 60 metres out. The midfielders continued their good form from the first quarter and Thomas, and Maxwell came into it. Collingwood had dominated most of the quarter but were only 19 points in front.

Collingwood took control of the game during this quarter with eight goals. It looked like it was going to be a percentage booster. When Leigh Brown kicked a goal from an acute angle from 50 metres out,and you know he can miss them from the goal square, it appeared to be all over. The Piesimist uncharacteristically SMs’ed his traditional “Whoo, Whoo” signal of impending victory (his version of Joffa’s jacket) from Katherine at the 22 minute mark. The Territory sun and the Darwin stubbies must have kicked in.  The Graham Norton lookalike, umpire Ray “Mr Pedantic” Chamberlain became involved in the game and this endeared him to the Collingwood faithful. He must be one of the few umpires that the general public knows by name these days, one of the few that stands out from an otherwise anonymous group. The other two, (Numbers 23 and 25) were variuosly referred two by the gentleman in front of me as ‘you yellow mongrel”. Clearly the AFL Respect for Umpires strategy hasn’t reached all sectors of society yet.

There were danger signs in time on. Footscray had another purple patch kicking three goals in five minutes from strong marks taken unusually over Nick Maxwell. Presti had been moved onto Brian Lake and Maxwell onto Barry Hall. Even with a 37 point lead Mick would not have been happy at letting them in. It should have been a lot more and the game should have been over. The highlight of the three-quarter time break was seeing Ben Reid’s name  on the leading possessions’ board.

The Dogs are renowned for their last quarters and coming back strongly. Collingwood needed to be wary. Collingwood began the last quarter as they had all of the others in a brisk, purposeful manner .A Swan goal from a Jolly assist looked to have sealed it. Medhurst after a very quiet night was starting to come into it and a pass to Ball nearly produced a well deserved goal. His kick fell well short, not surprising when you consider how hard he had worked all night. It was almost as if Collingwood relaxed mentally, as the Dogs found more run. They were now clearing it from the centre, Cooney and Boyd were everywhere and Barry Hall was leading well. Their forward moves produced goals, while ours produced behinds or no scores. Surely we couldn’t lose it from here? It looked distinctly possible. A loss from here would have reconfirmed  my prejudices against this ground and this time of day.

Collingwood’s backline held firm with great efforts from Thomas (hasn’t he improved his consistency?), Shaw, Toovey, Harry and Presti. It was great to hear the siren. A good win over a good team who has given us trouble over the last few years. The Dogs comeback made the last quarter very exciting and close. But give me a large, comfortable Collingwood victory any day. Save the interesting close games for ones we aren’t involved in. Bring on Melbourne and the well earned and much needed break.

Good signs from the game include the return to form of Leon and Leigh Brown and the improvement shown by Ben Reid and contributions at times from all players. The backup ruckman remains a problem when Jolly goes off the ball. For the senior citizens among us it was great to see two dinosaurs, Barry Hall and Presti with a combined age of 65 playing on one another. The episode of The Bill on the ABC on Saturday night revolved around the police keeping the supporters of two soccer teams apart for fear of violence. As I left the ground last night with other 40,812 supporters it was great to see the supporters of both sides leaving the ground amicably. But you can bet that Steve Fahey found somebody troublesome to sit next to.

Votes were very difficult to give as most players contributed throughout the game , often in short bursts.

The Wee Georgie Bissett medal goes to:

3. Dane Swann. He just keeps going and trying. His deceptive bursts of speed get the ball out to others. It is hard to recognize him as the plodder who started a few years ago.

2. Scott Pendelbury. Cool, calm, collected and invisible. He probably deserved the three but I didn’t notice him enough. He will need to dye his hair if he is ever to win the Brownlow and add to his Robert Rose, Anzac  and Horsburgh Medals.

1. Luke Ball. It is easy to see why Collingwood went after him. He works hard all day as do the other two and does the hard things at the bottom of the pack. Unspectacular but very good and very solid.

Those stiff to miss out include, Alan Didak, Dale Thomas, Harry O’Brien , Leon, Darren Jolly, Ben Reid and Leigh Brown. (I was the only one who gave him a vote last year and was tempted to maintain the tradition)


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