Magpies and Blues Share the Love, But Not The Points

To listen to some media hype is to believe that when the clans of Carlton and Collingwood gather for contest, ruckus melee and mayhem are assured. That the bays of the MCG will resemble King St on a bad night. That riot police are on standby.

This is of course a nonsense. It is one of the proud claims of the Australian code that our supporters need no fences to separate them, no police batons to subdue them. We are civilised people we Victorians. Yes, historic grudges may be harboured. In the heat of battle scarifying oaths may be exchanged. But we know where to draw the line (well, usually).

Besides, there is more that bonds these two clubs than is openly admitted. In terms of identity, the relationship is mutually dependent. What is ying without yang? Ego without Id? One rarely evaluates itself without reference to the other. Collingwood folk seem prone to a sense of exceptionalism, and it is Carlton’s historic role to provide lessons in humility. The Magpie, for its part, has been an enduring source of generosity to the folk of Navy Blue.

Collingwood had maintained that spirit of generosity by inviting us to their flag unfurling, though it required a certain amount of discourtesy to their fellow South Australian Magpies in round one. But having invited us, they then seemed rather intent on suggesting we shouldn’t have bothered to turn up. A decidedly mixed message. Nevertheless, it was touching that they would consider us in their moment of glory. The Magpies are as ascendant as they have ever been in my adult life (or in the lives of most for that matter) so it’s only natural they want to celebrate.

And that is precisely what they did. A “Collingwood Supergroup” serenaded us with a tepid version of A Long Way To The Top, which only really served to remind that some musicians will do almost anything for money, though it did invite some freewheeling speculation about the correlation between Collingwood and AC/DC fans. But the real action was just starting.

We were now treated to ceremony of Olympian intent, as befitted the occasion. It’s just a shame they didn’t have an equivalent budget… or Ric Burch. Undaunted, Eddie attempted to fill the breach. This was a flag for all the peoples of the world, apparently. He was admittedly briefer than anticipated (or perhaps I’d just dozed off) but couldn’t resist finishing with a bit of good old showbiz razzle-dazzle: our gazes followed admiringly as the flag climbed to the stars, or at least to the top of the stand. Obviously invoking Atlanta, you knew someone of great import stood atop for the big finish. Instead of Muhammad Ali, in this instance we got Presti. By declaring himself injured when he was- errr- injured, good old punch-from-behind Presti has apparently ascended to the pantheon of saints. Move over Mary MacKillop.

With nary a dry eye in the house, the game was going to be an anti-climax.

The obvious Carlton vulnerability for this match could be found when their defensive personnel were examined. Watson (1 game), Duigan (2 games), Laidler (4 games) and Yarran (2 games as a defender) were going to do well not to be exploited at some stage. At least Jamison was returned to take the ominous Dawes, but the task of Cloke would have to fall to Watson.

When last these sides had met, the now fabled Collingwood swarm had rendered Carlton unable to move the ball past the wing. Early in this game the Blues did what they had to- taking risks to move the ball quickly, pressuring the Collingwood ball carrier and kicking long with purpose to tall marking options. Yarran was providing rebound from defence and Garlett was worrying the Magpie defence. Though Jarryd Blair escaped defenders drawn to the ball to kick two early goals, when Garlett goaled just before the siren the Blues actually led by a point. Perhaps there was a point in turning up after all?

The Magpies set about restoring usual business in the second quarter. Waite took an early hanger to reply to a Krakouer snap, but the Blues soon found themselves hemmed deep in their backline, unable to escape. Collingwood’s superior organisation around stoppages became obvious. Their ability to block and create space for each other created several goals, as Ball and Krakouer joined Blair on the scoreboard. Carlton lost the confidence to move the ball quickly in the face of their opponent’s pressure. By half time the margin was a worrying 27 points, not helped by the umpire interpreting Russell holding his ground whilst Blair approached front-on as grounds for gifting Blair a goal.

I was joined at half time by distinguished Almanacker Phil Dimitriadis, smartly dressed and fresh from the Long Room (Collingwood folk in the Long Rom! Never in Norm Smith’s day!). Phil is precisely the cultured, well-read gentleman who disabuses all of those hoary Collingwood stereotypes. That he belongs to the same congregation as the tattooed, Catweazle clone who approached me outside the ground demanding “do youse have the time?” is merely testament to what a broad church the Magpie one is.

Phil maintained an air of pacific calm as the Blues mounted a third quarter comeback. Despite desperate Collingwood defence, they clawed back the margin. Judd threatened another inspired burst, tackling Wellingham to prevent a goal, taking on three Magpies in another instance to create a chance for a team mate. Sadly, his own earlier set shot was astray. Gibbs and Pendlebury had largely negated each other to this stage. Now Gibbs kicked accurately from out near 50 and the game was alive.

When Gibbs was caught high, yet fell victim to the umpires’ holding-the-ball obsession, Phil no doubt had a pithy quote from the Greek classics ready to trip off the tongue. Perhaps wisely, he took my rather more Anglo-Saxon reaction as a sign to reserve comment. From the resulting free, what might have been 8 points became 20 as the Pies counter-attacked.

Despite their exertions, the Blues fell victim to their turnovers. A Scotland smothered kick, a rushed Gibbs disposal, and a missed Collins handball all resulted in ruthless Collingwood reprisal. By ¾ time no scoreboard progress had eventuated.

When Dawes added a goal to start the final term, the contest was largely decided. Young Watson tired, allowing Cloke to dominate, Swan started to rack up the possessions, and Collingwood saw out time with a degree of comfort. They’d been given something to think about, but were the steadier, more consistent and organised unit on the night. They remain the current  benchmark for other teams.

But it will be interesting to see if that remains so. As Almanac supremo John Harms has earlier identified, the pace noticeably went out of the game in the second half and play opened up. Increased player fatigue will present a challenge to the high intensity Collingwood style. How they and others adapt to the new circumstance will be a telling feature of the season.

Carlton have re-jigged their defence, with an emphasis on players who kick well. This necessarily means an inexperienced group, which cost them at times tonight, but I think it’s ultimately a good decision. It probably remains A Bridge Too Far for them to seriously contend this season, but it’s a big improvement on the Apocalypse Now which has too often replayed in recent times.

And so the rival clans shook hands, and departed to Friday night’s other temptations. What happens at the ground stays at the ground. This is as it should be, for this is how we like it, in Melbourne, Victoria, not quite at the bottom of the world.

Collingwood    4.2    9.7    12.8    15.12 (102)
Carlton    4.3    5.4    8.5    11.8 (74)

Blair 5, Dawes 3, Krakouer 2, Cloke 2, Jolly, Didak, Ball
Carlton: Garlett 3, Waite 2, Hampson, Simpson, Thornton, Robinson, Gibbs, Betts

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Tony Robb says

    I was pleased with the overall effort on Friday despite the limitation of Watson who was fed the the lions by Ratten and at no stage moved form the shallcking he coped the damage that it was causing the Blues. Still some good signs from the other defenders and hopefully the return of Bower and a couple of others (Kruezer please) will fix a few issues. The boys were a bit nervous with their ball handling at times yet very sharp in open spaces. Mr Walker had a forgettable night (still might have issues with the coach me thinks and he not alone). Eddie was no where. Jolly and a few ordinary decision in Q2 was the difference. His ability to hold down an opponent. ,literally, in the ruck contest( an the inability of the maggots to see it happening) led to the snaps in front from Krauker. Still the Pies have that capacity to hold the ball in their fwd zone for long periods and will ineviatably score.
    Great report.

  2. John Butler says

    TR, I think Ratten’s hand is forced because he has zero faith left in Thornton’s defensive abilities- an opinion I’d share. I thought Watson fought on ok considering. Bower can’t return quick enough.

    Eddie continues to let Harry O dominate him. Maybe a run through the midfield? Walker needs to lift against good teams, coach or not.

    Jolly appeared to hold or shove Warnock all night. The umps either pay everything or nothing in the ruck. I thought Warnock got away with a few later on.

    The jittery ball use was influenced by the Pies’ pressure. They psyched us out of running and taking risks in the 2nd term. They’re the better outfit, but we could see the makings of a plan.

  3. Can someone please tell Eddie Betts to pull his pants up!!

  4. Eddie may be a bit flat at the moment, but should anyone take his place, they’ve some big shorts to fill…

  5. John Butler says

    #3 & #4

    I’m wondering if he and David hale shop in the same store? Similar issues re shorts.

  6. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Excellent report JB,

    I think my Mr.Hyde would have been more prominent had the match gone to the wire. Agree with Blair decision, absolute shocker, but Chris ‘Don’t Touch Him’ Judd gets some softies.

    Blues are getting better but I don’t think you can win a flag with Simpson,Carazzo and Scotland in the midfield. They struggle under intense pressure. When Kreuzer is back and fit it will certainly give you more flexibility. A good key forward would have worried the Pies last Friday. That’s why I’m not to keen on meeting Hawthorn in the finals.

    Looking forward to round 2 in July.

  7. John Butler says

    Phil, I think you’re on the mark re Carrazzo & Scotland. A bit hard on Simpson.

    It’s now a common observation amongst Blues supporters that our older players are the most likely to make poor decisions under pressure. Throw Thornton into that mix.

    Carrazzo & Scotland have been whole-hearted players through some tough times, but as the side improves, can they improve with it?

  8. Andrew Fithall says

    Sorry I missed the event JB. Thank-you for your report. I note you didn’t award votes – do we just go with the regulation 9 to that Wally Lewis impersonator?

  9. John Butler says

    Ah AF, remember that dog and his bone?

    For your information, your man Swan had negligible impact until the final term, when he ran out the game better than most. But they were largely junk time stats.

    Only 5 1/2 to captain baldy. :)

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