Pies and Zen rule

famous a  celebrated (for quality etc.) ; well known ; (colloq.) excellent

I had a very unusual pre-game routine for our blockbuster against the Crows.  I attended a silent retreat for the day as part of a mindfulness meditation course I am undertaking.

How does this have any relevance to the game?  Well, limited, but the course is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy principles, one of the foundations of which is the impact on feelings and behaviours of thoughts, and thoughts include expectations.  I went into this game with uncharacteristically low expectations, more hope than expectation, thinking that our injury horrors would mean that our depth would be exposed by the white-hot Crows, despite Footy Park being our home away from home.  I was interested to note that I felt less anxious than usual before the game.

I watched the game at Chateau Stork in the company of Stork and TAFKATBM (The Artist Formerly Known As The Big Man).  The game started at finals-level intensity and our skills were clean, moving the ball swiftly into our forward line.  Twice we scored on the fast break from defence, cutting through the Crows’ press with a combination of grunt and precise ball-handling.  The reborn Sinclair was instrumental in these forward forays, as was Didak, and goals to Shaw, Sidey and the Sack gave us a three goal to one lead.  The Crows hit back, with two of their three goals for the quarter coming from centre clearances.  It was the most intense quarter of footy we had played in for the year, and Sidey’s sliding dropped mark late in the quarter meant that we had to be content to lead by the smallest of margins at the first break.  My zen-like calm stayed intact for the quarter.

Much had been made during the week, and in the commentary during the game, of the fact that both these teams thrive on winning contested footy and have gun midfields.  Bucks had pulled a surprise by assigning Daisy to match up on Dangerfield, and although the latter won a bit of ball early, he found no space and no easy possessions. Beams and Sidey were outstanding for us in the first stanza.

The intensity continued in a rain-soaked second quarter slog in which goals were as rare as intelligent comments from Ricky Nixon.  Joll and Pendles twice combined from clearances to set up scoring opportunities.  Both sides missed some gettable set shots, with Sidey and Pendles missing for us, the latter’s opportunity arising from another great effort from Sinclair, who brought the ball to ground and then forward in a one on three contest.   The small forwards were crucial for us as we were getting nothing from Travis and the increasingly frustrated Beast.  At the other end Tippett was dangerous and had two goals before fortunately losing his radar.  Heater and Harry were very good in the back half, combining defence and attack, and were well supported by the dependable Toovs.

The boundary and field umpires managed to confuse whose boot projected a ball out on the full on our half-forward line, but fortunately the Crows didn’t capitalise from taking the ball the length of the ground.  This decision strongly challenged my state of zen clarity and calm and some unzen-like utterances were expressed !  Didak and the sharp-shooting Sack combined to land a telling blow in the dying minutes to allow us a seven point buffer at the long break.

We were dead ordinary in the third quarter, with the Crows playing the game on their terms and much of the quarter played inside their forward 50.  Dawes’ inability to adequately pressure his opponent saw the Crows kick the first goal, followed by a string of points from which our kick-in woes continued.  If there was a mid-season draft, as mooted, would it be Leon who we most sought? (Incidentally, can anyone recall who we drafted in the last mid-season draft?  I seem to remember that it was a post-Richmond Terry Keays who never made it back to the club).

We didn’t look like kicking a goal until the absurd interchange infringement penalty rule gifted Joll an opportunity he butchered.  We dodged a bullet minutes later when Johncock kicked for goal and glory and missed, ignoring Tippett unguarded in a much better position.  Sidey then hit the post to give us a goal-less quarter and we were probably fortunate to be within six points when the siren came.

The mood at Chateau Stork was intense, with Stork posing the question “Can you win a big game when you kick four points in the third quarter?”  I drew on zen-like clarity to answer that we will know sooner rather than later.   TAFKATBM was typically less philosophical, declaring that it would take a miracle for us to win, and decrying the performances of a few players he considered overrated and/or overpaid.

One of the targets of The Artist’s ire was Daisy, who must have been channelled into these comments, responding with a game-changing effort.  Johncock marked at the point post early in the quarter and sought to give off to an unattended team mate 15 metres directly in front.  Daisy closed the space and spoiled, we took the ball the length of the ground and Pendles snapped a ripper to change the momentum of the game.

Our season horribilus continued when Big Lachie went down clutching his knee and was wheeled and then carried from the ground by a large number of attendants, one of whom inexplicably had to discard a footy before bearing the stretcher load.  I know that rehab needs to start early but surely this was a bridge too far.   Our stocks of tall defenders seemed about as plentiful as Demon victories this season, and Maxwell going to Tippett seemed a necessary but unsatisfactory match-up.

We responded magnificently   – our midfield took over with Beams, Sidey and Pendles continuing excellent games and Daisy inspirational.  Maxy typically lifted under duress and Heater was heroic, especially in a goalmouth spoil on the much bigger Jacobs.  Sinclair to Wellingham to Beams gave us a small buffer, followed by a freak goal from Sharrod which is worth a look if you haven’t seen it.  He willed himself into the contest against a bigger opponent, used his speed to get to the front and then hoofed the ball along/from the ground from more than twenty metres.  An absolute team-lifter.  Didak, who had a great last quarter, sealed a famous win with a set shot from the fifty metre line (or from 48 metres according to the Sunday Age’s Adelaide correspondent) .  When TAKKATBM pulled a 600ml Sapporo from the fridge with 2.35 on the clock I knew that we were home and that we were in the top four.  I mused “What is the sound of one hand opening a Sapporo ?

This was, as Paul Fahey, as already noted, one of those games in which the best players were “greät team effort.”  Everyone contributed, with some of the lesser lights such as S Buckley and Sinclair standing up.  Even Dawes ended up with seven contested possessions and Travis had a part in the final goal.   Marley Williams was really solid on debut and Jamie Elliott landed a couple of decent tackles and looked lively when he got his chance.

The other bloke who deserves HUGE praise is N Buckley.  He has been on a hiding to nothing taking over a team that has been highly successful in the past couple of years, following Mick in difficult circumstances and the club being harder hit by serious injuries than at any time I can remember.  To quote a Paul Kelly song he has demonstrated extraordinary “grace under pressure” and all the crap from Mick, Carey and others seemed silly at the time and truly ridiculous now.  Our team is playing for each other and for the coach.  I reckon how far we can go will depend very much on who we can get back and any further losses to injury, but to be 7-2 is an extraordinary feat and bodes very well for the future, hopefully the not too distant future.

The votes were hard to give.  I really wanted to fit Heater in, who is not just a great player, but a Collingwood great – he epitomises Collingwood, flaws and all, and I reckon he bleeds black and white.     But I couldn’t fit him in, nor could I fit in Daisy, who was critical to the last –quarter effort.  Like some of the other star players, even when he isn’t starring I can’t fault his work rate, which is a great legacy of the Mick era.

So that leaves me with :

3 Beamer – clearly the best man on the ground and a revelation this season after an injury-interrupted start.

2 Sidey – smart, tough, creative, hardworking and has a lovely smile !!  The development of these two buddies this season creates enormous options if we ever get anywhere near our full list available, notably Swanny and Pendles to spend more time forward.

1 Pendles – not as prominent as last week, but soooo creative and smart with the ball.  In a game in which space around the ball is ever-shrinking, a bloke with his skills becomes more important.


The Grantley Fielke Medal goes to Beamer.



  1. Steve,

    Nice work!

    Win’s like that are just magic! Against the odds, against the frenzied Moron Park crowd, against the plethora of Collingwood-haters…….it just doesn’t get much better than that.

    You’ve accurately named all of the contributorsto the brilliant win and there were many. You’ve also superbly summed up Nathan Buckley who has risen above all of the drivel to stamp his class on our footy team & our club. If only Voss had as much class………

    And as for the media hype this year…… In their desperate & daily quest for the headline, most of our so-called “experts” continually end up with egg all over their face and their foot stuck firmly in their big mouths. As they brashly trumpet this and declare that, it never ceases to amaze me how they get away with it. And if you have never actually played the game at the highest level…..what would you know? Embarrassing stuff.

    So – write the Cats off if you dare (plenty have already) & write the Pies off this year if you dare. There’s a lot of sexy new clubs at the top at the moment but are they made of real substance or are they just a growing fad? I don’t know – I never played the game at the highest level……

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