Preliminary Final – Richmond v Collingwood: 11pm Friday night, a packed Ponsford Stand

 

I sit alone in the Ponsford Stand, taking in everything around me.

 

After selling Footy Records at Jolimont Station to a bustling crowd of a tick under 95,000, and a night full of tip-toes and neck-craning in standing room, it feels good to take a seat. But my aching feet don’t fill my jubilant mind as I cast my eyes around the pure joy that fills the black and white clad scene before me. It’s reaching 11PM on a balmy September Friday night, yet no one seems to be going home. Instead, there’s just hugs, smiles and the odd tears, as well as a hell of a lot of chanting and clapping to a Collingwood theme song that has long finished its crescendo over the MCG.

 

I can’t believe it. Collingwood are in a Grand Final, having beaten a rampant Tigers outfit that looked so unbeatable. So strong. So mature. How did we get here?

 

I cast my mind back to when I first scurry into the MCG to catch a gaze at the nearest television. What I see is positive – Collingwood have kicked two goals to Richmond’s one, and the tidal wave of sound coming from the seats are enough to blow me back like a gale force breeze. After hurrying up with fellow workers to the standing room near the Collingwood cheer squad, what occurs next is an hour of football that lasts for only seconds in my memory.

 

The fervent tackling of Magpies youthful and wily, resulting in a bursting Crisp goal that reminds one of Ben Johnson’s back-breaking goal in the 2010 Preliminary Final. The bursting nature of De Goey snapping through another, before beginning the second quarter with a desperate effort that displays the stranglehold he has over Rance. Then the main show begins in the form of the big American project who often frustrates.

 

Following his strong start against the ill Astbury, Mason Cox is seen slowly projecting into the Melbourne night sky, his spindly frame rising to clutch the seemingly tiny Sherrin before his lanky legs commence landing. With his classy strut and swagger back for his set shot, the awkward action manages to send the ball tumbling through the goals, and into the awaiting arms of a Collingwood cheer squad in disbelieving raptures.

 

If this wasn’t enough, he follows this up with a flying mark while his knee wedges into the neck of Cotchin. Turning back to eye off the despairing Rance and Astbury, he coolly clutches the ball in one palm before turning around and directing through another goal. What. Is. Going. On?
The Sherrin then flies forward once more, nestling into the giant web of American fingers amid jumps and elated cheers from the supporters around him. 3 goals in the space of 10 minutes in the second quarter. Once De Goey out muscles Rance and calmly guides through a third, eyes are popping out. The Magpies, against the heavy favourites of the juggernaut Richmond, are up by 50 points, holding Richmond to the one goal.

 

Mouths are agape at half time, smiles of incomprehension filling the jam-packed MCG crowd. The third quarter doesn’t see a continue of this demolition, as the Tigers’ cream begins to steadily reassert their pride. Yet no one can stop De Goey, or the constant contesting marking of Cox. Sidebottom is continuing his stellar finals series, collecting possessions at will and using it incredibly well off either foot.

 

But, by halfway through the last quarter the nerves are reinstated, harking back to the fabled times of the Colliwobbles. It’s back to a 21 point margin after the sly Higgins slides into Goldsack’s unassuming tackle and earns a free kick in front of goal. The Richmond roar is back, with supporters who previously furrowed their brows in anger now standing up and cheering on the Tigers. The arm wrestle is back on.

 

However, all thoughts of terrible chokes and the Colliwobbles are erased when the returning Treloar tumbles a left foot snap through the City End goals to the relieved Magpies faithful. When Grundy stamps his domination over Nankervis with a tap down to himself that is thrown onto the boot and through the goals, the noise reaches its climax and the end is near. Sidebottom’s final assist of Stephenson seals the demolition job done by a youthful Collingwood team against the reigning premiers.

 

It won’t sink in. It still hasn’t. It will take until the Thursday open training. The Friday parade. The guttural ‘Collingwood’ chant when Pendlebury leads his team out on Saturday. But the Pies, against all odds, are into a Grand Final. And the wide grins of shock and pure elation that surround me in the Ponsford Stand way after the game’s conclusion will continue.

 

RICHMOND 1.3 2.8 6.10 8.10 (58)
COLLINGWOOD 5.2 10.4 12.7 15.7 (97)
GOALS
Richmond: Riewoldt 5, Higgins 2, Houli
Collingwood: De Goey 4, Cox 3, Crisp 2, Mihocek 2, Varcoe, Treloar, Grundy, Stephenson
BEST
Richmond: Riewoldt, Cotchin, Houli, Higgins
Collingwood: Cox, De Goey, Sidebottom, Grundy, Adams, Crisp, Greenwood
Umpires: Rosebury, Stevic, Ryan
Official crowd: 94,959 at the MCG

 

Prior to the prelim, Sean wrote a prescient article on how this might just unfold for the Pies. Read it here:

 

For more of Sean’s Almanac work, CLICK HERE:

 

Magpie fans, if you want more of this game, CLICK HERE:

 

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Comments

  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Great stuff Sean. Captured the feeling beautifully. Enjoy the build-up and Go Pies !

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