Preliminary Final – Richmond v Collingwood: We’ll always have Paris

 

The Sherrin bounces high into the air. A wall of sound envelopes us and it is electrifying, a huge crowd ushers in the First Preliminary Final with a mighty roar.  The MCG is rocking.

 

We are here with family and friends, keen to share another experience, hoping to continue on this exhilarating journey.  After two years away, my daughter joins us tonight, still jet-lagged, but filled with excitement.

 

It is different tonight, we are not all on the same page. The bays around us are bursting with Magpie fans. This is traditional football, the great clans, meeting on neutral ground, fighting it out, as they have done many times before. The spirits of past players, the ghosts of barrackers gone, the noise, the colour and the banter are all here. The romance of history is all around us.

 

The first few minutes are typical Richmond. Collingwood win the first clearance and push deep but the Tigers repel and run the ball forward. Jumping Jack leads out strongly and marks. First blood!  No, he misses.  The Tigers continue to pepper their goals but with little luck.  They do not seem to be taking their chances.  How many will they get in a Preliminary Final?

 

It is the Magpies who take first blood when De Goey marks in the forward pocket and lines up for what was once considered a tricky shot at goal.  A modern footballer, he runs around and kicks truly.  Magpie fans in the stands erupt!  They soon have another.

 

As expected, both teams crack in. However, as the first quarter progresses, worrying signs are emerging. De Goey is playing well. Why is he not being attended by Grimes? Grimes always plays on the most dangerous forward.  Frustrating! Mason Cox is jumping high and holding marks.  Collingwood are running the ball out of their backline way too easily.  Where is our vaunted forward pressure?  Where are our runners?  Dusty is not moving well and he doesn’t seem to want to kick the ball.  Does he not know how much we depend on breaking lines?

 

This quarter cannot end quickly enough for us and we spend the break looking nervous.  Collingwood have a handy lead already.  Backs to the wall and the game has barely started!

 

They say that reputations are made and lost in September.  That, when the blossom appears on the trees and the business is to be done, the big game players step up.  Sometimes, it is an ancient warrior who adds to his body of work, occasionally, a new face emerges from the shadows.  Tonight, it is both.  The second quarter belongs to two men and they wear Black and White stripes.

 

Steele Sidebottom is always on his own.  He is the conduit between defence and attack, a reliable path forward, a get-out-of-jail-free card.  Hassled defenders look for him and he is always there.  He dispenses the ball forward with clinical precision.  He will go on to be the best player on the ground, his already fine reputation enhanced by a wonderful performance in this game!

 

Mason Cox is the new face.  He flies for marks, high over energy-charged packs and the ball sticks in his hands.  When close to goal, he kicks straight, when further out he uses the footy well and finds teammates. Recognising that he is in hot form, Collingwood midfielders propel the ball high and long in his direction and he does not let them down.

 

Richmond’s players are shell-shocked. They are ten goals to one down and the game is over, just like that. Tiger fans in the stands are dejected but their counterparts are delirious.  Being the team that they are, they regroup and, through the efforts of young Jack Higgins, they score the last goal of the first half.

 

Could they? Surely not, but stranger things have happened, usually to Collingwood.  The half-time margin is the same as the 1970 Grand Final, which they lost and to that in the 1973 Preliminary Final, which they also lost.

 

Needing a big second half, the Tigers rally and score again, not long after the break.  Riewoldt is also enhancing his September reputation as he plays a lone hand up forward.  Collingwood have all the answers, maintaining their lead despite the challenges that come their way.  They simply have too many players winning their positions for anything else to happen.  Jack Crisp, Taylor Adams, Adam Treloar and the redoubtable Mr Pendlebury control the midfield.  After De Goey scores his fourth goal, Grimes is belatedly dispatched to his side.  That the Collingwood player barely touches the ball after this does not matter.  It is too late.

 

The last quarter begins with the Tigers making one final challenge.  Two quick goals and we suddenly find our voices.  Finally, we have something to cheer.  The lead has been whittled down to below four goals and there is still plenty of time.  Will the most unlikely of wins happen, will those almost-forgotten capitulations from that bygone era be relived?

 

All Collingwood need is one goal and they will complete their kill.  They manage three and book their place in the Grand Final.  They are most deserving winners, having dominated this game.  They have built momentum over the last few weeks and Richmond proved powerless to stop it.

 

How do I feel as the dream fades away?   This season had promised so much and now it lies in tatters.  I feel like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.  Playing an American expatriate, running an up-market nightclub during the War, his world is rocked when Ingrid Bergman, the love of his life, returns, with her husband, needing his help.  Of course, he helps and loses her.

 

In Casablanca, Bogie tells Bergmann that they will always have Paris, the place where they were happiest. We Tiger fans will always have September, 2017.  Just like in Casablanca, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

 

Good luck to both the Magpies and the West Coast Eagles next week.

 

 

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: Sidebottom, Cox, Grundy, Adams, Crisp, De Goey, Greenwood

INJURIES
Richmond: Nil
Collingwood: Howe (ankle)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Rosebury, Stevic, Ryan

 

Official crowd: 94,959 at the MCG

 

 

First published on Balcony Banter.

About Joe De Petro

My favourite period in history began with the Summer of Love and came to a sad end with the birth of Disco. It was from 1967 to 1975. What was not to like in those days? The Grateful Dead, Creedence, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond and the mighty Tigers won Premierships every other year. It was a magical time!

Comments

  1. It was a quiet train ride home for those of us who chose to leave a bit before the siren. Next year… but for now, let’s enjoy summer.

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