Round 10 – Collingwood v Port Adelaide: Getting used to the hurt

“So why are you here today?” the young lady asks me through a face mask and shield, with her protective gown collecting light speckles of rain.


Cold win batters through the open car window, pushing in droplets of water and whipping me in the face as I bend out to answer.


“I was at the footy on Sunday, and got a text to come get tested,” I reply, trying to muster up any hint of optimism that may still be left in me after a whole day of searching and waiting for a COVID test.


“Did your team at least win?”


“Unfortunately not. We actually lost by a point.”


The lady clearly doesn’t understand much footy, but she knows what this means.


“Too bad. That’s double the pain.”


I nod solemnly, serving my penance for following the Magpies.


It had seemed like such a good idea three days earlier, when I woke up late on a Sunday morning and spied the shining sun trying to defrost Melbourne. Winter was well and truly on the precipice of arriving, instead choosing to dish out sneak-peek trailers through ice-cold mornings and chilly winds at various times of the day. But this Sunday had barely an ounce of cloud to scare off footy observers – in my mind, it was nature’s sign to use my membership and go watch Collingwood take on the Power.


Travelling into the ‘G, there was a supreme lack of black and white aboard the Hurstbridge train line. Catching the final train in before game time, I hopped on with trepidation, expecting to be caught in a throng of Collingwood fans desperate to run for the gates. But only a handful of true believers looked up and nodded, pain tinging their eyes and making up for what the mouth could not convey through the facemask. It had been a long year for Pies fans, and many of us didn’t hold much optimism towards a date with the fifth-placed Port Adelaide.


But a burst of sunshine can do wondrous things. It gives your stride an extra boost of pace and bounce when traversing down Yarra Park towards the MCG concourse. It makes you whip out your wallet and buy a Footy Record, because why not get something to read during the breaks? It makes you hop into your seat at the bottom level of the Great Southern Stand and ignore the last rays of sun that yearn for your eyes before falling below the eves of the AFL Colosseum.


For the actual Collingwood players, it encouraged them to take the game on and relinquish all fear for the highly fancied opposition. Just a kick short of a Grand Final last season, a Port Adelaide side fired up to quieten the prison bar jumper debate should’ve trounced us from the opening bounce. But with Brodie Grundy getting aggressive in the ruck and slotting the first goal from a boundary line throw in, the travelling Power looked somehow jetlagged from their half-hour flight to the east.


In typical Collingwood fashion, the young side burst out of the blocks like they had spent the warm-up winding themselves up. All of the bit-part role players got their hands on the footy and ran their arses off. Grundy was attacking poor Peter Ladhams with pent-up anger at the past 18 months of footy. Collingwood’s defence looked alert to returning themselves to their stingy best. It resulted in more goals; first from a strong mark by Darcy Cameron, then a mercurial Josh Daicos one-step drop punt from beyond the arc. Heading into the first break three goals to the good, the sun shining seemed to have defrosted the cold Pies.


Then the afternoon began to darken.


Now on my lonesome on the outer wing of the ‘G (where space was easy to find due to the low crowd), an early fifty metre penalty gave Grundy a second, and the Pies fans some voice from behind the Ponsford End goals. Could we actually upset the Power?


For however good Collingwood were, Port were equally as shaky. They looked anything but a premiership contender, making constant mistakes and panicking themselves into rushed kicks that only favoured our defence. Roughead was having a picnic on Dixon, mainly due to the poor entries inside fifty, while Quaynor and Noble rebounded like delighted kids on Christmas morning.


But us Collingwood fans know when it’s too good to be true, and this was another of those days. Robbie Gray went forward and couldn’t be stopped, and all of a sudden a bright start had stalled to a lacklustre first half where the Pies ended 15 points ahead.


It was still good enough conditions to read the Record and peruse the stats to see Collingwood’s dominance. But Port were always in the game, and despite some positive patches from the young Pies, the Power held large periods of ascendancy during the contest.


Gray was unstoppable with the right delivery up forward, and Port’s midfielders began to work harder without desperate Magpies holding them back. Just as it looked like Collingwood would relinquish the lead, Beau McCreery shot into the game with two quick goals that roused some life into the dispersed crowd. Now holding a lead into the last quarter, the Pies were teasing everyone to imagine them grinding out a massive win.


Port’s opening 15 minutes of the quarter ended those pipedreams. Gray did his thing and ended with three goals, while Todd Marshall and Powell-Pepper came into the game at the right times. It may not be a pretty win for Port, but the impact of those two at the crunch moments is a step in the right direction if they are to mingle with the Tigers and Cats in September.


Just as Port looked to have nailed the door shut and ended a drawn-out afternoon of torture, McCreery strolled into his third and young Caleb Poulter intercepted an errant defensive hack, before quickly slamming through his first career major in a breakthrough performance. The margin was back to a point. Of course it was. While others celebrated and urged their team on, I sat back and realised what was going to happen. I’d been hurt too many times before. The siren went, and I finally got off the end of my seat.


Then I got a text from the Victorian Department of Health and Safety on Tuesday night, just after I’d finished re-watching the painful final moments of the game. Get tested. Tier 2 close contact. It took me all day Wednesday, until finally I was accepted into a three-hour line for a COVID test.


It ended with a wry joke with the young lady at Latrobe University’s testing clinic, but it had been a journey. Did I regret it? No. That’s the stranglehold footy has over my heart – even when I get hurt, I still go back wanting more.


COLLINGWOOD    3.1       4.6       6.9     8.10 (58)
PORT ADELAIDE                 0.1       2.3       4.8       8.11 (59)


McCreery 3, Grundy 2, Cameron, Daicos, Poulter
Port Adelaide: Gray 3, Dixon, Marshall, Houston, Powell-Pepper, Wines


 Roughead, Adams, Grundy, Quaynor, Moore, Crisp
Port Adelaide: Gray, Boak, Powell-Pepper, Wines, Burton, Farrell


Port Adelaide: Nil


Collingwood: Murphy (unused)
Port Adelaide: Bergman (unused)


Crowd: 23,415 at MCG



The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE



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  1. george smith says

    Normally when I watch Collingwood I’m too nervous to eat anything, but the last two – v Suns in Melbourne and Swans in Sydney, I was able to eat my sandwich in peace knowing that the task was well beyond us.

    Positives – instead of having to leave and arrive early at the SCG due to overcrowded buses, we now catch a tram, Melbourne style, which zaps us quickly to Moore Park without getting stuck in traffic, very swish. I urge future footy fans to try it.

  2. Daryl Schramm says

    Best wishes Melbournites. Nice read Sean as per usual. In the last sentence I mentally replaced footy with golf for further understanding.

  3. Sean – while I support neither team I do love being at the G for this one, as I have done with some mates on three occasions in recent years. There’s normally great theatre when Collingwood play and this game had its moments. I am at a loss to explain the low crowd. I know the Magpies aren’t travelling but a lovely sunny day and the chance to snare a fancied opponent…

    Like you am dealing with the viral fallout, but thus far all negative results.

    Thanks for the read.

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