Round 13 – Fremantle v Collingwood: Into the mountains (goblins and grace)

“[We must move away from actions where]…those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad. Where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions, or well-practised cynicism…”
– Barack Obama, Eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney

President B Obama gave the eulogy at the Charleston funeral service last week.
In times of struggle and cynicism and much anger, it can be helpful to be shown another way. And while I am not religious in any way (and this service certainly is), the sentiment shown by B Obama here is a solid one. It’s a beauty.
Grab a cuppa.


And so a theoretically difficult month for Collingwood FC begins with a loss. Fremantle in Perth on a slippery Thursday night; a weeknight; a match beginning at 6:10pm local time.


Fremantle, of course are the form team of March-April-May and most of June. That’s often not worth much come September (ref: Port 2014, St Kilda 2009). But still, the Collingwood troupe approach this month like the party of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield, his dwarves and Gandalf approached the Misty Mountains from the east. After a good time in Rivendell (the bye), replenishing energy and confidence, this Collingwood party must now strike out across a noticeable but not insurmountable barrier to their progress.


“There were many paths that led up into those mountains, and many passes over them. But most of the paths were cheats and deceptions and led nowhere or to bad ends; and most of the passes were infested by evil things and dreadful dangers.”
– JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit, Chapter IV: Over Hill and Under Hill

This band of Collingwood travellers surprise only the ignorant with their attack on this latest significant obstacle and with their sidebysidedness. Fremantle, cast here as goblins of the Misty Mountains, are enormous and ferocious and not easily cast aside. The first 20 seconds show that.

“Out jumped the goblins, big goblins, great ugly-looking goblins, lots of goblins, before you could say rocks and blocks.”
– JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit, Chapter IV: Over Hill and Under Hill

Very quickly, the Collingwood trope understand that this is not a battle to be won via hand-to-hand combat. No, this band of travellers must instead rely upon a combination of surprise collectivism and foot-speed. In size and skill, the goblins have the best individual fighters (N Fyfe is, of course, a warrior to applaud (whatever will he be capable of upon reaching puberty?)). Skirmishes are won by L Neale, S Hill, D Mundy, M Barlow and other purple goblins. The crowd roar. The goblins seek to isolate M Pavlich.

“There in the shadows on a large flat stone sat a tremendous goblin with a huge head, and armed goblins were standing around him carrying axes and the bent swords that they use… It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the devices for killing large numbers of people at once…”
– JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit, Chapter IV: Over Hill and Under Hill

And yet the Collingwood band runs in waves. In waves of ambition and dare. In waves of hope and trial. In waves of vulnerable athleticism. They will not be slain by these goblins this night. Collingwood run and they run and they breathe and they run. Notable for failing to find the rhythm of the chase, is J Elliott. Still he battles on. As they run deeper and deeper towards the very roots of the mountain, down this treacherously slippery Subiaco tunnel under the mountains, silence, it is the goblins with the upper hand.

Puffing and panting and scrapping their way to the end of this high-quality chase, both sides nod to one another in the darkness. Respect has been earned this night. And then, J White is presented with a chance for one decisive hit; a free shot. The Collingwood posse hold their collective breath. He misses. And relieved and emboldened, the goblins chant and sing and leap about in celebration. Collingwood slink away into the deep tunnels, alive, but beaten.


But this story now ends with hope. It ends with impressions.
Instead of seeking division: Whose side are you on?
This story seeks the whole: What did you like?
There are no scapegoats. There is no blame. Nothing is “earned” in this life. Or “deserved.” There just is. (Did W Langford “earn” a premiership, whereas R Flower did not?)
Tonight there is improvement for all; goblins, or other. For these Fremantle goblins are not bad creatures. The cause of their struggle may be wrong; but they are not bad creatures.

Impressions of Collingwood: a collective of naive and brave runners, operating a high pace sharing collective of pressure and tackle, without individual brilliance. T Adams, T Langdon, J Crisp, J De Goey, S Sidebottom assisting and chasing and assisting A-graders D Swan and the oft-benched S Pendlebury. Plenty of upside with B Grundy to come in, J Elliott to hit back and much stepping up to come from many in the reserves (Reid, Sharenberg, Greenwood et al who beat Box Hill this weekend). Plenty of improvement to come.

Impressions of Fremantle: a collective of enormous and confident runners breaking and spreading and running, fed by the predictable but nevertheless fairly awesome A Sandilands-N Fyfe show. Effort wins the day. They were good. Can this effort be sustained until October?

Fremantle would be a fair side for this Collingwood outfit to face in the Grand Final.


Next week Freo face the appalling Brisbane in Perth.
Collingwood, down in the heart of the mountains now, face slippery, tricky little Hawthorn, stretcher of the rules, on a Friday night.


Fremantle 3.2 7.4 9.6 12.8.80
Collingwood 3.4 7.6 9.6 11.7.73

Fremantle: Walters 4, Fyfe 2, Hill 2, Pearce, Ballantyne, Neale, Barlow.
Collingwood: Fasolo 2, Elliott 2, Blair, Crisp, De Goey, Seedsman, Pendlebury, Adams, Broomhead

Fremantle: Fyfe, Neale, Barlow
Collingwood: Swan, Adams

Votes: 3 Fyfe, 2 Swan, 1 Neale


About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Magic!

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks OBP entertaining as always !

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    I have a new favourite word- sidebysidedness. Outstanding.
    Well played Dave.
    Go pies.

  4. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Still can’t quite believe you are a Collingwood supporter, Mountain Ash!
    But I will still lower the barricades and listen … instead of shout about it.
    Literature and footy should meet much more often.

  5. Dave- again you’ve elevated footy to spectacular metaphor. Surely this is its highest form and purpose! Isn’t this illustrative of why we care so much?

    Keep pushing out our ways of seeing the game.


  6. E.regnans says

    Thanks Grant, thanks OBP.

    Luke- I hope the Oxford English Dictionary pick up on your enthusiasm. This story would probably then need to be referenced an example of a new word bring used in context. I see that “twerk” and “yarn-bombing” were added to the Oxford in June 2015. Sidebysidedness? Why not?

    MdeH – merci. What a funny world we all inhabit, with its ideas and its prescriptions. But with its hope, always its hope.

    Love that thought, Mickey, of elevation. Odd little parallels in life can be fun to explore.

    Thanks for these.

  7. Frank Cheeseman says

    Sensational once again tall man, just sensational

  8. ER

    Most enjoyable.

    You are far more readable than Tolkein.


  9. Great stuff Luke – thanks, Tim

  10. Trucker Slim says

    Dear Mr E.r.

    I was having a good old time heading to work this morning on the Number 11 tram as it rattled along St Georges Rd. I was listening to the new Kacey Musgraves record (4 excellent songs from my first listen) and getting into your story. So far, so good. Like any objective writer you have cast the opposition as goblins and your team as a band of brothers, running in “waves of vulnerable athleticism”. (great image, by the way). Mind you, it’s hard to think of Collingwood as anything beyond goblinesqe. (Boom!)

    So I’m enjoying a good summation told in an eclectic metaphor when out of nowhere comes this: “Collingwood … face slippery, tricky little Hawthorn, stretcher of the rules”. Ouch. What? Why the hate? No worries. We’ll take it on the chin. See you on Friday, for the battle for (drum roll please) 4th position!


    In answer to your question, Langers most definitely earned his premiership.

  11. Dave Nadel says

    Wonderful piece of writing David.I can see Dane Swan as Bilbo but I think Mick Malthouse was more Gandalf than Nathan Buckley.

    Rick, you might want to defend Langford but David’s basic point is right. There is no justice in premiership careers. Chris Dawes seems a really decent human being and he is a fair footballer but ask yourself who deserves to be a Collingwood Premiership full forward more, Chris Dawes or Peter McKenna?

  12. E.regnans says

    Thanks Frank, JTH, Tim O’L – The Hobbit is our current beditme story. Great scope for character voices, despite some turgid passages.

    Thanks Trucker – glad to contribute to your commute today. As we’ve just read In our bedtime reading, after Bilbo et al flee the goblins, our man Bilbo then first happens across that slippery stretcher of the truth – Gollum.
    With CollingwoodFC cast as Bilbo, of course their next obstacle is HawthornFC as Gollum. Fits like hand in glove.

    And good call Dave N. There’s a pervasive line of regurgitated thought (in sport, life) that says you need to earn victory/ success. But that’s simply not how it works.
    Has N Riewoldt not earned a premiership?
    Does anyone ever earn illness or injury?

    I’ve watched that B Obama eulogy four times in two days now.
    West Wing meets Real Life.

  13. Barry McAdam says

    Marvellous Mr E.regnans. Knew I knew your name from somewhere, so googled it. A fellow Tasmanian like the tree? Tolkien never read as good as this.
    Go pies.

  14. e.r.
    Alas, I could never get into Tolkien, and as a result have never seen any of the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit films.
    However, I enjoyed this piece much much more.

  15. E.regnans says

    G’day Barry – well spotted. E for eucalyptus as in the scientific nomenclature. regnans from the latin root of regal (king); Eucalyptus regnans; king of the eucalypts.
    But though the west of Tasmania is full of them, I’m of the mainland.
    East Gippsland up into the High Country has them, as do the southern NSW hills up behind Eden. And Melbourne’s Dandenong ranges (the Black Spur road).
    Thanks for your message.

    Smokie-the pure story of The Hobbit is well worth a crack. Adventure, troubles, more adventure, more troubles, dwarves, goblins, wizards, interesting characters. Here’s the scene (p4) in which Bilbo meets Gandalf:
    “All that unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots.
    ‘Good morning!’ said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.
    ‘What do you mean?’ he said. ‘Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?’
    ‘All of them at once,’ said Bilbo…”

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