Round 14: It’s my lucky night

by Cade Lucas

I’m not normally one for indulging in superstitions or omens, but I must admit to feeling rather more optimistic about Collingwood’s chances in Friday night’s blockbuster against Essendon, after receiving a strike of good fortune.

Waiting on my lonesome in the que outside Gate 1 of the Ponsford, a voice from behind me sparked my attention. “Hey mate, you want a free ticket”? I swivelled around to see a bloke thrusting a printed out ticket in my direction. “I bought some for a group of us, but a few of them haven’t showed and we can’t get rid of them”, he explained as I looked at him in disbelief. Acting on impulse I said yes and grabbed the ticket before stammering a belated thankyou as he walked off. Still wondering if I was a dreaming or somehow being ripped off, I checked the ticket and saw the words “Ticketek” and  “Collingwood v Essendon Round 14”.  You beauty, I was in for nothing!

Normally such a small dose of good luck would elicit nothing more than a smile and a thankyou, but for a cash-strapped student like me, a free ticket to see the Pies take on the Bombers made me feel as though I’d won the $90 million lotto draw earlier in the week.  I bounded up to my seat at the top of the Olympic Stand, convinced this was a sign that a resounding Collingwood win was imminent and thankful that I could now afford to celebrate it with a couple of beers.

My newfound belief was tested early on though, as the Bombers started in typically swashbuckling fashion. I’d born witness to their demolition of Carlton at the MCG the previous Friday night and was well aware of the havoc Essendon’s ‘look, no hands’, brand of football could create. However for all their early pace and flamboyance the Bombers squandered numerous chances and had only a solitary goal from Scott Lucas to show for their efforts. By the time Dale Thomas kicked Collingwood’s first the Pies had settled and appeared happy to play Essendon on the break, as if knowing the Don’s freewheeling style was incapable of hurting them on the scoreboard. At quarter time the Pies trailed 2.3 to 2.6 and my sense of belief remained in tact.

By midway through the second term the Magpies were dominating the clearances, with Fraser – atoning for his below par efforts on Anzac Day – in the ruck, allowing Didak and Swan to repeatedly drive the ball forward. Up front it was the Pies who were now indulging in flamboyance. Travis Cloak, visibly growing in confidence with every touch, soccered a goal from 20 meters out, before Dale Thomas rediscovered his taste for flair with an even better soccered goal, right from beneath the grasp of a hapless Dustin Fletcher. The Dons were clearly missing Jobe Watson’s grunt work in the middle and without him their running players were rendered impotent. At half time the Pies led by34 and belief was turning into conviction.

An early goal to Kyle Reimers at start the third term briefly had my memory harking back to the excruciating Bomber comeback on Anzac Day. That day the Bombers were able to slowly build momentum before pouncing at the finish. Tonight however the Magpies were sure to answer every challenge. The margin hovered around the 30 point mark as the teams traded goals until Fraser produced the game’s defining piece of play; grabbing the ball from a throw in deep in the forward pocket he threw ball on his boot, kicked around his body and sent the Magpies into three quarter time with a 6 goal lead.  It was a poignant moment. A player so vilified for his performance the last time these two teams met, was producing an effort of pure defiance aimed squarely at his critics ( no doubt including a certain former St Kilda coach and since sacked radio commentator).

Any sense of doubt in my mind or on the scoreboard had now evaporated. The contest had come to resemble a backyard fight between a big brother and little brother. Essendon were still working furiously, throwing plenty of punches, but Collingwood’s superior skills and outstanding teamwork kept the Bombers at arms length. A couple of last quarter goals from the impressive Dayne Beams pushed the margin beyond 40 points and sent hordes of Bomber supporters for the turnstiles.

My belief was vindicated. I’d indulged in an omen and it came to pass. The Magpies had comfortably seen off the Bombers and were now safely entrenched in the top four, and unlike my entry into the ground, there was no luck involved.

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