Round 17 – Collingwood v Gold Coast: Learning to trust again

A footy supporter is a weird lifestyle choice. Your life pattern begins with one-eyed fanaticism; a strong passion for your side. Opening up your emotions to be toyed with. Sometimes, you choose the right path and your faith is rewarded by success, by hearing your side’s coach deliver a stirring thank-you speech atop the MCG dais. For others, you just get heartache, and soon harden your emotions to get used to the hurt. Regardless of which path you choose, you’re easily converted to caring once again if a new coach comes in or the side wins a couple in a row. It’s just footy.


This season in itself has been a journey for most hardened AFL fans. For a Collingwood one, it’s been a rollercoaster. There’s been hope from the early rounds, where strong wins cemented us as a flag chance once again. A mid-season drop-off compounded by cruel injuries made us all cool off and consider whether it really was our year, and whether we wanted it to be our year amidst these confounding circumstances. A rocky road to the last few rounds gives us a shot at finals, but we are now all guarded. Do we believe? Do we open ourselves up to being hurt again?


I entered the Round 17 clash with the Suns still holding back. Despite flashes of greatness, there has been nothing to rouse the optimistic Magpie for the past couple of months. Now, with Jordan De Goey and Adam Treloar back, this match shaped to be a defining guide for the rest of the year. Would I be enticed into emotionally releasing myself, and openly believe? Or would I leave bitter and sheltered like I remember feeling when I walked out of the MCG on a wet Saturday night after a Preliminary Final loss to the Giants?


If any player could cause me to stir from my tentative state, it was De Goey. When he flung Hugh Greenwood around and coolly slotted the game’s first goal, a small feeling ascended in my stomach – that feeling you get when you rise up a bump in the road and drop down again too quickly. Adrenaline. Unfortunately, this feeling gave way to disgust when sloppy defence gifted Alex Sexton three straight goals to finish the quarter.


The second quarter continued to be played at a scrappy standard – no team has completely adjusted to the dew of a Brisbane night. The only positive about these conditions is that it makes the stellar players stand out even more. Josh Daicos is certainly one – his calm around flying bodies and his ability to create something out of nothing is so reassuring, even though this is his first full season on the wing. Isaac Quaynor is another who possesses that calm; he is so smooth, his gait delightful, like watching a 400-metre runner slowly tick them over around the bend while easily passing their competitors. Darcy Moore, when deciding to fly into packs, is unstoppable. Brodie Grundy is a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that lies discarded on the floor. Someone get the vacuum to suck it back up so we can slot him into the heart of the side.


In typical Collingwood style, it’s an arm-wrestle. For this side, there is no easy wins – on the positive side, it just makes each four-point game tense and relieving. De Goey keeps us in it with four goals – his impact straightens up our structure. With him in, Stephenson may get his chance to run rings around a lesser defender.


Now two goals clear at the main break courtesy of some fine marking and a wonderful set shot from Mason Cox, I can rest a little. It’s not easy, but the Pies are getting control. Despite Wil Powell’s presence across half-back and Weller’s tireless running, Treloar, Adams and Elliott are winning the clearances and making Pendlebury’s class irrelevant.


But the Suns are coached by a man who knows how to win and fight. You can see Dew’s DNA in the side as they quickly pile on two majors coming out of half time. Unlike Gold Coast sides of yester-year, this one has more substance to it – it doesn’t just lie down, it fights. With the talent he has coming through, this fight could become incredibly dangerous for us all. Fortunately, the talent isn’t fully developed yet, and Collingwood get chances to work their way back into the lead. De Goey continues to be electric – he and Cox make a one-two punch at full-forward that works most of the time. Mihocek begins to drag intercepting defenders out of forward 50, Noble and Crisp get more of the ball. If they get plenty of the footy, it means Collingwood our playing their way, for they open up the game and deliver well.


Yet it’s still not a sure thing. Some frustrating errors keep the Suns in it, while some missed opportunities from the boys in red keep Collingwood in front. Two scrubbed Maynard kick-ins both fly over his head for goal, but all is forgotten when Cox has the confidence to mark, play-on, take a bounce and slot a running goal from the pocket. With that happening, it’s hard for fortune to fall Gold Coast’s way.


The rest of the quarter is a celebration; the tension is broken and the Pies can relax knowing they’ve booked a finals spot. Crisp gets the chance to slot one in his 150th game, Tyler Brown caps off an on/off night with a great mark and left foot goal.


By the game’s end I’m optimistic, the spark has led to a weak fire breaking out deep in my guts. It’s no wildfire, but it’s hope. It was a hard night, but for some reason I can feel myself opening up again, wondering how far this side can go if given a good run in the finals. Either way, part of the hope lies with the addition of young talent we have discovered this year. I need to watch last year’s Prelim to quell this rising tide.



COLLINGWOOD        2.2      4.5      7.5      10.8 (68)
GOLD COAST            3.1      3.5      5.6      6.10 (46)


De Goey 4, Cox 2, T.Brown, Crisp, Hoskin-Elliott, Mihocek
Gold Coast: Sexton 3, Corbett, King, Swallow


De Goey, Cox, Treloar, Daicos, Quaynor, Crisp, Noble
Gold Coast: Powell, Weller, Miller, Sexton, Bowes 


Gold Coast: Lemmens (corked thigh)



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