Round 18 – Collingwood v Melbourne: Shark fin blues (Floreat Pica Society)

“Standing on the deck watching my shadow stretch
The sun pours my shadow upon the deck
The waters licking round my ankles now
There ain’t no sunshine way way down”
(all lyrics from Shark Fin Blues, The Drones)

About six weeks ago Collingwood were sitting top 4 and as likely as anyone to enjoy some September success. Five consecutive losses later, today’s is a danger game against stifling, unimaginative Melbourne.


There’s a lot I don’t understand.
Collective behaviour.
Individuals of us within a collective.
Time scales of thinking and acting.
Our motivations.
Our behaviours.
House prices.
Our abject failure to respond to climate science.
Why society fails to adequately financially reward the jobs of teacher, nurse.
Why society gives platforms to breeders of division and hate.
The nature of organized politics in Australia in 2015.
The booing.
AFL in 2015.
What those in its charge think they’re doing.
How only 37,894 would attend a Collingwood-Melbourne Saturday afternoon match on a fine day.
What is the health of the Golden Goose?
On field, how a team of confidence and daring and run and attack can drop off, drop away, fall and fall. Eventually playing slow, static football.

“I see the sharks out in the water like slicks of ink
Well, there’s one there bigger than a submarine
As he circles I look in his eye
I see Jonah in his belly by the campfire light”

– Dad, bend over.
– What is it bud?

We’re walking to the tram. The buds’ first game this year. A Saturday arvo game.
Buddy Yum has stuck a sticker stuck to my nose.
– You’re a Royal Gala apple.
– Watch out for the pole.
– Dad, look, Yum kissed the pole.

We’re on the mighty #96.
David Bowie exhibition advertised on the wall.
– Look Oon it’s that weird person.
– Is that a lady or a man?

Passed the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building, built for the International Exhibition in 1880. And off at Parliament House.
– Look at the lady playing dress ups.
– Bud, I think she’s getting married.

Walking along the Fitzroy Gardens. Observing. Thinking.
– Dad I know why we barrack for Collingwood. Cos our dad does and his dad does and his dad played for Collingwood. But why would anybody barrack for Greater Western Sydney? No one’s dad played for them. They’re new. You can’t just make it up.

– There aren’t many Melbourne supporters, are there?

We buy copies of the Footy Record.
– Look dad I drew a tattoo on this guy. It says Mary had a little lamb.
– Ooh look at my guy. His tattoo says old MacDonald had a farm.

– Look Dad the advertising all says Go Pies. Nowhere does it say Go Demons.
– Oh that’s because we say it’s a Collingwood home game.
– That’s weird. Aren’t we in Melbourne?

“See the albatross up in the windy lofts
He gets to beating his wings while he sleeps it off
I hear the jettisoned cries from his dreams unkind
Gets to whippin’ my ears like a riding crop”

Public address tells us that M Scharenberg (#12) will make his surprise debut following the withdrawal of T Goldsack from the selected side. Good on him. It’s been a long road to this point.
The game starts. But again, it’s a theatre crowd.
I’ve already been here twice this year for the same thing.
A Fasolo is amongst it from the start.
And Max Gawn appears as a lighthouse, taking a towering mark in the Dees #11.
The Buds are not really into it.
Fair enough. They’re not alone.
Looking up, it’s one of those bizarre occasions when there’s no one forward of the ball carrier, who is on centre wing. This AFL is crazy.
Collingwood are making errors all over the park. T Langdon kicks in to a 2-on-1 contest ending in a goal to Jesse Hogan.
Taking his third set shot in 13 minutes, A Fasalo eventually kicks one straight. And then Melbourne run the ball from full back all the way to goal.

– Dad can I get a hot jam donut?

There’s absolutely no intensity here.
Play actually halts on the Olympic stand flank.
Everyone stands stills.
Flat as a shit carter’s hat.
N Jones burns off T Adams and passes for a goal-assist.
Amazingly, S Pendlebury has fumbled.
Collingwood play best when buzzing.
There’s no buzz.

COL 1.4.10
MEL 4.4.28

“The captain once as able as a fink dandy
He’s now laid up in the galley like a dried out mink
He’s laying dying of thirst and he says or I think
Well, we’re gonna be alone from here on in.”

There are coaches; so many coaches. And support staff out there.
Coaches believe in three phases of a game: they have it, we have it, it’s in dispute. The whole thing is a rolling keepings-off. It’s like large-scale basketball.

But from the players’ perspective: aren’t they all trying to help a mate? Give the ball to someone in a better position than themselves?

This game is unrecognizable as a spectacle to me, really. I don’t know what they’re trying to do. Or why. I wouldn’t be able to answer the buds’ questions on any of this.

But the buds are off a-hunting hot jam donuts. The blight of kiss-cam continues. This is the most animated the crowd has been.

At the restart, S Pendelbury’s fumbling puzzlingly continues.
D Swan and D Moore offer direct run and options.
A Fasolo another after mark and lead. Presenting well.
And now A Fasolo to T Varcoe. Goal.
That’s better.

– Dad is it nearly over?

COL 4.6.30
MEL 6.5.41

“Well you are all my brothers, and you have been kind
But what were you expecting to find?
Now your eyes turn inwards, countenance turns blank
And I’m floating away on a barrel of pain
It looks like nothing but the sea and sky remain”

This game is flat.
Collingwood is flat.
I see no structure to really understand.
Without T Cloke (inj) and J White (dropped) and a late withdrawal of T Goldsack (inj), there is a gaping hole in forward line organization and backline physical pressure.
I don’t understand this game, truly I don’t.
I return with hot chips for three.

– Not for me, Dad, says Bud Oon.

I offer them to the couple alongside.
– Gee, thanks. I was just thinking how good they smelled.
– No worries. My girl here didn’t want them.
– Ahh, would she like one of these?

And offers a snaplock bag of mini Snickers bars.
Now that I can understand.

D Swan runs and creates, still. Still. But…
B Vince goal.
J Watts goal.
A voice from behind says what we’re all thinking: – I think we’re ratshit.


COL 7.10.52
MEL 9.6.60

“A harpoon’s shaft is short and wide
A grappling hook’s is cracked and dry
I said, why don’t you get down in the sea
Turn the water red like you want to be?”

At the three-quarter time huddle each club breaks into three huddles: forwards, mids, backs. How long before we see a coach for every player?

The game is not beyond Collingwood. There have been patches of dynamic endeavour. And here we need only to outscore Melbourne by 8 points to snatch a win. After five consecutive losses, any win will do.
But B Vince gets the first.
Makes it tricky.
And then James Harmes finishes off another Melbourne run.
How does form occur?
How does a team output greater than the sum of its parts?

When N Jones slots his set shot, he taps his red black and gold wrist band.
J Elliott is running hard now. But it’s too late.
As fans leave for the early train, Collingwood collect consecutive loss number 6.
From 8-3 to 8-9.

COL 7.12.54
MEL 13.13.91

Pleasing to watch all players shaking one another’s hands afterwards.

There’s a spirit of collective about the AFL players presently, in the wake of Australia’s awkward grappling with itself and Adam Goodes’ trevails. There was plenty of concourse muttering today, particularly around the potential booing of Heritier Lumumba (“better not, mate, you’d be a racist.” “har har.”)
There’s a long way to go on this slow awakening. Let’s hope we can treat one another with grace and respect.

Home on the tram, during which the buds create seven different narratives around characters from the defaced Footy Record. All involving spew and poo.

Once there it’s spaghetti bolognaise and a couple of cracking winter beers:
Prickly Moses handcrafted beer Otway Stout
Prickly Moses handcrafted beer Black Panther IBA
(Thanks Luke!)
The echidna on the label offers a way forward for Collingwood.
It doesn’t matter if you’re unusual looking, or if you unexpectedly lay eggs, or even if you bear other features that require an entire re-working of orthodox thinking; just existing is enough (you find a way).

Next week it’s Carlton. I wonder how many will bother to go?

Cause if I cry another tear I’ll be turned to dust
No the sharks won’t get me they don’t feel loss
Just keep one eye on the horizon man, you best not blink
They’re coming fin by fin until the whole boat sinks


COLLINGWOOD 1.4 4.6 7.10 7.12 (54)
MELBOURNE 4.4 6.5 9.6 13.13 (91)
Collingwood: A Fasolo 3 J Witts S Pendlebury T Adams T Varcoe.
Melbourne: B Vince 3 J Hogan 3 J Garlett 2 A vandenBerg J Harmes J Howe J Watts N Jones.
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Scott Jeffery, Chris Kamolins.
Official Crowd: 37,894 at MCG.

Malarkey Medal votes: 3 Vince, 2 Swan, 1 Jones
Horsburgh Medal votes: 3 Swan, 2 Fasolo, 1 Varcoe

Shark Fin Blues – The Drones

Cover version by Missy Higgins

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. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Beautifully executed ER. I had to look twice at the title as I thought I read ‘Shark Shit Blues’ the first time. Crowd and performance very disappointing. Maybe it’s because we are not used to playing at 2.10pm on a Saturday arvo.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Glad you enjoyed the beers Dave. Though no amount of stout could have washed the bad taste of yesterday’s performance away. Horrible. Not much to take away from that performance for the Pies.
    Hope the Buds aren’t put off too much by the yesterday’s effort, and get a much better spectactle next time you take the #96 to the ‘G.

  3. Great stuff DW, I also don;t understand all that stuff that mystefies you.
    Loved “How long before we see a coach for every player?”
    I got there late and left for the early train, but at least I showed up for part of the game – Swanny must’ve been thinking the same!
    But such is footy sometimes that it goes to crap.
    The cues now officially in the rack, with a dead-rubber win over the blues to come and a couple of novelty round where the young kids play. Give em all a run i say, especially that big American – and Go Pies ’16!

  4. Steve Hodder says

    I had to do a second take when I saw the scores.

    Reading your piece I had Liddiard’s voice in my head. You must’ve been a master of Zen to be able to channel that much intensity and still give your billy lids a good day at the footy. Even your beer drinking managed the same Zen like feat! I drank beer with pasta after my team lost too, a couple of very long glasses.


  5. Steve Hodder says


    forgot to ask, the name of the album ” Wait long by the river … ” Collingwood’s strategy for Carlton and the rest of us?


  6. John Butler says

    Splendid song choice E Reg.

    Re understating the game:
    I was standing with the estimable A Starkie last night when he made the excellent observation that the players now do many things that were previously taboo – hand balling to a stationary player facing the wrong way, centering the ball to a contest from defense, inability to kick on the non-preferred foot, etc, etc.

    It happens so often there must be some coaching element to it, regardless of good or bad execution. Have the game plans got so complicated that only the smartest teams really understand them? Or are there only certain coaches that can effectively communicate complex ideas?


  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Time with the buds – they don’t care about the score, just their moments with Dad.

    And they may have nailed that 18 team thing too.

  8. Grand (as always) ER.
    Without informing the AFL (who have no end of tokenistic commemoration/aspiration rounds) the Footy Gods have judged that this should be the Humility and Persistence Round.
    The Consolation (as in succour not second prize) Round.
    The Hope for the Hopeless Round.
    In the wake of the ongoing booing of one of the finest footballers and men to grace the footy field, the Footy Gods decided “it’s time to comfort the afflicted” – Tigers, Demons, Suns – “and afflict the comfortable”. The arrogant and unsociable Hawks, McGuire Megalith Magpies and Eagles supporters given a reminder of what 2013 looked and felt like – as payback for participating or acquiescing in last week’s crudeness.
    Even the internally squabbling Swans put aside their jealousies that the riches given to Buddy and Tippett had the rest of them down to their last Lamborghini. Suddenly there was a cause and a purpose beyond their next contract negotiations or trade value.
    If only GWS can get up today – the Footy Gods have got the quaddy.

  9. Mickey Randall says

    Good job David. Apart from Swann’s robust creativity your boys were flat and suffered from a lack of competitive forwards. Melbourne was more energetic across the ground. The crowd was disappointing. Not coming at 2pm on a Saturday with the season’s fate to be determined is a worry.

    Poo and spew narratives popular in Adelaide too!

  10. Mickey nice to meet you last Friday. Not too many chances to have a chat but there will be other lunches!
    Terrific stuff ER. This season continues to mystify but the Pies do not. I think they are a mid range side. And feeling the pinch at the moment.
    One other question to ask at the start of your piece:
    Why do we crush the most vulnerable, then sweep it under the carpet?

  11. E.regnans says

    G’day all- thanks for commenting,

    P Dimitriadis – could well have been Shark Shit Blues. Good name for a song.

    L Reynolds – thanks again for introducing me to Prickly Moses. The buds will make their own decisions, i guess, about what gives them meaning and what does not. I wonder where they’ll head. Regardless, they can probably take the #96 to get there. Good to see you Friday.

    Tim O’L – it indeed seems that 2015 is over. That’s another area in which EPL or amateur footy has a strong advantage over AFL (i.e. the annual relegation battle). If you’re not playing for a final spot, what are you playing for? In fact the only incentive is to finish lower on the ladder.

    S Hodder – I’ve got the sound of one hand clapping on repeat here.

    J Butler – I’m rapidly forming the view that these battalions of coaches are only in it to feather their own nests. Tricks-ing up the game unnecessarily. The game need not be that hard. But if you want a job as assistant to the back line coach, you’d better arm yourself with GigaBytes of annotated digital footage to aid your presentation in Theatrette B3.

    Swish – Billy Bragg has a song about a relationship breakdown ( I think) that includes a chorus line something like: “sometimes it takes a grown man a long time to learn, just what it would take a child a night to learn.”
    A lot of life is like that. Good to see you Friday.

    Peter_B – Love it. I see that the Bulldogs certainly got the memo. Hird “I didn’t see that coming” quote now moving us into the post-irony phase.

    M Randall – poo & spew are underrated in adult fiction. Hope you made it back home alright. I made heavy weather of it on Friday but survived. All the best for the first day.

    Dips – Yep, looking back at pre-season prognostics, mid-table was about right. There was a period in which anything seemed possible (v close losses to Hawks, Dockers), which alters the expectations a bit, though.
    Nice additional question. As the great philosopher Madonna Ciccone sang: “Life is a mystery….”

    Go well.

  12. Excellent read, ER.
    A couple of interesting points which you raise:
    1. The golden goose – crowd attendances must surely be of great concern, especially in the heartland!
    2. The state of the actual game – too many words have been devoted to this topic in the past fortnight, but all I will say is that #2 is surely affecting #1.
    3. Prickly Moses – I arrived in Apollo Bay this evening and had my customary pint of Otway Chainsaw at the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse (the “top pub”). Yes, their stouts are wonderful!
    4. Enjoy every moment with the buds. It goes oh so quickly. Despite the fact that he lives at home, there are weeks which pass by without my even laying eyes upon my eldest son!

  13. MGLFerguson says

    Gosh I love this place.

  14. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks David. Flight home delayed by an hour due to technical issues, ie no plane. I best track down some of Luke’s beer over here!

    Thanks Dips. I’ll see you at the next function I get to!

  15. kath presdee says

    Lovely piece ER.

    I’d also love to watch and listen to a conversation between the Buds and my young boy on why anyone would support GWS. Some of his team-mates are first generation supporters of the game, let alone any club, and why they follow one club over another (usually Giants or Swans) is interesting to discover.

  16. E.regnans says

    G’day all,
    Smokie – we’ve all seen the flailing of the goose. Here’s this old one dusted off from early last year…

    MGLFerguson – very kind. Thanks.

    Mickey – at least that’s a technical issue we can all understand.

    K Presdee – Overhearing the conversations and wonderings of kids is wonderful, isn’t it? Nothing hidden. No veneer. Overt wonder. May it ever flourish.

    thanks again.

  17. Barry McAdam says

    Bloody great stuff e.regnans. Except for the Collingwood v Melbourne game. Awful. Must check out some Prickly Moses for myself, have not come across them before.

  18. haiku bob says

    Bloody hell.
    Why hadn’t I heard of Gareth Liddiard before now?



  19. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Maybe Mick Fanning is a better mascot for your Black and White fellas than the echidna, Mountain Ash. Bang repeatedly round the nose, hope like hell and move. Fast.

    I like PB’s voodoo reading too.

    Never sure whether to giggle or cry reading your pieces. Something about pin-point poignancy. Usually do a bit of both and love them all the way.

  20. Sarah Black says

    Great piece – you captured the energy of a game where the crowd had little energy, a difficult thing to do! I loved the observations of your children; they seem very wise (the GWS thing was absolutely perfect). I still enjoy defacing the footy record when the Tiges switch off, a good way to take out some frustration.

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