Round 2 – Collingwood v Richmond: Discomfort


Working two jobs in June feels comfortable as a late-teenager with beer to drink and Myki’s to top up and petrol to buy but Yarra Park is sealed off and uni is an open tab on my laptop on the kitchen bench in view of the cockatoos and rosellas. So cold is the winter air that the breath quickens and the impulse is to stroll nervously and clutch at my scarf on the march down Punt Road and then right down Brunton Avenue, past Tigerland aboard asphalt rivulets.


Nine-thirty sees me march from a Kyneton burger bar which has just re-opened down Pipers Street where the streetlights are orange and fuzzy in the thick wintery mist so dense that it will make it 80 ks an hour on the freeway home. My jumper, op-shopped, blanket-like, hides my chin and there is gentle cold wind, fresh and stark and I feel at home on my straight-then-left stroll to my very nearly icy Forester.


The teams are in and little footy things are on the radio as I rumble home and dissect Nankervis and Soldo and Darcy Cameron. A day later I am in Woodend now with my old man, kicking torpies from the wrong pocket on his lunch break and we are toey and the ground is muddy and dewy and the goalposts are padded but the boundary line is not sprayed white and the goalsquare is nothing but a concept. Footy is returning to normal and life rolling along with it but pieces are missing and discomfort blooms from the radio and rests upon the dusty, dirty seats and the glovebox that I have not cleaned in months.


Thursday night is reluctant in rolling around and my Tiger gear is in the same spot I left it three months ago, bottom draw, immaculately folded while the rest of the room is neglected chaos gathering more and more garbage like some domestic black hole. There is no plan for a V-Line or a round at the Cricketer’s or The Posty or the Richmond Club Hotel but there is football chatter circulating like a contact sport in the early evening, and I am grateful, yet the discomfort darts between the legs of the dining table and blossoms from open cupboard doors.


Seeing Jack Higgins run out is a moment claimed for the footballing community. Seeing both sides kneeling in the centre of the ground is a moment claimed for the country. On my phone there are ignorant murmurings from those anonymously lurking in the dingiest and dungiest corners of internet cesspits. In this moment they do not matter and the feeling of intense pride in my football club crashes into me wave-like and my investment in tonight forms and sets hard.


The game is played in an empty theatre and a thick blanket of dew has asserted itself on the ground. Players slide and fumble and skid. Shane Edwards is the cleanest player in a sash and he snatches and lurches like a drunk pirate after the slick wet Sherrin. Scott Pendlebury is perhaps the cleanest player I’ve ever seen and he is the only player unperturbed by the creaky discomfort of football’s strange return and the line-fluffing weather. But his team is fearful.


Collingwood play the game better than Richmond by refusing to make the football talk. Pendlebury escapes to the outside but pulls his kick and allows the whistle to dictate the movement of the ball, mark by uncontested mark. Sidebottom reels away from the contest after a scuffle and chips to an unmanned teammate to move the ball onward in painstaking, laborious fashion. It is clunky, jerky, sputtering movement and the Tigers fall into the trap, they are enthusiastic and commit to chaos. Collingwood are calm; they find gaps and holes and spare flanks. They pile on four goals, Howe marks everything, Sidebottom and Pendlebury running hot and Mihocek the best forward on the ground, reaching above and dragging down high balls. The hard-running Phillips makes use of momentum: Vlastuin and Cotchin are all that Richmond offer.


Channel 7 have superimposed banners in the stands that I am slowly getting used to while the background ambience unnerves my calm and has M14’d my view of the game. I am glowering at Striped Marvels and bemoaning Houli’s ball use. Up and unders, long bombs, scuffed kicks, too-high handballs.


The urge to shuffle to the bar and find myself a hot dog is insatiable; the post-purchase regret has even been prologued within.


The second is slow reclamation of lost ground. Lynch quietly kicks three and presents well, yet Riewoldt goes too often chest-first and is clattered into by a host of Magpies. Edwards and Pickett and Bolton crackle through high half-forward but their kicks are wobbly and only their smooth changes of pace amid the clinches echo last year’s dominance. Cotchin is undeniable at ground level but Collingwood only need the ball in Sidebottom’s hands to hold territory, yet their lead is clawed and dragged back.


Higgins owns the third, running hard from centre-half-forward, taking marks and bouncing around into and in-between the pockets. The surrendering of the Magpie lead seems inevitable as the Tigers begin to motor from half-back and despite the slippery boot of Houli control possession, sliding through the centre square and mongreling punts forward. Collingwood are coached to negate; they stack the backline with leapers and bunt the ball away doggedly. Moore and Howe aren’t beaten and Maynard is honest. Rioli is nowhere to be seen.


They have the ground level now the Tigers, but they cannot score and it is only Higgins and free kick conversions that blotch the scorecard. There are average players all over the ground with three months of rest to blame. In the last Richmond skim shavings off Collingwood but are unable to land a killing blow. Riewoldt can’t make a distance of 40 metres and Higgins’ powerful leg from 45 sees the Sherrin hold the line to the right of the post. Time dashes away and Vlastuin collars Brown, giving no chance for a final flurry at goal.


A draw, then. The siren calls upon a bittersweet frustration and the discomfort that has punctuated the last three months without football. Higgins talks on the telly, livid red scratches on arms he has wrapped around himself almost protectively, his eyes gleaming as he talks about his return to the arena. The stapled scar on the side of his head isn’t viewable until he turns and, from the front, invisible unless you look for it.


Football is right there, different and uncomfortable as a draw, but football all the same. I will take the two points.


COLLINGWOOD          4.1       5.3       5.4       5.6 (36)
RICHMOND                   0.1       3.1       5.2       5.6 (36)


Collingwood: Phillips 2, Adams, Sidebottom, C.Brown
Richmond: Lynch 3, Bolton, Higgins


Collingwood: Pendlebury, Howe, Sidebottom, Moore, Daicos, Phillips, Grundy.
Richmond: Cotchin, Vlastuin, Broad, Martin, Lynch, Higgins.



Howe 1, Cotchin 2, Pendlebury 3.




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  1. Great read Paddy

    That was a game that jolted me out of the lockdown malaise that has beset me. Pies were so slick and fast early that I thought it could have been a runaway victory for them. So credit to us for the second half lift.

    That last quarter had the heart rate up… and Jack’s miss??!!!

    Looking forward to tonight’s clash too.

  2. Stainless says

    Good on you Paddy for doing this write-up. Personally, I’ve never felt more disengaged before a Richmond-Collingwood match, and only the closeness of the scores quickened the pulse slightly as the game unfolded. I’d probably have switched off if it was any other teams playing.
    Lots of rustiness in evidence, particularly for the Tiges. I trust we won’t see Jack failing to make the distance from 35m again, nor Dusty gifting every second disposal to the opposition!

  3. Paddy Grindlay says

    It felt weird, Stainless. Artificial. Players have barely trained together and it was clear that there was a disconnect between players. I think the drop in qulaity will be marked and 2011 Ross Lyon footy will be everywhere. A draw was the only thing that made sense really.

    But without footy I am a bit lost

  4. Love this Paddy thank you.
    Your last line echos my last words before bed. Strange times indeed. But it’s great to have footy back and I even relaxed into the computer generated crowd noise such was my desperation.

  5. Went to bed a three quarter time so I wasn’t there for the excitement. Very pleasing that the “Pies didn’t win (neither did Tigers). Collingwood’s defense was impassable early as was Richmond’s after quarter time. Shortened games are the pits. Hope to see a more exciting game tonight.

  6. good report
    the shortened game robbed the Tiges of running over the top of the gallant magpies!
    In a normal game the mighty yellow and black would have romped away in the last qtr with 16 minutes to go

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Great summary Paddy. I’m happy to take the two points too.
    Happy to have the footy back.

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