Round 2 – Collingwood v Richmond: That mob from Victoria Park

The 6:26 train from Ivanhoe passes Victoria Park on the way to Collingwood V Richmond at the ‘G. The terracing from the old days is gone, along with most of the grandstands, and now it has an open parkland feel. The ground is still used for community football, and a couple of years ago I saw my son’s Ivanhoe Colts have a memorable win over Fitzroy.

In years gone by travelling to Victoria Park to play Collingwood was like walking to the gallows. When I was growing up it was virtually impossible to beat the Magpies at their fortress in Abbotsford. The black and white stripes encompassing the outer stand on the Turner Street wing was intimidating enough. The members over in the Sherrin Stand were something else. Ferocious, parochial, fanatical and exuding an air of menace. They roared with delight whenever McKenna marked on the lead or Daicos snapped an impossible goal from the pocket. Any umpiring decisions in favour of the visiting team were met with howls of outrage. And it wasn’t just coming from the fans with the membership medallions. Any away supporters taking their chances at the stadium were vastly outnumbered by the Magpie faithful. The ground was always filled to capacity with no room at all to move on the terraces.

I was only present for one Richmond victory at Victoria Park. That was in 1982. Collingwood struggled that year as Tom Hafey wore out his welcome with his relentless blood and guts style of physical preparation. Hafey was sacked before the season ended and the Magpies won only four games. The Tigers were flying in ’82 and beat the Pies by 22 points with Shane Williams best on ground.

The Magpies took flight years ago and made their new nest at the Lexus Centre. The days of fierce suburban rivalry are over and all matches with Collingwood are played at the MCG. It’s definitely removed some of the fear factor. Now the Woods are teetering after a promising pre-season campaign. They were crushed by Sydney in the opening round. Dane Swan’s career could be over due to the serious foot injury he suffered in the game and Sidebottom was suspended for a high tackle. There is a rumour that Pendlebury is nursing sore ribs. The club has been singled out in the media following a leaked report on the number of drug tests failed by its players in the off-season.

A good time for Richmond to play the Magpies? So who’s afraid of playing Collingwood away when it’s your home patch anyway?

In the first quarter Collingwood players constantly turn the ball over. Here’s an opportunity for the Tigers to capitalise on their opponents’ lack of confidence after their disaster in the Harbour City. Instead, Richmond follows suit. The clubs have conspired together to drag the competition back to 1968, with its paucity of scoring, after the stellar opening round of the season. Worse, the game is like an unscheduled performance for the Melbourne Comedy Festival; only I’m not laughing. Basic errors and poor decision making proliferate. Jayden Short provides a brief spark when he marks courageously and goals with his first kick in league football. Collingwood’s recruit Adam Treloar, who announced to the press that he preferred the Woods to Punt Road because they had a better, younger list and therefore a superior future, is roundly booed by Richmond supporters whenever he takes possession.

The Tigers waste opportunities in the second term. Riewoldt and Vickery hit the post while Grigg and Lambert miss simple set shots. I’m growing increasingly frustrated. My team is in danger. I feel that if one of the combatants is able to generate a three-goal burst then they might be able to seize the game and go on with it. But neither side can make the break. The standard lifts markedly and the lead changes four times in the third quarter. Richmond clings to a five-point lead at the final break.

The opening of the final term brings rapid changes of fortune. Cloke puts Collingwood up, Lambert replies for the Tigers and then Fasolo snatches the advantage back with a stunning half volley gather and snap around the corner. Then the Tigers nail that elusive sequence of three – two to Riewoldt  and another one to Vickery to put them up by 16 points at the 13-minute mark. When Riewoldt boots his third with a snap from a crowded goal square Richmond leads by 17 points after 20 minutes of action. The Tigers are almost home and some fans head for the exits.

Surely Richmond can control possession from this point and close out the game? But Fasolo kicks his fifth and sixth goals for the evening and with 28 minutes on the clock, there’s only five points in it. Surely not?

How long must the quarter go on? We tick over 30 minutes into the twilight zone where anything can happen. A desperate Nick Vlaustin sends a 20-metre handball out of bounds with no teammates in the vicinity and Darcy Moore is awarded the free. He lofts the ball to the edge of the square. Every Richmond player has headed back into that zone. Collingwood ruckman Brodie Grundy is unable to fly for the mark in the tumult but sharks the ball off the hands of the pack. He gets his kick away in the nick of time and scores the winner. This is unthinkable. The Magpies hit the front at the 32-minute mark. The ball is bounced, Hampson boots the ball forward and the siren sounds while it’s still in transit. My flawed character is exposed for all the world to see. I kick the rail in front of my seat and hurl my AFL Record onto the ground.

Even though I used to worry when Richmond was drawn to play Collingwood at Victoria Park, I realise to my consternation that there is something I fear more in this present day and age. It’s when you think you have a game in the bag only for it to be stolen away from you at the last moment.

A jubilant Collingwood fan on the Jolimont platform asks me what I thought of the game.

“I didn’t like the game at all,” I reply.

Even though there’s no malice intended on his part, my tone leaves him in no doubt that I don’t wish to talk about it. He wanders away to engage more rational people in discussion.



  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    1982 hey John? Remember that Number 9 for Richmond running amok that day. Also recall Geoff Raines and Andy Preston playing well. The days when Pie fans still envied the Tigers.

Leave a Comment