Round 20 – Sydney v Collingwood: A different experience

by John Ramsdale for the Floreat Pica Society

The opportunity arose to travel to Sydney with a friend of mine and his brother to watch the Collingwood – Swans game. Having never been to the SCG and not having made the road trip for over 20 years I thought it was a good opportunity. My friend who is involved with working with the Collingwood archives is a very keen supporter and is attending every Collingwood game this season.

I remember when travelling to Sydney by car in the 1960’s was a real road trip: wondering whether the car would make it up the Pretty Sally Hill; listening to your dad grumbling as he was caught behind a truck or worse, a caravan and looking for when he could overtake them; counting down the towns as you passed through them, Violet Town, Euroa, Tarcutta, Jugiong; cheering as you crossed the Murray into NSW, observing the pubs with their tiled walls and signs advertising exotic beers like Reschs and Tooths and being disappointed by the dog on the tuckerbox. All of this has changed. Now you just get in your car, put it in cruise control and steer. It is a lot quicker and safer, but a bit duller.

Not only had I never been to the SCG, but neither had any of our players as our last game against the Swans was in 2000. It looked like it at first as many Collingwood players had trouble in keeping their feet. The first thing that was noticeable when arriving at the ground, which is very attractive,  was the noise from the PA system blasting out. It only stopped as the ball was bounced. Jonathon Marsh in his second game picked up Adam Goodes and beat him in their first contest. This brought cheers from the Collingwood crowd. There was some fairly feeble, half-hearted booing of Goodes, a lot less that Chris Judd used to achieve in most Collingwood games.  The Swans had 3 goals on the board by the 11 minute mark and it looked as if Collingwood were off to another sluggish start again having to play catch up. The Swans were faster, more methodical and smoother and surer in their ball handling than Collingwood. The Collingwood forward line was very crowded and this made it hard for Travis Cloke, Darcy Moore and Ben Reid to exert much influence. The backline was under a lot of pressure and repelled many attacks, unfortunately, many of these rebounded quickly. Dane Swan and Steele Sidebottom, stung by his Danny Roach votes last week were doing well. A goal from McVeigh was allowed even though it appeared that Langdon had touched it. In the Sydney Sunday papers, McVeigh admitted that he thought that it had been touched. Two late goals from Jamie Elliott, Travis Varcoe (a great banana kick), both of whom had played well, meant that Collingwood were only 7 points behind. The Swans inaccuracy had helped to keep Collingwood in the game.

Quarter time used to be a quiet break where you could discuss the game. Not at the SCG. A Nick Malceski look-a-like came on the screen and on a mild August night managed to rev the crowd up into joining in singing “Sweet Caroline”, complete with the obligatory chorus of “Boom, boom, boom”. Why? It felt more like being late into the evening at a wedding rather than the football.  Again it was at ear-piercing volume. I don’t know how the coaches could have got their messages across.

The second quarter began a lot more positively, with Alex Fasolo who had been barely sighted in the first quarter missing with an early snap. Nathan Brown shirt-fronted Luke Parker and that livened up the game. It needed it, as the game was not much of a spectacle as the Swans again managed to bottle up our forward line.  Tom Langdon at one stage grabbed the ball and ran and there was literally no-one from either side that he could have kicked to further up the ground. He kicked it and a large pack like you would find in a primary school yard game chased it. Jordan De Goey rebounded after his first kick had been well smothered by Rhyce Shaw and kicked a much-needed goal which made the difference only one point. The contrast in the style of play was evident in the Swans’ next two goals. This involved them moving the ball almost effortlessly and accurately the length of the ground with goals to “the wrong Reid” and Adam Goodes. The latter brought a standing ovation from the Swans’ crowd. Collingwood’s goals by contrast came as a result of very hard work. There was little smooth about it. Collingwood had outscored the Swans by 2 points and at half time were only 4 points down. It felt as if the Swans should have been a lot further in front than they were. With more accuracy Collingwood could have been in front. Swan, Sidebottom, Williams, Grundy, Brown and Langdon were playing well.

Half time; a time to catch up with people and further discuss the game. Not at the SCG. The crowd were encouraged to wave their Citibank Signs in the air as the cameras panned around to select a winner. Great excitement when the winner was located. It was like the kids who found the gold ticket in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. But there was more to come. Time for Cyggy’s Dance Cam.  More loud music, more contemporary than Sweet Caroline this time, encouraged the crowd to dance and the camera sought out the best and most embarrassing. I could hardly wait for three-quarter time.

The 3rd quarter was certainly Collingwood’s best with goals from Ben Reid, Dane Swan, Marley Williams and Darcy Moore. However, 7 behinds again indicated missed opportunities. Again by contrast the Swans were more efficient in their use of the ball and their accuracy. Two goals from  Garry Rohan who marked well over Alan Toovey and a snap from Adam Goodes kept the Swans in it. Players were drifting in and out of the game with Darcy Moore providing a target and getting more involved and looking good. Ben Sinclair, Jamie Elliott and Jordan De Goey were good contributors while Travis Cloke and Ben Reid were struggling. Scott Pendlebury was below his best, not in possessions but in his usual efficiency. Collingwood were 5 points up, but it could have been a lot more.

Three-quarter time. No respite. This time it was a collage of “selfies” taken before and during the game posted on the scoreboard screen. I am starting to feel more like one of the grumpy Muppets all the time.

The lead changed early in the quarter with a goal to Mitchell, who was killing us, and then a Scott Pendlebury snap. Luke Parker who must still have been feeling the effects of the Nathan Brown bump was carried off with a serious injury and this delayed the play. Sam Reid then marked and goaled. As he celebrated the screen showed a disconsolate Ben Reid on the Collingwood bench as he had just been substituted. The contrast in the teams was again highlighted by another length of the ground goal to the Swans, involving McVeigh, Goodes and Jetta who was unattended by a long way in the goal square. The contrast came 5 minutes later with a large pack scrambling over the ball and Jack Crisp managing an off- the- ground goal. Worth the same as the Jetta goal but probably not as inspiring. Collingwood were still in it. Late uncharacteristic misses from Jamie Elliott and Scott Pendlebury meant that Collingwood had lost another close one, this time by 9 points.  Another honourable loss? At times it felt we should have lost by more as we did not really play that well but  hung in there and could have won it. It is the first time that I had seen Darcy Moore live. He started slowly but gradually got involved and gained confidence and marked well.

This game probably summed up our season. Close but not quite close enough.

The Barry Mitchell Medal goes to ……The votes have been sent in secret to Paul Harkin. If you are desperate to find out who received this prestigious award you will need to attend the Horsburgh lunch in October.


  1. Nice one JR. Grand memories of when was Australia was more tribal – Tooths and Resch’s Pilsener. Stacked up for 30 miles behind slow cars near Jugiong with no passing lanes. Like the Showgrounds trots.
    I saw the game on Friday night football. Your field kicking – not just for goal – was shocking. I thought you were the better team on balance of play, but you continually shot yourself in the foot.
    A young developing team or outcoached (again)? The prelude to greatness or as good as it gets? Only a close observer of the Pies would know.

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