Round 22 – Sydney v Collingwood: Freaks to the front (Floreat Pica Society)

Get on my level
Or get out of my way
Don’t bloody touch me
Give me some space
“Freaks to the front,” Amyl and the Sniffers

Low cloud sweeps across the Collingwood Flat on this Sunday afternoon in mid-August. A deep low pressure system off the north-east coast of Tasmania directs a stiff westerly over Johnston Street, Hoddle and down to Victoria Park. The same westerlies affect faraway Sydney Cricket Ground today, too, where this Round 22 fixture takes place.

And for the game I’m off to the pub. It doesn’t take being on Gertrude Street to think of Archie Roach, but as I walk up to the Builders’, I give quiet thanks. These past two weeks we have lost Archie, Judith Durham and Olivia Newton-John. Zan Rowe wrote of this today at the ABC.
Also last week, The Footy Almanac community lost Jan Courtin – passionate, enthusiastic and generous South Melbourne/ Sydney/ Bloods/ Swans supporter. And sister. Again, I give quiet thanks. (Today Sydney will mark Jan’s death (and that of footy writer Jim Main) by wearing black arm bands).

Round 22 has Collingwood in Sydney, having won 11 of the past 11 games. Collingwood (15-5) in second place, Sydney (14-6) in fourth. With only Round 23 remaining before the finals. It’s a big game.

“The ways we miss our lives are life.”
Richard Ford, “Independence Day”

Years have passed since I last reported for the Floreat Pica Society. Lifetimes, pandemics. And for whatever reason, these past 12 months I’ve felt increasingly pulled towards the place of my birth. Is that a connection to land? Do I imagine it? Whatever. That place is Fitzroy.

Today Sydney v Collingwood. My maternal grandparents followed “South.” Tales of Bob Pratt at Lakeside. And Skilts. My paternal Nan followed Carlton. And my paternal grandpa played for Collingwood (of my four grandparents, he discussed footy the least).

I’m short, I’m shy, I’m f*cked up
I’m bloody ugly
Get out of my way
Don’t bloody touch me
“Freaks to the front,” Amyl and the Sniffers

click to enlarge

So I’m sat at the bar of the Builders’ Arms for the footy. With a nod to Archie Roach and his anthemic “Charcoal Lane”. And just half a dozen kicks from my birthplace. And suddenly we’re on. With his Albert Collier haircut, S Pendlebury wins the toss – which for an SCG Test would be hugely important.

Within minutes we see B Maynard create organised mayhem. We see D Moore dance under the sword of hovering L Franklin. We see A Johnson take flight. And we see spreading goals to the well-organised Swans. They have the ground covered. It takes edge-of-physical-limit efforts from B McCreery and B Mihocek to scramble one back.

“Can we get a cheeseboard over here?”

Young J Ginnivan is amongst it.

“How’s your new place?”
“Oh, so good!”

Before the Swans snare another in open play. They’re using the space and width well.

“Look, guys, while Jess is gone. It’s her birthday on the 21st of September, right? It’s a Wednesday. I’m organising a thing. Stay tuned, yeah? She’ll hate me for it.”

From a boundary throw-in, S Pendlebury to J Daicos, who chips a five iron over goal square hands.

But L Franklin crumbs and goals like K Bartlett to end the quarter.

Sydney have started better. They’ve used the SCG width well, keeping one side open and then flooding into it. Collingwood have worked into the game.

SYD 4.4.28
COL 2.3.15

I’m out on the town, I wanna get rowdy
I send you a text
“Hey Jamie, where’s the party?”
I’m having a dance
“Freaks to the front,” Amyl and the Sniffers

As the second quarter starts, it looks like Sydney have more players on the field. They run the overlap, ending with a man free in the goal square.

“I’ll get the fish pie, thanks.”
“Oh, good choice.”

And then, at 4:16 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, Sunday 14 August 2022, it happens.
J Ginnivan is tackled high as he roves the crumb AND IS AWARDED A FREE KICK FOR HIGH CONTACT. The event seems to warp space and time. And J Ginnivan’s hamstring. That’s the last we see of him today.

One goal each that quarter. The game is like a bottle of Schweppes that someone has shaken like a nut.

Nothing is easy out there.
Every possession is taken under pressure.

SYD 5.7.37
COL 3.4.22

My body all sweaty
Then I get a text
It’s Jamie with the addy
Let’s go
“Freaks to the front,” Amyl and the Sniffers

This Builders’ Arms of 2022 is not quite how I imagine it to have been in Archie Roach’s youth. Just now the corner door opens to a conceit of made-up, dressed-up thirty-somethings. The air pressure noticeably drops.

Third quarter and L Franklin scrubs a left foot grubber for the first goal. That makes it harder.

And when Sydney score the next two from open, one-touch, full-throttle open play, the best response from Collingwood is for W Hoskin-Elliott to have his nose smashed across his face and thereby hit pause.

Indeed D Cameron kicks a fine set shot goal, though the Swans immediately reply through T Papley.

Collingwood finishes strongly with the last two goals – one to A Johnson after a deliberately rushed behind. And another to Clark Kent M Cox after a characteristic mid-field poaching by S Pendlebury.

The beautiful, evocative old heritage stands of the SCG glow on three quarter time.

SYD 9.10.64
COL 6.5.41

Talking, talking, sweating, get it off ya face
I’m up dancing, sweating, getting on the stage
I already told ya to give me some space
Don’t f*cking touch me
‘Cause I’m in a rage, yeah
“Freaks to the front,” Amyl and the Sniffers

A deficit of four goals to peg back in the last quarter. Not out of the question. But Collingwood are the boy with the wheelbarrow.

And after two minutes, the wheelbarrow load increases by six points.

The Swans goals are well deserved, but also rushed. They seem to get excellent value from half chances.

“Three pots of Carlton, thanks mate.”

Nick Daicos kicks a late one to close out the game for the woods; a game that to me (admittedly from the Builders’ Arms) felt over some time during the third quarter.

SYD 11.11.77
COL 7.8.50

There’s a lot to consider as I walk to the Napier front bar for dinner (roast of the day).

I think of the 1990 Collingwood premiership team reunion held during the past week. I think of Archie, of Judith, of Olivia. I think of Jan (“cheer, cheer”). And I think of changing times, of taking your chances, of an unfolding life. A life that we each make up as we go.

The Fitzroy Town Hall’s silhouette at sunset, though, calls me back to this moment.

In the doorway of the Napier, I pause to let a party of three blokes leave. All of them wear smiles. Only one of them wears a kilt.

Next week Collingwood (fifth, 15-6), plays Carlton (eighth, 12-9) in the final round.

Play on.

Freaks to the freaks to the freaks
To the freaks to the front
Everyone in this room
Deserves to have fun
“Freaks to the front,” Amyl and the Sniffers

click to enlarge

SYDNEY                   4.4    5.7    9.10    11.11 (77)
COLLINGWOOD      2.3    3.4    6.5      7.8 (50)

Sydney: Franklin 3, Heeney 2, Papley 2, Gulden, Hayward, Rampe, Rowbottom
Collingwood: Cameron, Cox, N. Daicos, J. Daicos, Ginnivan, Johnson, Mihocek

Sydney: Mills, Rowbottom, Fox, P. McCartin, Parker, Franklin, Warner
Collingwood: J. Daicos, Pendlebury, Cameron, Maynard

Sydney: None
Collingwood: Ginnivan (hamstring), Hoskin-Elliott (nose)

Sydney: Braeden Campbell (unused)
Collingwood: Callum Brown (replaced Jack Ginnivan in third quarter)

CROWD: 44,659 at the Sydney Cricket Ground


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About David Wilson

David Wilson is a hydrologist, climate reporter and writer of fiction & observational stories. 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 likes to walk around feeling generally amazed. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Frank Taylor says

    Love your stuff tall man.
    A loss, the first since early May against The Doggies, a loss “that we had to have” as they say.
    Well done Swannies.

  2. Some very good observations here, e.r. Well played.
    It sounds like a nice arvo despite the result.
    Very different from the sports bar in Ho Chi Minh City where I watched the match.

    P.S. My dad reckons the old Champion Hotel, which was down the street from the Builders’, was the last pub in which he had a beer that had sawdust on the floor in the front bar.

  3. Terrific ER. Nice to read your words again.

    My old man spent his formative years a few doors up from the Builders Arms. His father ran the local newsagency in Gertrude Street. 203 Gertrude Street I reckon?

    “Alone among the creatures of the world, man suffers a pang both bitter and sweet. It is an ache for the homecoming. The Greeks called it nostalgia”

    By the way I found it a strangely subdued game? But I suppose most games will feel subdued after the Dees v Blues saga.

  4. Judy Courtin says

    Thank you David for you special piece.
    I am one of Jan Courtin’s six siblings. She had a tragic fall at home and suffered a catastrophic brain injury. We took her off life support on Thursday 4 August.
    We celebrate her life tomorrow in Albert Park, just up from the old south Melbourne footy ground.
    We are heartbroken.
    As well as footy Jan had a life filled with art, music, social justice, voluntary work and of course her family.
    We can never be the same without her. Love you Jan.


  5. Thanks Frank – the Swannies played those magpies and that ground very well.

    Ha Smokie – sawdust on the floor! Not sure the punters ordering the heirloom pumpkin, smoked goat’s curd & burnt honey would have enjoyed that.

    Thanks Dips – nostalgia. I like that phrase.

    And thanks to you Judy. Love to you and your family.


    My mate Simon put me onto this: Anh Do’s beautiful session with Archie Roach.
    It’s on iView.

  6. Great piece ER you nailed it.

  7. thanks very much Rod.

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