Round 3 – Collingwood v West Coast: The Grand Final Rematch (a screenplay in three parts)



The Grand Final Rematch. A screenplay in three parts.


Introducing the players:


Aidan. West Coast tragic, WA-born Canberra resident off to see them live for the first time. Torn between wearing the West Coast Premiership t-shirt he got for Christmas and the fact that it’s not very insta-cool.


Richard. Collingwood tragic, as if there’s any other type. Hits it left-to-right except as a surprise. Good bloke, and quite likely to design an extension with a home bar for you just so he can come over for beer later.


Cole. Son of Richard. Inter-generational Collingwood tragic. Yet to know. Good hands, optimistic personality. Don’t trust the disarming smile, he’s hard at it and never gives up.


The Narrator. AKA West Coast Dave. Once owned a blue and yellow painted concrete eagle, until it fell out of a tree in Brisbane in 1998. Despite that, still assumed to be a neutral, impartial observer to recount the evening’s goings on.


PART I: Travelling to the game


The Friday before his under 14s GF in 2017 West Coast Aidan got the results of a ‘just to be sure there’s nothing seriously wrong’ MRI on his knee. Unfortunately there was something seriously wrong, and so knee surgery and half a missed season followed instead. Fast forward to the start of the 2019 season and my mate Richard’s son Cole has a similar meniscus problem keeping him out of footy.


Luckily it’s not as bad by the looks – and it turns out there’s a silver lining. Richard and Cole are Collingwood members / fans / tragics, depending on the moment. West Coast Aidan and I are, perhaps predictably, West Coast fans. Last year’s GF was therefore enjoyed many hundreds of km apart, and very few text messages were shared for a few days until it was ok for everyone to take a breath and get back to normal. Anyway, as Cole was feeling a bit down about the knee, Richard suggested a road trip from Canberra to the `G to watch the GF replay. As the meme goes, ‘hold my beer!’.


It turns out only Aidan and I do it as a road trip, down there anyway. The Collingwood brigade fly down the morning of the game while Aidan and I overnight in unexpected splendour in the penthouse of a Wangaratta motel, before meeting up at Docklands for the entree – Carlton v Sydney. We’d thought this might be a nil-all draw, but in fact it turns out neither side has an effective defence, and so an entertaining little afternoon ensued, with Sydney always able (just) to keep them at a comfortable distance.


As we flowed through the Melbourne CBD from Docklands to Fed Square to the MCG the crowd density hardly varied the whole way, but the hues slowly changed from the red-white-and-blue blends to blacks and whites and royal blues and yellows as we went.


At one point a comment from Cole prompted Aidan to note that every club has at least some bogan supporters – except Gold Coast who don’t have any supporters. Harsh perhaps, but broadly he has a point. Along our walk, Richard and Cole in their Pies jumpers, me in my Eagles strip and Aidan hiding his Eagles premiership shirt under a Giants Academy hoodie, we were periodically engaged in conversation with passers by. For example, a well dressed man enquired of me as to when and where the game was, while Richard was yelled at incomprehensibly by someone who I think might have been the woman referenced in the start of the Rolling Stones song ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’.


Crossing the bridge to the G itself, light towers already looking spectacular in the early twilight, the phone rings. It’s John Harms, reflecting on the fact that the odds for Carlton that looked so attractive a few hours ago were probably right after all, and telling me that he – like I, I have to admit – thought that while tonight should be a very even game, Collingwood were more likely to win. It feels like with Elliot and Moore back for Collingwood and Lycett gone for West Coast, that could be enough to make the difference. Keeping Gawn and Grundy mostly out of the game was instrumental to the Prelim and GF wins last year, and Lycett is a big out to my mind.


Full of parmigiana and the bonhomie you have when you know not everyone is going to like the result, we settle into the top tier above the interchange as the players get ready to run on.


PART II: The game


The Collingwood cheer squad hoist up the banner, this time to be shredded by the players milling at its base rather than the wind. It’s not a great omen, and certainly not as good as the moment on Thursday night in the Adelaide-Geelong game when the scores were 79-74, exactly where the AFL scoreboards stopped at the end of the 2018 GF.


The omens are even worse in the first few minutes. Grundy has quickly worked out that he can do whatever the heck he pleases, and Collingwood have a couple of quick goals. From there though, West Coast force their way back into it, though three goals to one for the quarter seems a bit unders for Collingwood if anything. At least we got our hands on it a bit after the opening burst, and Gaff in his first game back got a lot more of it than the Pies fans noticed, who only effectively booed him about every third touch.


From the start of the second quarter everything is different. I honestly can’t tell if West Coast did something to stop Grundy having any effect, or if he just took his foot off the pedal, but it was often one-way traffic to the right of screen, with West Coast kicking 6 goals to 3 and opening up a 9-point lead that looked very unlikely at quarter-time.


The footy was a big step up in intensity from the entree at Docklands – it was tough, it was committed, and both sides stopped the other from doing virtually any of their favourite end-to-end flow. The other thing that stopped the flow was the umpiring. I don’t like to bring this into a discussion, but it was out of kilter with everything else. Not exactly bad, though many of the fans around me on both sides would probably disagree. I’d rather describe it as strange and perplexing and just off-point. They seem so focused on policing small, odd, technical points – many that are invisible to fans and often apparently to players – that it interfered with the flow of the game. I didn’t feel like it was one-sided, there were just as many that went to us as against us, but it was just like the umps were valuing everything differently, and at half time I think they were booed off equally by both teams’ supporters. Hopefully the Auskick kids knew it wasn’t about them.


The third and fourth quarters were a continuation of what preceded them. Neither side played pretty football, and West Coast managed to find a way to score three goals for every two Collingwood got to keep a safe 3-5 goal margin for most of it. Grundy never got back into the game, and West Coast looked like they worked a little harder to get numbers to contests and were that little less likely to turn it over, and that was enough really. Gaff got a mountain of the ball, and used it well enough to keep it going forward. Sheppard was great, Cripps good, Ryan periodically clever, and the goals were shared around. Taylor Adams was consistently good for the Pies, but the rest were a bit hot and cold, and again that lack of consistency probably accounted for the discrepancy in the scores.


Dom Sheed was also good all night, getting off the leash and kicking three goals, including the first and then late-on a semi-replica of the GF one which was effectively the sealer. It was odd to watch, it seemed like he doesn’t quite know how to celebrate ordinary goals anymore, even match-winning ones. When he kicked them he seemed almost embarrassed, perhaps because, well, because he knows better than anyone ever does (or can) what a really meaningful goal is. I hope he can, in time, get back to enjoying those goals, and that the fun and excitement isn’t permanently inaccessible to him now. Either way, he probably enjoyed the spontaneous applause he got late in the game from the crowd.


In the end, after Sheed’s goal the last few minutes are a bit quiet up in row D. Aidan and I are very happy, but Richard and Cole much less so, and so we just let it be. The West Coast fans around us very much enjoy the Pies fans streaming out, in the time-honoured ways of the victors – and in the mostly time-honoured spirit of Australia, there’s no nastiness or violence to be seen. Long may that last.


With jam donuts in hand we walk back to the nearby hotel room, closer than a lot of people probably had to park, reflecting on the teams, the game, and the way the umpiring is happening this year. Let’s take those in order. It was a pretty good game for Aidan’s first chance to see his own team live. A GF replay that you come out on the right side of is great – at least partly because it means you made a GF, and a win is a win. This was a pretty meaningful win too – making the point that West Coast are a genuine contender to come back to this ground and win. Right this second it’s a bit hard to know who else is a contender, so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.


We got back to the hotel in time to see the press conferences, and Buckley’s was one of the best I’ve ever seen. He was reflective and candid, and the questions he was asked were even quite good. In essence, he said he felt confident in the character of his group, but acknowledged that they needed to find a slightly different way to go about beating the Eagles, which I thought spoke very well of him and his chances of doing that. He’s certainly growing into this role now that he’s seemingly grasped that he’s not coaching 22 Nathan Buckleys but rather is leading a disparate group of people trying to find a path to success. They weren’t bad tonight at all, but they will have to mentally regroup to beat West Coast when it matters.


And finally the umpiring. It’s just not striking the right balance so far this season. The rule changes over the last few years have really improved the game in my opinion. The changes to ‘deliberate’* out of bounds and rushed behinds started that; the new 6-6-6 and kick out rules have improved it further. After all the ugly Paul Roos inspired era of congestion and scrappiness, for the first time in ages this all makes it seem like there are fewer players on the ground, and the ball stays in motion more. At least, it does when there aren’t continuous minor, technical, hard-to-see, confusing frees being paid. That just makes everyone mad, and the fact that players keep giving away 50s by giving the ball to the wrong team seems to suggest they are just as confused as the fans. That’s not a good place to be. It’s not easy to be an umpire, and I think they generally do a great job of something that’s virtually impossible to get totally right – but it’s the instruction about what seems important that feels off balance. If we can get back to officiating mainly about major things, I think the umps’ skills will come through and the balance of the game will feel more intuitively right. Tonight, that just wasn’t the case.


All up though, that was a heck of a good day. With an eight hour drive home tomorrow, right at this second, my mood was just greatly improved by remembering that daylight savings finishes in about an hour, and we get a bonus hour of sleep! Happy times, literally.


PART III: Driving 8 hours home afterwards…


Obviously this hasn’t happened yet, but it was always acknowledged that the ride home was going to be framed by the fact that two people’s team had been beaten by the other two people’s team. I’d mentally prepared ahead of time for the subtle sledges and cheeriness of Richard and Cole, just in case.


Hopefully they are also prepared. :)


I do owe them coffee in the morning though. We did agree that whoever won should at least by the coffee. Happy to. Very happy to.




* The ‘deliberate’ out of bounds rule is now NOT about being deliberately out of bounds. Rather, you have to make your best effort to keep the ball in play. You can quite legitimately be penalised even if the ball accidentally goes out of bounds, if you take an option that unnecessarily leaves open that chance. It’s badly named and terribly commentated on – but it’s massively improved the game I believe.



  1. george smith says

    It was the night the dream finally died. From September 30 2018 to last night, this surely means we are not good enough. I had hoped that the outrage from GF day would be enough to overcome the enemy. it was not to be. And like 1971, 1978, 2004 and all the other times we failed to get better after a grand final defeat, yet again the Magpies are a sideshow, like Essendon and Melbourne.

    What now? Another 5 years of limping around the fringes of the finals until we finally admit that the Eddie/Buckley combo was a failure? Or down in the lower depths like Carlton, desperately looking for the next Phil Carman/Achilles Jones to save us from mediocrity?

    Last year was one of those magical times. This year is as if someone called time and ordered us out of the building…



  3. Onya Dave (and Aidan – you were born at the right time). I like this year’s rule changes – and particularly making it more a players – rather than coaches – game. The game was a great spectacle all night, but the umpiring interpretations seemed very “ticky touch wood” (to quote my grandad). Dunno how much is the rules and how much is umpires taking a black letter law view rather than having a feel for the game (eg unfairness; intent). The Cripps tunnelling/ball not thrown back 50 was one. But I remember a free against Redden for tunnelling in a marking contest where the Collingwood player was under the ball and Redden was only protecting himself from having a 90kg Magpie fall on him. The home team (“noise of acclamation”) got the marginal frees all night 28/20 but I shrug my shoulders as we get similar benefit in Perth. Umpires are (mostly) human too.
    On the park Gaff and Sheppard’s return seems to have kept the hunger alive (no Bulldogs/Crows drop off). Simpson is very shrewd with injecting youth and pace (Allan and Petrucelle). It would have been easy to have played an underdone Schofield but Rotham did not look overawed in his first game. Keeps the older players motivated and adds different looks for opposition strategists (Masten’s time must be up). If Nic Nait was back tomorrow I would drop Vardy and play Hickey. His strength and bodywork made Grundy ineffective (stats lie – his hitouts were rarely to advantage). Hutchings has done a job on Zorko, Coniglio and Sidebottom/Pendlebury in successive weeks. Not just a scragging tagger as he gets off at the right times and picks up plenty of touches.
    The Eagles are an intriguing blend – ultra defensive old style beckmen like Barrass and then someone like Jetta who rarely tackles or applies physical pressure but is sublime with his hands and disposal.
    I died and went to heaven last season and hoping not to wake up any time soon.
    Thanks for the great report DB. Hope to see more of you on the site. We need to share the load in the 2019 Eagles Almanac book.

  4. David Bruce says

    Hey Peter – I’ll be very happy to contribute to that 2019 Eagles Almanac! And after last night, it’s certainly not without some chance. Long way to go yet for everyone, but right now the Geelong-West Coast game in a few weeks is shaping as an early game of considerable interest…

    Re the rules and umpiring, I think it’s fair to say that the locals didn’t think they were getting the run of the grain with the umpiring, and they didn’t always agree with my view it was only the umps keeping them in it! Was partly tongue-in-cheek, but both sides got some very soft and dubious ones. If you watch that Cripps 50m penalty it wasn’t Stevenson’s fault – Philips called for the ball totally assuming it was his free. I think the umps have a responsibility where the players are clearly confused to treat it like they do when someone claims a mark not knowing it was called touched. They show discretion there, and I think they can do it better when there is clearly no intent. I’m sure it’d throw up some dubious ones at times, but that might be better than what we saw last night, which was frustrating for all.

    Anyway – let the good times roll!

  5. Cripps somehow kicks four goals on return and gets no kudos.
    Jetta sublime as usual. He just materialises into space and kicks the football through another dimension.
    You ask ,’how did he get from a to c without going through b.?’.( b is an opposition player twice his size)

  6. E.regnans says

    Westcoastdave, that is some special work.
    Top-shelf observations of a life.
    Your Eagles a bit too good on Saturday.
    Interested in a culinary breakdown of your Sunday road trip.

  7. Sadly, the return leg of the road trip was ultimately a schnitty dead zone (an SDZ for the uninitiated). With a bonus end-of-daylight savings hour of sleep, breakfast was a highly civilised affair in a cafe on the corner by the hotel, with Aidan and Cole scoffing theirs and going to kick the ball on the grassy median strip while Richard and I lingered on a coffee and then bought huge takeaway versions.

    A slight GPS induced detour marginally delayed our exit from greater Melbourne, but it was all smooth enough on the way out. The challenge was trying to line up the necessary fuel stop with the preferred lunch stop and the fact that the Sunday afternoon game didn’t start til 2.20. That meant rolling into Holbrook on fumes for fuel, and then dropping into Tarcutta for lunch.

    The Tarcutta Hotel obviously doesn’t get so much passing trade since it was bypassed a few years back, and we only caught the last couple of minutes of the kitchen – but they were totally happy to serve us even though we were virtually the only ones there. The steak sandwiches were very old school basic ones compared to the instagramable ones you generally get in pubs these days, and in fact the whole experience fitted in with my memories of driving around Australia with mates after uni, a disturbingly long time ago. There was a free pool table, and no tv in the pool room, but pictures of the winning Tarcutta 7th grade cricket team from 1986 on the wall. We scoffed the sangers watching the Gold Coast kick the first four goals on my phone propped up in the window, and then wandered out the back to kick the footy again on the cricket oval directly out the back.

    The short drive through town and back onto the Hume, and it was like jumping forward in time 30 years, and not totally in a good way, though I can’t actually imagine living out in places like this for too long. It was kind of nice to drop into an old brick and timber pub that is not trying to be anything too fancy for a late lunch.

    Wasn’t til we got home that Richard finally let on about how annoyed he was with the footy result, and it’s alwsys fascinating to listen to the experts picking apart a game you’ve watched the day before. Sitting here on the Tuesday morning about to head to work, it all seems a long time ago now!

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