Round 5 – Carlton v Collingwood: Salut Mick

 Salut Mick


It is a cold autumn night in Melbourne. I get on the train at four in the afternoon and decide to go to the protest that is taking place in the city, which is organized to resist the closure of one hundred and fifty indigenous communities. When I get out at Flinders Street the protestors have already made their way to Federation Square and are sitting on the junction of Flinders and Swanston Streets. A fire in the middle of the road sends smoke wafting up into the city sky; the flames on the gum leaves are mesmerising. I empathise with many of the words that are spoken and underneath you can hear the pain of being ignored for more than two hundred years.


I stay at the protest for an hour and then start walking to the MCG.


When I explain to cousin Steve where I’ve been he raises his eyebrows a little; despite being a rabid Magpie, I am not really the protesting type. And yet on some issues, such as indigenous rights or the importance of same sex marriage, I think it is vital that all voices be heard, to create a fair and harmonious society.


When I get to the game, I am hoping for anything but a fair contest. Tonight is a special occasion: Mick Malthouse is setting the record for most games coached in the VFL/ AFL. It is an impressive achievement and I have been feeling sentimental all week. Thankfully for many Collingwood supporters Mick’s sad leaving has become a thing of the past; time is a great healer and I suspect that most Collingwood fans have lost their feelings of acrimony towards our former coach.


Mick arrives in a sea of blue lights as Captain Carlton hurtles around the MCG in a hovercraft. While Steve stays seated, I stand and salute Mick with a one person standing ovation.  I am one of about ten people in the top deck of the Olympic Stand who are on their feet. In that moment I remember many of the important moments of Mick’s career: the 1985 Preliminary Final when the Dogs got to within ten points of a champion Hawthorn team, the 1992 Grand Final when Peter Matera kicked those long goals to sink Geelong and 2010 when Alan Didak sealed the replay for Collingwood with a kick around the corner on his right foot. Mick Malthouse changed the culture of Collingwood; over twelve seasons he made us respected. We owe him a lot.


When the game starts it is a complete let down; Carlton are not even competitive while Collingwood have a fleet of underrated winners all over the ground. The Jacks, Crisp and Frost, Brody Grundy in the ruck, Jackson Ramsay, a battering ram off half-back, Adam Oxley, rugby background and beautiful kick, Tom Langdon, clever overhead, and ANZAC medallist Paul Seedsman, who would be at home in the Stawell Gift. For a long time I have been unconvinced about the progress of these modest Magpies but two weeks ago I had a conversion experience when realizing just how many good young players we now have on our list.


One passage of play sums up the game in the second quarter. The Pies win the ball in tight near the boundary line and after a chain of contested possessions new recruit Travis Varcoe handballs to Paul Seedsman, except the word handball does not really do it justice. It is as quick as a flick pass and Seedsman almost looks surprised to receive it in his hands. He races off down the wing and places a kick perfectly to the advantage of young gun Jamie Elliott who runs onto the bouncing ball and dribbles it through for a goal. It is tough, clean, clinical football; it is utterly compelling to watch. It’s taken a while to get there, but Nathan Buckley is starting to produce a very good football side.


The game ends with a 75 point win to Collingwood. Carlton’s performance has been disappointing: 6 marks inside 50 and 47 tackles for the game. By the time Mick leaves the ground, with a guard of honour formed by the players of the competing clubs, the Collingwood supporters easily outnumber those who barrack for the Blues.


We stand and cheer a man who has sometimes been controversial but always interesting. Salut Mick, the game over the last thirty-one years would have been much less absorbing without you.


CARLTON    1.1   2.3   5.6  6.9 (45)

COLLINGWOOD  4.4   8.9   14.11  18.12 (120)



Carlton: Wood 2, Bell, Simpson, Armfield, Ellard

Collingwood: Elliott 2, Cloke 2, Pendlebury 2, Blair, Oxley, Goldsack, Dwyer, Adams, Gault, White, Crisp, Swan, Karnezis, Varcoe, Grundy


BEST  Carlton: Bell, Rowe, Cripps, Judd

Collingwood: Pendlebury, Oxley, Swan, Elliott, Grundy, Crisp, Adams

INJURIES  Carlton: Henderson (hamstring), Jamison (calf) replaced in the selected side by Warnock

Collingwood: Seedsman (hip)

SUBSTITUTES Carlton: Lachie Henderson replaced by Blaine Boekhorst in the third quarter

Collingwood: Paul Seedsman replaced by Patrick Karnezis in the third quarter

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Rosebury, Hosking, Ryan

Official crowd: 71,759 at the MCG

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