Round 6 – Collingwood v Geelong: A Surprised Pies Night

I meet Ralph and Phil, both Collingwood fans, at the usual Southgate restaurant. Joining us is Marcelo, a genial, stocky, builder with a calloused handshake, who hails from Portugal. He supports the Cats; his first and last game was also with Ralph in 1981, two years after he arrived in Australia. It was a good initiation: a semi against the Pies when John Mossop monstered the Collingwood backline and kicked a bag on a glorious September day (the resulting prelim is filed away in darker recesses). Marcelo and Ralph lost contact not long after, but I don’t think the result had anything to do with it.

Marcelo’s first allegiance is with soccer. He played in Portugal and for St George here. Had he known Melbourne City were taking on Melbourne Victory in a final tonight he wouldn’t have committed to attending our game (though, why the A-League is increasingly encroaching on the footy season is another story).

Terms ‘football’ and ‘soccer’ get mixed, but not confused among our consumption of red wine, beer and food. Phil’s meal is out of sorts, though, and is replaced by a pizza.

Like many migrants, Marcelo has an eye on both camps, and is up to date with the Cats’ progress. Ralph says the Portuguese team he played for wore black and white and that he should’ve chosen the Pies, but there’s a bit of the contrarian about Marcelo – it wouldn’t be as much fun to follow the herd.

For a change, we walk to the MCG via the Alexandra Gardens side of the Yarra. It’s probably not much further than from Fed Square, but it seems to take longer, and I inadvertently add another dog-leg by choosing the Rod Laver Arena footbridge.

The first goal – or the Cat celebration of – is seen on a big screen viewed through a gap in the Ponsford stand. Inside the stadium, we hear another roar. By the time we find our seats, Motlop is kicking Geelong’s third goal courtesy of a clever palm by Clark.

Victoria seems to be permanently stuck in a low pressure system, but the weather is okay tonight, though its uncertainty may have contributed to the relatively small turn out. Like the footy it’s been a fluky season.

Collingwood’s pressure is low too, and that it so immediately evident is notable – as we often see a game through the prism of our own players’ actions.

Geelong’s scoring spree continues. It’s pleasantly unexpected how much we’re dominating. Can we maintain it? Last round, 2011, comes to mind, reinforcing possibilities.

Whenever we break from a contest, or Collingwood hurriedly kicks out of one, there is usually a lone Cat to receive or mop up – one of whom is Tom Lonergan. His 150th shouldn’t go unmentioned.

Some say milestones don’t matter, but every little motivation helps. Why else, for instance, would teams be so eager to claim underdog status? The value of the latter has been evident in Cats/Pies encounters over recent years, with the underdog regularly surprising and thrashing the favourite. Tonight, so far, being a case in point.

Josh Cowan could become everyone’s favourite if he stayed on the field long enough. This time a hammy does him, but at least he gets into the action.

Stanley kicks one from a set shot and shows promise as a mobile ruck; Gregson is strong and well balanced, and from a distance has a kicking style similar to Duncan. He kicks two in the first.

Clark handballs out of packs, generally plays great team footy and covers a lot of territory. He is like Brad Ottens, showing unexpected attributes.

Steve Johnson may have lost a step and be a tad overweight, but is slowly finding his feet. Having said that, he and Motlop do slip over a lot – boots?

The Pies goal, from a Swan snap following a Goldsack intercept (through my prism we were careless).

Little pre-match mention was made of Varcoe playing against his old side for the first time – he is quiet, subdued even – he has nothing to prove to Geelong to motivate him.

Travis Cloke is derided, but rises in my estimation when he has a chance to iron out Murdoch in a marking contest, but doesn’t. It’s a fine line. Lack of mongrel could be why he misses shots at goal, but it shouldn’t be.

Motlop marks and kicks a goal he probably could’ve conceded to Clark given the latter’s give to him in the first quarter. An end-to-end play, mostly involving the younger players, is probably our best team goal of the year.

Ralph passes his smart phone to Marcelo – it shows the soccer score: Victory 3, City 0. Just as well he didn’t go?

Collingwood chip away at our ten goal, half time margin.

Marcelo likes Murdoch, who dodges and weaves before kicking what could become a trademark, powerful left foot snap – more of that would urgency could see him become a formidable player.

Rivers and Goldsack low five each other after the ball goes out of bounds – now that is unexpected.

In recent weeks, I’d been happily enjoying the endeavour, the result being secondary, but now we’d established a lead, I don’t want to lose it.

“We need one more goal,” says Marcelo. He’s right. We’re still creating chances, just not taking them. Clark hits the post, Johnson kicks out on the full, Blitz misses.

Plenty has already been said about Blicavs, his mobility and lack of teenage footy. He probably played a lot as a kid anyway, but why mess with the legend?

Cloke gets one early in the last when he turns onto his left foot and snaps instinctively from a distance. White pegs the Pies to within 23 points.

Things get a momentarily heated when Phil and I disagree whether Elliot should’ve got a free. Through Phil’s prism he was scragged, through mine he gave up his chance when playing on.

Eventually, finally, Cockatoo snaps from out of a pack and scores our long awaited goal. Two more follow in quick succession.

“Why is everyone leaving?” Marcelo enquires with mock seriousness.

Marcelo sees himself as a Cats good luck charm. He kids that Ralph didn’t invite again for so long because of it. While it’s taken thirty four years to add data to his theory, further proof might not be long coming – Ralph is already talking about booking the return bout later this year.

About Paul Spinks

I have writing published and performed in various mediums, but usually not enough of it to pay the rent. Had many jobs, travelled a lot, so I think this experience allows a broad perception of society. I'm not an academic, though did complete a BA as a mature-age student. Below are links to some published written pieces. https://newmatilda.com/2017/07/30/its-time-for-our-baby-democracy-to-walk/ https://meanjin.com.au/blog/the-elephant-in-the-chamber/ https://overland.org.au/2017/11/australias-workplace-laws-a-narrative-tragedy/ https://newmatilda.com/2019/05/16/the-green-blind-spot-on-australias-expanding-population/ https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/is-ashleigh-barty-the-saviour-australian-tennis-has-been-waiting-for-20200108-p53prl.html https://spinksytravelworld.com/pirate-of-padstow/ https://overland.org.au/2020/10/the-slow-death-of-a-public-institution/ https://overland.org.au/previous-issues/false-documents/fiction-paul-spinks/

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