Round 7 – Collingwood v Carlton: 5 stages of grief in a Smith St bar

“I’m like a waterlogged ball, that no one wants to kick round any more…”
– You Am I, Heavy Heart

In the last unrenovated Smith Street bar; Sunday.


– Whose shout?
– I’ll go.
– I can’t believe this is happening.
– 2 and 5.
– 2 and fking 5.
– Carlton.


-How about that, eh?
– I’m bloody fuming.
– You and me both.
– I’m serious.
– Loose men everywhere.
– Every-fking-where.


– You right?
– …fffffffffk it all.
– All of it.


Pool balls crash at the back of the room. It’s a good break.

-We’re gone.
– Cactus.
– Gone.
– Bucks?
– Gone.
– Eddie?
– Gone.


Slow moving traffic stops outside; cars are caught behind a tram.

-Why does no one hit a target?
– It’s his team now.
– Can’t hit a barn door.
– It’s his fifth season.
– He wanted to lift the skill level. Remember?
– Still waiting.
– Gun players don’t necessarily make good coaches.
– What about gun media performers?


-But he speaks so well. He’s a thinker.
– He does. He is.
– He’s got the logic all sorted. The theory.
– He does.
– But it’s not working.
– Well, this is a prac exam. Not a theory exam. Theory is only part of it.
– Yeah.
– The pilot of a plane at some point has to fly the plane.
– Yeah.
– She can’t just learn about propulsion and weather; she has to fly it.
– Yeah.
– Even when things go wrong, she has to fly it. Solve problems on the fly.
– Especially when things go wrong.
– You’d hope.


Two bright young things dismount from their bikes; chain them to a parking sign.


-How much difference does a coach make anyway?
– Huh?
– Look at Chris Scott there with that 2011 flag.
– Yeah.
– It wasn’t even his team.
– No.
– It’s a player’s game.
– It’s a player’s game.



-We’ve got shiteloads of injuries.
– Excuses.
– No, look. No Swan, Elliott…
– Excuses.
– Adams, Langdon…
– Excuses.
– Not to mention Keeffe and yer other dill.
– Don’t mention them.
– Reserves were hammered, too.
– Shite.
– It’s gonna be a long season.


Janelle from the bar approaches with two fresh pints.


-Ahh, thanks a lot.
– Mind reader.
– Jeez, but it’s not a good year to finish low down.
– Fking GWS get the first round draft picks.
– I might follow the Giants.
– Oh yeah – catch up with Heath Shaw.
– He’s going well.
– He is.


The bright young things finish their intricate chaining manoeuvre; cross the road. Another bar. There’s always another bar.


-What the hell is going on?
– No one knows.
– They’re lazy.
– The players?
– The players, selectors, coaches, the administration, the lot of them.
– All of them?
– I don’t know. Sack them all.
– Send a message.
– Exactly. Complacent, snouts-in-the-trough, old boys.
– We need an outsider.
– A messiah.



-But there’s still time.
– In 2016?
– Yeah. We’ve gotta be patient.
– It’s going nowhere, mate. We’re getting worse.
– The good times will come.
– They might not. Did you think of that?
– Well. All things pass.
– Like time since our last winning final. When was that?
– I dunno.
– No.



-But really; we should understand this is a challenging game. There are opponents.
– Oh genius. Bravo.
– And that we are doing our best.
– Oh give the man a trophy for turning up.
– And we will get our turn.
– Bullshite. Look at the Dogs. Look at the Saints. Look at Melbourne recently.
– Yeah.
– Nothing happens on merit. Because you deserve it.
– No.
– Meritocracy is a lovely idea. But the world just doesn’t work that way.
– No.
– It’s not fair. Life is not fair.



-Lions this week.
– Whereabouts?
– Brisbane.
– Ahh, shite.



-Somehow you’re not supposed to mention injuries.
– No.
– Somehow to mention them means that you’re making excuses.
– Yeah.
– But take half a dozen out of any side and the side changes.
– Yeah.
– Change the people, you change the team.
– Yeah.
– Seriously, the team represents Collingwood, they wear the jumper, but those guys on Saturday are not the same people as played in pre-season.
– No.
– They’re young ‘uns. Different needs, different skills.
– So?
– So they are different people. We have to expect different things.
– If you say ‘expectation management’ I’ll be most upset.
– Just be aware.
– Oh, I’m aware of 2 and 5. I’m aware of Carlton.



Rain falls steadily in the darkness outside now. Headlights are reflected from the road surface; from the tram tracks. They’re onto the red.



-So if the meritocracy is rubbish…
– Yeah.
– What is it we need?
– Huh?
– Well hard work doesn’t guarantee success; so what’s the difference?
– It’s simple.
– What is it?
– It’s luck.
– Luck?
– Luck.
– You’re kidding.
– No mate, we all underplay the importance of luck in life.
– Am I on Candid Camera?
– Ha ha. No, it’s luck. Just wait for it to turn.
– Genius.
– Makes more sense than any other of these so-called cause and effect solutions.
– Luck?
– That’s right. Play the young kids and wait for luck to arrive.
– Right place, right time?
– Look at Chris Scott.
– Hmm.
– Look at Dane Swan, Bob Murphy, injured. Look at Richard Hadley – premiership in his fourth game. So much luck, mate.
– The shifty shadow.
– There’s so much we can’t control in this life.
– The shifty shadow of luck.
– But we live with the false idea that we can change things.
– Yeah.
– Or that we deserve them.
– Yeah.


-So we should just cop it.
– Just cop it.
– Grin and bear it.
– Well stop whining… Maybe just get on with it. Be humble.
– There you go.
– Acceptance.
– Go pies.
– Go pies.


A band loosens up in the corner. Glances and twitches. Some big chords.

-I miss Swanny.
– Me too.
– This t-shirt’s got a wine stain.
– Every t-shirt’s got a wine stain.



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. Round 2 – Richmond – Denial.
    Round 4 – Melbourne – Anger.
    Round 5 – Essendon – Bargaining.
    Round 7 – Carlton – Depression.
    Listening to Eddie and Bucks there is no sign of Acceptance any time soon. They should be in the bar with ‘yer boys collecting wisdom and wine stains, not drinking the Kool Aid.
    Well played ER.

  2. John Butler says

    I kike this E Reg. But then, I liked pretty much everything about Saturday.

    The shifty shadow of luck. Liked that too.

  3. John Butler says

    Excuse fumble fingers. Replace k with l.

  4. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    ER , like the conversational element in this one. Collingwood humble? Hubris is the instant karma of CFC. Why can’t ir happen to Hawthorn? Life’s not fair…

    Apparently all the troops at the Holden Centre have been ordered to ‘Harden Up’ which is difficult to do when you’re nowhere near the ball. Hmmm

  5. Dave Nadel says

    Good play, E regnans. The style is a bit reminiscent of Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” or Clifford Odets’ “Waiting for Lefty.” Perhaps you should call it “Waiting for Swanny” The problem is that Swanny, like Godot, may never arrive.

  6. Brin Paulsen says

    Good stuff ER. As always.
    I’ve been thinking about Collingwood’s upcoming trip to Brisbane a bit more since Luke posted his “I hate footy” writings up the other day. Two teams in the same place but having arrived there from very different directions (although the beloved players now as flailing head coaches does have a familiar ring to it).

    I hate to say it but I almost feel for you Pies fans, what with all the expectations before the season. At least barracking for the Lions I can watch games without any real belief that they’ll win, at least not beyond a fan’s irrational hope.

  7. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Humble Pies?!
    We should all be so lucky.
    Starting with that whinging President? Shattered and contemplating his own departure? Hooroo Eddie.

    Love it E.Regnans.

  8. Good work, e.r.
    Enjoyable – as always.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Well played ER.
    Since the loss I’ve been “digging a hole just staring at the floor” (one of the great lines in music).

  10. Gareth Meyer says

    Love this style – is Hunter S Thompson an influence? Gives me inspiration to keep finding new ways to record the great game.

  11. Earl O'Neill says

    It isn’t Collingwood. It’s the world.

  12. You have captured the mood; ambience perfect.

    Love an unrenovated pub, too. The Orrong being my metropolitan fave for its mix of 1920 deco and 1980 tan decor and its amber coloured glass with the circle patterns at the entrance. I love the fact they have resisted the lure of the modern,,, ?post modern industrial refurb.

    In fact I caught the end of that game on the veranda at The Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo. Nice spot.

  13. Loved it Er. Love You Am I, and Tim’s Kangaroos must be making him happy. “Yer man” a favourite line in your works.

    Time to welcome back Cloke?

  14. Great stuff ER. Thoroughly enjoyed your writing.

    Lucky that game, this season is not real although I’m not sure how we’re in the same (bad) dream though.

  15. Keiran Croker says

    Maybe some one from the Hawks can help… New coach, new president. They seem to get buy on an uneven playing field.

    Kennett and Ratten??

  16. E.regnans says

    Thanks all for yer generosity & yer ideas & yer stories.

    The best part is – no one knows what will happen next…

  17. Joe Moore says

    Well played, ER. Loving the last line.

  18. One of the truly great songs from a wonderful Oz band, written by a big footy fan no less. Any article that weaves a Pies loss and a You Am I song is alright by me.


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