Round 9 – Collingwood v Geelong: All the pretty magpies

“The boy who rode on slightly before him sat a horse not only as if he’d been born to it which he was but as if were he begot by malice or mischance into some queer land where horses never were he would have found them anyway. Would have known that there was something missing for the world to be right or he right in it and would have set forth to wander wherever it was needed for as long as it took until he came upon one and he would have known that that was what he sought and it would have been.” 
– Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses



And game day arrives and with it the wheeling sun and with it the wheeling narrowing arc of sunlight as this year slips now into late May in the far southern climes of this Terra Australis and accordingly the sun starts late but climbs higher over sprawling suburban train lines and higher over glinting suburban tram lines and higher over impoverished suburban bus stops and higher over choked and ill-planned arterial roads and back street runs of this Melblong this Geebourne as people people people scattered at dawn to the four winds and all of those described collective supporters of Collingwood and Geelong Football Clubs converge upon Yarra Park on this fine Saturday. Game day.

I am awoken in the glistening predawn by repeated puffs of rancid warm air breathed down my neck and by the muffled yet unmistakable sound of steps taken by my faithful horse Harry Collier, named after the champion Collingwood footballer Harry Collier. I am nudged awake and nudged into sitting and coaxed agreeably into stoking the remnants of last night’s fire. Only bare embers remain.

I look at my hands. This is an omen, this restlessness of Harry Collier; for he nudges me exclusively upon the threshold of a mighty contest. He has rested now for years. I look at my hands some more. More lined, more calloused, more storied hands than upon the previous time I took to Harry Collier. Could it be true? Collingwood: a faltering start to 2016 with losses to the rebuilding Melbourne, St Kilda and Carlton in Melbourne and calamitous losses interstate to modern powerhouses Sydney and West Coast. Geelong: impressing the critics sufficiently such that the critics then impress their own opinions boundlessly upon all others to the point where opinion once again masquerades as fact. It is Geelong for the flag.

Harry nods again and I collect my hat and crouch before the fire. A magpie calls from the eucalyptus. I unhurriedly create a modest breakfast of tortilla and beans and recognise the luxurious state of a sedentary life with its observations and its fires and its proximity to reliable supply of fresh drinking water.


But it is time to leave our camp. For a modern day shoot out at a modern day O.K. Corral.

Harry Collier steps around and throws his head back and flicks his tail and presents himself bare backed for the journey and I’m aboard wearing my hat and wearing insubstantial leftovers of bean tortilla and clutching at the mane in front of me as Harry steps from full gallop suddenly to air-borne flight. We land surreptitiously and effortlessly in the Southern Stand.

Collingwood v Geelong. It’s on.

This is better. This is better. This is better.

A backs-to-the-wall Collingwood psychology and an us-against-them Collingwood psychology and a whisper of an emotionally-letdown Geelong psychology coming as this game does immediately after Geelong’s trip to Adelaide and after P Dangerfield’s (temporary) home-coming and what unfolds on this Melbourne Cricket Ground is a rampant ferocious inspired and inspiring first quarter of tackle and grunt and swarming and collective and tumult and aggression and nous and athleticism and of notable strength of conviction and strength of belief. From Collingwood. From S. Pendlebury and from A. Treloar and from S. Sidebottom. From B. Grundy and from J. White.

Harry leans close and says “These are all fine physical athletes. It puzzles me why more attention is not paid to understanding their brains. Brains seem to be the biggest variable.”

There is an undeniable truth he speaks. Squinting to the northern sky, Member’s Stand afore us in afternoon shade, I curse and spit on the concrete. “You’re right, Harry Collier. But what also is crucial is the dynamic. The union of souls and leadership of that union of souls. It is like our choir.”

“I refer to ‘O cio da terra‘, Harry Collier, ‘The Heat of the Earth‘, and know that because it was a song in Portuguese, of our Brunswick Rogues choir you were the only one to speak the language. And knowing how appalling we sounded for weeks and for weeks and yet how positive and empowering remained our leader Em and how I willingly I confided my doubts in you of whether we could solve the combined puzzles of a major seventh and of the Portuguese language. And how uplifting the work is now. Now that we, our collected union of souls, our collected union of souls under fine leadership, has understood. We sing with one voice. Football as choir. Coach as conductor.”

Harry listens and blinks.

Geelong fight back. “Good,” says Harry Collier.

But Collingwood fight back harder and now it is none other than Mason Cox of Texas taking the ball as I satisfyingly swallow the remains of my 3/4 time frijole enchilada and Harry yells and I yell. Flecks of corn and salsa enjoin the immediate lower atmosphere as Mason Cox of Texas with the clarity of mind and singularity of purpose today that he may well spend the rest of his days attempting to rediscover, dances and bounds and bounces this foreign ball and then while still running kicks it sweetly and kicks through it sweetly and powerfully and accurately and thus ends the contest.

Game over.

The boy who played on slightly before us stood on a field not only as if he’d been born to it which he was but as if were he begot by malice or mischance into some queer land where Australian football never were he would have found it anyway. Would have known that there was something missing for the world to be right or he right in it and would have set forth to wander wherever it was needed for as long as it took until he came upon it and he would have known that that was what he sought and it would have been.

Game over.


COLLINGWOOD        7.5    9.5    11.7 16.8 (104)
GEELONG                   0.3    3.7    6.10 11.14 (80)    

Collingwood: Pendlebury 3, Fasolo 2, White 2, Cox 2, Grundy 2, Treloar, Crisp, Crocker, Moore, De Goey
Geelong: Hawkins 4, Motlop, Menzel, Duncan, Lang, Caddy, Stanley, Smith

Collingwood: Sidebottom, Pendlebury, Howe, Treloar, Adams, Grundy, Greenwood
Geelong: Bartel, Enright, Duncan, Lang, Blicavs, Caddy




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 a dog, Pip. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Callum O'Connor says

    This piece frustrated me immensely. Guess that means you’ve nailed the Cormac writing style.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Love the tone of your piece ER,
    Harry Collier sounds like a thinking persons Mr Ed.
    Mason Cox “Clarity of mind and singularity of purpose ” describes the moment and the mindset of most Pies on Saturday. It was uplifting to watch and reading your take brings those emotions back to the surface. Great stuff.

  3. E.regnans says

    G’day C O’Connor. Like synchronised swimming, it’s not for everyone.

    P Dimitriadis – thanks very much. The game brought to mind a rollicking old ambush scene. And with yer Texan playing a telling hand, it had to be “all the pretty horses”.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Loved it OBP the physcology of sport underestimating your opponent not turning up ready to play is a library in itself( mind you the bloody pies are killing me in footy tips )

  5. E.regnans says

    Thanks OBP.
    Where does self belief and collective self belief come from?
    On field leaders pretty important, I expect.
    But there must be more to it.

    My tipping is suffering, too.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Good to see H.Collier back.
    Mason Cox of Texas. Such an interesting character, on and off the field. Hope he writes more.
    Well played Cormac Regnans.

  7. I preferred the bits about Harry Collier.

    I think there should be a Ride to the G Round.

    The opinion-fact dichotomy is hilarious in footy. What sort of genius claims expertise in a game where the ball bounces in all directions and people, in various stages of their understadning of the notion of team, are supposed to come together in common cause.

  8. I hate losing to Collingwood but I rejoice in the rollercoaster of emotions this season. Each contest, each game, each round, each season, each decade, each lifetime; they are all rolled into one.

  9. I’m with you Callum. I have told ER that I nearly ruined one of his first Cormac/Harry pieces on the Perth Test by taking to it with the editorial punctuation red pen.
    Glad I didn’t. I nearly gave up on this one after 3 paras, and then I seemed to find the rhythm. For me this style of writing is not be “read” (in the analytic comprehension functional way I grew up with) but more “taken in” like an Impressionist painting or a Mahler symphony. It leaves a mark that lingers even while my rational brain is still asking WTF. (I hope that’s a compliment).

  10. E.regnans says

    g’day all – yes PB this writing exercise was an attempt to paint a feeling.
    To create a vibe.
    I didn’t see this game, so I has a crack at creating in words what I felt about the unfolding game and the punctuation mark of M Cox.
    The imagined conversation in a Smith St bar after the Carlton loss is another type of word painting.
    The rambling deep south confrontation language for the win.
    The blame-seeking-over-pints language for a loss.

    A rollercoaster, Dips. Spot on.
    Each moment, quarter, game, season… it just is.
    “Some idiotic things are well worth doing.” – Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe; Independence Day.

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