Round 9 – Fremantle v Collingwood: A farewell multi for the Avalon

It was a chilly Melbourne winter’s day, the type that unleashes a wind containing hints of Antarctica. A hidden punch that chills the skin and raises hairs.


But it was one I had been willing to brace for the Avalon. Born in 2001 (just a year after myself), the beaten-up, faded silver Toyota had been through its fair share of torment. It started off as the prime family car. A sedan so robust and long that it could fit all five family members in it for trips to Canberra and the Gold Coast. And Sorrento when us kids nagged for a day at the beach. In recent years, it had taken your humble driver alone to Kennett River (along the Great Ocean Road) multiple times, as well as a speedy dash to Schoolies celebrations in Lorne and a weekend away down near Phillip Island. To say it had seen a fair life was to remark that Collingwood weren’t stable performers in Grand Finals – an easy fact.


On this morning just a fortnight ago I had traipsed up the driveway in thongs, a t-shirt and shorts to see it get loaded on the back of a tow truck. The end of the Avalon hadn’t been courtesy of a breakdown or a mechanical fault; this glorious car had been replaced by a 2006 Honda Accord. As the truck circled precariously around the round-about, I got one last look at the dints on its side that were suffered from years of parking next to trucks in a Bunnings carpark. Of the lack of glass that sat in the left side mirror. Of the driver’s side mechanical window that had remained stuck just millimetres short of the top for nigh on two years. It was a sorry sight; if we were a dog, the vet would have suggested it be put down a long time ago. But it had kept on keeping on, until finally my grandfather had offered me his barely driven Honda for a generous price; one I daren’t refuse.


Upon cleaning out the Avalon the day before this last hurrah, I had stumbled upon a small sector of silver coins that I had long forgotten putting there. In its final hours, the Avalon granted me one last gift. Counting up the $33.70 that it had offered me as a token of gratitude, I thought long and hard as to what to do with it. Like many bored sports-loving teenagers, I decided to smack part of it on a multi.


Not trusting my amateur betting instincts, I off-loaded $20 of the Avalon trust into a Sportsbet account seldom used. I could feel the dust sliding off the app as I clicked on the button on my phone. Despite understanding the various markets open for the Round 9 games, it took me two hours to devise a conservative yet intriguing ten leg multi.


My boring legs kicked my shaky confidence into gear. By the end of the Melbourne/ Port Adelaide game I had slid home two legs thanks to the 15+ possession games of Darcy Byrne-Jones and Christian Petracca. Footy became a whole new entity to watch – one full of stress and preference as I tracked Sam Docherty, Patrick Cripps and Tom Mitchell to 20+ touches on Friday night. When Zach Merrett, Darcy Parish and Jarryd Lyons all saluted with sufficient disposals, I had ticked off eight of the ten boxes. A thrill shot through me – now I needn’t rely on individuals for the pay-out; I just had to hope West Coast and Collingwood won their respective matches.


Saturday night was a topsy-turvy one for me. I could feel the Avalon, its scrap metal parts lying separated in a suburban junkyard, spurring me on. But it took three quarters for the Eagles to receive the moral help of the Avalon; Nic Naitanui and Josh Kennedy must have shared some affinity with it, for they responded with a withering last quarter burst to honour the fallen Toyota. I could rest easy; surely my Pies wouldn’t be the ones to meddle with my Avalon’s last wishes.


But as a dour first quarter on Sunday night played out, my chest tightened up. Usually fast starters, Collingwood spluttered out of the gates even worse than the Avalon had when it hadn’t been turned on in a week. Nathan Buckley would’ve hoped his side didn’t possess the same quirky characteristics of the Avalon, but without Scott Pendlebury and Jordan De Goey they did. Their brake pads squealed to a halt whenever the ball turned over, complementing the poor turning circle of players who were left in the dust by Fremantle’s young chargers. They lacked an ability to look around them and respond to pressure adeptly, as if they didn’t possess a side mirror. When they did get the footy, Collingwood players lacked direction, and handballed the pressure onto other hapless players in worse positions. The Magpie machine made the Avalon look like a brand spanking new Lamborghini.


On the other hand, Justin Longmuir had schemed against his former club, and unleashed a young side who purred along like a little hatch-back, preferably in lime green and driven by a grouchy grandmother with a penchant for road rage. Nat Fyfe didn’t have his usual destructive touch, instead stepping back to allow the vintage Chevrolet Mundy and Caleb Serong to shark Grundy’s taps to perfection. Unfortunately, Grundy wasn’t performing like a first-class hummer; his 2020 form post-lockdown has instead resembled that of a rusty pick-up truck that just can’t get going.


With the reliable Rolls Royce in Pendlebury out, the Collingwood midfield looked rudderless. Halfway through the second quarter fear leapt into my throat as the realisation of what was happening hit me. The Pies were sloppy and timid; a perfect brew for an upset. But the biggest issue lies in the post-Pendlebury and Sidebottom era – without them, what do Collingwood have in midfield stocks? Taylor Adams had a rare quiet night, and Jamie Elliott tried his best in his new on-ball role, but outside of them there is no one willing.


In the dying stages of the third quarter, the Collingwood form slump signalled the downfall of the Avalon multi. The Pies had no answers, no forward line structure to rely on. The gritty Brody Mihocek SUV was doing the tough off-track work, but no pristine vehicles were following. His toughness against multiple clinging defenders finally earnt recognition when a last-minute Magpie onslaught gave them the lead at the final break. In a random spurt, Collingwood lifted for the Toyota. The forward line suddenly opened up, Grundy’s taps finally found midfielders and they wasted no handballs in slamming it to one-on-one contests. It’s funny how simple it looked. It soon became infuriating when the black and white returned to their insipid ways in the last stanza.


Expecting a defiant effort for the Avalon and its multi, Collingwood gave me the biggest let-down all day. That’s saying something when Victoria had been wound back to stage four coronavirus restrictions on the same day. The final leg was meant to be a celebratory one; a time when I cheered on my Pies to a form-boosting win and collected my meagre returns in memory of the gritty Avalon. Instead, my electronic form slip avoided being left in tatters, but it may as well have been when the Magpies’ defensive gameplay bore no match-winning goals. If it wasn’t for Sidebottom’s class in clutch moments, we would have lost by 30+ points, but his pristine touch meant the margin ballooned to an even 12 when Mundy cleaned his aged windscreen and slid through a goal post-siren.


It was a sad way to see the Avalon go – the post-match discussions weren’t directed towards the money and remembering a car that had become an institution in our family; one we had all learnt to drive in and contained so many memories. But instead the talk centred around Adam Treloar’s misleading stats (notice how I have omitted him from every ‘best’ list for the past few games) and the bevy of players who needed to face a week in the metaphorical seconds.


Who would’ve thought my own club would let me, and the deconstructed Avalon, down? Certainly not me. Luckily, the old s**tbox dished out more coins for another, more successful, assault in the near future. For now, I’m left feeling like I was back in thongs, farewelling the car amidst a freezing gale of Antarctic air conditioning.


FREMANTLE 0.0 4.1 6.1 10.1 (61)
COLLINGWOOD 1.2 2.4 6.5 7.7 (49)


Fremantle: Taberner 4, Schulz 2, Crowden 2, Fyfe, Mundy
Collingwood: Sidebottom 2, Mihocek, Sier, Grundy, Hoskin-Elliott, Stephenson


Fremantle: Serong, Mundy, Ryan, Taberner, Fyfe, Blakely
Collingwood: Sidebottom, Noble, Mihocek, Maynard


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  1. Leonard Rodwell says

    After reading this I felt the need to google Toyota Avalon, as it is not a species pofvehicle that has made its way to Solomon Islands. Well played Dockers.

  2. Jim Kesselschmidt says

    Great stuff Sean. A good read indeed: Our Pies looked like a rusted P76 out there: awkward, slow and cumbersome unlike Fremantle and your description.

  3. Best of luck with the Accord. Note to spouses of punters. The occasional furtive search in the wheel arch where the spare tyre is stored will likely yield the occasional financial windfall; 3 months of used form guides; or a divorce. Not necessarily in that order.

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