Second Semi Final – Collingwood v GWS: When Jeremy Howe defies physicists and mystics




It is Collingwood Football Club and it is September and this is simply a calling.
This patchwork band of creative souls is into the last six. Our patchwork band. Of Collingwood.


It’s bigger than us
You don’t have to worry about it


And it is a high kick to the Punt Road end.


We’re huddled in Row R, Level Q of the Olympic Stand. I estimate the snowline to be at Row W. It’s the second semi final of 2018; Collingwood v GWS. An open savanna of a match takes place before us. A 1500 metre race of a match. Collingwood start well, GWS claw back. A field of much space. No time.


The kick leaves the boot and all of us here in attendance discern roughly where it will land. Even in a post-truth world, it is possible to have relatively sound grasps on the concepts of gravity, of force, of mass, of acceleration. Newtonian motion still has meaning. Way up here at base camp all eyes flit to the approximate area on the Melbourne Cricket Ground playing surface, stupendously lit this Saturday night, where the footy may next meet hand.


Every blade of grass is resplendent this night. Every black and white and orange and charcoal player. The yellow footy spins end-under-end towards the Punt Road GWS half forward line. It’s a classic drop punt.


What happens next is one of those moments that brings joy to a life. It is a this-is-why-we-are-here kind of moment. It is perhaps not overstating things to say: “such moments are a reason to live”. For on this bitingly cold Saturday in September, with the wind whipping in from the south west, the next footballer to touch the ball will be Jeremy Howe.


To see Jeremy Howe lining up on the backline is to feel a rush; a rush of youthful expectation; a rush of maybe-just-maybe anticipation (I wonder what he will do today?)


And so far in this cavalier season of 2018; a season of togetherness and of hope, J Howe has marshalled the troops. He has pointed, barked, kicked and run. He has been as reliable as sunrise. He has been sturdy, dependable, admirable, tough. And he has taken a basketful of hangers. Screamers.


Ready or not here comes the drop


The ball spins end-under-end, like so many before it, above the Melbourne Cricket Ground playing surface. Like balls marked earlier by Gordon Coventry, by Harry Collier, by Bobby Rose, by Peter Daicos. Like those marked by Snake Baker, by Peter Knights, by Alex Jesaulenko, by Gary Ablett. The yellow ball spins on, traversing now the highest point of its near-parabolic flight path.


The Giants player has kicked it towards a teammate on the half-forward line. The teammate, M de Boer, will have to work for it as the ball has held up. It’s a high kick.


You feel lucky when you know where you are


At once, time enters a conductor-of-the-full-symphony-orchestra-taps-his-baton kind of viscosity. All eyes are trained, poised. For like a guardian magpie on sentry, Jeremy Howe has awareness of the moment; awareness of the possibilities of the moment. A real and present danger now appears in flight. The one task of sentry J Howe is to thwart an opposition attack.

Skin begins to crawl.


It’s only natural that you should
Feel the same way too


What J Howe does next could be studied by both physicists and mystics for centuries, yet no one would reach a point of full understanding. Theories of classical Newtonian mechanics, balance of probabilities, nutrition, emotional intelligence, the NASDAQ, real estate clearance rates, interstellar rocket flight, and political opinion polls are all child’s play in comparison to the matrix of convoluted equations now solved in microseconds by J Howe; while running, defending.


The footy begins its descent, falling, accelerating towards the centre of the Earth, as always, at 9.81 metres per second per second. The target of the kicker, GWS Giant Matt de Boer. M de Boer could reasonably have expected to have played the role of stepladder at some point tonight. Now his moment approaches.


Now you’ve seen me at my worst
And it won’t be the last time I’m down there


As the footy arcs its way groundward, M de Boer finds himself a little under the ball. Like a wounded gazelle on the Serengeti plain, he must wait. Like a thoughtless man approaching the eucalyptus home of a nesting magpie, he is in more trouble than he realises.


Space shuttles launch with much noise and explosion. Fireworks, too. But as M de Boer checks his stride, he hears nothing. He hears nothing but the sudden intake of breath made by an official crowd of 72,504 people, plus players, coaches and ancillary staff, all with a better view of proceedings than he will ever have.


I want you to know I feel completely at ease


For now, with the footy still an unfathomably long distance from earth’s terrestrial surface, J Howe launches. He is up. He has left terrestrial Earth and is in the lower reaches of the fluid troposphere. Up he goes. The troposphere is the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. Most of the mass (about three quarters) of the atmosphere is in the troposphere. So it is thick. But up he goes. At sea level in temperate Melbourne, the troposphere is quite thick. Still Jeremy Howe rises. “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” was the line from Superman. Well… up he goes.


What is it that allows him to do this? What is it about his body that allows him to spring into the air like upon a pogo stick? Does he have fast twitch muscle fibres? Does he hold an unsurpassed theoretical understanding of da Vinci’s works on flight?


It’s circumstantial, it’s nothing written in the sky
And we don’t even have to try


As if it’s circumstantial, as if it’s nothing written in the sky, as if he doesn’t even have to try, J Howe is now aboard M de Boer, as Michelle Payne was aboard Prince of Penzance. J Howe has no saddle, no race to ride. But he does have a footy to mark. And here it comes.


The 71,504 of us in the crowd see all of this unfolding and we cannot quite understand it. We cannot understand it; neither the physicists nor mystics in our midst. All we can do is issue an involuntary roar. As the ball arrives, J Howe rises to the apex of his leap. Trajectories of ball and human hand meet perfectly in both space and time. He has nailed it. Bang. Marks the footy. Around the Southern Stand, the four levels of the Ponsford, the Members and Olympic Stands, there discharges a kind of explosion of disbelief. It is a vomiting of raw noise, born in a mixture of confusion and celebration.


Internally, thoughts collide:
He marked it!
What a mark!
I don’t believe it!


Externally, we moan, shout, scream.


I am incredulous. Awed. Alive.


It’s circumstantial, it’s something I was born to
It’s only natural, can I help it if I want to? Can I help it if I want to?
“It’s Only Natural,” Crowded House


As are the buds.
“Dad! Did you see that?!”


PIC, Wayne Ludbey – here:



          Bm                               F#m
It’s only natural that I should want to be there with you

          Bm                                       F#m
It’s only natural that you should feel the same way too 


A             D                      F#
   It’s circumstantial, it’s nothing written in the sky

    G                     G
And we don’t even have to try


Read Bruce Dawe’s poem ‘The High Mark’ HERE.



COLLINGWOOD                                3.6    4.9  6.12  9.15 (69)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY            0.2   4.2   7.3    9.5 (59)



Collingwood: De Goey 3, Thomas 2, Hoskin-Elliott 2, Mihocek, Varcoe
Greater Western Sydney: Coniglio 2, Griffen, Himmelberg, Lobb, Cameron, Langdon, De Boer



Collingwood: De Goey, Sidebottom, Howe, Treloar, Maynard, Adams, Langdon, Phillips
Greater Western Sydney: Whitfield, Coniglio, Lobb, Shiel, Williams, Davis



Collingwood: Nil
Greater Western Sydney: Davis (shoulder)


Reports: Nil


Umpires: Chamberlain, Findlay, Ryan


Official crowd: 72,504 at the MCG


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. george smith says

    There’s been some weeping and gnashing of teeth about umpire behavior over at certain Giants’ websites, accusing the Cardinals and the Pharisees of doing a “fix” in order to maximise attendances next week against Richmond.

    These people have little knowledge of the long cold war between the umpires and the AFL’s John McEnroe, but if they did they would know that umpires are like a gambling streak, they disappear when you need them most. The Giants had the rub of the green against the Swans, the Magpies did not. Certainly there were a couple in front of goal this week, but last week the Giants could ream Mr Franklin and nothing happened…

    The reality is that Collingwood wanted it more, as evidenced by the behind count, 15 to 5. Had the Pies kicked straight, the game would be over by half time.

    The Giants’ forwards, Cameron and Greene, played poorly. The other forward, Patton, is in the sick bay. A good explanation why the Giants kicked only 59 points, not a score to win finals…

  2. Beautifully encapsulared. It’s almost in slow motion when you see the potential and await, breathing suspended, the realisation of something magical. From a spectator’s perspective, another song that comes to mind is Carly Simon’s ‘Anticipation’. In this case, the player Howe anticipates the possibility, the crowd anticipates the outcome.

  3. Frank Taylor says

    Fabulous stuff Tall man.
    What a joy!

  4. Ahh george smith – people controlling what they can, going beserk at the things they can’t. Humans.

    Ian – anticipation – exactly. That’s a fine word.

    Frank – thanks. Brilliant moments sneak along sometimes.

  5. Er- I love a piece in which a moment is so rigorously explored. So many great images- the snowline, the conductor, the gazelle, Prince of Penzance.

    I wonder if Friday night will be one of those preliminary finals which then eclipses the grand final.


  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Marvellous ER ! The journey continues and on the wings of Jeremy we fly.

  7. Thanks Mickey – this pointy end is a rare, fabled part of the season.
    I remember attending two Preliminary finals (COL d ADE 2002 and COL d GEE 2010). But never a Grand Final.
    We have an engagement on Friday night. And I have one remaining chance for a ticket.
    I’ll take a read of the tea leaves in the morning.

    G’day Phillip – What a positive and vibrant run this is. Just wonderful.

  8. Thanks ER. Much to consider. Much to celebrate. The high mark is so telling. I used to use Bruce Dawe’s poem in English classes. Now I’d be using your piece of poetic prose as well.

  9. Er- I was at the Punt Road End for that 2002 Crows and Magpies preliminary final. I had a perfect view of Anthony Rocca’s drop punt goal from inside the centre square to the City End. It was beautiful, horrible, astonishing. Looking at it again it was almost effortless in its simplicity. It can’t have covered much less than seventy metres. Although it was half-way through the third quarter, at that point Collingwood won.

  10. Paddy Grindlay says

    I love this.

    Similar to D.Martin’s perfect drop punt from the boundary a fortnight ago. RIght behind it.

    Could he?

    Could he?

    Moments like this make our game.

    Thanks e.r.

  11. e.r.

    Wonderful song you chose to emphasise what J Howe does so naturally.
    In my time, I have seen plenty of players who regularly took big marks,
    but Howe is undoubtedly the best and most regular and consistent of them all.

  12. Beautiful synthesis of the art of N. Finn (Te Awamutu u19s) with that of J. Howe (Dodges Ferry Sharks). I was humming along as he rose through the Melbourne troposphere. Loved it.

  13. A beautiful meditation on beauty, Tall man.
    And Jeremy almost took an even better one in the third term.
    I still reckon Howe’s mark last year on the Queen’s Birthday was one of the three greatest marks ever taken i.e.
    Moorcroft 2001
    Smith 1995
    Howe 2017

  14. And he lit down like a butterfly, ER. As if it was the most natural manœuvre in his kitbag. Which, of course, for him, it is.

    Hope you got a ticket. This town is about to go off.

  15. Luke Reynolds says

    Superb ER. Like J.Howe’s mark. As perfect as “It’s Only Natural”, songwriting and Finn perfection.
    One of your finest pieces. Go Pies.

  16. How does he do it? It’s in the name. Howe. McGovern.
    All Jeremy’s are preordained with an innate ability to judge the arc of descending objects.
    How many A Graders does your team have? How many Jeremy’s?
    AFL recruiters are scouring the birth notices for future prospects. Players are changing their name by deed poll to increase their draft opportunities.
    Jeremy Corbyn will save the UK from the Brexit disaster. There are few better lunch companions than Jeremy Clarkson – just leave before the third bottle.
    You know it makes sense.

  17. These are indeed the moments that keep us coming back.

    Played, E Reg. :)

  18. Love the commentary, all. Love it.

    MOC – “And he lit down like a butterfly…” I like that.
    (no Prelim ticket for me, but that’s fine).

  19. Jim Kesselschmidt says

    Wonderful to read E.Regnans. A real treat and delightful.
    I’m troppo over the troposphere.

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