The Footy Almanac 2007 Week 1 Finals – Collingwood v Sydney: A big night at the office

The first printed edition of The Footy Almanac came out in 2007, before we had a website. In the absence of a real 2020 season, we will be publishing the 2007 pieces for the first time ever on Follow the season!




Collingwood versus  Sydney

7.30pm, Saturday, September 8

Melbourne Cricket Ground



THIS IS THE MODERN WORLD. People can’t just wander around where they want to anymore. Thoroughbred racing returned to Flemington after nearly a year, but temporary barriers kept punters at a safe distance lest they be loaded with vials of equine flu. Half of the Sydney CBD was locked down to enable APEC world leaders and The Chaser to roam the streets unchecked.


While Sydney horses were turned back at the Murray, 22 of their finest footballers made it through security at Tullamarine, choc-full of confidence after their thumping win over the Hawks in the last home and away round. Waiting for them at the MCG, for the second time in 15 days, were the Magpies. Sixth versus seventh in an Elimination Final that would send the winner to Subiaco to meet the Eagles and the loser on its end of season trip.


I spent the afternoon at Flemington puzzled. Was it a good thing that the Pies had already beaten the Swans twice in 2007? Or bad thing? The money had come for Sydney all week, just as it now came for Apache Cat to prevail in the newly coined Makybe Diva Stakes. The white-faced Cat was gallant as always, but Perth raider Marasco gunned him down near the post. My Saturday sporting timetable was tight, so I headed off before the last. As I crossed the Maribyrnong Buddy Franklin drilled the Crows out of the finals. Two favourites already down the tube – a good omen. Perhaps.


The Swans had brought back Barry Hall to resume the wrestle with his demons and Shane Wakelin. Tadhg Kennelly and Luke Ablett were the only significant absentees for the visitors. The Pies were as close to full strength as they could get. Sean Rusling, Alan Didak and Josh Fraser had all recovered from the short-term niggles that had kept them out of the loss to Adelaide.


The sight of Rusling, Anthony Rocca, Travis Cloke, Nathan Buckley, Dale Thomas and Paul Medhurst making their way down towards the Punt Road to take up the six forward slots helped to alleviate some of my lingering pessimism. Or maybe it was the three quick pots that I managed to drain at the London Tavern before my son Daniel tugged at my sleeve. Either way, it looked to be a winning formula.


The Swans started brightly enough, with Adam Goodes bounding around like Marasco and Nick Malceski kicking the first goal after a Scott Burns indiscretion shifted him 50 metres closer. But Collingwood’s first goal set the tone for the night and sparked their best opening quarter for the year. Fraser defied the odds by running down a charging Leo Barry, and the turnover ended with a long Cloke goal that summoned the black and white army into the fray.


Collingwood’s early tackling was ferocious, and at least three of their six first quarter goals were attributable to forwards harrying an uncharacteristically uncertain Sydney defence. Rocca led the way, his first quarter slate recording a big tackle on Craig Bolton which finished in Cloke shooting for goal, five marks (including one running back with the flight to halt a Sydney attack) and two goals.


Alan Didak showed moments of cocksureness, with a signature semi-fist pump to celebrate an angled left foot finish. Burns and Pendlebury combined to turn a ball-in into a goal. And right on the siren, Rusling kicked straight after barging through two Swans to collect a perfect Leon Davis pass.


The quarter-time margin was 31 points, and ABC radio prematurely launched into a Swan eulogy. Inevitably, the Harbour Constrictors lifted their game. Brett Kirk, Jude Bolton and Malceski joined the galloping Goodes to win some crucial midfield ball. Nick Davis was held to three kicks for the night by Jimmy Clement, but two of those were second quarter goals in the midst of the Swan revival.


Buckley worked himself into the game as the tempo lifted, twice finding the fast leading Rusling with pinpoint passes. But the Swans kept coming, and the game appeared to be turning on its head when Rocca clutched his knee after a marking contest late in the quarter. Goodes swept the ball forward for Jude Bolton to mark on the siren, and he converted from just inside fifty as Rocca limped off.


The half-time stocktake was not promising. The Swans were back within two goals, Goodes was running rampant, and Rocca’s further participation was in the hands of the doctors. On the upside, Hall was being subdued by Wakelin, and the Swans were struggling to find the right match-up for Rusling for the second time in three weeks.


The Magpie ledger immediately improved after the main break when Rocca jogged out seemingly unencumbered. Michael O’Loughlin slipped clear of Tyson Goldsack for the first goal of the second half, but the Collingwood response was instant and clinical. Cloke found Rocca with a cleverly disguised kick, and the big full forward nailed the most important goal of the game from near the boundary line, outside fifty.


Four unanswered Magpie goals followed. The quarter-time margin was restored. Continued forward pressure produced a goal to Dane Swan and then Rocca took a big grab in the goal square, dishing off to Rusling in the excitement. Tarkyn Lockyer picked out Cloke for another, and when Rocca kicked his fourth late in the quarter the margin was beyond five goals again.


A sub-plot of the game was Sydney’s failure to seize control of the ruck. Darren Jolly had virtually no influence, and Spida Everitt’s quiet night became a dirty one when his defensive goal square tap one minute into the last quarter gave Cloke his third. Guy Richards had more than held his own at centre bounces and around the ground, and contributed to a lopsided clearances count in favour of the Pies.


The last quarter became a curtain call for Collingwood’s elder statesmen. The loudest roar of the night was saved for Buckley’s set-shot goal, which sent the Pies home. Then Rocca iced one of his finest games for the club with a one-handed mark and goal from outside fifty.


Football-wise, Daniel and I were sated. We snaffled our six victory donuts and headed home through the park. We were content with the world.



Collingwood  6.5  8.9  13.12   18.17 (125)

Sydney  1.4  7.5  9.8  13.9 (87)



Collingwood: Rocca 6, Cloke, Rusling 3, Didak, Pendlebury, Davis, Swan, Buckley, Medhurst.

Sydney: O’Loughlin 4, Davis, Malceski 2, Kirk, Fosdike, Schneider, J. Bolton, Hall.



Collingwood: Rocca, Wakelin, Cloke, H. Shaw, Pendlebury, Richards, Rusling.

Sydney: Goodes, Malceski, Kirk, O’Loughlin, J. Bolton.



Bolton (Sydney) 150 games.



McBurney, Stevic, McInerney.



Rocca (Coll.) 3, Goodes (S) 2, Wakelin (Coll.) 1.






For more Round by Round reports of the 2007 season click HERE


Printed copies of The Footy Almanac 2007 can be purchased HERE.



2007 Footy Almanac

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