The Footy Almanac 2007 Week 2 Finals – West Coast v Collingwood: Unbearable phone updates all night

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!




West Coast versus Collingwood

6.45pm, Friday, September 14

Subiaco Oval, Perth



WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT MELBOURNE is the acknowledgment by much of its citizenry that sport is merely an extended branch of the arts. The city’s musicians, writers and performers are as passionate about their footy teams as they are about their creative lives.


This acknowledgment is largely unspoken because, locally, it is unremarkable. In the deep north, it’s a different matter. When my parents took me to Brisbane as a teenager, I soon understood that in Queensland, sport was for bogans, art was for poofters and never the twain should meet.


Tonight, the twain can get knotted. I’m at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival, where I’m to launch a book by local novelist Venero Armanno. This is an honour, but I’m torn, because where I really want to be is at home, watching Collingwood take on the West Coast Eagles at Subiaco.


I call my Gold Coast Bulletin buddy and fellow Collingwood tragic Nick “Maxwell” Smart. Nick’s a keen text messager when the Pies are at play, so his mission is to work the phone while I work the crowd. I would fill in the blanks via the replay later. Nick’s first message arrives before the match has even started. It is not a happy one.


Fuck. Fraser out, Bryan in. Fuck.


Collingwood’s lack of quality ruck options is a perennial source of angst among Magpie fans, still raw from the sight of Brisbane behemoth Clark Keating serving it up to a young Fraser in the 2002 and 2003 Grand Finals. Without Fraser tonight, the Magpies were reliant on the efforts of former Carlton reject Chris Bryan and injury-prone beanpole Guy Richards, who one internet wag says gets pushed around more easily than a skeleton in a science classroom.


But West Coast have injury worries of their own. Chris Judd’s groin and ankle problems have finally got the better of the champion. Ben Cousins had done his hamstring the week before against Port Adelaide. Daniel Kerr was nursing a broken finger. The Eagles might have had the biggest home ground advantage in football, but they were also battered and vulnerable.


Collingwood’s success in 2007 is based on a refinement of the hard-working, hard-tackling game plan applied by Mick Malthouse in those 2002 and 2003 teams. Now, Malthouse has a much more talented team at his disposal, but rather than employing a more attacking method, his charges are taking defensive pressure to a new level.


Having beaten Sydney at their own game the last four times they’ve met the young Magpies were the team to torment the Eagles. The match opens in a frenzy and immediately, the relative strengths of the teams are apparent. Cox is the dominant big man on the ground, while in defence Darren Glass is far too good for Anthony Rocca. But without the breakaway speed of Judd and Kerr and the run of Cousins, the Eagles struggle to break free. Collingwood hang tough in the clinches.


5 mins left in first term. Eagles are 4 behinds to us 3. Tight. But Meddy just kicked the first! 9 to 3


In a stalemate, it’s fitting that the first goal comes from a clanger, although it’s surprising that it comes from Cox, who puts the ball onto Paul Medhurst’s chest from deep in defence. It’s a significant early victory to the Magpies and to Malthouse, whose side is already forcing the match to be played on its own terms.


Up 11 to 4 at qtr time. Should be more ahead. Had more chances. Tight and hard.


The second quarter is punch and counter-punch. Shane Wakelin, who otherwise has an error-proof game on Quinten Lynch, gives up a handball to the opposition that allows Cox to make amends for his earlier misdemeanour. Andrew Embley gives the Eagles the lead after bouncing his way down the wing; Dane Swan, already having a big say, snatches it back after being set up by Dale Thomas.


The lead changes another three times before the Eagles open up a 10-point break in the shadow of half-time. But Collingwood aren’t going away. In the dying seconds, Leon Davis – fresh from laying four tackles in 15 seconds – bursts free on the 50 and sends the ball to the teeth of goal. Rocca gets his first stroke of luck when the ball spills on to the back of his boot and rolls through for a goal.


35 to 32 down at half time. More of the same shit. You know the type of game it is. They woke up this quarter.


It’s a curious game. In the second quarter and for most of the third, Cox is the most influential player on the ground, both in the air and as a link man across half-back. Lynch wins a rare battle with Wakelin to kick a booming goal and it looks like the tide is running out on the Magpies. At ground level, Matt Priddis is doing the work of his three missing counterparts; his early claims to best-on- ground honours are strengthened when he gets on the end of a chain of handballs to drill the Eagles’ seventh.


15 down with 12 mins left in 3rd. We are trying but conditions to their advantage.


Malthouse doesn’t panic, even when David Wirrpanda makes James Clement pay for another backline clanger. He continues to rotate his men through the middle at a furious pace: Thomas, Davis, O’Bree and Swan. Late in the third, two moves from the coaches’ boxes change the course of the match: John Worsfold rests Cox and Glass, and Malthouse puts Alan Didak on the ball. The combined effect is electric. Didak’s brilliance gives the Magpies polish going forward, while Travis Cloke, fighting a pitched battle with Adam Hunter, marks in the goal square. Rocca, finally free of Glass, kicks two in a minute.


Was down by 22 with 5 mins left in 3rd and we kicked three late goals to be 3 points down at the last change. We are coming mate!


The last quarter is a repeat of the counter-punching theme of the second. The Eagles look to be running out of legs, but even in the absence of their front line midfielders still have silk in reserve. Mark LeCras, dangerous all night, wins a soft free in front for the Eagles to break clear again. Nick’s text messages begin to keep frantic pace.


Hands in the back rule is a crock of shit. Fuck! 10 down with 14 mins left


The Eagles have the run of play again, but can’t put Collingwood away. Swan raises his game another notch. Medhurst, reinvented into a tough team player by Malthouse, finds some of his old opportunism and slots a goal out of nothing on the fifty-metre arc. Didak outpoints Embley on the flank, dodges around another opponent and sends a low ball scudding through.


DIDS YOU STAR! From 50 on run. Up by 2 with 8 mins left.


Not surprisingly, it’s the older players struggling. Nathan Buckley, of all people, kicks a ball straight down Mark Rosa’s throat to see the Eagles back in front. But these are no longer Buckley’s Magpies. All Collingwood’s drive is coming from its younger stars. Another fierce Leon Davis tackle sees the ball spill to Medhurst, who spots up Thomas. He converts. The feeling is growing that this match isn’t a conventional one; that it might, in fact, never end. Embley and Glass blow late chances to snatch an Eagles win. The match finishes in a melee, 36 players fighting over the Sherrin.


Draw. Extra fucking time.


Collingwood are in the van now. The longer the match goes, the more their extra running depth and crazed attack on ball and man tell on their opponents. With a minute to go in the first half of extra time, they execute the best team play of the night: a Rocca spillage and a Didak bump, followed by another slick handball from Medhurst to Bryan.


6 points up at half time of ET. Unbearable to watch. U r lucky


The Eagles are out on their feet. Collingwood’s future is symbolised in two huge last-gasp plays that seal the game: a chip over the top from Irishman Marty Clarke to a running Scott Pendlebury, and a five-bounce run down the wing from Thomas resulting in a Swan goal, a fitting reward for an astonishing individual performance which included eight possessions in extra time.


Pendles! Home! And Swan on siren! Won by 19


It’s that final run from Dale Thomas I won’t forget – an 80-metre sprint, hair streaming behind, and after finally disposing of the ball, the camera briefly flashing back to the young star as he collapsed with exhaustion. Wherever Collingwood go from here, you can bet their fans will never die wondering. Not, at least, as long as Nick Smart carries a mobile phone.



West Coast          0.4           5.5           8.9           10.12     10.13     10.14 (74)

Collingwood     1.5          4.8          7.11       10.12    11.13    13.15 (93)



Collingwood: Rocca 3, Medhurst, Didak, Swan 2, Cloke, Thomas, Bryan, Pendlebury

West Coast: Wirrpanda, LeCras 2, Cox, Embley, Fletcher, Lynch, Priddis, Rosa



Collingwood: Swan, Didak, Lockyer, O’Bree, Pendlebury, Cloke, Wakelin

West Coast: Priddis, Cox, Glass, LeCras, Rosa, B. Jones



McBurney, Ryan, McInerney



Swan (Coll) 3, Priddis (WC) 2, Didak (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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