The Footy Almanac 2007 Week 3 Finals – Geelong v Collingwood: A night of hope and spirit

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!




Geelong versus Collingwood

7.50pm, Friday, September 21

Melbourne Cricket Ground



FOR ONE WHOLE WEEK, this was the only game in town. In office blocks, schoolyards and pubs, on trams, trains and treadmills, there was a rare consensus. “Should be a beauty.” No need to explain what you were talking about. Two Victorian teams in a hometown Prelim for the first time in six years. One seeking to break a 44-year premiership drought after a barnstorming season, the other a black and white behemoth riding another September roller-coaster.


Tickets were snapped up early, and most bandwagoners were shut out. This was a game for the true believers, the week-in, week-outers. Buy a membership, do the yards, reap the rewards.


The buzzards started circling Collingwood fans (like me) early in the week. “You going?” was the usual opening gambit, followed quickly by “Reckon you can beat ’em?” Of course, they didn’t think we could beat ’em, but they were daring us to suggest otherwise. I developed a standard answer: “Yep, we can. But everything has to go right.”


As it turned out, I had probably set the bar too high. Because while a fair few things did go right for the Pies, plenty went wrong. And yet the final agonising margin was less than a straight kick.


The first event on the positive side of the ledger was fellow Pie Will ringing me at work on Friday afternoon from the Cricketers’ Bar in the Windsor to tell me that a bloke was looking to flog a ticket at cost price. All week I had been dampening my son Daniel’s expectations about attending, his silver AFL membership insufficient currency for a game of this dimension. I rang home to organise his delivery into town and whipped round the corner to hand over the readies.


My Collingwood contingent had set up base camp in the far corner, and was steeling itself for the fight. Cat fan Trev arrived and bought me a yard of beer, as if to symbolise the stakes on offer. Another Cat fan, John Harms, popped in en route to say g’day. How was he? In his word: “Nervous”.


The negatives started as we walked through the gardens, the radio confirming that Josh Fraser was a late withdrawal for the second week in a row. I confess at the time to thinking that we could cover his loss as we had done against the Eagles. Yeah, right! I might not have seen the full Cat catalogue of Brad Ottens, but he surely can’t have played too many better games for Geelong than this one.


The game rarely dropped below breakneck speed, and I scribbled down pressure and pace in my notebook more than once. But among the freeze frames, crashes and snaps, the lasting images are of the Big Cat, Ottens, palming the ball to advantage. Ottens, drifting forward to mark and goal. Ottens, on hands and knees dishing a handball out to set up Max Rooke. Ottens, tossing Ragdoll Richards aside. And finally, Ottens decisively winning a boundary throw in late in the game to set up Gary Ablett…


The second thing to go wrong was Anthony Rocca failing to negate Matthew Scarlett, let alone make a telling contribution himself. Scarlett held Rocca to two marks and four kicks, while launching counter-attacks at will. Inevitably, big Anthony was benched in the third quarter, and a decisive battle in the war went to the Cats.


So, given these two big black holes, how did the Pies stay in it? The first place to look is the back half. With Jimmy Bartel, Joel Corey and Gary Ablett all having good games, the Cats had the better of the midfield, and the inside-fifty count went decisively Geelong’s way. But when Martin Clarke was shifted back onto the dangerous Mathew Stokes, the Pies worked back into the game.


Clarke’s run and risk-taking in the second quarter seemed to inspire his fellow defenders, and Heath Shaw and Tyson Goldsack flung themselves at the footy like fearless stuntmen. Harry O’Brien hustled through traffic and hit targets on a night when that was easier said than done. And Shane Wakelin capped off a fine finals series by keeping Cam Mooney in check. Wakelin’s other two September scalps included Barry Hall and Quinten Lynch, and he ended up conceding only four goals in the three games.


At the other end, Travis Cloke ran and ran until Darren Milburn tapped the mat. The fact that the 195-centimetre Cloke is one of the fittest players and hardest workers at the club is the source of much optimism at Collingwood. In the end, Milburn simply couldn’t go with the big man, and his work in the second half nearly won his side a seat at the big dance.


For the Pies Dane Swan proved more than a handful for Cameron Ling, and Paul Medhurst handled the ball surely kicking three goals under pressure. But the biggest plus of all was Collingwood’s collective refusal to lie down when the Cats appeared to have made decisive breaks.


In the end, though, Geelong found enough answers. Three first quarter goals from Stokes was the equivalent of a night’s work in this game. Steve Johnson had two hot patches on an otherwise impressive James Clement which netted three goals and a silky assist. And with the game in the balance, Ablett converted a high curling right-footer that many others would have sprayed wide.


The siren went with the exhausted Pies mounting one last attack. It had been coming for 25 weeks, but all the same it seemed sudden, as if the music had stopped and we had no chair. Another September campaign had failed to deliver the Grail, but unlike others, this one seemed to be start of something rather than the end. We applauded our heroes loud and long. And secretly we wished the drought-plagued Cats well, because we knew exactly how they felt.



Geelong                4.4          7.6          9.13       13.14 (92)

Collingwood       2.5           6.7           9.8           13.9 (87)



Geelong: S. Johnson, Stokes 3, Mooney 2, Ottens, Kelly, G. Ablett, Rooke, Chapman

Collingwood: Cloke, Medhurst 3, Rusling, Didak 2, Davis, O’Bree, Burns



Geelong: Ottens, S. Johnson, G. Ablett, Chapman, Scarlett, Rooke, Corey

Collingwood: Cloke, Clarke, H. Shaw, O’Brien, Lockyer



Corey (Geelong) 150 games.



McBurney, McLaren, McInerney.



Ottens (G) 3, Scarlett (G) 2, Clarke (C) 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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