The Recurring Dream


Every once in a while I have this dream. It is April 1990. The light is always the same. The last waves of summer have passed but there is still enough warmth to obfuscate the chill in the air. Footy season has commenced with its majestic ephemera and hyperbole. I’m part of a team. I’m wearing number 25 and playing Centre-half-back for Collingwood at Victoria Park. The opposition is unrecognisable. It doesn’t matter. I feel part of something special, something real.

In 1990 I was 20 years old and at the peak of my powers physically. I was tough too. Not George Smilovic tuff, but Zurbo tough. I used to fight Maoris in pubs for the fun of it. The only inconvenience was that I had to put down my VB and Winnie Blues to do so. I was a Greek-Australian with a bad mullet and nothing to lose. My future was bright, possibility was endless. Pleasure and pain fucked each other senseless in every fibre of my being and the polarity of these extremes always felt good. The feeling was something to aspire to; where love and hate collided; where darkness and light respected one another’s power and danced together in full awareness of their strengths and weaknesses.

Yet, I was also part of a team that I cared deeply for. I would line up next to Ron McKeown, Gayfer, Kerro, Kelly, Christian and Banks. Millane would nod and wink to me knowing that if I got possession I would invariably find him on the Members’ wing in front of the Ryder Stand.

Footy in my dream is different. There is no violence or thuggery. No profound herculean conditioning that compels me to prove my man hood. My role is to get the ball and help pave the way for others to ice the victory cake. In real life limits were to be disdained, stretched and realigned. In my dream, I know my place and am grateful to have that opportunity. I dream of living the dream that others dream to live for.

The crowd is a blur, but it is there and the prevailing feeling is one where even if I just play this one game alongside my heroes at Victoria Park and help them to victory, life would mean something.

One game at Victoria Park, on a winning team. As a child that was one of my most powerful wishes. I cared not for Premierships or individual accolades as long as I felt connected in some concrete, meaningful way.

The dream is related to my love of Billy Picken and his role in those lost opportunities between 1977-81. He was one of the best players in every one of those losing finals. It broke my heart to see Billy deprived of a Flag when he took on and beat players like Maclure and Cloke. If anyone deserved a taste of premiership glory it was Billy. Sure, he ducked his head often and got some soft frees, but he never shirked and always seemed to punch above his weight and play beyond his natural ability on the biggest stages.

I had a soft spot for Ronny McKeown for the same reason in 1990. He was the sort of player I would be like if I ever got the chance to take the field. He was honest, yet also had the knack of doing something special when his team called for it. He would go forward and kick a goal or two against the run of play. I saw him take on and break even with Plugger on a few occasions, which was no mean feat. He played 20 games in 1990, yet was dropped for the Grand Final. When Channel 7 pretty boy Michael Roberts cornered him for an interview after the game Ronny was all about the team and being relieved that the ‘monkey was off the back’. You could tell that he was in pain. He wanted to be part of it, but he put the best interests of the team ahead of his own glory.

My footy career never amounted to much. I played a year at Preston RSL in 1983 and represented Northcote High School in the Herald Shield in 1985-86. I was nothing more than a slow-witted half-back who could take a big grab, kick a solid torp and shepherd my more skilful teammates through the corridor of darkness.

Twenty-one years on, I sit and write this with Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ meandering through my head.

My arteries are slowly becoming calcified, my body is beginning to ache and the once great army that was my head of hair is but a sparse peace-keeping force.

Nowadays I smile at Maoris and teach young adults from war-torn countries, whose dreams are much nobler than mine. Yet, everybody has to dream and everyone’s hopes are not devoid of meaning. I feel fortunate, blessed even, that footy has given me the chance to dream about life and that life has given me the chance to dream about footy.


About Phillip Dimitriadis

Carer/Teacher/Writer. Author of Fandemic: Travels in Footy Mythology. World view influenced by Johnny Cash, Krishnamurti, Larry David, Toni Morrison and Billy Picken.


  1. John Butler says


    I also think fondly of those Collingwood teams of that era.

    But probably for different reasons.

    And I can empathise about aches.

  2. Damo Balassone says

    Love it mate. I too have a recurring dream about making my debut at Vic Park, except that I am wearing a long sleeves jumper which stretches over my hands and thus I can’t grip the ball properly.

    I too live in that 1977-81 world of joy, joy and then ultimate despair. It must be in the psyche of all Pie supporters 35 an over. Picken gave everything in those Grand Finals, although I do remember Clokey kicking a few goals in ‘80. The guy I really feel for is Tom Hafey. What he did with those sides was remarkable. In fact a quick history check reveals he coached his teams to 10 grand finals in the 1967-81 period. I know he won 4 flags with the Tigers, but to a delusional 8 year old kid at the time, Tom Hafey was Collingwood.

  3. Phil – very nice way to end the week reading something like this. As usual I need to read your musings more than once to take in their full meaning – that’s my fault not yours. Interesting that in your dream the game’s result doesn’t matter either.

    Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” is truly one of the great pieces of music written in the modern era (ie post about 1950). The guitar work in it is unsurpassed.

    By the way, I’ve always tended to smile at Maoris.

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Thanks boys.

    JB, those losses to Carlton in 79 and 81 made an already angry young man even angrier. I’d love to see us play the Blues in this year’s GF and thrash them. If we were to lose though, I’d consider leaving Australia for a couple of years. I couldn’t stand it.

    Damo, Billy was moved forward in 80 and kicked three goals, leaving Cloke to run riot in the second half. You’re right about Hafey’s Heroes. An ounce of luck and just one flag would have given Tommy and Collingwood a totally different history. 81 hurt the most, top most of the year, beat Carlton twice and lost the big one. Heartbreaking.

    I only realised after posting this that Ronny McKeown also wore number 25 in his first few years.

    Dips, Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ had a profound affect on me as a teenager. The movie and the soundtrack is wonderfully constructed narrative of a bloke looking back on his childhood to find what it all means in middle age. The Gilmour/Waters partnership produced some the best music and lyrics ever played and written.

  5. Dave Nadel says

    Excellent post. I am about twenty years older than you which meant that although I was at 77(both games), 79, 80 and 81 and they all hurt, none of them hurt as much as 1970.

    In ’77-’81 we had the best coach and a pretty good collection of players but they were not definitively the best team in the VFL. We could have won, in 1979 we should have won, but we had no right to assume that we would win.

    In 1970 Collingwood had the best team (in relation to its peers) that it fielded between 1930 and 2010. Yes, Carlton’s Jesaulenko and John Nicholls were brilliant, but Collingwood’s twenty was better than Carlton’s twenty. Much better. The fact that the Pies lost in1970 took years to get over. 1990, when we probably weren’t the best in the competition helped, but it probably wasn’t until 2010 that Collingwood supporters coul really feel that order had returned to the Universe. My dreams have inproved in the last twelve months, Lord Bogan, how about yours?

  6. Dave Nadel says

    Speaking of not reading posts, it wasn’t until after I had posted that I read Phil’s response a second time and realised that he was “Lord Bogan.” I don’t think that changes anything that I posted above.

  7. Phil,

    Comfortably Numb is taken well on a slow boat (rusty cargo boat with few passengers) to China lying on a deck chair with a soft pitch in the balmy South China Sea in 1974. Very soothing.

    The experience reoccurs every time I hear the song but it was not a dream.

    I hope you saw Roger Waters perform it at the RLP in 2007.

  8. Phil, a stereo type and politically incorrect but the Australian Greeks I went to sholl with couldn’t speak English properly let alone write it. Your description of yourself as a 20 year old reminded me of them.

    But a wonderful piece of writing. Well done.

  9. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Dave, I’m glad I didn’t witness 1970. I have seen it DVD a few times, but the hurt is not the same as say 79 and 81. What was it like after 1970 in the media compared to today? Could you imagine the dissection and analysis if a result like that occurred today? And yes, my dreams are improving. In February I dreamed that we beat Carlton in the GF by 88 points. That would heal some old wounds.

    Phanto, sounds like a fascinating story. Would love to hear more about it one day. Didn’t get a chance to see Roger because I don’t like his stuff without Gilmour. I feel the same about The Smiths. Morrissey without Johnny Marr is hard for me to listen to.

    Pete, seems those Greeks you went to ‘sholl’ with might have been a real bad influence…

  10. Skip of Skipton says

    According to Eddie McGuire’s famous aphorism: ‘If you used to barrack for us, you never did’, then I never barracked for Collingwood. Except of course, I did. After the 1984 prelim, however I didn’t. It was time to move on. I am here because of the Footscray Football Club. My parents met at a dance there. I should have been a Footscray supporter, my fathers family were all born and bred in the ‘scray and my father had his business there, in Irving St close to the ramps. A twist of fate that saw my cousin recruited to Collingwood in the year of my birth had me following them however. I remember as an 8 year old being at the first grand final in ’77. All of us, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters in a big group on the lower deck of the old Southern Stand. I remember sitting there before the game in the bright sunshine thinking that I should have worn shorts instead of jeans because it was quite warm. The next memory is of 3/4 time and the expectant mood of victory. Fast forward 10 minutes and a very different mood had materialised. All I recall of the last 20 minutes of that game was everybody in the crowd around us were standing up and screaming. My cousin Jackie and I just sat there the whole time being too short to stand up and see, wondering what the hell was happening. It was an exhilariting experience and a touch frightening. Collingwood were cool as in the Hafey era. By 1984 we had moved to Geelong where my mum came from. By this time Billy Picken, Rene Kink, Peter Moore were gone along with many other favourites and my cousin had been pensioned off at the end of ’81. John Cahill and the ‘New Magpies’ just weren’t doing it for me, and the ’84 prelim was the straw that broke my camel’s back. At this time also in Sleepy Hollow there was this footballer everyone was raving about. Geoff Ablett’s youngest brother. You had to go and watch him play! The rest is history. My recurring dream this year has been Geelong rolling Collingwood in the big one and the sour look on Eddie’s fat face. Eddie who sais that Collingwood will never change their jumper. Except that Eddie did change their jumper. He has them wearing Swan Districts jumpers. He makes North Melbourne wear Argentina jumpers when the play Collingwood, despite the fact that there isn’t really a clash to begin with. Not since Collingwood started wearing Swan Districts jumpers, anyway. Go Cats!

  11. @Phil..LOL I saw that spelling error as soon as I pressed enter! Was hoping it would be overlooked!

  12. PS. I’m doing some of the Greeks I went to school with a disservice by exaggerating. Eg. I went to school with Spiro Malakellis who went on to play for the Cats and he was pretty sharp academically.

  13. Steve Fahey says

    Great piece Phil

    I agree completely with Dave’s comments re the 1977-1981 era and the pain of 1970. I was only 8 in 1970 but was at the GF and lived the pain vicariously thru my father’s anguish.

    I can see clearly now the rain/pain has gone…

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