The Unwelcome Guest

You don’t barrack for Collingwood; you ache for them. Following the Pies is an illness, a lifelong disease with no apparent cure. I go to Etihad then on a bleak winter’s night with few hopes of anything good and the expectation that afterwards I might need a panadol or two.

It’s been a tough weekend. On Saturday morning I four putt two holes at Bundoora, on Saturday night Sam loses the French Open. On Sunday afternoon my veteran’s footy team lose by nine goals. I am playing fullback. My neck is sore from watching kicks of every variety soar overhead. It is simply too much to ask Collingwood to bring a little joy to a luckless couple of days. They won’t. They never do. They are like a seasonal fever that only brings bad tidings.

I go to Etihad with my North Melbourne mate Lofty Launder. After the Roos’ win the previous night he is a bit more optimistic. He has tipped the Pies and Lofty tips well. He takes the emotion out of it. I am a jangle of nerves as we walk through the Etihad gates.

At least this week we have some handy inclusions- the pace of Davis, the nous of Medhurst, the height of Josh and the Mac Truck sensibilities of Leroy Brown will all help our cause. On the other side of the ledger the Dogs are missing Murphy, Akermanis and Johnson.

On our way to our seats we notice a prayer room that is perched high in the Etihad stands. Prayer during the game and confession afterwards are both constant companions for Collingwood supporters. I take note of the prayer room’s location just in case I will need it late in the game. We may need all the help we can get.

The first quarter is a tight tussle. Both teams concentrate on getting their structures right. Leon kicks a handy goal on the quarter time siren to give us a seven-point break. With a week on the sidelines he has re-discovered his spark and enthusiasm.

In the second quarter the Bulldogs struggle to contain the Pies’ run. Leroy gives us a good target at Full-Forward and Pendlebury and Swan both win their midfield battles. Presti keeps Barry to a single first half goal.

Umpire Ray Chamberlain provides the drama. He awards Adam Cooney two fifty-metre penalties and an easy goal (both are probably justified). The vitriol flows down from the stands. The comments fly thick and fast. I hope that if any of Ray’s family are here that they might be hard of hearing and staunch of spirit.
I confess my sins of getting carried away to Lofty at half time. He is the nearest thing that I know to a holy man. He never forgets any of our birthdays and is generous to a fault. He would have made a good minister or priest, but instead works for Magic 927. Lofty takes it all in his stride. He’s heard it all before. His absolution saves a trip to the Etihad prayer room. After words with Lofty I call home. Melissa has five kids under her care (with two extras). I’ll be doing penance by 8.30 regardless of the result.

In the third quarter all prayers are answered as the Pies play crisp, clean football. The Dogs look old and tired. Lofty and I speculate about what they will do when Akermanis, Hall, Eagleton, Johnson and Hudson all leave the kennel. Just as we plot their imminent demise, the Dogs mount a gallant comeback. Hall takes a couple of good marks and kicks two quick goals while Lake is shifted into the forward line. The Pies are one, tall spoiling backman short.

In the last quarter the Bulldogs continue to find their feet. They stop thinking so much; they play on at every opportunity and they charge through the middle of the ground. Cooney is in everything and Hudson dominates the Ruck. Jarrad Grant kicks a brilliant goal on the run after three bounces. The Pies in contrast have stopped.

In the last five minutes I wonder if I should make a quick dash to the prayer room. The margin is cut to ten points. Lofty tells me to settle down. Somehow the Pies manage to hang on. The holy man is right again. But football is a funny game. For three quarters the endeavour is ours, for the last it belongs to the Dogs.

As they sing the song I am hot and bothered.

Barracking for Collingwood is like a seasonal fever; it will not be eased; in the words of the American songwriter Woody Guthrie . . . Collingwood is the unwelcome guest that will not go away. I pray that summer might come quickly.

Collingwood 3.3 8.5 16.7 17.11 (113)
Bulldogs 2.2 5.4 10.6 16.7 (103)

Collingwood: Didak 3, Davis 3, Brown 2, Wellingham 2, Cloke, Jolly, Fraser, O’Brien, Beams, Pendlebury, Swan

Western Bulldogs: Hall 4, Minson 3, Cooney 2, Hill 2, Moles, Boyd, Lake, Stack, Grant


Collingwood: Davis, Swan, Pendlebury, Didak, Ball, Thomas, Reid.

Western Bulldogs: Boyd, Cooney, Hall, Cross, Harbrow, Gilbee, Minson.

Official crowd: 40,813 at Etihad Stadium

David Enticott is the Minister of the Rosanna Baptist Church, who has a love-hate relationship with magpies.

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