The willing and the wounded weave a way to the big day



escapology n. methods and technique of escaping esp. from captivity, confinement in box etc.


Yes, this was a great escape for the Pies, and we make it through to the finale by the skin of our teeth.


The record volume of FPS email traffic pre-match said a lot about the excitement and anxiety of the Pies being in a prelim final in 2011.  A win would mean that we were going to the big dance for which our ticket had been marked all year, while a loss would mean a season with unprecedented expectation washing down the gurgler, nothing to be salvaged.


We started the game well with lots of pressure in a tight, hard contest and led the forward entries 15-7 at one stage.  We weren’t able to convert this early ascendancy into a meaningful lead due to a combination of Dawes’ shocking miss, our sub-optimal ball use going forward and the Hawks’ desperation.  Jolly, Dawes, Blair and Taz all started well, with the star midfield trio of Swanny, Pendles and The Mop well held.  Goals to the twin towers, Travis and The Beast, suggested that if we could get the ball often enough into the right spots they would be a handful for the undersized Hawk defence.  The sight of Reid going into the rooms before the first break and Didak warming up was a disturbing one.  My humour was further tested when a defensive lapse seconds before the siren meant that we trailed by a point.


The Hawks were employing tactics very similar to the blueprint used by Ross Lyon (remember him ?) in Grand Final Mk I.  They used a third man up at stoppages to great advantage, pushed their defensive numbers wide, used their precision passing to cut into the centre corridor and their spare defender was on the end of many of our forward advances.


The second quarter was one of our worst for the season.  We displayed no run and no confidence when we had the ball as the Hawks got on top on the back of a pair of goals from the freak who is Buddy.   They were out-Collingwooding us, as they made tackles, broke tackles and generally strangled our space.  Swan and Ball got right into the game, but our second-tier midfielders/small forwards Wellingham, Beams and Krakouer were largely unsighted and Pendles’ influence was limited.


If the second quarter was bad for us, the third quarter should have seen us read the final rites as the Hawks continued to work harder, use the ball better and pile on the pressure when we had the ball.  We made a string of errors.  Neither ruckman made it to a half-forward line throw-in which resulted in the Hawks taking the ball the length of the field for a goal.  Maxy thought he heard a whistle, stopped, and soon did hear one.  Pendles switching pass was smothered, Harry took the wrong option trying to mop it up and we were on the ropes.  Some missed set shots from the Hawks kept us in the match, as did goals from each of the twin towers.  Travis got on the end of our best piece of play for the night, as Heater was brave enough to cut inside the Hawks’ numbers to hit a running Blair who provided the perfect pass, close enough for even Travis to not be able to miss.  Swanny and Ball were outstanding and Taz continued to do a great job on Buddy.


At three quarter time the hope was that our week off would pay dividends and we would find some run that the Hawks wouldn’t have.  I’d be lying to say it was expectation, it was firmly in the hope category.  The underdone Didak came on to replace Beams who had been invisible and now has one goal in seven finals.  Trailing by three goals when we had only kicked five meant that the first goal was non-negotiable.

The last quarter was an epic, one of the great quarters of finals footy.  When the Beast put us on the board after an early miss to Travis and some nervous moments at the other end we were close enough if good enough.  Leon’s pearler a minute later meant that all of a sudden we were within a kick and had the momentum.    Some sloppy checking and the greater will of Hodge gave the Hawks a steadier, but they looked tired, and Sidey was providing some much needed run, and Swanny, Ball and Pendles were prominent.  Our backline had got on top, with Maxy playing his usual mopping up role as the spare, and Heater, Taz and the impeded Reid forming a nearly impassable wall.


Swanny snapped truly from a tight angle from the pocket to take it back to less than a kick, and then Travis imposed himself on the game as good players do. He continued to cover huge ground, marked and most importantly kicked truly when it counted to give us the lead for the first time since early in the second quarter. I reckon that we tried to defend the lead, which was very optimistic given that it was only just past the twenty minute mark.  Big Jolly hobbling off was a further worry.  When Buddy dribbled through one of the all-time great goals with just under four minutes to go, it looked like another entry might be required in our already lengthy chronicle of finals disasters.  I reckon that there are the best marks and goals, which are purely a measure of degree of difficulty and skill and then there are the great marks and goals, which also take into account the fuller context of when they occur.  By this criteria, Buddy’s goals goes alongside, if not past Daics’ 1990 Qualifying Final miracle, while Leo Barry’s mark stands alone, at least during my lifetime.


The tired Hawk had made some defensive errors in the last quarter – Schoenmakers getting caught with the ball, Guerra touching a Travis kick that was headed out on the full, and when Schoenmakers dropped an easy mark, the resultant ball-up provided Ball the opportunity to be the hero for the second time this September.


The last few minutes were breathtaking as exhausted players willed their bodies to one more contest, and then another.  It was the stuff of footy legend.  The Mop, who’d had a forgettable first three quarters in his return from suspension, had lifted during the last quarter and his effort to run down Rioli was match-saving.


The siren meant an explosion of vastly contrasting emotions. There was massive relief and more than an element of disbelief for the black and white with shock and numbness for the brown and gold.  I have no doubt that they were the better side on the night but they didn’t put us away when they could have.  Mick’s post-match tears were an indication of the pressure of the coaching game and the handover scenario.


I simply don’t know how players sleep after such a match.  After a futile attempt to sleep, I got up and watched the last quarter on replay on Foxtel before grabbing a few hours sleep and awakening in time to watch the full replay at 7am.  When I went outside to grab the paper before the replay started it was grey and overcast, and it was one of the most beautiful mornings of my life because somehow we are in another Grand final !!!!


This year is very different from last year when we went in hot favourites and in great form and fitness.  Our recent form has been average, Jolly and Reid will struggle to come up, and we have several others underdone.  As I write this report we are the only team in the GF so it’s a great position nonetheless and our blokes won’t suffer from lack of effort.  Their ability to hang tough in both of the finals and find a way has been remarkable and an absolute credit to them.  Hopefully some of the shackles of expectation will now be released.  We have a lot of potential upside.


Selection will obviously depend both on who we oppose and how the injured blokes come up but it’s reasonable to assume that there will be some major dilemmas.  Beams and Didak will have nervous weeks.  I’m very keen for Fasolo to play, despite his poor game against the Cats and lack of meaningful footy since.  He has run which we desperately need.  Goldsack and Wood are the obvious replacements if Reid and/or Jolly don’t come up.


I know that the haters will say that they are glad we won so that we can lose next week, but we’re in with a chance and I reckon the ride you get as a Collingwood supporter is truly magnificent.  Let’s enjoy the week and GO PIES !!!!


The Tony Woods medal goes to the bloke who gets the 3 votes at the Horsburgh medal dinner.


Floreat Pica



  1. Thanks Steve, a well balanced, in-depth report (and that’s from a Hawks fan, still sighing). One small omission I would like to pick you up on though. Any report on last night’s heroic battle must include mention of Mitchell’s game. For three quarters he was the Hawk’s clearance magnet and the Pies worst nightmare.


  2. Thanks Rick

    Yes, agree that Mitchell and Lewis were outstanding, the latter has stepped up to just below the elite midfielders, while the former has been in that class for a long while

  3. Thanks Steve,
    some worrying things with injuries and off-field drama (Mick’s handover) but I think we’re a better side than Geelong, even though they beat us both times this year. If we bring our A game we’ll roll em.
    All that’s left to say is GO PIES!

  4. Perception is a funny thing. If the Cats outplay the Magpies this week, as they have done twice this year, and also beat them, as they have twice this year, will Collingwood still be the better side?

    Your game plan and our game plan are diametrically opposed. If both bring the A-version of their games, then its impossible to know who will win, but it will be a beauty.

    For what it’s worth, the Cats play a bit like Hawthorn, except that we keep kicking forwards rather than sideways which keeps the pressure on. If there is no open player forward then we’ll kick long to a contest and take you on. Its exciting stuff and I can’t wait.

  5. I hope that Jolly and Reid are fit, also Stevie J and that Podsiadly is not pinged by the MRP. I want this game decided on the field not in the Medical Room or by the Tribunal

  6. Hawks were magnificent on Friday, and they should have won. If I was a Hawks fan, Bateman’s ears would have been burning; his 3 HORRIFIC turnovers in 3 minutes on the wing were ABSOLUTELY unforgivable for someone of his supposed skill and experience.

    Having said that, I think the best thing for football was Collingwood winning. I think the Hawks had run out of petrol tickets and the GF may have been a rout if they had got through. I think the Pies still have plenty of petrol in the tank as do the Cats.

    Bring it on!

  7. Steve, Paul Luby here. enjoyed the article. grand final week is a bit less stressful for me and my family this week. Both teams have beaten the saints in the last 2 years, so I really don’t care who wins. Cheers

  8. Hi Loobs

    Good to hear from you. Would love to read your thoughts on that enigma of a club, the Saints. All sorts of wacky trade rumours going around this week, surely 99 % of them are wrong.


  9. Steve, happy to describe this year as just another rich chapter in the history that is the StKilda footy club. There is probably a good movie based on 2011!!. Saints probably do have salary cap problems (money that maybe should have been spent on the ex-coach) so Pelcham will have to get to work. Have a sense that Goddard will take the money from GWS at end of next year. GWS have not spent all their cash just yet!! Good luck for Saturday.Lubes

Leave a Comment