Tin-arse Collingwood have the law on their side

Wednesday night and I’m at the Celtic Club in Melbourne. I love how Australian Irish Clubs, especially the Brisbane one, make you feel like you’re down the road from Bewley’s. I think it’s the crosses carved into the wooden staircases and the blokes in cardigans with soup stains on their ties. The drinkers all look like Robert Murphy after his been on the guinness for a half a lifetime (and Jamieson’s for the other half).

I’m there to enjoy the launch of the second edition of James Gilchrist’s public admission Tortured Tales of a Collingwood Tragic. The publisher (Connor Court) has put together a panel which includes Brian Nankervis (did he play 578 games for Geelong?), Gareth Andrews (still at Geelong), and Nick Dawes (father of Chris Dawes).  I chat with them in front of an audience who know their footy.

We talk Collingwood and why some love them, and why most feel they deserve to be despised. Nick Dawes, who was for a decade or so a History lecturer at Melbourne Uni (in a footy-loving department), and is now an antiquarian book-seller, is in an unusual position. He explained that he was a Cats fanatic until his lad was drafted to Vic Park, an unfortunate twist in a life which till then had sailed on good water.

This has played with his heart, mind and soul. He has wrestled with what it all means, and in explaining that wrestle to the assembled crew used the terms ‘Faustian’ and ‘metamorphosis’, the only time these two terms have ever been used at a Collingwood function. Had he used ‘Mephistopheles’ we’d all have tucked our bats under our arms and gone home. Nick Dawes wore two scarves on the night.

Of course the publisher’s timing was impeccable, the Geelong-Collingwood fixture just a couple of days away. Joffa was there and had his gold jacket with him which he was making us put on using that time-honoured approach of Pie-bullies: “If you really are a good bloke you’ll put this on for a photo.” As I was not prepared to go out into the night with Joffa thinking poorly of me (for fear of dark-alley reprisal) I acquiesced.

It was a really good function.  James Gilchrist made a delightfully original speech in an Eliot Goblet-meets-Shane-Kerrison sort of way. James torture is omni-evident and he has a terrific capacity to communicate it, adding depth to its expression by the manufacture of new words like the verb ‘to Bartel’. (All will be revealed when James’s speech is published at footyalmanac.com in the next few days).

I went home to the family. The Handicapper was reading fan mail. I put the headphones on, out of habit.

I was feeling quietly confident about the Cats on Friday night. Indeed, despite what has transpired, I still think Geelong will win the flag which shows how much the world has changed. With Geelong 10 goals up in the 2007 Grand Final I wasn’t quite convinced, yet here I am now, 4-4 (and 8-9 not out of the question) and I have very few doubts, if any.

Friday passed slowly. The Handicapper and I were guests of TattsBet and Bruce Houston in a box at the MCG – about our second night out since kids. I was wondering whether The Handicapper was going to take notes, which she may have been doing (a very powerful and long memory, The Handicapper), so I need to get my column in before anything else appears. Certainly her debut piece was drawing comment, and it seemed most had believed it.

Bruce’s wife, Justice Curtain, a Bomber fan, was there which I thought was a bit tough on her. She spends all week listening to sordid and dastardly tales which affirm the capacity for debauchery and wickedness in mankind, and then she has to come and watch Collingwood having barely knocked off.

It was a back-lane scrap in the first half with the Cats butchering their chances thanks to Tom Hawkins who was wonderful in the air but was so spooked by the prospects of having to put boot to ball after a few misses that he was looking for the Grand Final hand-off (before quarter time). The Pies were more polished and took theirs. The Cats continued to turn the Sherrin over. Those with a Magpie sensibility were moved to assert that they should have had the game sewn up at half-time.

But this was rubbish.

The Cats got on top in the third, but only after the Pies registered four goals, about four of which were lucky. Then the Cats took over, but posted a series of behinds. Led by a rampaging Selwood who just wanted the footy, they forced the Pies to wobble.  The big blokes were OK in the middle against a plodding Jolly. And Harry Taylor and Corey Enright had things sorted in defence. And yet it seemed every time the Pies got clear they nailed another one. The box was contemplative and a little quiet.

Michael Mangos blamed the umpires, a view which had some currency, but only among those who had invested in the Cats. (The smart money was waiting for Adelaide on Sunday afternoon and such was the confidence from the room regarding that match that the line was eschewed as a coward’s approach.)

I had a lifelong investment in the Cats. I thought they’d find a way to win.

Then Chris Dawes took a mark and went back and slotted the set shot like an executioner.

I felt a strong need to become involved in the game and when Cloke’s behind made the margin 24 points I announced, “Handy point. The Pies may just hang on for a draw now.”

And that’s when it started to turn into a game of football. I’m not saying I was responsible for the Geelong comeback but I invite you to consider what happened next your honour.

Jimmy gets clear and Duncan knows the many precedents  – Bartel v St Kilda (2010). He sprints forward, on to the penetrating pas,s and the Cats have one back.

The Cats lift. Young Stringer also knows the law – Hawkins v Hawthron (2011) and Hawkins v Collingwood (2011) – and shows composure to thread a handball to the big man. Hawkins throws it onto his boot, across his body, and it bends through. Two goals in a couple of minutes and this is on.

Duncan drops a chest mark in the pocket. It’s a tough one, but only in that way that Greg Ritchie could make a skier to mid-on look tough.

Pendlebury goes long to Cloke in one of the few forward thrusts of the quarter and Cloke goals. The Pie fans, nervous, go nuts.

The Cats continue to dominate.

In the frenzy the Pies look to be delaying the inevitable. But they concede a free to Stokes whose set shot makes it by centimetres: the Pies by 11.

I recall a series of misses from Geelong. Bartel. Really? Corey rushes a panicky snap throwing  the footy onto the right when he might have taken another step and kicked with his left.

The pressure builds further. Turnover. In to West who from 30 metres pretty well in front looks like he’s kicking off wet lino.

“We’ll get them in ones,” someone yells. “There’s plenty of time.”

The Handicapper drags me down into my seat.

Enright is a Man City full back. Mopping up and re-loading. Harry has that crazy calm. Leanin’ back on a Mississippi porch, he’d put down the moon-shine to shoot a mozzie off his toe with a .45. He outmarks Cloke. Enright has such confidence his team-mate is going to outmark him he sags off ready to receive the 25 metre handball.

Stokes intercepts but his simple pass to Pods is actually a simple fail and an opportunity is missed. (“Noooo.”)

Johnno runs on to a loose ball and from the flank squirts to the top of the square. Hawkins is perfect position when ‘Boing’ the Sherrin bounces off his chest and finishes somewhere in Jolimont Terrace.  (“Nooo.”)

It’s just a matter of time. From a stoppage in the pocket 15 of Geelong’s 18 are roving the ball-up and 14 of the 15 could kick the goal. But the handball is swatted away by a tin-arse back pocket who, were he a golfer, would be in the middle of shooting 54.

“It’s like watching a silent movie,” someone yells (too loudly). The Handicapper tugs me back into my seat.

Chapman has a shot from 50 and it’s touched on the line. (“Noooo.”)

The Pies are gone.

Motlop flies against two thugs twice his size and brings the footy to ground. Stokes gathers and turns and dribbles one through in a moment which even has the Russian judge holding up the 9.95 card.

Scores are level. We’re virtually home.

But we can’t score. There are groans. We’re dream-running up and down on the same spot.  I am citing Gardiner  and Graham v Brisbane (2004) and Bews v Hawthorn (1989) and what of Ablett v The Universe (1993).

A figure breaks clear, and it’s hooped, and heading in the right direction, until someone yells, “Run Like You Stole Something.” (The Handicapper tugs me to my chair.) This is an idea confusing to the Geelong ball-carrier. However it seems to place the Collingwood players in far more familiar territory. And indeed it appears to be a turning point.

They win possession and sweep the ball to Pendlebury who is running bangs away from 60 and bounces it through.

I still reckon we can win it but we run forward of the footy because now we have to and on the rebound Fassolo marks. As he turns to go, Josh Hunt grabs him. In a moment of weirdness, the law is on Collingwood’s side. On appeal the 50 metre penalty dished out may have been thrown out. However there is no time for an appeal and Fassolo who is a mixture of brilliance and decadence slots the goal home.

I still reckon we can win it.

But we can’t.

The siren sounds.

Michael Mangos looks like the ancient Greek who’s spotted the first Persian.

I grit my teeth. Filthy, rotten, mongrel, tin-arse Collingwood.

This is going to be some year of footy.





About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Rick Kane says

    Speaking on behalf of Hawks supporters who have been hit hard by the Cats granite like composure, time and time again in the last few years, it was quite interesting (even enjoyable) to see the Cats wilt under pressure in the last 5 to 10 minutes of the game. I say this quietly, nervously and with due reservation because the Cats, lately, have been the bear you dare not stir. This game was either evidence of the dying of the light or the dawn rising (again?!) for a team that has been a most honorable foe.

  2. Just got news that Harold, my aged Pies uncle, has died.

    I would not begrudge him last Friday night’s win.

  3. Take note Ramon Dobb…THIS was the game I was at last Friday night!

  4. JTH – I know we lost be we actually won – just like the Pies apparently did in the first encounter of 2011.

    I think the Cats managed 5.12 after half time. Not good enough.

    At least Joffa only had time to wear the jacket for about 32 seconds before the siren sounded.

  5. Tom Hawkins V Josh Kennedy (WCE) from 45 degree angle, 30 metres out – for your life. Discuss.
    Personally I’d take the revolver myself and wander into the night. I couldn’t bear to watch, and at least I’d know I wouldn’t miss.
    As for Mr Harms, that’s now 2 Funerals down. Any news of the other 2 Funerals and the Wedding? The in form Bulldogs, then Giants and Blues (the battle for the gas) over the next 3 rounds should just about qualify.
    Delightful writing. I think the Cats form is getting you closer to that Miles Franklin.

  6. There is a subtle difference between Tom Hawkins and Josh Kennedy. Two premierships

  7. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Jesus you Cats fans can be so full of shit. Take Harry Taylor and Jimmy Bartel out of the side for the last quarter and you wouldn’t have got within 8 goals. Some credit where it’s due JTH….We beat you with 20 men. Stellar performance by the Pies in my book.

  8. Jeff Dowsing says

    Poor Cats. Never have any luck.

  9. The irony is that it is written in the style of traditional Collingwood. Losing but always with an excuse…

  10. John Harms says

    The fan’s voice: always my preferred option.

  11. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Scary stuff Budge. They wish they were like us. Not in this lifetime.

  12. Fabulous Phil,

    there are many things I wish I was but a Collingwood supporter is no one of them.

    Not withstanding that I do love the Pies supporters that the cameras cross to during the telecast. A picture tells a thousand words.

    They are sensational entertainment and it is worth dropping a game every now and again just to watch their cute little dials change from grief to bliss within a mere moment.

  13. Andrew Fithall says

    Yes – Improved writing when from a losing perspective. I look forward to your ongoing development JTH.

    S Wellingham would like it noted that he does not like being referred to as a tin-arse back pocket.

  14. Dave Nadel says

    As usual, John it is very well written but describing the Cats glorious fightback in the last quarter without mentioning the absence through injury of Swan (who had been close to best on ground) and Reid (who had beaten Hawkins for much of the game) is like attacking Gillard’s changed policy on carbon tax without mentioning that Labor is dependedent ón Independents and a Green for government. It just doesn’t tell the full story.Like Phil, I think Collingwood’s victory over the reigning Premiers, when they were two men down (and Pendlebury had some monir injury) was magnificent.

    I think Collingwood’s close victory over Geelong on Friday was very much like Geelong’s close victory over Collingwod early last year. It may well signal a change in the balance of power between the two teams and may even be the first of several victories for the season.

  15. But it was a magnificent fightback Dave.

    If you don’t believe me just check out, that icon of all matters Collingwood and your public face, Joffa’s demeanour for the majority of the last quarter.

  16. John Harms says

    In matters involving Collingwood I have no commitment to reason or balance. This has been complicated over the past decade. While the seeds of this were sown when I was young, living within 3km of Vic Park seems to have had a further influence on how I think.

  17. “We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning, since the world was turning…………………….”

  18. Is where you currently live akin to surviving the blitz in Coventry John?

  19. Phil Dimitriadis says

    While I have enjoyed watching the Cats play footy over the last five years, the same cannot be said for their fans and the commentariat.

    Of course, we are eternally grateful for having Sam Newman bestowed on us, but there is an even more disturbing pattern that has emerged with the rise of Geelong. Some may refer to it as ‘Revenge of the Nerds’.

    Anthony Hudson can barely string a sentence together when Geelong are losing. Gerard Whateley’s intonations have become much more protracted since 2007. Tom Harley is the gayest sounding special comments man I’ve ever heard (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and every girls dry dream, Cameron Ling has become the face of Ch7. Dips used to write about boxing and now he is happy playing with flowers, while John Harms’ tortured genius is happy with Fairy Cakes. It’s been a mildly amusing ride reading about Geeklong, but I get a feeling that the natural order is slowly being restored, thankfully.

  20. That is really mean spirited and hurtful Phil.

    I would rather have Joffa on our side than John Newman.

  21. “icon of all matters Collingwood and your public face, Joffa”

    Now that is mean spirited and hurtful Phantom! Although it is true CFC/Ed encouraged this, for some incomprehensible reason.

    Joffa or Sam is bit like choosing between Craig Thompson or Christopher Pyne to be on your side.

  22. Just have a feeling that the 50 to Fasolo came before Pendles kicked the goal to seal things good and proper.

    But I guess as always that 50 was tin-arse, while the two given to Geelong for equally valid reasons weren’t. Sometimes it appears the umpires actually have to apply the rules, I know it’s hard to understand but it’s true.

    Sorry Catters can’t have things always going your way, even if the video review system seemed to mysteriously come up their way, when only the boundary umpire had any idea of the ball.

    It is perplexing that Joel Selwood only got 2 frees for, and none against this week, well below his normal averages.

    Ah well, blame it on the tin-arse, and that when Scarlett and Wojo are back things will all be better.

  23. Dave Nadel says

    Actually it’s not. When Joffa isn’t being a clown for Collingwood he is a hard working, fair minded youth worker. When Sam Newman isn’t being a clown for Channel 9 he is an entitled, sexist, arrogant, self indulgent upper class t***. Even if I barracked for Geelong I think I would have the taste to prefer Joffa.

  24. Dave Nadel says

    My previous post refers to Jeff”s post rather than Lucas’s

  25. Phil – I’ve never written about boxing. You might be referring to my book called “Everything You Wanted To Know About The English Box Hedge”.

    Sold in all good book stores.

    God bless.

  26. DBalassone says

    Aside from all the banter above re this game, one theme that I think deserves a mention is the way Collingwood have been able to find goals in tight games when they have looked gone over the past few years…

    e.g. 2009 1st semi final vs. Adelaide after late Tippet goal
    2010 Grand Final vs. St Kilda after Goddard heroics and Saints storming home
    2011 Prelim vs. Hawthorn after Franklin seemingly kicked the winner (and one of the goals of the year)
    2012 Anzac Day after Bomber comeback and late Stanton goal

    I think you can add this game to the list. The Pies looked gone, yet somehow found a way to win. A good sign.

  27. Andrew Fithall says

    On one of the many AFL shows on channel 504 last night, there was a segment on the umpires – on their preparation, and on the review process. I think (I cannot be sure because the truth is almost unfathomable), in one of the incidents, the reviewer Rowan Sawers, suggested there should have been a free kick paid to Chris Dawes. It didn’t happen. But it is getting close. One day. Soon.

    Note – this wasn’t from the game just gone. It was at least two weeks ago. He still hasn’t had a free kick, but I can feel it in my bones…

    Dips – I think I have seen your book. It was very thin.

  28. John Harms says

    Joffa is a ripper.

  29. It was indeed a relief to win against the Cats. It was indeed a relief to do so with Swan and Reid down and Pendos on one leg – who booted two magnificent on the run goals during the match.
    But, for me, there was a sense of concern. Not for Swan’s hammy nor Reid, but for the fact that we may have used all of our luck up against Geelong when we face those bloody Crows this week.
    I hate…losing…to….the….Crows.

  30. Jeff, Thomson and Newman for me every day of the week over those other too. Christopher Pyne? Eeewwww

  31. Interesting banter above.

    I must confess to really enjoying Friday night’s clash. Neither outfit were playing at their best but the contest was fierce. Simply put, other than West missing that sitter, all other Cat shots in the last quarter were under extreme pressure so credit please to the Pie defence. Swan had had 26 touches by 3 qtr time so he was a massive hole in our rotations.

    Then there is that small matter of the last two Pie goals……and something about good sides winning close ones.

    Love the cheap shots taken at Pie fans. We could all point out the rather unfortunate looking fan in the outer or the rather irrational, red-faced fan screaming at the umpy after paying a free that was dead-set there. Whilst I agree it’s a bit nasty to indiviidualise, sticks & stones…..

    JTH is confident that Cats will salute again and he may well be right as it’s pretty open. Will need to overcome a couple of jittery defenders first & find some help for Selwood before his body breaks down. A few of the greats are clearly slowing down also but still lethal with the footy. Wouldn’t want to lose too many more over the next 5-6 weeks

  32. I knew I was there Bakes (the rather unfortunate looking fan in the outer) but my brother (the rather irrational, red-faced fan screaming at the umpy after paying a free that was dead-set there) didn’t tell me he was going.

    Well spotted.

  33. Jeff Dowsing says

    Fair point on Joffa Dave, he has been doing a lot of community work for some time. And he also served as a great stepladder for me in a CFC intra club fansite game at Vic Park about 10 years ago!

    I was more so alluding to the bogan stereotype that is perpetuated. And I also recall the pre-yellow jacket days when Joffa’s exploits at the footy were a little more off beam.

  34. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Yes you did Dips. Here is the proof: Farewell Smokin’ Joe and There is hope.

  35. Rick Kane says

    Joffa is also the Manager for one of the Melbourne City Wrestling stars. Get along to Thornbury Theatre next time it’s on and you’ll get to see his antics (he thinks they’re theatrics) close up.

  36. Danielle says

    Team Dave!

  37. Phil – they weren’t scriblings about boxing they were about the human spiriit.

    BTW – the luculia was pronounced dead by the Coroner on Tuesday morning.

  38. Dips, re: Luculia, probably for the best. It’s no good watching a prolonged suffering – from both the plant and the gardener. Is the rabbit OK?

  39. More morts than Midsommer Dips.

  40. Cookie – Basil is fine. I’m distraught.

  41. bowchamp says

    ‘fraid the result was worth it, chaps, just to hear that cheeky young character Fasolo being interviewed on the the national broadcaster afterwards.

    Hearing the glorious phrase about ‘.. dacks being packed..’ by a chuckling whippet restores my faith.

  42. Why does Greg Richie’s name pop up in an articles that uses the word “pies” all the time?

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