It’s a …Collingwood win!

As published in Collingwood’s 50 Most Sensational Games, available at Smashwords.

Round 7 2003

Collingwood   3.2.20   8.7.55   12.10.82    18.6.114
Adelaide          7.3.45   7.4.46    11.5.71   16.13.109

VENUE: AAMI Stadium
DATE: Saturday 10 May
CROWD: 44,706
UMPIRES: McLaren, Morris, Nicholls

COLLINGWOOD
B          Johnson   Prestigiacomo         Lonie
HB      Clement       Wakelin       Woewodin
C          Licuria          Buckley           Williams
HF       Fraser          A Rocca               Burns
F          Tarrant          Molloy            Holland
FOLL  McKee, O’Bree, Scotland
INT     Cole, Shaw, Lokan, Didak
COACH  Malthouse

ADELAIDE
B         Hart                 Bassett             Massie
HB      Torney          McGregor             Bode
C         Bickley           Stenglein        Goodwin
HF      Gallagher          Perrie           Ladhams
F          Johncock          Carey                Burns
FOLL  Clarke, McLeod, Ricciuto
INT     Biglands, Mattner, Crowell, Edwards
COACH  Ayres

BEST
COLLINGWOOD
– Woewodin, Licuria, Tarrant, Buckley, Lokan, O’Bree
ADELAIDE – Ricciuto, Burns, Goodwin, Edwards, McLeod, Carey

GOALS:
COLLINGWOOD
– Tarrant 4, Didak, Woewodin, Rocca, Lonie 2, Buckley, Fraser, Williams, Licuria, O’Bree, Burns
ADELAIDE – Burns, Carey 4, Ricciuto 3, Ladhams, McLeod 2, Stenglein

PRE-MATCH:
After a comprehensive 11-goal thrashing by Essendon in the ANZAC Day blockbuster and a shocking loss to Sydney at Telstra Dome, the Magpies dropped from third to eighth, and the season in grave danger of running off the rails.  So poor was the perceived effort, the words ‘piss-weak’ appeared on the steps of the players’ changerooms during the week.  The Magpies now had the daunting prospect of facing second placed Adelaide at AAMI stadium.

Any confidence gleaned from the Woods’ fine record at the venue, and against Adelaide, was countered by an inability to string together four solid quarters in a single game.  In a bid to inject the requisite focus and confidence, Malthouse presented a well produced highlights package on the team bus on the way to the ground (featuring the previous year’s Preliminary final against Adelaide). Additionally, sensing the enormity of the task and the mood of the group, in the pre-match press conference Malthouse espoused pride in his players in an effort to engender solidarity and belief.

THE GAME:
In his 250th AFL game, Wayne Carey began by taunting the black & whites with two infuriatingly facile goals that required little more than toe-pokes in the square, one of which appeared to come off a Magpie defender’s leg.  Ronnie Burns also saluted twice and Ricciuto once before Fraser kicked the ‘Pies’ first.  Rocca goaled but Ladhams fired through another for Adelaide, followed by a trademark McLeod bomb on the run.  Woewodin scored a late one to reduce the margin to 25 points, but the Magpies were flying very close to the brink.  In Malthouse’s own words Adelaide could have been ‘from here to the moon away’ as 17 clearances to four, and Clarke’s 17 hitouts to McKee’s three would attest.

Collingwood virtually caught Adelaide by surprise in the second stanza when all of a sudden a leaky ruck division was tightened and the work rate noticeably lifted.  Playing positive attacking football led to  Tarrant goaling twice and Woewodin once.  After just five minutes it was ‘game back on’.  The Crows halted the run-on until the 26-minute mark when Didak scored another.  Frustratingly for Collingwood, Carey marked and converted just before the siren to claim a nine point advantage at the break.

Refreshed, Burns, Stenglein and McLeod threatened to take the game away again when they each scored to extend the margin out to 27 points.  As was the trend all night, Collingwood surged once more in a burst of three goals in four minutes via Buckley, Didak and Williams.  Licuria also answered the call to arms with a courageous mark, however Ladhams kept the ‘Pies 11 points at bay with a fine snap.  Woewodin was outstanding in the third quarter with nine kicks in what was undoubtedly his standout game for his newly adopted club.

The Carringbush needed Rocca to make the most of an early opportunity in the last, but disastrously he sprayed wide, and in a double blow, Adelaide swept the ball forward for Carey to revisit past glories – strongly outmarking Prestigiacomo for his fourth.  Ricciuto turned the screws with another for the Crows – the game appearing lost at the 10 minute mark with the difference 23 points in the hostile AAMI Stadium environs.  But by sharking Clarke’s hitouts, Collingwood found a way back, attacking repeatedly.  In a seven minute power play, the Magpies banged on five unanswered goals. Tarrant, Lonie (twice in a minute), O’Bree and Burns fired the shots, earning a seven point break.

The game was far from over though when Ronnie Burns kicked another (his fourth) to halt the tide.  Rocca then executed a nimble and skilful piece of work for a big man, forcing the ball forward under pressure, and almost soccering it through by accident to swing the advantage back to Collingwood.  It was an epic last quarter; McLeod missed for the Crows, Ricciuto goaled and McLeod missed again to hand the Crows a one point lead at the 29 minute mark.  With the game all but lost, Buckley took possession just forward of centre wing and hoofed a long punt forward.  Tarrant judged the ball would fall short (whilst his opponent Hart slipped anyway), enabling him to take a safe chest mark.  One point in arrears, at very least a draw could be salvaged.  But the ‘Pies desperately needed a win.  The siren blared – a tense Tarrant went back and kicked truly, just.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED:
As Tarrant lined up to kick, Rocca’s advice was to firstly make sure he didn’t kick into the man on the mark (hardly a confidence builder), but he eased the pressure by reminding him that even a point would at least ensure a draw. Tarrant focused on his technique.  The shock and nervousness felt by Tarrant before taking the shot was evidenced in the kick itself.

“Towards the end, it started to veer left a bit.  But it just snuck in.  I think I put my hands up pretty early, and the boys were jumping on me.  Then we had a quick look.  But it got in there”, recalled Tarrant.

Indeed, the mostly limp black and white flags and floggers behind the goals gave little indication. With the goal umpire running wide to the post, most Collingwood fans feared the worst.  The two finger signal pricked a 44,000 litre Adelaide balloon, Crow fans deflating as one.  Meanwhile, jubilant Collingwood players piled on each other in the best tradition of baseball’s World Series celebrations.

AFTERMATCH:
Ecstatic Collingwood players mobbed Tarrant, though without Licuria (36 possessions) and Woewodin’s (35) lion hearted performances, the game would have been a whitewash.

Adelaide was left scratching their heads as to how they could lose a game in which they racked up 37 more kicks and 39 more handballs.  Several times the Crows appeared to have the game on toast, but the Magpies’ direct style in the slippery conditions always gave them a chance.  The uncomplimentary words written outside Victoria Park the week before had washed away, replaced on the asphalt by an appropriate ‘Never say die Pies!’

THE HERO:
Chris Tarrant (Collingwood)
Many a Magpie supporter has dreamt or acted out the scenario in their backyard of kicking the winning goal after the siren.  Remarkably, in 119 seasons of football, Tarrant’s cool kick under pressure was the first time Collingwood had won a game in such a manner.  Tarrant enjoyed a blinder of a season in 2003, capped off with All-Australian selection.  Though he had just seven kicks and five marks in this game (the whole team took just 54), four goals on a slippery night for forwards was instrumental in turning the game in Collingwood’s favour.


POSTSCRIPT:
The following week saw Collingwood’s fluky, inconsistent form continue against West Coast; after finding themselves all but out of the game in the first quarter, a Herculean effort wiped an eight goal deficit by late in the third term.  With the four points beckoning midway through the final quarter, the game somehow slipped through Collingwood’s fingers.

After a dismal Round 12 loss to the Hawks, the mid-season break was timely.  Coming back revitalized and focused, the Magpies exceeded all expectations in dropping just one more game, finishing the regular season in second spot.  Excellent form continued through the Qualifying and Preliminary finals, though sadly a number of sensational victories such as this are somewhat tainted by a notorious Grand final implosion against the Lions.

WHAT THEY SAID:
“It’s a…. Collingwood win!”
Commentator Tim Lane builds the tension perfectly as the goal umpire pauses on the verdict. 

“I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.  All I concentrated on was technique, rather than listening to the boos from the crowd and the six blokes standing on the mark.”
The man-of-the-moment Chris Tarrant didn’t allow himself to dwell on the consequences.

“I wouldn’t have wanted it to be anyone on the match committee.  We were all nervous wrecks up there.”
Malthouse at least was happy to have the game rest on Tarrant’s unpredictable left boot.

“I was pretty shaky, actually.”
So was the kick Taz!

“I was so rapt.  It’s what you dream of as a kid growing up, isn’t it?  It’s never happened to me at any level of footy.”
A relieved Tarrant after the goal.

“Their ability to get an advantage play out of the stoppages probably hurt us in the end.  They (the players) obviously feel very, very ordinary.  You give as much as you can and unfortunately we had to be the loser tonight.”
Shattered Adelaide coach Gary Ayres.

“I can’t remember winning after the bell.  I didn’t even see the kick.  I asked myself: ‘Do I watch or don’t I watch?’   And by the time I’d looked up we’d kicked it, so I’m a coward and I’m led to believe it wobbled through, so thank God I didn’t watch it.  To have lost that game when we got in front would have been a real kick in the teeth, I think.”
One wonders how many of the 654,000 watching the game on TV covered their eyes like Malthouse.

“Yeah, actually it’s pretty tough, isn’t it?  I love playing footy but I don’t like to get recognized too much walking down the street.  I try to keep my profile down a bit.”
Being the most marketable player for the most supported club in the country sat uneasily with the introverted Chris Tarrant.

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