PC sledging and a ripper game at Cramer Street

As published by The Footy Almanac, 4 June 2013

After Collingwood’s tumultuous, humiliating week, not even victory over old nemesis Brisbane on Friday night could restore my faith in footy as one of life’s more pleasurable distractions.

Put simply, it was laborious, painful viewing.  Thankfully the thunder and rain drowned out the commentary, notwithstanding the Benny Hill soundtrack would have suited the visual.  The game’s only redeeming feature was the performances of the Magpies’ vertically challenged younguns Kyle Martin, Ben Kennedy, Jamie Elliott and relative giant Paul Seedsman.

So I tuned into the ABC broadcast of the Collingwood v Northern Blues game at Preston City Oval on Saturday hoping for something, anything, to ‘stoke the stove’ (as per Jock McHale’s favourite expression).

Three observations immediately warmed my heart.  The big glue pot in the middle, the Northern ‘Blues’ donning the red and white to honor their Bullant legends, and the People’s Beard taking his place for the ‘Pies, as if a time traveler from a distant star called VFA 1976.

Actually, there were four things that held my interest.  Peter Donegan is surely one of the most underrated commentators going round, as anyone who can recall his classy call of Sally Pearson’s Olympic triumph would attest.

Sadly the umpires were determined to ruin the contest.  I can only deduce they’re paid by the free kick in the VFL (double rates for 50m penalties, if ya don’t mind).  Seriously, the flouro orange uniforms should attract enough attention to preserve vital ego levels.  If I was the umpires director I’d have packed them off to Preston Market to buy the ¾ time oranges (only 99 cents a kilo) and given the old birds from the deli their whistles.

Be that as it may, the see sawing contest was enough to compel me to shed my couch potato state at half time, slip on the Asics and run on down to breathe in the vintage footy atmosphere.  I wasn’t to be disappointed either.  A fair gathering filled the grandstand, the City of Darebin notoriously populated by many a ‘Pie and Bluebagger.

The game opened up enough in the third quarter, although it was tough going in the pack stalemates in which the umpires viewed with a forensic eye before eventually whistling relief.  The Magpies clicked into gear with Jackson Paine putting in another solid application for a ones gig whilst man mountain Jarrod Witts stunned everyone with a deftly executed banana goal from the fence.  Despite a long one after the siren to give the Woods a psychological seven point edge, the Blues  – in red but by now muddy brown – appeared dangerously capable of overrunning the inexperienced black and whites.

Is it wrong to judge a man by his hair cut?

Haircut sledger
‘Sledger brings a smile to the security guy’s dial.

After recent events it would take a spectacularly stupid spectator to vilify a player by their race, though one’s girth, if not their perceived sexual proclivity, is still kosher according to Harry O.  With swearing also on the way out, there’s not much left in the serial sledger’s armory.

One raspy voiced Magpie stereotype found a loophole in the third quarter, targeting Blues full back Matthew Watson’s haircut.  To Watson’s credit, he didn’t turn around once, though conceding a couple goals didn’t help his cause.

So to the all-important last term and Sledger, clutching his VB, followed his mark to the other end of the ground.

Sure enough, Witts kicked another one.  Then a spill from a contest near the goal square precipitated another.  The ‘Pies looked home.

“Nothing but a haircut Watson.  Your goal haircut.  Nice haircut goal Watson.  You’re useless Watto.”

Still Watson refused to bite, though an exhasperated teammate defended his right to a fabulous ‘do.

As I feared, the Northern Blues came back and quickly wiped a 20 point deficit to hit the lead.

“C’mon ‘Pies, don’t make me look like a dill now!” cried Sledger.  By then even the security guard was wetting himself.

Via a slick chain of handballs, defying the gloom and gloop, Collingwood made one last foray in the direction of Witts and ‘the haircut’.  Witts showed fine agility in scooping up a low mark and even better composure nailing the 40m shot to give the ‘Pies the lead, and the follicly fascinated fan more ammunition.

The siren sounded and over the PA a generous BBQ fire sale was announced.  My faith in football, at least at a more down home level, was restored.  I ran home with a spring in my step.

Northern Blues   4.5       9.7       12.7       17.9 (111)
Collingwood         3.4       7.8       13.8     17.12 (114)

Northern Blues: Laidler 3 Dorman 2 Lincoln 2 Dale 2 Wilson 2 Totevski 2 Temay 2 Bransgrove Meese
Collingwood: Paine 4 Witts 3 Allan 2 Corr 2 Broomhead Hellier Oxley Ferguson Heagney-Steart Yagmoor

Northern Blues: Lambert Lincoln Davies Wilson Laidler Duigan
Collingwood: Hudson Witts Allan Broomhead Yagmoor Mangoni

Umpires: Larry, Mo, Curly
Ray Shaw Medal: 3: Ben Hudson   2: Jarrod Witts   1: Sledger
Unofficial Crowd: 2000



10 Comments Add yours

  1. James says:

    “They’re blowing the pea out of the whistle! ”
    (Old Jungle Saying)

    Phil (it’s not all about me..but could be) Cleary interviewing
    Witts after the game. Comedic.
    Clipboard (true!) in his upstretched hand still didn’t reach much past
    the big man’s deltoids.
    Witts (graciously) stooped…

    ( nice work. EFP )


    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Thanks James – I missed Phil (it’s not about me..but could be LOL) Cleary’s interview for obvious reasons but I’ll check it out on iview.


  2. pubs says:

    Was the best game I saw all week. The AFL served up a load of junk this round.


    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Thanks Pubs – and for directing some traffic my way.

      Reminds me of what we miss since the old reserves curtain raiser was ditched. Even the NRL, Super Rugby and A-League all have curtain raisers still. It would be terrific if the VFL can build a decent audience reminiscent of the VFA’s heyday – send a message to the AFL.


  3. ev425128 says:

    Jeff, I watched on TV what you saw live – having missed the first half. Need to adjust the telly – I thought the Blues were wearing orange. Nice touch, Blues – Dad played for the Bullants and (of course) they were my VFA team growing up.

    I agree entirely with your description of the game. It was a pleasure to watch a close, hard-fought match in suburban conditions. The skill-level was an order of magnitude higher than what we suffered on Friday night, and these were our kids, playing in mud. The lead-up to the final goal being a perfect example.

    From Hudson’s mark, baulk, play-on, handball to Witts’ mark and finish the movement was slick, precise and expertly executed. [in the mud]. From a viewer’s perspective it was risky, heart-in-the-mouth exhilarating.

    The match was a credit to both teams, and despite the umpiring. And Listening to Donegan calling it was a treat – the best in the business by a country mile.


    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Thanks for taking the time to post your kind comments Ev. Preston was my team growing up too, it was both a nursery and then a retirement home for clapped out ex-Pies after all! (btw, what was your Dad’s name?)

      I can only vaguely remember the VFA’s heyday though, when they played the Grand Final at the Junction Oval and Port and Preston were the power sides. I reckon the great GF of 1990 when Billy Swan kicked the winner was almost like the last hurrah.

      The VFL has created a nice little niche though and might be in for a resurgence, borrowing the best of the old VFA & VFL comps and doing away with the compromised plastic crapola that is the AFL these days.

      I like Donegan because he just calls it as it is (eg crap umpiring) and understands the game – no repetitive hyperbole – but also light hearted as well. And a Pie supporter what’s more.


      1. ev425128 says:

        Same vibe with me, Jeff. I watched VFA as a kid on Sunday morning at my Grandmothers’ place. I wasn’t forced or encouraged, but the red of Preston, Port and Coburg always drew my attention and support.

        When I found out that Dad was a Prestonite the glue set.

        Dad was William (Bill) Hayward. He may be in the archives somewhere. His iconic footy story, though, doesn’t involve Preston.

        He was listed with the Collingwood U/19s, and was selected as 19th man. But he was captain of the Reservoir/Lakeside U/18s, who were playing their grand final that day. Wear the black and white on the bench with a chance of playing at the G or captain his local team in the GF?

        He did the right thing, but is wasn’t a good career move.


      2. jeffdowsing says:

        That’s an unbelievable dilemma Bill found himself in Ev. Geez, I hope his team actually won the GF! Reservoir Lakeside is just a couple drop punts from where I live, I often go down for a look with the kids/dogs. Sometimes big Ant is playing for them, Presti had a couple seasons recently as well – good standard and similar vibe to VFL. My boy has just started Auskick aligned with the club.


  4. Godsman says:

    Sledger must be my long lost Uncle….how good was it seeing mud – forgotten what it looked like – not seen since I lost a boot in the bog in the magoos at Ballarat in 1989…


    1. jeffdowsing says:

      Ha, I thought there was an uncanny resemblance Godsy – especially the green metallic object grafted onto his hand!

      Did you ever recover the boot? Should be mounted and placed in the National Sport Museum, or at least your mancave!


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