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?
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