He could have stuffed it up five different ways, the lanky Yank, receiving the ball in space forward of centre with the game on a knife’s edge. Had Mason Cox grown up sharing a Sherrin in Langwarrin I reckon he would have overthunk the options. The pressure and adrenaline of the moment would have won out.
Maybe an embarrassing ‘Joe the goose’ handball over Varcoe’s head for a behind… Or a hesitation and kick into the oncoming Cat defender, or similarly an intercepted handpass. As it was, instinctively, if not awkwardly, bouncing the ball from a great height and taking the shot himself, on the run, had disaster written all over it.
But there was something in the air this day which foretold Buckley’s 2016 Magpies finally taking flight with the requisite desire to fight through multiple Geelong challenges.
Even within the unremarkable opening ten minutes there were signs. Hawkins missing a dozy, Motlop one he’d usually mop up, Collingwood’s suffocating pressure. Reward for effort finally came in the form of Jesse’s stumble trip toe-poke, a classy Pendlebury snap on his wrong foot and a couple quick ones from ‘F-A-S-O-L-O, Fasolo was his name-o’, as the lads standing at the Ponsford end are wont to sing.
Even when Varcoe tore down the Phil Manassa flank (without tearing his hammy again), tugging the shot slightly left to the major disappointment of many, Geelong weren’t out of the woods. Treloar, followed by a Crisp finish, had the flag faves in unfamiliar territory, wondering who would be their Cat in the hat with tricks to extricate themselves from this fix. But with the respite of the siren in sight another Jesse White kick was alright. An inconceivable 44 point deficit faced the hoops.
An error of judgement saw your correspondent dare to relieve himself at the change of ends, losing his possie in the one public ground level section in the Olympic stand. Never mind, there’s a greater buzz at Preston Cemetery than where I was sitting.
The second term stalemate was broken when Motlop bananaed one through, followed by a Menzel roost. Collingwood hit back via Pendlebury and Crocker slotting tight set shots at length. Duncan posted a quick reply, though the Cats could have easily cut the margin right back if not for inexplicable whoopsies that included a Dangerfield shot that was more Rodney than Paddy in its execution.
The third quarter mirrored the second – Geelong doubling up, Collingwood squaring up, and the Cats getting one more to edge just that little bit closer. Besides the usual suspects Sidebottom, Pendlebury and Treloar, the marked improvement of Howe playing back, Greenwood (again stifling Selwood) and Crisp, in addition to a man-on-man adjustment to Buckley’s job endangering zone defence, all had the ‘Pies cooking with gas. Notwithstanding, the mobile seven foot behemoth Cox has been a revelation, redefining the parameters set by beasts who’ve grazed on League fields since Polly Farmer was a boy.
Hawkins had awoken from his slumber in the third stanza and was proving too physically strong for an improved Frost in the last. By the sixth minute four unanswered goals had Collingwood in more trouble than Peter Dutton’s publicist. Now, just 8 points to the good, a brave kick-out up the guts and a sprint to the Punt Road end saw the ball materialise in Grundy’s mitts within a matter of seconds.
Darcy Moore provided more relief after a cool mark and even cooler conversion preceded Mason’s moment that will be indelibly etched in my memory, and what might remain of the half-drunk diehards around me. Even the comatose customers camped in M57 might have awoken from their own version of sleepy hollow.
The golden autumn rays began to fade but not before de Goey belted another at the stunned Geelong cheer squad behind the goals – Blair claiming the assist with typical hard nosed persistence.
Was this memorable win a flash in the pan or a sign of things to come? Time will tell.
COLLINGWOOD 7.5 9.5 11.7 16.8.104
GEELONG 0.3 3.7 6.10 11.14. 80
COLLINGWOOD: Pendlebury 3, Fasolo 2, White 2, Cox 2, Grundy 2, Treloar, Crisp, Crocker, de Goey, Moore
GEELONG: Hawkins 4, Lang, Menzel, Caddy, Duncan, Stanley, Motlop, Smith
COLLINGWOOD: Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Treloar, Howe, Crisp, Adams, Grundy
GEELONG: Lang, Bartel, Hawkins, Enright
UMPIRES: Dalgleish, Jeffrey, Ryan
CROWD: 59,864 at the MCG