As a self confessed Bowiefile, one can’t help but align a certain soundtrack to this mid season Friday night clash between lowly combatants Collingwood and Fremantle.
Drifting into my solitude the stark, desolate soundscapes of Warszawa, Art Decade, Weeping Wall and Subterraneans circled my mind and figuratively around a cavernous MCG ‘filled’ by 20,000 frigid faithful. Not since 1940 had Collingwood attracted so few to an MCG match, when echoes from Berlin similarly loomed large.
With the temperature plummeting to record Melbourne lows, I wondered to myself what in the world was I doing here when I could be camped on my couch with the sound and vision of Lingy, Wayne and Hamish warming the cockles of my heart. Wait, strike that.
My thoughts tracked back to a distant time in 1999 – Eddie McGuire as a freshman President, Nathan Buckley as captain auditioning for the role of beleaguered leader. In the corresponding fixture between these teams in round 8 of a similarly disastrous campaign, the Pies charged to their first win of the season in the same arctic conditions in front of a comparably sparse crowd. That it was celebrated like a final’s victory was indeed a historical low point for the Collingwood Football Club.
Wind the clock forward 17 years and the wheel has turned full circle. The Magpies, inextricably tied to a President always crashing in the same car, have again lost their way.
Still, there was pride and a game to be salvaged, and the young American Mason Cox, who thankfully chose a new career in a new town, provided an early spark demonstrating his soccer instincts to grant the Pies the early impetus.
The Dockers’ gathering, it must be said, somehow out-voiced Magpie fans at the Punt Road end, despite a lowly single goal return by the long break. This said much about the collective mindset of Collingwood’s true believers, now conditioned to bracing for more than just the cold.
At half time the MCG merchandise shop enjoyed a roaring trade. Not only was it the warmest space available for the great unwashed, the fire sale on past used by date Collingwood gear was instructively irresistible. Having snaffled a couple items at low, low prices, I perused the book section. A publication detailing the MCC’s enormous historical tapestry provided more lows; so many personal heroes now in their dotage, too many others having joined Ziggy in the next world. Such is the speed of life.
A hard won 40 point lead at half time was eroded somewhat by an improved Freo effort which extracted more contested ball from the many ugly scraps. Notwithstanding the Pies frittered away opportunities to seal the deal with poor entries into the forward arc.
Early in the final term the Dockers pressed their unlikely claims however Collingwood resolutely and emphatically restored and extended the margin. Treloar, with the omnipresence of Brian Eno, provided the template to underscore an eight goal thrashing. When Travis Cloke channeled the mercurial Tony Visconti and produced a goal in driving rain from 40 metres on the boundary, it was time to party like it was 1999.
So, despite the all the lows and Eddie inspired flak, at least Pies fans could lay claim to 1500 wins in the big league. No small bickies. The thin white duke of the Woods’ defence, Ben Reid, held sway all night and was ably supported by Howe, Marsh, Brown and Williams. Even Maynard and Sinclair performed well. A depleted and mostly awful Freo boasted few winners bar Barlow, Neale, Crozier and Walters.
Missing the 10.35 South Moron train by 5 seconds and the subsequent 20 minutes spent shivering on the platform was rendered almost bearable. Tonight (a rare low in Bowie’s incomparable discography) at least.
COLLINGWOOD 3.4 7.8 7.10 12.13 (85)
FREMANTLE 0.1 1.4 3.5 5.7 (37)
Collingwood: Cox 2, White 2, Cloke 2, Greenwood, Phillips, De Goey, Treloar, Smith, Aish
Fremantle: Pavlich 2, Ballantyne 2, Walters
Collingwood: Treloar, Reid, Smith, Howe, Cloke, Crisp, Grundy
Fremantle: Barlow, Walters, Neale, Crozier, Hill, Collins
Umpires: Stephens, Ryan, Pannell, Mitchell
Official crowd: 20,320 at the MCG