Friday Night Footy 360
Ever since the shock loss to Sydney ended the Cats four year unbeaten run at Kardinia Park last week all and sundry have been declaring “Geelong are wobbly”, “The Cats are vulnerable” and “Hawthorn are now the biggest threat to Collingwood”. Funny how they seem to have forgotten that we’ve beaten Hawthorn twice this season and are the only team to have beaten the Magpies. Or that the Swans were playing with the extraordinary motivation around Jarrad McVeigh’s tragic loss. Oh well, low expectations = less pressure.
I seem to be the unofficial spokesman for the Cats at work; everyone directs their comments about Friday night’s big game to me. “Yes I’m going”, “No I’m not worried”, “Yes Collingwood are a good team”, “We’re in with a chance” etc etc. There are a sprinkling of other Geelong fans on the buses but I seem to be the only one who goes every week. I can’t understand why Cats fans wouldn’t go to the footy every week, especially when we win so often. After 30 years in WA I’m making up for lost time and loving it.
Expecting an 80,000+ crowd I wanted to get there early but the traffic put paid to that.
Favourite Daughter, Sport Boy and I headed up to Melbourne after work/school, with a detour to Footscray enroute to drop off a sign I’ve just sold on ebay. The detour earned me $40 and cost us an hour and a half in travelling time! As we crawled through the city I finally gave in to Sport Boy’s constant requests for food and drink. The kids got out at the corner of Elizabeth and Flinders streets to buy a Boost Juice while I continued my snail like progress in the car. They caught up to me by the time I reached St Paul’s.
We parked and headed for the ground and were pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t very full inside. We chose some good seats on the flank in the Great Southern Stand. Then the trouble started. Turns out our seats belonged to someone else. So did the next ones we sat in, and the ones after that!! Turns out in fact that our memberships didn’t get us a seat like they have for every other game this season and we were consigned to standing room on level one! Not impressed. I listen to SEN all day every day and I didn’t hear any mention about changed seating arrangements for this game! While all this was going on the game had started and Collingwood started kicking goals while Geelong decided to kick behinds!
Finally JPod crashed into a goal post but held the mark and kicked our first. Or so I thought! After finally finding a viewing spot I discovered that an interchange infringement had seen our only goal so far taken off us! Things were not looking good.
Then a miracle happened. Tom Hawkins flew high over the back of a pack in the goal square and pulled down a screamer. He confirmed the miracle by kicking the goal. Two late goals and we were back in the game despite our inaccuracy.
5 points down at quarter time.
Then the second miracle occurred. Geelong played a quarter born in heaven, The angel Menzel lead the charge. The Cats were slick and superb in attack, fierce and fanatical in defence. Goal followed goal and by the end of the term the Cats had slammed on ten and set up a 50 point lead. Chappy, Bundy, Wojo, Varcoe, everyone was on fire, the run through the middle was electric, the tackling was ferocious, the pressure was relentless and the Pies had no answers, they were fumbling and crumbling and left in the Cat’s wake.
Considering the circumstances it was as good a quarter of football as I can remember and by the end of it I was exhilarated and breathless. This was the Collingwood machine we were dismantling, the flag favourites being belted from pillar to post. It was fantastic.
Going to the footy is a multi-media experience these days and I was swapping texts with excited Cats fans around the country.
Darlow, who loves Geelong but seldom gets to games because of touring commitments was enroute to a gig in Albury and loving the ABC call of the game.
We traded excited superlatives about various Cats players who were starring. Darlow is a glass half full man and has been spruiking a Geelong premiership since before the season started. He may be proved right.
The Heir warned me not to say anything because the game wasn’t live in WA and he didn’t want to know any scores. How hard was it to not text him in big bold capitals. “THE CATS ARE ON FIRE” at half time?
St Steve was in WA too but following it live on radio and sharing in my joy even though as the name suggests he’s a St Kilda fan. There’s something about the common hatred of Collingwood that unites us all at times like this.
Chris the self-confessed chardonnay sipper had taunted me earlier with a “Go Pies” text but we reached an amicable agreement that whether it was my Cats or her Eagles, anyone was a better choice for premier than Collingwood.
Broady had been in Melbourne during the week but stuffed up on booking a flight that would enable him to stay in town for the game and regretted not being there.
And Julie, the biggest Cat fan in Kojonup shared my joy.
I could have sent a message to Warren, a Perth based Magpie fan to rub it in a little but I try not to be too obnoxious in victory.
I was impressed with the brief text from another Magpie mate, Russell: “Oh dear!”
I replied “R U here?”
“Sadly, yes” came his melancholy reply.
Just as the Cats domination reached its crescendo the commentators and sceptics started making excuses for Collingwood. “They’ve got nothing to play for”, “They’ve put the (proverbial) cue in the rack”, “They’re not playing Collingwood football”, “They don’t care”, “It doesn’t matter” etc etc. OK, there may be some truth in some of that, but they were pretty interested in the first quarter when they kicked the first four goals and Pendlebury and Beams had 30 disposals between them. By late in the second quarter neither had added a touch to their tally and the Cats via Kelly and Bartel had completely shut them out of the contest.
In a week where another Kelly’s bones have been rediscovered, the under-rated Cat midfielder proved again that resurrection was possible in the post-Ablett era. Meanwhile, the “kittens” were running amok. By the end, Menzel had kicked a career high five goals, several as a result of strong contested marks, Mitch Duncan was having his best game of the season and little Bundy Christensen kicked three and left no doubt that in the battle for small forward spots, Stokes and Byrnes would be fighting for the scraps.
David Wojcinski is one of the oldest players at Geelong but still one of the fastest men in the AFL. At one stage in the second quarter blitz he burst through the centre and sold the perfect dummy to an on-coming Magpie before his handball at speed lead to another Geelong goal, it was audacious and breath-taking football. Varcoe was cutting swathes through the Pies in similar fashion.
By the time the mercy bell went at half time the Cats were 8 goals up with half the crowd celebrating and the other half scratching their heads in shock. Fleeting pictures of forlorn Joffa and fuming Eddie on the big screen were the icing on the cake for Geelong fans.
If there was any thought of a Collingwood fightback in the second half it was snuffed out by a Tom Hawkins goal in the first minute of the third term. Geelong kicked four for the quarter, Collingwood two but in the last the blitz continued six to one in Geelong’s favour.
By the last quarter the kids and I had evaded a zealous green-coat and found some seats in the midst of the already departing Collingwood members near the scoreboard at the city end.
Each Geelong goal triggered another wave of evacuations and by half way through the last term the ground was only half full. There were still plenty of fans in blue and white left to sing the song at the end. Wojo kicked our 22nd goal after the siren and “We are Geelong, the greatest team of all” echoed around the stands of footy’s great cathedral.
Sure nothing had changed on the ladder, or in the finals line-up next week, but something had definitely changed in the psyche of both teams. Losing by a record margin a week out from the finals is not the way Collingwood hoped to enter the September battle, no matter how much spin they try and put on it.