Saturday, 30 August 2003

They never even sent a card

On the verge of the AFL finals I think it's time to reflect on the day I helped Collingwood win the 1990 Premiership. Yes I, as a 9-year-old, helped the Pies to their first flag in years.

1990, the first year of the AFL under it's new name, was an odd one. Round One featured the Brisbane Bears winning and Hawthorn beating Geelong in the Grand Final rematch by 125 points. Next week North Melbourne would score more than two-hundred in a 121pt victory over the hapless Tigers. Ludicrous scores were the order of the day almost weekly, you barely ever see a team crack 150 in a game yet thirteen years ago it would happen every round. Essendon finished the home-and-away season as minor premiers and earned the first finals week off. Melbourne and Hawthorn would clash in an elimination final (The Demons would beat the Hawks for the second straight week) and Collingwood would play West Coast at Waverley. This is where I come in.

I've got no idea why I was there that day, I think the guy from school I went with must have been a Collingwood fan or something. Given that the only other memory I have of this guy is that we once played Double Dragon II on my NES and he lived near the old Camberwell tip we can't have been that close friends.

It was a close game all day. Collingwood by 5 at quarter-time, 12 at half-time and 2 at three-quarter-time. They were kicking to the scoreboard end during the final term and were clinging onto a one point lead deep in the last quarter when the ball was driven inside the Eagles 50. Peter Sumich took a grab deep in the left forward pocket and was lining up his kick when the final siren sounded. We'd been standing right up on the fence in that pocket all day, and now with the scores level and time elapsed one of the top goalkickers was standing a few feet from us lining up one of the most important kicks of his career. How did we react? With a sense of awe befitting the occasion? With respect for the enormity of the situation unfolding in front of us? Hell no, we started abusing the bastard with all we had. I can't remember exactly what was said, I'm sure that I wasn't as foul mouthed then as I am now so it was all probably pretty weak ("You're a very stupid stupid head man!") but the desired effect was had and he missed the kick causing a draw. You may note I'm conveniently ignoring the fact that it was a ludicrously hard kick and instead claiming victory for Victorian football on my own behalf but you'll have to live with that. The crowd of 57,546 (thank you AFL Tables) fell silent and a replay was scheduled a week later on the same ground.

We then proceeded to ransack the belongings of the Eagles cheersquad as they were having a kick on the ground afterwards. The rolls of stickytape I flogged from them that day were still being used in my household well into the middle of the decade. Sadly the big wooden pole I flogged was slightly less useful and spent most of it's last few years sitting next to our fridge waiting to be used for something.

I've never actually seen the game since, but if the camera angle focuses on him in front of the crowd you'll surely see me hurling some fairly lame abuse at ol' Pete.

The Eagles had enjoyed the last of their luck by forcing a draw and lost the replay by 59 points. They went on to beat Melbourne by five goals in a Semi Final at their third Waverley game in three weeks before losing to Essendon in the Prelim final. The Pies faced off against the Bombers a week later in an October Grand Final, punched on at quarter-time and ended up as 48 point winners.

So, Collingwood's 1990 Premiership could not have been possible without me. Sadly I've never been able to engineer the same sort of result for Melbourne, although I did cause Tony Modra to kick ten goals in a game for Fremantle during 1999 by specifically requesting to his face that he didn't do it an hour before the game and I informed Shane Woewodin he was going to win the Brownlow halfway through the 2000 season to which he responded "Nah, not this year" and proceeded to win the thing, play a couple more ordinary seasons for us and then get traded to, conspiracy theory alert, Collingwood.

Maybe *hint* Essendon will *hint* lose their first finals game by a record *hint* margin this *hint* year?

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