GIVE up? It doesn’t cross TERRY BROWN’S mind as he launches a raid on the TAB:
THE Pies have got a bit of a wobble up.
Well, ok, more than a bit. There’d have to be a bouncing castle in the Holden Centre gym, right?
After a stellar season of moral victories and brave defeats, Saturday sucked worse than a 20-buck vac.
The skills on display gave me flashbacks to my own playing days, 20-odd (some very) Saturday frosty Horsham mornings leaving fingernails in some resting ruck’s back.
The Pies coughed it up like a consumptive and turned it over so well Pancake Parlour scouts have started sneaking into the rooms.
So, what can you do? Sack the coach?
I do not recall the Green Park Tigers Under-13s coach’s name, though I remember his enthusiastic cruelty and the endless laps of Horsham City Oval.
Green Park was crap, and I did my part as a small in the back pocket, losing rovers, becoming lost inside ruckmen, all that.
I remember the coach teaching me the art of the back man. He had long given up on me getting a productive touch, so he taught me how to get myself belted.
I was to stand in front of the resting ruck/rover and to walk backwards and accidentally stand on his toes. Repeat until thumped.
It never occurred to me then the coach’s defence game plan amounted to me organising my own assault, and he’d need a better team defence plan if he tried that now – a couple of QCs at least.
We had no team spirit I can recall. No success. If there was a song, I can’t remember singing it. The system was corrupt. I got picked because my dad brought oranges.
But in his dark, tormented mind, that coach was trying to get the best out of the side. He was probably right that my best position was victim, optimised if I stayed down after the whack and someone else took the kick.
If I met that coach now I’d shake his hand, buy him a bunch of beers, take him out to King St for a wild time – and try to get him beaten up.
Probably he was doing the best with the twisted, blackened neurons he was gifted by Satan.
Funny thing, though, I never even thought about dumping that coach. Nobody did. It wasn’t done.
On Saturday night, bleeding ears from the finger-jamming to block out the Bombers song, I knew another miserable chorus was coming. Sack the coach.
The Pies list has been taken apart like someone who pissed off Dexter. Headline writers are playing with variations on The Bucks Stops Here. Guaranteed.
But I always think autopsies are best conducted on the dead.
Sure, you can sack the coach.
Or you can do what I did Sunday night – check for a pulse and consult an expert.
So, after getting off the phone to Robbo, just kidding …
So … a quick online consultation and $6 later, I had formal confirmation, a TAB bet at 500-1 to win the flag, $3,006. They’re alive!
Sometimes in my heyday (heyminute?) I would have to stand on some already-pubescent 13-year-old ruck’s frozen toes 50, hell 100 times, to get him to snap.
In footy, you can’t just give up, and you don’t leave before the siren unless it’s on a stretcher.
Get me drunk enough, I might admit I’m not so sure about the $6 bet, but I might act quietly confident? Enough drinks, I’ll say we’re a chance.
Practice makes perfect, denial is a cynic’s name for hope, and winning didn’t make us Collingwood types this way anyway.
Pies fans of my era – children of the Colliwobbles – are all scar tissue and abscesses.
I first learned about footy from my mother’s tears by the wireless in ‘66.
We have psychic damage beyond any of the rumoured dental challenges. Pies fans will be in great demand if there’s ever a psychiatric retake on Embarrassing Bodies.
60, 64, 66, 70, 77, 77, 79, 80, 80, 81 … the repressed memory takes over then.
Why do we do it? How can we even?
Footy isn’t fun. Flags are relief at not losing the premiership again. Success is a Bandaid on a sucking chest wound. There, I’ve said it.
I’ve wondered many times if I’ve grown to need the pain? Whether the MCG is just a clothed version of the Hellfire Club for me?
Bucks doesn’t seem happy in the box, either. He squirms there with more raw nerves than a party bucket of steak tartare as his boys spray that ball like a antsy tomcat.
That right foot under the table would be going nuts, steering errant passes, guiding through goals, wanting to be out there drilling the ball down Darcy Moore’s throat.
He can’t swear, because of lip-readers, and some 14-year-old twerp intern with a boom mike is probably waiting at his car.
Bucks is not doing it for fun, or not right now anyway, but I could not be more confident that he is doing it for Collingwood.
He bleeds black and white like a vaudevillian haemophiliac sword juggler. Bucks is one of us.
Some (read most) Magpies seasons are not about winning, but are defined by the manner in which we bleed out.
If we go down, it befits the Pies to do it side by side, bloodless arms around each other, holding Bucks up and not tearing him down.
But, of course, who says we’re gone? Not the TAB. Not the true believers. Not me, buddy. I’m so in denial, I need an Egyptian boatman.
There are seven weeks left, maybe 11, and hope springs eternal.
We are that most magical thing in footy – a mathematical chance -and if it all goes as expected, Bucks can stand proudly and defiantly in front of his critics after Rd 23.
And accidentally walk back on their toes.
Author: Terry Brown
TERRY BROWN worked for many years as a general reporter, columnist and colour writer at The Sun and Herald Sun. He is now an academic lecturing in journalism and is an unpublished novelist.