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In the wake of Bruce’s announcement that he and Fran were pinning their flag to the Collingwood mast after attending the 14-goal smashing of Geelong last year, they were warned to expect a rollercoaster ride (and were met with equal levels of scorn and delight from non-Pie and Pie fans).

The following weeks seemed to bear it out: defeats when they were expected to win; a decent streak ended by North Melbourne in a game that they had led handsomely after half time; a comfortable finals victory away in Adelaide followed by a depressing defeat at the MCG to the Saints on which Bruce had splashed the cash to attend.

Still, this season started with hope. Admittedly, the cack-handed McGuire did himself and the team no favours by declaring the flag was there for the taking (followed almost instantly by the NAB Cup Final demolition at the hands of Geelong, as if the likely Premiers were saying: “What was that, Eddie, you bumbling buffoon?”).

Fran even delighted Bruce by presenting him with a Collingwood guernsey on his birthday, 24 years after he last owned a replica shirt:

Man Utd 1985 home shirt - memorable for the pointy white bits on the shoulders

Man Utd 1985 home shirt - memorable for the pointy white bits on the shoulders

Perhaps this in itself was a portent of things to come: after all the Man Utd of 1985 – Jesper Olsen, Remi Moses, Frank Stapleton, Arthur Albiston to name but a few Old Trafford legends… – was another team that consistently flattered to deceive; a club with a big past and a colourful, but rarely successful, present.

Round 7 of this year’s AFL season marked the one-year anniversary of Bruce and Fran’s Collingwood odyssey. Fittingly, it pitted them against St Kilda, the team they had originally decided to follow by virtue of living there when they first arrived from the UK, only to decide after attending some early matches that the Saints fans lacked even a modicum of passion and that they would look elsewhere.

Going against conventional wisdom (and reason), Bruce even tipped the Pies to finally bring the Saints’ winning run to an end, despite the knowledge that Stumpy (Didak) and Dead-Eye Dick (Anthony) would be missing and that Travis T (Cloke) would again be starting. Had he known that Davies and Medhurst would also be missing, well, who knows, but still, is it any wonder the promising start to his fledgling tipping campaign has becalmed in recent weeks?

On the subject of Cloke, despite constant assurances that he was a remarkably promising teenager and does have the natural goods, his performances since the aforementioned flag-to-mast nailing session bring to mind nothing more than this (just insert “Travis T Cloke” for “war poems”):

Sady, despite the 88-point drubbing, it appears Bruce has already been infiltrated by Pie-fan myopia – the affliction that Arsene Wenger suffers worse than most. As soon as the game had ended, he entered into text debate with a dismissive Crows fan insisting that, really, Collingwood weren’t as bad the the score suggested and, had they been able to score more goals in the first and third quarters instead of behinds (or more usually missing by 30 yards – looking at you, Rocca) while St Kilda pinged over everything from all angles then it would have been far more respectable.

Straws. At. Clutching. Rearrange.

Going back to the Man Utd shirt, however. The season after that particular shirt was replaced, Alex Ferguson joined from Aberdeen. He’s been pretty successful since. Could Buckley have a similar effect when (if?) he takes over in 2010? (And would it be too much to hope that McGuire goes the same was as another joke head honcho – Michael Knighton?)

And rollercoasters do have to go up as well as down, don’t they?

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Go Pies!

What’s not to love?

Three games into our fledgling career as Aussie Rules fans (enough for a red scout badge) and our knowledge is still pretty sketchy. Goals and behinds we get, but why when the ball goes off the side is it sometimes thrown in by one of the camp guys in bright-coloured shirts and at other times given to one of the teams?

However, it didn’t take a seasoned pro to appreciate the skill from Collingwood’s Dale Thomas at the weekend. His team already in the ascendancy, the long-haired Pie took the ball out wide on the left, snuck infield and, against all expectations, dinked a wee grubber kick through the posts from the tightest of angles for an outrageous goal.

Not quite Daniel Craig

Not quite Daniel Craig, is he?

Reminiscent of Lee Sharpe against Barcelona in 1994, Shane Warne’s first ball in test cricket, or this in its display of pure, audacious skill, it was the ultimate middle finger salute to the battered Geelong. The majority of the 78,000 Friday night MCG crowd shot to their feet in an eruption of unbridled, gutteral joy and high fives left palms stinging with that most pleasurable of pains. Even the neanderthal racist sat behind – who had earlier been threatened with a trip to the mental hospital by her not particularly evolved partner for calling one of her own players an “indigenous monkey” – rose above her innate hatred with a smile.

Our host at the match, proudly wearing his Crows jersey (nope, not switching Channel Islands for you Aussies with your strange terminology*), forgot himself and was on his feet yelling inanely. Hours earlier, when Bruce had declared a soft spot for Collingwood, the Crow had told him:

“Maaaaaate! Everyone hates Collingwood. I support the Crows first and anyone playing Collingwood second.” But here he was, swooning at the twinkling toes of Dale Thomas et al.

It was that kind of night, a rare moment when men transcend their mortal bounds and become gods. Dave, the pork pie hat-wearing lifelong Collingwood fan alongside the Crow, was gushing, barely able to speak.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in years,” he managed between blubs.

Ah bless

“You’ve found your team!” yelled the Crow as the hooter sounded to end the match – an 86-point against the odds smashing, the kind that deserves a commemorative DVD and mug set.

Indeed I had. Like my love for Man Utd in England, my flag is now well and truly nailed to the mast of the most reviled team in the AFL. After all, you get to shout: “GO PIES!” while eating pies. What’s not to like?

My lack of allegiance, apparently. Due to our first home in Australia being in St Kilda, Fran and I had chosen to follow the Saints, only for our first visit to one of their games at the Telstra Dome to leave me feeling bereft of love for the club and in search for one deserving of my heart and soul.

“You can’t just go changing teams like that,” said Fran, bringing me back down to earth with the sombre acceptance one would expect of a lifelong Charlton FC supporter. “I’m staying loyal to St Kilda,” she added as we crossed the park outside the MCG to a backdrop of hundreds of singing fans high on the ecstacy of a Pie-induced endorphin boost.

“GO PIES!” I replied.

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* What is this “guernsey” nonsense all about?

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