A hushed reverence greets the battle weary elders as they take the MCG stage. Between them – numerous campaigns, untold formations, fallen comrades and tragic failed overseas expeditions. A knock about crew bound together by their collective combat experience. Their nostalgic roll call percolated the rise of a young nation emerging from the tyranny of black and white into the liberation of colour – “Cool world”, “HowZat?”, “Chained to the wheel”, “Reckless”.
The nation stood and saluted 70’s warriors Daryl Braithwaite, Joe Camilleri, James Reyne and Ross Wilson as they punched out a medley of hits from another age. Anzac Day throws up both the forgotten musical heroes and the unknown luthier – just recall the poignancy of Johnny Diesel reverent version of Neil Young’s “Powerfinger” back in 2011.
There’s 93,000 of us crammed into the MCG standing in silence through the Last Post. As we prepare to watch the cream of a current generation, we are reminded again of the caustic impact the deaths of so many through war impacted the future of their respective communities and families whilst underscoring the freedoms of others. How much of this pain is unspoken – to one another, between family members, among friends, ourselves? Drive through any small town in Australia and count the deaths marked by innumerable cenotaphs, remembrance boards in local halls, and avenues of honour. Imagine the impact on those largely self contained communities in the years following 1918, 1945.
The air raid siren that greets the Bombers entry into the ground sounds eerily like the banned substance alert at ASADA HQ – the only metaphor for the day that grates.
Until the siren full stops the national anthem, the day is about Anzac Day. Beyond that roar it’s now about the game. The goodwill is still evident 10 minutes into the match as two half rows of Collingwood members internal snipping explodes into friendly fire as fists and beer go flying into one another’s faces, solar plexus, abs, shoulders, necks and ears.
After half pie, the Bombers strength and fitness overwhelm the Pies and goals bloom like Flanders fields. Energetic and all persuasive the week before, today Collingwood look flat. The goal leaking is a worrying persistent trend. They lose another defender as Toovey goes down with a ruptured ACL. He joins Hawk Ryan Schoenmakers, Crow Tex Walker and Docker Kepler Bradley as knee causalities in just 10 days.
A Pie fan in my row, sporting a rat tail and tattooed images of beloved deceased Rottweilers on each bulging calf makes the predictable self injecting action in response to the mocking victorious Don’s fans.
Essendon on top after round five – about where they were last year on the road to glory when the dreaded run of soft tissue injuries raised the perennial “what if” question amongst fans. Depending on what the investigators find, Essendon may well have another fight taken up to them.
Essendon 18 13 121 defeated Collingwood 10 15 75