Sport AFL Carlton v Collingwood? Much ado about nothing
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Carlton v Collingwood? Much ado about nothing

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I know, I know. It’s Carlton v Collingwood, footy’s fiercest rivalry, an enmity as old as Melbourne’s urban layout. So why am I not excited? Because, simply put, Carlton vs Collingwood doesn’t matter, at least not the way it used to.

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Dane Swan was heroic on Anzac Day. Photo: Getty

At best, the four points will be a minor factor in determining the composition of the bottom half of the final eight. At worst? Best not to think about that. In fairness, Collingwood might be able to hold onto a top-four spot, but I doubt even Joffa believes that they’re genuinely in the mix for the flag this year.

West Coast and Sydney’s clashes in the mid-2000s were compulsory viewing, as tight and as hard-fought as the original rivalry between matter and anti-matter.

Myths are not forged in lopsided contests. A rivalry can only lean on tradition for so long, and the greatest rivalries are borne of the highest stakes. Matches between Hawthorn and Geelong tend to be narrative-shaping events, while West Coast and Sydney’s clashes in the mid-2000s were compulsory viewing, as tight and as hard-fought as the original rivalry between matter and anti-matter.

Ultimately, when there isn’t much to play for, these rivalries will fade: anti-matter hasn’t mounted a legitimate challenge to matter’s hegemony for billions of years. Similarly, Carlton and Collingwood haven’t met in the finals since 1988, and they haven’t both been genuine flag contenders at the same time since the early ‘80s. It’s a VFL rivalry that hasn’t really found its place since the advent of the national competition.

Try telling that to fans of the two clubs, though. Interestingly, these clashes can mean more to fans when their teams are well out of contention: with nothing else to play for, these tribal bragging rights take on greater significance. Make no mistake, though: for the majority of footy fans, this is no more than a suburban rivalry.

That’s not to say that the game won’t throw up some interesting stories. Firstly, it won’t be the Collingwood walkover that appeared probable as recently as last week.

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Dale Thomas returned to form last week. Photo: Getty

The Blues have finally found some character, covering the absence of key stoppage players Chris Judd and Andrew Carazzo in accounting for an admittedly feeble West Coast. That was largely due to a huge game from Marc Murphy, who might have to deal with the attentions of Brent Macaffer this week.

As for Collingwood, they resemble a diesel engine slowly working through the gears. With the revival of the old Maxwell/Lumumba axis, their drive off half-back has returned, and they’ve looked as purposeful as at any time under Nathan Buckley’s tenure.

Dale Thomas still looks wrong in a Blues guernsey, but he resembled an actual footballer last week, and might have found a modicum of form ahead of his first encounter with his old club. If Carlton are to successfully counter Collingwood’s even spread of midfield talent, Daisy will have to step up.

As for Collingwood, they resemble a diesel engine slowly working through the gears. With the revival of the old Maxwell/Lumumba axis, their drive off half-back has returned, and they’ve looked as purposeful as at any time under Nathan Buckley’s tenure. Then there’s the Malthouse factor. As you might have heard, there’s a bit of tension there.

It might turn out to be an interesting contest, but footy’s fiercest rivalry? Only for a couple of postcodes.

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