Lap it up, Pies.
It’s the message that should be conveyed (and clearly is behind closed doors) despite Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes scrutinising Collingwood for over celebrating its epic seven-point win over Melbourne last Friday night.
Cornes this week said the Pies went “over the top” and called for them to “keep on it” given it’s only Round 21.
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“I haven‘t seen stuff like this for a long time — we’ve all loved what they’ve done but they haven’t achieved anything yet,” the dual All-Australian said on Channel 9’s Footy Classified.
“You don‘t see Geelong doing this — it’s like a WWE wrestler. Fremantle has qualified for finals, have you seen them doing that? Have you seen Sydney doing that?”
“If I was advising them, I‘d say ’keep a lid on it’, narrow your focus and we’ll judge you when you win in September, not in Round 20. We’ll see how it goes on for the finals — I’ve still got some question marks on them.”
It came after probably the game of the season between Collingwood and Melbourne that went right down to the wire in front of a rowdy packed house of over 70,000 at the MCG.
With it the Magpies had knocked over the reigning premiers for a second time in 2022 and extended their remarkable winning streak to 11 games and moved into second place — of course continuing their stunning rise from last year’s 17th place finish.
Factoring in all of the above, wins don’t come much bigger than that.
It set up for the euphoric atmosphere for the black and white post-match. Players, just as they’ve done in several of their previous close wins, immediately huddled in celebration before hugging and high-fiving.
Even coach Craig McRae was sighted on the bench going nuts with players and staff.
The Pies then got around their fans, who were as vocal as you’ll ever hear them throughout the night and jumping for joy on the final siren, embracing with supporters all around the ground and taking selfies with smiles beaming across their faces.
How could you possibly not live in the moment!?
It was scenes of pure passion and jubilation, and frankly, simple human instinct to react in such a way after yet another epic win — scenes of emotion that make footy what it is. After all, the game isn’t life and death.
You can’t even imagine how players would’ve felt. Going from the feeling of being so hyper focused on the game and questioning, ‘can we do this?’ To then the relief and glee of, ‘we’ve won our 11th straight, and we’re second.’
And for that one hour after the match they can celebrate and soak up the victory as the pressure valve is momentarily released.
“I would like to know what the levels of celebrations actually are. How much are you allowed to celebrate after another win like that?” Dual premiership Kangaroo David King told foxfooty.com.au.
“The excitement should be shared with the fans, which was how it was done. It wasn’t disrespectful, it wasn’t demeaning in any way.
“They are taking their own on a ride that is so special, why wouldn’t you celebrate like that? Why wouldn’t you embrace what’s happening, as ridiculous as it is.
“And the bottom line is — who cares what people think.”
Footy has changed. Ten years ago there was a vibe in the rooms after wins of players trying to cover up smiles and stay in this overly professional, serious mood and act as if they weren’t happy.
This shift to a more jovial, lighthearted approach was widely said to be key to the Tigers’ resurgence in 2017, and the exact same can be said for Collingwood in 2022.
While winning clearly helps, the Magpies simply look like a much happier club — you only need to attend or watch a game or be in the rooms post-match to really feel it — and it’s bizarrely made even if its biggest haters warm to them (perhaps some more than others).
McRae’s message all season has been for his troops to stay in the moment week to week and celebrate the good times when they come — and this message has clearly resonated with the group — in a breath of fresh air for the competition.
Whenever the Magpies coach has been quizzed about upcoming big matches, his reply has consistently been along the lines of: ‘We’re enjoying this one for now and we’ll worry about that later.’
“He’s really light hearted and has a lot of fun,” Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury said of McRae on Triple M over the weekend.
“Even (against Melbourne) before the game he said, ‘make sure we go out and enjoy the occasion. Take a look around, take the crowd in. I want you boys to play with freedom and fun, smile, enjoy this.’
“You just feel so comfortable and confident. You can see it with how we play, we’ve got energy and enjoying ourselves — and that’s all off the back of our coaching group and ‘Fly’ (McRae) driving that message home.”
What may be perceived as over celebrating is this very positive energy Pendlebury speaks of and aura galvanising the group and driving one of the most unprecedented runs in league history. The players are simply living McRae’s mantra and riding the wave of emotion.
No matter how far they go, Pies fans will always remember this winning streak and McRae’s first season at large as a truly special period.
This idea that clubs can only celebrate in finals (or after a grand final) is mad. Does that mean of the 400 plus games that are played across the season, only one match is worthwhile celebrating because it ends in a premiership? That’s too superficial.
The same can be said for scrutiny towards North Melbourne after it recorded its second win for the season against Richmond in Round 18. The club had just seen its coach depart amid a particularly tumultuous stretch of its horror season, and against all odds, knocked off one of the league‘s powerhouses. Bloody lap it up.
There’s too many lows in footy to not enjoy the highs, and potentially for Collingwood, last Friday night might well be the peak of its season. The odds are that the Pies probably won’t go all the way, not that you’d confidently bet against them right now! So what may or may not happen in September shouldn’t matter.
Of course, context is everything and there’s a line. Not every win should prompt such a reaction, although it’s fair to say the Pies have played in an unrivalled amount of games that have probably warranted it in 2022.
But after having no crowds for the best part of the last two years and the club enduring a particularly rocky period over that span including the infamous trade exodus and departures of long-time president Eddie McGuire and coach Nathan Buckley, the players should be allowed to enjoy their unforeseen bounce back.
Although winning a flag is ultimately every club’s goal, there’s no rule that they can’t have fun along the journey.