Great AFL rivalries: Collingwood vs Carlton

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The next few weeks feature quite a few big matches with history behind them in the AFL. This week is of course the Collingwood v Carlton on Friday night, which will feature the unveiling of the premiership flag.

More than 80,000 people will pack in to the MCG for this clash of the league’s titans. It will be live or slightly delayed all over Australia, including live into regional NSW and Queensland on 7mate.

It’s quite likely the biggest rivalry in all of Australian sport – at times ferocious, and tribal at its very core. Looking back, Carlton were traditionally portrayed as upper class and arrogant, while Collingwood were more of a working class entity – a feeling which still exists in some quarters today.

Even in an era where professionalism has largely replaced emotion at the club level, fans and officials alike still maintain a cordial dislike for each other. Any self-respecting football forum this week will be full of insults going one way or the other.

Carlton, founded in 1864, were one of the pillars of the VFA by the time Collingwood were created in 1891. Both clubs entered the VFL when it was created in 1896.

Carlton were the first club to win three premierships in a row, but this feat would be equalled and then surpassed by their greatest rivals in the late 1930s. Carlton, however, remain equal top of the premiership table with Essendon, just one premiership clear of the Magpies.

Some of history’s great VFL Grand Finals featured these clubs, with six meetings in Grand Finals and 22 in finals, and almost any follower of the sport will automatically point to the 1970 Grand Final, regardless of what team they support.

On that day, 129,000 people crammed into the MCG – still a record for the greatest football attendance in Australia – to see the Blues triumph despite being down by 44 points, in itself the second-biggest comeback in the history of the sport.

This would be followed up by the 1979 Grand Final where many Collingwood supporters believe they were robbed by the heroics of Wayne Harmes and contend that the ball was out of bounds before being slapped back to the goal square.

With this in mind, the Blues again triumphed as they did again in the 1981 Grand Final. Since 1981, the two teams have not met in a Grand Final, and have not played a final against each other since 1988.

The begining of the rivalry is believed to be the 1910 Grand Final, where more than thirty players and officals were involved in an all-in brawl. Four players were suspended for at least a year as a result, although Collingwood had one of its players reprieved.

These days, this is one of the AFL’s showpiece matches, and along with Essendon, the two clubs form a triumvirate of high-drawing match-ups that few other clubs can match for ferocity.

On Friday night, we get to see this drama unfold for the 242nd time. On form, one would suggest that the Pies would win, but history shows that when these sides are involved the underdog can rise from nowhere and steal the victory.

Carlton:
Premierships: 16 – 1 AFL, 15 VFL
Brownlows: 5 – Bert Deacon (1947), John James (1961), Gordon Collis (1964), Greg Williams (1994), Chris Judd (2010)
Norm Smiths: 4 – Wayne Harmes (1979), Bruce Doull (1981), David Rhy-Jones (1987), Greg Williams (1995)

Collingwood:
Premierships: 15 – 2 AFL, 13 VFL
Brownlows: 8 – Syd Coventry (1927), Albert Collier (1929), Harry Collier (1930), Marcus Whelan (1939), Des Fothergill (1940), Len Thompson (1972), Peter Moore (1979), Nathan Buckley (2003)
Norm Smith: 3 – Tony Shaw (1990), Nathan Buckley (2002), Scott Pendlebury (2010)

Crowds: (last 3 years)
2010 – 80,645 and 76,980
2009 – 84,938 and 82,834
2008 – 80,310 and 77,873

This week
Where and when: 7:50pm, Friday 8th of April, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Head to head: Carlton 123 wins, Collingwood 114 wins, four draws
Last time: Collingwood 14.10.94 d Carlton 4.16.40 (round 17, 2009 at the MCG)

Next week: Carlton vs Essendon

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