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Pies vs Blues: AFL’s invincible rivalry

Tim Lane Columnist

97 Have your say

    Believe it or not, games against Collingwood haven’t always been the most urgent in Carlton’s season.

    Over the last 50 years it’s fair to say Richmond in the 1960s and 70s and Essendon in the 80s and 90s provided a greater spur.

    Perhaps it’s due to the quantum of pain inflicted by each opponent. Richmond gave Carlton some horrible beatings, two of them in grand finals, when their rivalry was king. And Kevin Sheedy’s Essendon serially tormented David Parkin’s teams of the 80s. The Bombers then humiliated the Blues in the 1993 decider.

    Collingwood has scored lots of wins over Carlton, plenty in finals, but hasn’t beaten the old enemy in a grand final for more than a hundred years. From 1970 to 1981 the clubs played for the flag three times and, although they gave their rival a substantial lead in each, the Blues managed to win the lot.

    Yet for all the above, the warfare between these two leviathans has been a constant. Other feuds have come and gone, arousing greater passion in their time, but the Collingwood-Carlton rivalry has outlived the others and still burns strong.

    This despite the clubs not having met in a final for almost three decades. Not only that, but in 28 Septembers since their clash in a 1988 qualifying final, the names Collingwood and Carlton have simultaneously appeared in the mix but once. That was in 1994, and both clubs crashed out without a win.

    The pages have turned. This is the national era, with its 18-team competition. It’s no longer a matter of the old powerhouse teams turning up and automatically having their September entrance papers stamped. The 21st century AFL requires clubs to get their act together off the field if they’re to have any chance of doing so on it.

    Collingwood and Carlton were slow to respond to a new world order. At the turn of the century Eddie McGuire had just inherited something that looked dangerously like a basket case. Meanwhile, over at Princes Park, John Elliott was about to relinquish a club that had painted itself into a corner. That paint was extra-slow-drying.

    In the years that have followed, the Pies have won a flag, had periods of overperformance and lately have underperformed. The Blues, meanwhile, have been almost perennially abysmal.

    Yet, though their recent contests have never been for much more than bragging rights, they haven’t been without significant impact. Back in the day Collingwood’s win-loss ledger against every club was in the black. That changed during Carlton’s golden era from the late 1960s.

    When the Blues came from 21 points behind the Pies late in the third quarter to win the 1981 flag, they drew level with Collingwood on two fronts. Both clubs had now won 89 of their contests and, more importantly – way more importantly – Carlton had edged alongside the Magpies by winning a 13th flag.

    By the close of the 20th century the Blues had won another 25 of 37 games against the Pies and achieved three more flags to Collingwood’s one.

    But the Pies have been in the ascendancy since 2000: 22 wins to 12, plus a premiership. This has cut Carlton’s all-time lead to just three: the Blues 126, the Pies 123, four games drawn. Don’t imagine Eddie McGuire isn’t watching the pendulum. And don’t imagine the folk of Carlton aren’t, either.

    So despite both teams currently being out of the eight and likely to still be on the outer come the end of August, Saturday’s clash has deep meaning.

    Then there’s the flag count: Carlton and Essendon 16, Collingwood 15. Oh, the bragging rights in that! And there’s a burning question: which club is currently better placed to win its next?

    Now there’s a challenging topic. Both have young lists, but Collingwood’s currently appears at the least slightly better. On the other hand, stability is crucial to long-term development and Carlton’s coaching circumstances currently appear the more stable.

    As for the age factor, by the time either club is close to threatening the youthful GWS, Crows and Bulldogs they’re likely to lose significant players. In Collingwood’s case, Daniel Wells will probably be gone, while Pendlebury and Varcoe will be in their 30s. Their midfield will be a different one.

    As for Carlton, even on a best-case scenario erstwhile number-one draft picks Murphy, Gibbs and Kreuzer will be card-carrying veterans when the Blues are next a force. So the future is not exactly clear.

    For now, though, Saturday is the 125th anniversary of Collingwood’s first ever game as a club. That was a VFA match against Carlton in 1892. There will be a big crowd at the MCG and a gala ball at the Crown Palladium that night.

    What a milestone! What a mighty club the Pies have been! What a perfect reason for the Blues to want to beat the hell out of them!

    Tim Lane
    Tim Lane

    Tim Lane is one of the most respected voices in Australian sport, having gained a strong following for his weekly AFL column in The Age. Tim has also called 32 AFL/VFL grand finals and was behind the microphone for Cathy Freeman's memorable gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. You can catch him on Twitter @TimLaneSport.

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    The Crowd Says (97)

    • May 4th 2017 @ 8:02am
      Philip said | May 4th 2017 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      Generally agree Tim, although I think the Carlton Essendon rivalry persists, especially because of the premiership record and the close head to head record. Carlton supporters look upon games against Essendon and Collingwood differently from any others. Which is why the 3 Malthouse years were so disappointing. Not in any year since the year of Federation (yes, you read that right, 1901) had Carlton played at least 4 games against Essendon and Collingwood combined and lost the lot, at least not until 2012 when it happened again. In three years Malthouse never won a single game against Collingwood or Essendon. That is why his time as coach was so hard to take: I am sure that would not have occurred under Ratten. Some joke that that is why Malthouse deserves life membership at Collingwood: his record of 6 Collingwood wins 0 losses after he left them is pretty “impressive”.
      It’s also a little sad that this is the first year in your lifetime, probably, certainly in mine, that Carlton only has one game against Collingwood.

    • May 4th 2017 @ 8:16am
      Philip said | May 4th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      Sorry Malthouse years were 2013-2015, my mistake. Rattan won both Collingwood games in 2012 (and one against Essendon). So Malthouse ended a 112 year record!

    • May 4th 2017 @ 8:29am
      Macca said | May 4th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      Should be an interesting game, the Pies struggles to score (ranked 13th this year) should help the blues stay in the game and if they can hang in long enough who knows.

      However it goes it should be another big step forward for the likes of SPS, Curnow, Weitering and Williamson – here’s hoping one of the, has a break out game and puts he Pies to the sword.

    • Roar Guru

      May 4th 2017 @ 9:07am
      Paul D said | May 4th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Serious question – is the loathing between these two clubs still prevalent amongst the younger generation of fans, or is it more something the older fans are caught up in? Having not spent a great deal of time in Melbourne I wasn’t sure if the hatred was guaranteed to continue evermore.

      It needs something to revitalise it though – the only rivalry less likely to meet in a final in the next decade is the Lions/Suns

      • May 4th 2017 @ 9:46am
        Macca said | May 4th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        We teach the kids to hate Collingwood.

        • May 4th 2017 @ 12:25pm
          Gecko said | May 4th 2017 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

          I still get annoyed by Carlton’s premiership tally (and Wayne Harmes memories). Wouldn’t it be nice if Carlton in 2017 added to their tally of wooden spoons.

          • Roar Guru

            May 4th 2017 @ 12:31pm
            Cat said | May 4th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

            I can think of two teams currently sitting below Carlton that I’d rather see win a spoon.

            • May 4th 2017 @ 8:14pm
              hal said | May 4th 2017 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

              I would love to see Hawthorn win the spoon.

      • May 4th 2017 @ 9:48am
        ken oath said | May 4th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        My kids boo magpie birds in our backyard PaulD.

        • May 4th 2017 @ 10:41am
          Macca said | May 4th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

          Mine too Ken

          • May 4th 2017 @ 11:01am
            ken oath said | May 4th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

            The looks they get when we are at a park and they stop playing and boo (and grunt “Go Blues”) and chase the magpies away is something to behold.

            Most mothers look in disbelief, thinking that they are a bit batty, but when I get that nod of approval from another dad who understands it validates my parenting.

            • May 4th 2017 @ 11:08am
              Macca said | May 4th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

              TBH Ken I would call in human services if I saw a kid not booing a magpie on the park.

      • May 4th 2017 @ 10:09am
        Brian said | May 4th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        Generally all non Collingwood supporters despise Collingwood. However fot those born after “Jesaulenko” Carlton v Essendon the biggest thing around especially after 1999 along with more of a hate for Hawthorn.

        Amongst kids I don’t see any hate for Carlton, they’ve never done anything in those kids lifetimes to ellicit scorn.

        • May 4th 2017 @ 10:48am
          Macca said | May 4th 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

          Collingwood have given us Thomas & Malthouse and have Eddie as President, that is more than enough for Carlton kids before we get into history and tradition

          • May 4th 2017 @ 11:26am
            Brian said | May 4th 2017 @ 11:26am | ! Report

            You hate them just not sure they feel the same. Pie eyes are more envious of Geelong, Hawthorn and Sydney and generally consider ANZAC day the biggest set in rivalry

            • May 5th 2017 @ 7:55am
              Bretto said | May 5th 2017 @ 7:55am | ! Report

              Not true. The passion in hating Carlton may have dimmed, but that’s only because they have been rubbish for a long long time. There would be nothing sweeter in life than beating Carlton in a grand final.

          • May 4th 2017 @ 4:08pm
            Gecko said | May 4th 2017 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

            That might reflect more on Carlton than on Collingwood. You willingly took Malthouse and Thomas (around the same time we took Jordan Russell and not so long after Brisbane took Fev). We all make mistakes, though not all of us are salary cap cheats.

            • May 5th 2017 @ 10:29am
              hal said | May 5th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

              I always find it funny when I see a car with Collingwood and Melbourne Storm stickers on it….I guess there are good and bad salary cap cheats?

              Great article Tim. I have always been a big fan of your work.

              For me there is no rivalry like Geelong v Hawthorn. Total hatred among players and fans. It pains me that I have never seen Geelong beat Hawthorn in a grand final. While I would love to see them collect some wooden cutlery, I would rather see the Cats eat Hawks in the grand final.

        • May 4th 2017 @ 10:55am
          andyl12 said | May 4th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          12+ years now since you’ve beaten Hawthorn- no wonder there’s some hatred there!

        • May 4th 2017 @ 12:51pm
          The Original Buzz said | May 4th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

          Isn’t Eddie enough anymore?

      • May 4th 2017 @ 10:13am
        Tom M said | May 4th 2017 @ 10:13am | ! Report

        I don’t see a rivalry anymore. Carlton are and have been irrelevant in the AFL for years now. As a Collingwood fan I have far greater hatred towards Geelong than I do Carlton these days.

        • May 4th 2017 @ 10:15am
          ken oath said | May 4th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report


        • May 5th 2017 @ 7:58am
          Bretto said | May 5th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

          We may both live long enough to see a strong Collingwood and Carlton again. If so, I suspect the hatred will return like a long cherished friend.

      • Roar Guru

        May 4th 2017 @ 11:27am
        Col from Brissie said | May 4th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

        PaulD, as a lifelong Carlton fan, albeit my first few years when my Collingwood supporting late father would dress me in a Collingwood jumper I would say that for me Essendon has been the team that I have enjoyed Carlton beating over the years. Where I lived and went to school was in what was then Essendon’s recruiting zone albeit one street over and you were in Carlton’s zone.

        Most of my mates at school were either Essendon or Carlton supporters so there was always a lot of ribbing especially after a Carlton/Essendon game and then to top it off my in-laws were/are all Essendon supporters.

        • May 4th 2017 @ 1:39pm
          Reservoir Animal said | May 4th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

          You grew up around the Coburg/Pascoe Vale area?

          • Roar Guru

            May 4th 2017 @ 1:58pm
            Col from Brissie said | May 4th 2017 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

            Pascoe Vale South to be exact RA. Just around the corner lived the legendary coach Norm Smith.

            • May 4th 2017 @ 2:13pm
              Reservoir Animal said | May 4th 2017 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

              Demetriou would’ve been living around there then as well.

              Would you agree that ’68 was the start of the Carl/Ess rivalry? That GF started Carlton’s greatest premiership run and was Essendon’s last true premiership chance until 1983.

              • Roar Guru

                May 4th 2017 @ 3:26pm
                Col from Brissie said | May 4th 2017 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

                Haha RA – Tony’s Fish & Chips Shop in Bell Street – every Friday night. He was Demetrious father and I can remember little Andrew and his brothers kicking a footy in the lane behind the shop and also the carpark of the local supermarket.

                In ’62 Essendon beat Carlton in the GF but I think you are probably right about the ’68 premiership because Essendon reckon Blethyn should have got a free late in the game which could have changed the result.

        • May 5th 2017 @ 7:59am
          Bretto said | May 5th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

          Col – What a way to disappoint your father. I hope he made you sleep in the backyard.

          • Roar Guru

            May 5th 2017 @ 11:04am
            Col from Brissie said | May 5th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

            Bretto, it was my Aunty (Dad’s sister) that got me following the Blues. Dad just wanted to go to the footy and enjoy the game and a drink with his mates and not be chasing a mischievous 5 year old around. My Aunty started taking me to Carlton games with my cousins and the rest is history.

            The 60’s and 70’s were fun times in our house as my mum was and still is an avid Richmond supporter.

      • May 4th 2017 @ 11:30am
        Knoxy said | May 4th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

        As a Pies supporter who grew up in the 90s I can say that the rivalry doesn’t mean as much to me as it does to my old man who endured the horrors of the 60s, 70s and 80s (he’s told me the stories countless times).

        However when these clubs do finally meet in a final again I reckon the intensity of the rivalry will come back pretty quickly. As Macca pointed out the older fans teach the younger generations from an early age.

      • Roar Guru

        May 4th 2017 @ 2:30pm
        Dalgety Carrington said | May 4th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

        By the sounds of it the dislike is more panto than anything amongst the next gen Paul.

    • May 4th 2017 @ 9:11am
      Reservoir Animal said | May 4th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      There was no Coll-Carl rivalry at all before 1910. That year’s GF was such a bloodbath (the worst until 1945) and involved such dubious tactics by Collingwood to get their players off at the tribunal which followed that Carlton vowed to never forgive Collingwood for anything. And sure enough, they beat the Pies in all of their five GF clashes since then.

      The suburb I live in has more Collingwood members than any other suburb. And more Carlton members than any other suburb. To some extent they’re separated by the train line that goes through the middle. Not a fan of either club but looking forward to watching this game at the G on Sat, and hoping there’s some biff (although not 1910-style).

    • May 4th 2017 @ 9:14am
      gyfox said | May 4th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      I was at the game to celebrate C/wood’s 100th year. A Thursday night at the MCG (I think)……& Carlton beat them!

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