On Friday night, the AFL will witness a rivalry bred from malice, rather than state lines. A contest which has always been fiercely competitive and has provided the stimuli for such legendary footballing moments as Alex Jesaulenko’s famous mark in the 1970 Grand Final, as well as then Carlton President George Harris claiming the only thing better than beating Collingwood by ten goals was beating them by five points after a tense 1979 Grand Final.
The Carlton and Collingwood rivalry is one of the purest in the AFL, and has grown with time. Mick Malthouse’s position as Carlton coach has added yet another log to the burning fire that consumes the AFL each time the two sides face off. However, as the two sides compete on Friday night for the Richard Pratt Cup, with Collingwood having already won the Peter Mac Cup in round two, the rivalry will take a back seat to the desperate need for both sides to claim victory.
While this traditional rivalry always provides a reason to focus on this match, Friday night’s match needs no such fanfare. The clubs sit in eighth and ninth spot on the ladder with two games to separate them. In this match, the rivalry will have to take a back seat, as both teams will hope to win to ensure their finals hopes aren’t hindered.
Should Collingwood claim victory, Carlton will potentially fall three games below the eight and with only eight games remaining – half of which will be against sides in the top eight – Carlton’s finals aspirations will take a serious dent. However, should Collingwood lose, they will be only a game clear of Carlton, as well as one of West Coast and Adelaide who play each other in another vital match. Collingwood’s run home isn’t much easier, with matches to come against Essendon, Hawthorn and two interstate trips.
With as many as six sides currently outside the top eight with hope – however slight for sides such as Brisbane or Gold Coast – Friday night’s match will be watched with intrigue by all football fans. In a season where only two weeks ago, a side barely above the bottom four on the ladder defeated the team ranked second on the ladder, anything can happen. It is not only sides outside the eight that will be watching the match with more than a slight concern, as sides like Port Adelaide and Richmond will be hoping to extend their gap on their competitors.
This match marks the beginning of the run home to the finals. With some clubs already all but assured of a spot in the finals and some planning their September holidays, the home and away season’s conclusion is approaching fast. Carlton and Collingwood matches are always contested at finals-like intensity. And despite the calendar saying we’re in July, you can be assured this match will have repercussions for the entire competition by the time September rolls around. The rivalry between the two sides; just an added bonus.