I’m so tired of hearing about the Matthew Nicholls saga, and honestly, I’m so tired of hearing about it from Collingwood supporters.

So let’s set the scene: Collingwood is 19 points up against Walyalup with just seven minutes remaining. A pack forms twenty metres out from Walyalup’s goal. Umpire Nicholls blows the whistle for a ball up.

Collingwood’s Lachie Sullivan rises, and instead of handing the ball back to the ump (who’s behind him), Sullivan, instead palms it off to Nick Daicos, who then relays it to Nicholls.

Nicholls pings Sullivan for wasting time and gives Walyalup’s ruckman, Sean Darcy, a free kick.

Darcy goals, narrowing the margin to 13 points. Walyalup has all the momentum and proceeds to attack relentlessly.

The game results in a draw.

So, since then, the AFL have ticked off the decision. Now there’s a shock.

The AFL would’ve ticked off the lifeboat shortage on the Titanic as being within standard regulations, rather than admitting it was a gross misjudgement.

But we’ve had people citing situations from other games where the ball wasn’t handed directly back to the umpire, and yet the offender wasn’t penalised.

Jonathon Brown has said in the Walyalup-Collingwood game, there were thirteen other instances where the ball wasn’t handed directly back to the umpire.

It’s been inferred that Nicholls was peeved that just earlier, Steele Sidebottom hadn’t handed back the ball, annoying Nicholls to the extent that, like a poorly written Marvel villain, he decided to exact vengeance.

Caroline Wilson has intimated that umpires have been frustrated with Collingwood forcing stoppage after stoppage in close games; and former umpire Dean Margetts has said that while the decision was technically right, it wasn’t in the spirit of the game, and he wouldn’t have paid it.

I just don’t care.

Here are some other realities from that game: Collingwood’s Lachie Schultz could’ve been the hero against his former team, snapping a sealer that would’ve put Collingwood five goals up, but instead missed a sitter.

In addition to that Billy Frampton missed a relatively easy shot, Bobby Hill failed to force a stoppage, Brayden Maynard turned the ball over at half-back, Heath Chapman was effectively allowed to take an uncontested mark deep on the wing and repel Collingwood’s attempt to get out of defence – well, there are a lot more of these instances.

So here’s our choice: we can blame Nicholls for the draw, even though his decision only brought the margin down from 19 to 13 points (rather than giving Walyalup the lead). Or we can look at the things that Collingwood did wrong, which saw them fail to seal the game, fail to thwart Walyalup’s momentum, and fail to bury the match in inexorable stoppages.

Sure, Collingwood had injuries and a depleted bench. Sure, they had a lot of inexperienced players. Sure, it was a valiant effort.

But in exclusively blaming Nicholls, it abrogates Collingwood of any responsibility for letting the game slip and ignores that Collingwood let a 25-point margin go with just seven minutes remaining.

Here’s another thing: while Collingwood established themselves as the clutch kings in 2022 – 2023, they’ve actually struggled this year.

They almost let a gallant Hawthorn overrun them in Gather Round; they decided to try to protect a one-point lead against Essendon on Anzac Day with a fair chunk of the last quarter to go.

Adelaide blitzed them just two weeks ago, falling agonisingly short and now Walyalup mounted an improbable comeback.

In the Hawthorn, Essendon, and Walyalip games, players had opportunities – if not gimmes – to snatch the lead from the Pies.

Against Adelaide, Izak Rankine embarked on his blistering run down the wing, driving the Crows deep into their F50, only for the ball to be called back when Rankine was penalised for running too far.

The point? Are Collingwood still the clutch kings? Because last year, when games were close I was confident the Pies would smother the contest to the siren.

This year, on four occasions, they were overrun, they looked extremely vulnerable, and they were lucky not to lose any of those games.

But let’s blame Matthew Nicholls and his umpiring. Let’s elevate it up there with Wayne Harmes tapping the ball back into play, resulting in a Ken Sheldon goal, in the 1979 grand final.

Let’s sing this lament inexorably, and bemoan our misfortune and the persecution against Collingwood.

It’s never Collingwood’s fault that they ultimately weren’t good enough. It’s…*insert any of the above reasons*.

Geez, Collingwood didn’t win and nothing will change that, can we just let it go?





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