A great chance to feed old mates some humble Pie

I was in Las Vegas, running late for dinner with Nathan Brown and his girlfriend, and I was trying to send through the paperwork for my trade from Collingwood to Melbourne. About half an hour later than we’d planned, I had finally figured out the fax machine at the hotel and Paige and I arrived at the restaurant we’d agreed on and I saw my new ex-teammate.

As we sat down, the girls started chatting about their respective holidays thus far (and most other things under the sun) while Browny and I ordered a drink. One of the first things he said to me was, ”So, Queen’s Birthday hey? Maybe I’ll be playing on you.” That was about the extent to which we talked about footy that night.

Since arriving back in Melbourne from our US holiday, one of the most common questions I’ve been asked in media interviews is: ”How will you prepare for the Queen’s Birthday clash with your old side?”

My response has almost become rehearsed, and in classic footy cliché manner, I answer that I will be treating it like I would any other game – I would be a fool to treat it any differently. That’s not to say I didn’t predict that there would be media interest, although I hadn’t realised just how big a game it is for the Melbourne footy club.

This will almost certainly be the biggest crowd we play against all year, whereas at the Pies there were some players who wouldn’t get out of bed for less than 50,000 spectators!

I will do my best to treat Monday like any other game – I’ll go to training this week and get my body feeling good, make sure my hands are sharp, and I’ll hear the tactics that we’re going to employ to try to take down the Magpies. As far as preparation goes, even with added media interest, I think the week will be relatively normal. Come Monday afternoon, however, things may feel a little different.

Despite having played with and against most of the Collingwood boys numerous times at training and in intra-club matches, you can’t really replicate match-day intensity. Even if you could, the beauty of AFL football is that regardless of how well you know your opponent, invariably, he who works harder will win the battle.

What may feel strangest is those little interactions you have with an opponent when there is a stoppage of play. Often when you make eye contact with an opponent, you’ll be met with a bump or an elbow, which I fully expect on Monday. The weird thing is that at times the bloke dishing it out will be a good mate. Perhaps had I not parted ways with the club on such good terms, things might be different.

The inevitable booing from the Collingwood faithful could have been even louder, and the sledging could have that bit more venom to it. I’m glad Daisy Thomas won’t be playing this week – for two reasons. One is that it means one less quality player at their disposal. And two, he is one of the funniest sledgers going around. If I was lining up for goal and detected his voice in my periphery, I’m not sure I could keep it together long enough to kick truly. No doubt someone else will step up and fill the breach. To be honest, I’m not sure what to expect. With respect, hopefully we can make it a miserable day for my old mates, and get the Demons’ season back on track with a win. Maybe Browny will play on me. Maybe Ben Reid will. In the end, it doesn’t matter too much how well we know each other’s games, it will come down to hard work. I’m looking forward to playing in front of a big crowd again.

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