Daicos confounds Cats
It was a moment of ingenuity mixed with the audacity of youth.
The day before his 20th birthday, and in his 51st VFL game, Peter Daicos sized up the moment as time ticked down late in the 1981 preliminary final against Geelong at Waverley – and he went for it.
It helped change the game; and added to his growing legend.
In many ways, choosing your favourite Peter Daicos goal remains a personal thing. His ensemble was so large and varied that it made differentiation exceptionally hard. After all, there were 549 to choose from, providing one of the great highlights’ reel of any league footballer.
It’s almost akin to trying to choose your favourite Lennon-McCartney composition; or selecting your preferred play from the works of William Shakespeare.
There was his banana goal from the wrong pocket that defied geometry against West Coast in the 1990 qualifying final; the miraculous major that had him apologising to his opponent John Gastev in 1991; the angle goal that turned Richmond’s Terry Keays inside out at Victoria Park in 1991; and even the first of his two goals in the 1990 Grand Final.
But the beauty is that we actually do know which goal Daicos rates as his favourite, as he revealed in his autobiography in 1991 – Collingwood and Me– with the goal he kicked in that preliminary final a decade earlier a clear top pick.
His view hasn’t changed a generation later. In a recent interview in the Sunday Herald Sun, when asked about his favourite goal, Daicos said: “People constantly re-live the West Coast goal, but for me there was a goal in 1981 that gave me a lot of pleasure. It was a preliminary final against Geelong.”
A year earlier, Daicos had celebrated his 19th birthday with one of the great marks of his career, riding aesthetically on the side of Cat Malcolm Reed. The following September, it would be a goal that would live on in the memory of Magpies’ fans.
To set the scene, Collingwood trailed by less than a goal at the 20-minute-mark of the penultimate game of 1981. Most of the forwards had pushed up the field, leaving only Daicos and Geelong defender Ian Nankervis, and Craig Stewart and his opponent Richard Murrie deeper in attack.
Warwick Irwin gained a free kick in the middle of the ground and saw Daicos as a serious option in attack, eager to get the ball to him.
Daicos recalled: “I led out wide to the half-forward flank. Warwick … shot me a perfect pass and I marked it out in front.”
With time running out, he knew he had to think quickly, and sum up his options. “I thought ‘Crikey, there’s no one to kick to’. The options seemed to be, to kick the ball into the square, or handball over Nankervis’ head, and then try to win the ball back.”
“I was feeling strong in the legs, I wasn’t overly tired or anything, and I realised there was plenty of space. So I made an instant decision, I handballed out in front of myself, as I ran around Nankervis. I didn’t handball until I was level with him, to make sure he couldn’t cut me off. I spurted out in front of Nankervis, tapping the ball while he tripped over his feet.
“I regained the ball from about 35 metres out, and kicked the goal that put us in front.”
It was Daicos’ fourth goal of the game, and put the Magpies back in front.
Daicos felt as if he was “floating on air” as the ball went back to the centre of the ground. His other recollection of the moment relates to well-known and well-loved Collingwood trainer John MacGibbon who gave him a drink and a pat on the back after booting the goal.
“I was rapt,” he said. “I was so high I had to stop and take it in, to saviour the moment. I had only played three seasons, but I knew it would always be one of the great memories of my career.”
Daicos’ goal wasn’t the last. Teammate Craig Davis scored another to put the issue beyond doubt, but Daicos’ moment had been the catalyst for putting Collingwood into another Grand Final.
What he wasn’t prepared for was the questioning from chairman of selectors Ron Richards in the rooms after the seven-point win over the Cats.
Richards asked: “What the hell were you thinking?” Daicos replied: “I wasn’t thinking!”
“I have always said, as a player, if you took the time to measure the degree of difficulty in executing what you were planning on doing, you wouldn’t contemplate trying many things,” Daicos told the Sunday Herald Sun.
Thank goodness, he didn’t that day in 1981 against the Cats, or during so many other crucial moments of his career.