Carlton vs Collingwood: Head to Head Stats, Records & History

With some of the oldest sporting clubs in the world playing in the AFL, it’s little surprise that there are plenty of long-standing rivalries in the league. Among the most notable of these is that of Carlton vs Collingwood, two clubs who have been in the VFL/AFL since its beginning way back in 1897 and who have enjoyed more success than nearly all of their counterparts. The rivalry stretches back well over 100 years, so let’s go right back to where it all began.


Carlton vs Collingwood: The History 


The VFL era begins

The Carlton Blues were founded well over 150 years ago in 1864, putting them among the oldest remaining sporting clubs in Australia. It wasn’t until nearly three decades later that their soon-to-be arch-rivals in the Magpies came into existence, just in time for the start of what was then the VFL. Over the first dozen years of the VFL both teams enjoyed periods of success, with Collingwood winning back-to-back Premierships in 1902 and 1903 and Carlton winning three in a row between 1906 and 1908. Despite their early success though, there was nothing of particular note to separate the rivalry between these two sides from that of any others. That all changed, however, in 1910.


The brawl which started it all

That year saw Collingwood vs Carlton in a Grand Final for the very first time, a momentous occasion which, in the eyes of many, marked the beginning of this historic rivalry. Collingwood would go on to win the game by 14 points, but it wasn’t the result which made this game such a memorable one – it was the fourth quarter brawl. Early in the final term, a fight began which would go on to include more than 30 players and officials. Following the match, one player from each side was suspended for a huge 18-months while another from each side was suspended for 12 months – though one of those suspensions would ultimately be revoked. Regardless, the fight set the precedent for the animosity which would surround future matchups between these two sides.


It was just five years later that the two sides would meet in a Grand Final for the second time, with Carlton getting the chocolates in front of nearly 40,000 spectators on that occasion. Over the next couple of decades, however, the tables would turn once again. Collingwood developed into a powerhouse, winning eight of the next 21 Grand Finals to become far and away the most successful club in the league’s history. In contrast, Carlton struggled; 1921 and 1932 were their only trips to the Grand Final during the period in which their rivals were winning flags like they were shelling peas, and both resulted in close losses at the hands of Richmond.


The 1938 Grand Final

When they finally got another chance to add a fifth Premiership to their tally in 1938, lo and behold it was the Magpies there waiting for them. Indicative of both the interest in the game and the popularity of the two clubs, 96,486 fans attended the game, which was the highest Grand Final attendance in history to that point and significantly higher than was advised as the maximum capacity of the MCG. That would remain the largest Grand Final attendance for close to 20 more years.

The game itself was closely contested early before Carlton jumped out to a 20-point lead at half-time which they would never relinquish. This broke a 23-year drought for the Blues, and kickstarted a ten-year period during which they would win three Grand Finals and re-establish themselves atop the proverbial VFL pecking order. 

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the rivalry stagnated to an extent, with neither team enjoying much in the way of success. Collingwood won a couple of Premierships but lost six other Grand Finals during those two decades – a period which played a major role in the development of the ignominious “Colliwobbles” nickname – while the Blues made just one Grand Final, which they lost, prior to their Premiership in 1968.


The 1971 Grand Final

In 1971, it kicked off again when the two sides met in the Grand Final, once again in front of a record crowd – this time of 121,696 fans, a number which, even over 50 years later, remains the largest attendance in league history. If there had been little to stimulate the rivalry over the previous 20 years, this game more than made up for it. In what is widely regarded as one of the best Grand Finals of all time, the Magpies blew the Blues away in the first half, jumping out to a 32-3 lead at quarter-time before extending that to 44 points at half time. They appeared destined to add a 14th Premiership to their trophy cabinet, but unfortunately for Magpies fans, the “Colliwobbles” reared its ugly head as Carlton cut the lead to 17 points at three-quarter time before running over the top in the final quarter to win by ten points.  

That famous game was subsequently referred to as “the birth of modern football”, courtesy largely of the half-time instructions of Carlton coach and league legend Ron Barassi to “handball, handball, handball”. This previously underutilised part of the game had become increasingly common in the years prior, but the role it played in such a famous comeback underpinned a significance which has continued to develop in the half-century since.


The Collingwood/Carlton rivalry reaches its pinnacle

It would be less than a decade before the teams would meet again in a Grand Final, meeting in 1979, before they were again the last two standing just two years later in 1981. This rounded out a ten-year period during in which three Grand Finals were Collingwood vs Carlton, and with two of the league’s biggest clubs also among the best in the league at the same time, the rivalry during this period was as fiery as ever. In what had become commonplace for big games between the two VFL giants by that point, both Grand Finals were played in front of mammoth crowds, 113,545 attending in ’79 before 112,964 packed into the MCG in 1981. 

 The Blues won each of those two Grand Finals, the first by just five points in yet another thrilling encounter between the two sides, before they ran out 20-point winners a couple of years later. After decades of struggles for the Blues earlier in the century which coincided with overwhelming success for the Magpies, the tables had turned in one of the league’s biggest rivalries. 


Both clubs begin to falter, but the animosity remains

 Carlton would go on to win three more Premierships throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s while Collingwood won once, but there was no repeat Grand Final matchup. Still, their respective popularity remained as strong as ever, and with it the ferocity of the rivalry. A little over two decades in, the 21st century hasn’t been kind to the Blues, and while the Magpies have made numerous Grand Finals their inability to win on the biggest stage has remained, with just one Premiership from five Grand Final appearances. 

 This lack of on-field competitiveness, however, has done little to dampen the rivalry. The enormous followings both clubs enjoy has contributed to it continuing in 2021, with the Blues having spent an inordinate part of the century in the lower reaches of the ladder and the Magpies gradually fading after their 2018 Grand Final appearance, both found themselves in the top-five clubs in the league in terms of membership numbers, having accumulated in excess of 80,000 in 2021. 

 These huge and passionate fanbases have ensured the animosity between the clubs remained despite a lack of success, while Mick Malthouse also helped to add a little fuel to the fire just a few short years ago. Having coached Collingwood for 12 years between 2000 and 2011, winning a Premiership on the way, the recalcitrant leader reluctantly left when former player Nathan Buckley took over, and just a season later took over the reins at – you guessed it – the Blues. Unsurprisingly, the move wasn’t well-received by Magpies fans.

Incredibly, over 125 seasons playing against one another, these two sides have won 128 games apiece against one another, and have also played out four draws. Throughout this time, both Collingwood and Carlton have been two of the most successful and popular clubs in the league. This inevitable recipe for a rivalry has been punctuated even further by major incidents such as the 1910 Grand Final brawl, closely contested Grand Finals, and the movement of several popular players and coaches, including, most recently, Collingwood Premiership coach Mick Malthouse. Neither club is currently at the peak of its powers but still the rivalry endures, and one can only imagine how it will reignite when they invariably find themselves in Premiership contention at the same time.  


Carlton vs Collingwood Head-to-Head Stats

Win/Loss: 128-4-128

Grand Final Win/Loss: 5-1 in favour of Carlton

Biggest Carlton Win: 180-69 (Round 18, 2000)

Biggest Collingwood Win: 141-33 (Round 18, 2002)

Most Consecutive Carlton Wins: 9 (1905-1909)

Most Consecutive Collingwood Wins: 7 (1897-1899)

Biggest Attendance: 121,696 (1971 Grand Final)



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