Camilla is the Collingwood of the royal family

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It was business as usual at ours last Sunday until the world tipped on its axis. The dogs were running around, we were having our usual end-of-weekend dinner – homemade pizza, glass of rose – and watching footy.

Then we found ourselves yelling at the telly, willing Collingwood home. Rode every minute as they slowly pegged back the Crows’ lead to win by a dramatic point.

Coach Craig McRae stands alongside Collingwood skipper Darcy Moore during the pre-game ceremony on Anzac Day.Credit: AFL Photos

As an Essendon supporter, I’ve hated Collingwood my whole life. The traditional rivalry, but also the Pies’ mongrel element. I’ve recounted before how I was called a slut by a fan at Victoria Park when I was 15, and that our Statesman parked outside got keyed the same day. Not long before he died in 1991, Collingwood star Darren Millane chased me around a room singing the Benny Hill theme song. I was a young footy journo. He was gaining, hands outstretched, when Leigh Matthews appeared and told Millane to cut it out.

I reckon if there was a census question about the least favourite AFL team, the Pies would romp it in. But in 2023, here we are; me, my family, possibly your family, the media, all getting behind the Pies. It’s not just their fabulous onfield game but also what they’re doing off it.

They’re suddenly awash with humanity. Stunningly eloquent and smart, captain Darcy Moore embodies modern leadership. Coach Craig McRae seems so measured, composed. Last year when Jordan De Goey mucked up in Bali, McRae was asked the first thing he’d say to his errant player: “I’ll hug him and ask how he is.”

My Pies change of heart has me wondering what else I’m missing out on. By sticking to beliefs ingrained in childhood, by making snap decisions about people and things, are we doing ourselves and the object of hatred a disservice? Is our fear of losing face by saying, “actually, I like Toto as a band” keeping us narrow-minded?

In 1987, I loathed on sight a new reporter in our Melbourne newsroom. She was beautiful, expensively turned out, and had a degree in French and Italian. I was living on Jim Beam and fried rice, and wearing Vic Market shoes. You bet I was jealous.

We ignored each other for nine months until one morning she was at my desk: “Everybody else is out. Will you have breakfast with me?” A croissant and cuppa later, we were holding hands, crying, saying, “where have you been all my life?” Almost 40 years later, through marriages, babies, deaths, divorce, Lou is my heart. And I almost missed out on her.

When I worked in magazines, friends chimed in on celebrities. I hate Karl. Kylie’s so annoying. Can’t stand that Sam Armytage. They freely admitted they had no good reason for their animosity. It taught me if you haven’t met someone, maybe you don’t actually know them. Confession: from afar, Nicole Kidman got on my goat. When we met, she was fun and real and I felt stupid and small for making decisions based on nothing.

The new Queen Camilla.Credit: AP

Queen Camilla, as she will be known from this weekend, would surely get a podium finish for people who are hated just because.

For decades, she was the Rottweiler. The Other Woman. The one with bad teeth muscling out pretty Princess Diana. But it turns out she’s actually half of an epic love story, a country woman who gets on with things and can just as easily shove a roast in the oven while wrangling grandkids and a G&T as she can put presidents at ease. She’s loyal, useful, classy.

Eighteen years after marrying Charles, Camilla is now not just grudgingly accepted by Brits but one of the royal family’s human crown jewels. “When people meet Camilla they always love her,” was a Telegraph headline this week. Let’s have more of it. Less ingrained beliefs, more open-mindedness.

And, it pains me to say it… go Pies.

Kate Halfpenny is a regular columnist.

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