AFL Round 5 – Essendon v Collingwood: Pies play ketchup

Having settled into our seats on level 1, Olympic stand, not far from the Essendon bench, my wife (Lions supporter. Along for the ride today) and I gaze towards the top deck of the MCC Members stand. It looks full. Given we have a combined 5 Grand Finals experience between us (’00-’04), we know a 90k’er when we see one.

Due to a combination of my local footy commitments and our honeymoon to the USA (should I have listed those in a different order?) this is my first Essendon match for the year.

Our trip Stateside included trips to pro hockey, basketball and baseball. All games had their own pros and cons but one notable incident occurred at Madison Square Garden, where an overzealous New York Rangers fan celebrated a goal by raising his hands fiercely towards the retired numbers hanging from the rafters. Unfortunately one of these hands included a hot dog and almost instantly my bride was covered in ketchup, mustard and enough onion to bring a tear to the eye of the hardest NHL Goaltender. Thankfully she displayed the toughness required to marry my good self and after a quick clean-up we pushed on. The Rangers lost in a shootout.

The only other ketchup kite I had the pleasure of experiencing was at the MCG on ANZAC Day 1992. I had come across the ‘squeeze and apply’ packets of tomato sauce for the first time and by the time I was finished with it, the fair-haired gentleman in front of me ended up looking like an extra from a Tarantino film. Thankfully, this wasn’t the highlight of the day as the Bombers came back from 49 points down early in the last quarter to record a one point win. An 18-year old called Gavin Wanganeen kicked the sealer from 50 metres. No-one thought he could kick that far.

ANZAC Day footy was simpler in 1992. It was a Saturday, so there were three afternoon games, they were all in Melbourne and there were none that night. I like the way it’s done now. Standing in a silent crowd of 90,000+ is breathtaking. But should my team share the day with others? Probably, but my view on that changes. Does it change depending on how my team are faring? Yes.

As today’s match commences, it is soon very clear (to me anyway) that the summer drug scandal has affected Essendon fans. We have taken in a dollop of ‘us versus them’ and we’ve (thankfully) thrown up all of our ‘us versus us’. After recent years of criticising Stanton for not being Hird, Hille for not being Madden, Hurley for not being TD, Neagle for not being Lloyd, Knights for not being Sheedy and so on, it’s nice that we’ve found something else to channel our aggression towards. At the very least this scandal has taken us on a detour from the highway of irrelevancy, where we were using 8 seasons without a finals win as fuel.

Considering we are missing Ryder and Hurley, I’m convinced that we need to get goals from our midfield. Gumbleton was great last week, but I’m worried about ‘2nd-up syndrome’ and despite him bagging 6 against the Dees, I think the Pies’ defenders can handle Crameri. Our midfield is definitely the key as Swan, Pendlebury et al have made a habit of cutting us to shreds in recent times. Looking at the backline I have no concerns. If we win the midfield, it doesn’t go in quick to Cloke and if that doesn’t happen then Carlisle can beat him. Ever since Carlisle to said to Andrew Walker, ‘that’s probably what I’ll be remembered for’ after Walker took a junk-time hanger over him, I knew I liked the guy.

The first goal is kicked by Zaharakis. It is a snap from the pocket which followed a curved run. I like it because he has always seemed a straight-lined player to me. This goal means he is better. Our midfield is not just Watson now. We’ve brought in Goddard, and the others seem fitter and have improved. With Bellchambers and Hille all over Hudson and Lynch, I get quite confident quite quickly.

By halfway through the 2nd quarter, I make the comment that we are close to blowing the game open. But of course we are, aren’t we? We’re maybe 3 goals up against a team that has beaten us 7 times in a row? Thankfully I’ve married a psychologist and she allows my musings to pass by without comment. Immediately after, Collingwood start cranking up their press and have so many shots at goal that I start wishing they’ll kick a major, just so the ball will go back to the middle. For all that though, I think the Dons half-time lead is less than it should be.

I’m not sure if it’s still OK to brag about punting wins, but in 2009 my housemate and I backed Jason Winderlich to get the most votes for Essendon in the Brownlow at the generous odds of $51. The thrill we experienced when Demetriou said “J…..W…atson” for 2 votes for the mid-season game at the SCG, meaning that Winders was clear for the 3 votes is the stuff addictions are made of. Although he did end up dead-heating with Jobe, that was still the highlight of his career for mine. After debuting in 2003 and playing only 101 games prior to today, Winderlich has been very unlucky with injuries. It is a credit to him that he was able to come back as a small forward and in the third quarter he is everywhere.

Once again, the Dons seem like they are going to pull away, but the Pies again come back with 3 quick goals. As good as their young players have been recently, all I can see is familiar names stringing their big plays together. It always seems to be Reid/Shaw to Swan/Pendlebury/Sidebottom/Thomas to, well, not Cloke today, but you get the point. Mind you, Carlisle goes down late in the third and Travis now has an opportunity even bigger than his old man did when he was flogging ‘Mike’s Hard Lemonade’ in suburban nightclubs in the early 2000’s.

Two fairly dodgy free kicks in front of goal near the end of the quarter help steady Essendon. I won’t deny that they were questionable, but each of them were caused by quick ball movement and the Bellchambers free kick came directly after a perfect Hille tap down to Watson for the clearance. It’s called ‘making your own luck’. A bit like calling your kid ‘Joffa’.

Two early goals from the Pies make the margin that same amount and that makes me a tad nervous. Thankfully, the Dons do what they’ve been doing all day and reply quickly. From then on, the foot was finally put to the floor (an aeroplane metaphor would probably be more appropriate) and the Bombers were able to make the margin reflect the overall feel of the game.

The sealer is kicked by Watson to the same end where Tim kicked ones in the ’84 Grand Final and the ’93 Prelim. As he comes off the ground with his good mate David Hille, he receives a standing ovation. The same fans that bemoaned his kick/handball ratio 5 years ago are now in raptures. Hopefully his rise from plodder to provider can continue and that more can not only follow him, but do it for a full season and then some. The fans are loving this team again, and no drug can cure that.

 

Essendon         2.3 6.4 12.8 18.13 (121)
Collingwood    1.5 4.12 7.14 10.15 (75)

GOALS
Essendon: Zaharakis 4, Winderlich 3, Davey, Bellchambers, Watson, Merrett, Gumbleton 2, Crameri.
Collingwood: Cloke, Pendlebury, Goldsack, Blair 2, Sidebottom, Elliott

Best

Essendon: Zaharakis, Watson, Winderlich, Carlisle, Stanton, Bellchambers, Hibberd, Goddard, Heppell

Collingwood: Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Shaw, Reid

Umpires: Meredith, Mollison, Rosebury

Official crowd: 93,373

Our Votes: 3 Zaharakis, 2, Watson, 1 Carlisle

 

About Andrew Else

Andrew has self-reported to this site as a lifetime Essendon supporter. He also played local footy for Lara and Melbourne Uni Blacks.

Comments

  1. Nice one Andrew.

    Could just be me, but I’m seeing the Bombers playing a very Geelong circa 2007 brand of footy, right down to being ruthless to the final siren.

    Matty Knights, along with Dean Bailey, was pretty open that he wanted to take the Bombers down that path (no surprise he ended up at Geelong), and it’s great to see Hirdy and Bomber continue down that path and take the Bombers to the next level. The more teams there are that succeed by attacking, the better off the game will be.

  2. Andrew Else says:

    I’d be loath to liken the Dons to the Cats on this site Pete. I’m not sure that we’re saving footy from itself like the Cats apparently did. Next week’s game will certainly tell a tale. They have put us back in our box more than once.

    They’ve certainly got a fire burning at the moment though. Whether it’s the scandal bringing them together or if it’s a group of players all at the right age/experience it’s hard to tell. The 2nd half of the year should provide some answers.

  3. Sorta off topic, but I love the fact that the only bloke who showed something for the Knicks yesterday is one athlete you could never accuse of taking AOD 9604…

  4. AE,

    Delighted to find out you’ve married a psychologist (testimony to your courage or an explanation of why you are a ruckman – psychologist, psychiatrist and accountant were crossed off my list) who is happy to put ketchup on the breeze. Very entertaining piece.

    But I must mention that when they open the history books in a century’s time to read about footy in the new millennium the text will be accompanied with photos of statues of Corey Enright and Joel Selwood, Scarlo and Chappy, Brad Ottens and the Hawk.

    If it weren’t for them we’d still have the Swans-West Coast detritus of the sporting industrial complex which had the quality of run-off from a New Guinean gold mine.

    The Cats made it an art form again.

    Not sure what the Bombers are making it, although I agree with Pete that Port and Essendon are playing a similar style of footy to the Cats. And I reckon North should.

  5. Tsk, tsk, Andrew, how dare you suggest that Geelong did not invent the Beautiful Game. Consider yourself rebuked.

    By the way, not sure if the connection has been made, but that psychologist used to babysit my kids. Did a bloody good job, too.

  6. Andrew Else says:

    I see you deliberately left Little Gary out of the pantheon JTH. A tad harsh. Those wounds must still cut deep.

    Can’t deny they left the 05-06 era for dead though.

    Agree with your North contention. Brad Scott too clever by half.

    Litza – The ‘funeral black’ episode summed up both the appeal of US sport and the strength required to follow the Knicks. J Kidd will earn his 3 year contract in a night if he can rein all those egos in. I’ll be on the field during Game 6 so I’ll have to excuse myself from game-time banter.

    MOC – I’ve been advised that your kids were a pleasure and ‘well adjusted (psychologically speaking)’

  7. Andrew Fithall says:

    AE and Litza

    Was chatting to a friend recently who had just returned from a leisure trip to the US. Through his business my friend has connections with Andrew Bogut and on his trip had spent time with AB plus others in management positions with the Bucks as well as other “teams”. From his conversations he came away with more than an impression that there is little concept of team in the NBA – each group of players is fifteen or so separate franchises. At one of the Bucks’ games my friend attended, AB didn’t actually watch the game but was downstairs in the lockers getting treatment for his injuries. Sounds like reining in the egos would be a task for all of the coaches.

    AF

  8. “They have put us back in our box more than once.”

    The Cats have made a point of working up-starts over. They’re not quite the team they were though, and I think the Bombers are now more than up-starts.

    And also in the Bombers favour is that we’ve got two milestone games this week, and none next week. We don’t like losing those. Maybe Boris or Johnno should pull out of the game this week.

  9. AF

    The Celtics under Doc Rivers (Jordan Crawford aside) is all about ‘team’. “UBUNTU”

  10. Bombers can play. Good talent and good spread of talent. Attacking approach, increasingly stingy defence and only a matter of time before they find their best and regular back six. Hawthorn rely on too few at the moment. Cata are hanging in there. But they are having a huge impact on footy at the moment – look where former Catters are preaching the faith.

    Intriguing season coming up.

    As Alan Hulls says (for those of you who follow the Wagga gallops and the Dubbo red hots): “A good finish coming up here.”

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