AFL Elimination Final: North Melbourne v Essendon – Sometimes it is just not your day

The finals. The pinnacle of the year where ten teams are left by the wayside, and eight carry on battered and bruised, but ready to fight. Hawthorn and Sydney have jumped the queue, fast tracking their way to a preliminary final. Fremantle and Geelong have received their, “get out of jail free cards” and now play the winners of the cut throat elimination finals. Essendon, North, Richmond and Port fate’s are now in the balance. This is the first time I have written about the finals, so let’s hope that was a good omen…

Let’s examine these two teams more closely. Two teams, vastly different in their playing styles and culture are facing off. On one side, you have Essendon. They have been bruised physically and mentally from this season. The Bombers have the best weapons, but sometimes don’t make the best use of them. They tend to start off really well, but then drifting into nothingness in the third and fourth quarters. Now let’s examine North. North is the Marin Cilic of football (Marin Cilic is a tennis player). They have the talent, the coach, the weapons to succeed, yet somehow cannot cross the finishing line. Like Marin though, they have turned a corner in the past year, knocking on the door, scoring some upsets, but then receiving some in return. Marin is playing Roger Federer in the semi final at the US Open. All this was shaping up for an interesting clash.

In the morning before the game, I read all the previews in The Age. I read an interesting fact, which turned out to shape the game. Essendon, are one of the best scoring sides in the second quarter, while North are the worst. Essendon are one of the worst in the third quarter, while North is the best. That fact seemed to stick with me as I checked other sports results. I didn’t have any trigonometry homework this week (thank goodness) so I could watch the game.

My cousins came over for dinner and since they barrack for St Kilda, they went for Essendon for the duration of the game. So at least there was no heckling over umpire decisions, free kicks and how the other team was playing. My cousin Matt is a footy fan, so while the first quarter was on, we debated the holding the ball rule and how Essendon needed Carlisle and other issues. That was the most interesting thing about the quarter since it was such a scrappy game. Essendon had nine marks for the entire quarter while North had 33. Luckily, we were ahead by a point at quarter time, but no one could separate the teams.

Now it was time to put my stat into action. Essendon delivered on my hunch as the lead was 27 points at half time. Daniher was starring at full forward. Taking marks, snapping goals – all with that hair. Chapman was muscling his way into goals and everything seemed to run so smoothly. I was already talking about if we could go to next week, but I forgot rule number 5 when supporting Essendon. Never, ever think you are going to win until you are 60 points up with five minutes to go.

The third quarter started innocently enough, Chapman extended our lead to 33 points. Now I am going to sum up North’s fight back in two words. Ben Brown. His long run up (which must be about one hundred metres), his hair and most importantly for North, he kicked perfectly straight. Suddenly, our lead was cut from 33 points to 3 in 10 minutes. I was rattled, I thought maybe I could break rule number five, but as Essendon keeps reminding me, I can’t. We steadied the ship with a couple of goals, but for every goal we kicked, North answered straight away. Bellchamber’s goal after the siren was a clutch goal, which also defined how close a ball could go without hitting the post.

Now you could feel how tense the last quarter was when my brother Ed got up from his sick bed to watch. I had thought we had clinched the match when Paddy kicked a spectacular banana from 45 metres out. Then, North’s tall forwards woke up. Well Drew Petrie did. Two heartbreaking snaps from 50 metres out sealed the win for North. I sat stunned for two reasons. Why is everyone snapping from 50 metres and getting the goal, and how many times had we given up a lead in the third quarter. North was ecstatic as they should be, but they have now entered the door for a semi with Geelong. Marin Cilic upset Roger Federer to reach the final of the US Open. They have finally knocked the door down and I wish them all the best.


  1. Good one Max. I have warmed to the Bombers players and supporters (at least those who write in the Almanac) over the season. You have a lot to look forward to with your young and talented list.
    I hope you can retain Mark Thompson as coach for next season.
    Thanks for your passionate and insightful match reports all season. I hope the tennis season goes well for you.

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Bombers probably needed one more goal early in the third term to put Roos away, Max. Was pretty sure we had you when with 2mins to go before 3/4 time, Nth forced the Bombers backwards from our chf to ff, where Lindsay snapped and goaled. Inspirational stuff. All the best for next season.

  3. Good on you, Max.
    Trigonometry is nothing to be scared of. Use it for good.

    And I agree with the vibe of your opening paragraph – finals are are the real season-within-a-season. The rest of it is all entree to the main course. At least you made it.

    All the best with SOH CAH TOA.

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