AFL Round 1 – Adelaide vs Essendon: A pep in their step

Score a footy and Cats gear

Score a footy and Crows gear

There was a sense of optimism in the air throughout the country in March 1983. Bob Hawke had been elected to power in Canberra sweeping aside the Fraser Government which had come about following the ignominious dismissal of Gough Whitlam on Remembrance Day in 1975 (1).

Picking up this positive vibe a group of Essendon fans based at the University of Melbourne formed a coterie to see the Bombers sweep to power in Hawkie’s wake. Thus TYOTB (The Year Of The Bomber) was conceived and delivered on the eve of the 1983 VFL season. To celebrate the event the dozen inaugural members of TYOTB (2) gathered in the illustrious Victoria Room of University House (3) for dinner and discussion about the year ahead. There was a lot to be positive about as under their young coach Kevin Sheedy the Bombers had won 16 games in each of the previous 2 seasons but had narrowly lost the their Elimination finals finishing fifth in each of those years. Recruitment of experienced players Rene Kink, Bryan Wood and South Australian Paul Weston were regarded as positive moves.

A generation on the remnants of TYOTB met at University House for their 30th annual dinner on the eve of the start of the AFL season. The coterie has undergone some changes but has maintained strong contact and support for their beloved Bombers over the period holding a dinner annually on the eve of the season. Discussion in 2013 focussed on the year ahead but there were reflections on what has happened on and off the field over the years since their first meeting.

In 1983 the VFL was a 12 team competition based on Melbourne although one of its foundation teams South Melbourne had relocated to Sydney in the previous season becoming the Sydney Swans(4). In ‘83 games were played on Saturday afternoon at suburban grounds or VFL Park aka “Arctic Park”(5); teams wore white shorts at away games and black shorts when playing home and alternate strips were an unknown phenomenon. Essendon were firmly based at Windy Hill where visiting sides their supporters and biased umpires always managed to raise the ire of Bomber fans. At home games TYOTB members traditionally stood on the southern wing before they elevated themselves to Social Club membership which allowed them to partake of a delicious pre-match smorgasbord and easy access to the bar before, during and after the game. This move may have been prompted by the introduction of the policy, introduced in 1982, whereby patrons were banned from bringing alcoholic beverages into VFL matches, and were limited to purchasing at most two pre-opened cans at a time from vendors at the ground.

In 1983 aside from the home and away round where teams met twice in the course of the 22 rounds, once at home and once away, there was an active night series which ran during the season. Finals were contested by 5 teams. Admission to home and away games was $6.00 for adults and $1.00 for pensioners and children. Kevin “Hungry” Bartlett became the first VFL player to chalk up 400 games. Ross Glendinning won the Brownlow, Bernie Quinlan the goal-kicking and Terry Daniher was voted VFL Players’ Association Most Valuable Player. At Essendon Simon Madden won the Crichton Medal and Terry Daniher was the leading goal kicker with 64 goals. Carlton beat Richmond to win the night premiership. Hawthorn eclipsed Essendon in the Grand Final falling over the line by a mere 83 points! (6)

In other cultural spheres David Bowie appeared at VFL Park in November; Gandhi dominated the Academy Awards winning 8 Oscars; Ben Kingsley as Gandhi was named Best Actor and Meryl Streep Best Actress for her role in Sophie’s Choice. “Return of the Jedi” by James Kahn was the best-selling book of the year and William Golding author of “Lord of the Flies” won the Nobel Prize for Literature.(7) The words from the cover of this book, which I read in the 1960’s still echo in my mind:

As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods,
They kill us for their sport. (

Reflecting on the Essendon in the era which saw the team field 220 players overall, 59 of whom played in Premiership sides, the coterie reckoned that James Hird was the best player they had seen followed by Simon Madden and Tim Watson whilst Kevin Walsh was considered to be the most under-rated. They liked to watch Matthew Lloyd, Leon Baker and the champion indigenous players Gavin Wanganeen, Michael Long and Derek Kickett. Sheedy was endorsed as our best coach even though he struggled at times and the year 2000 appropriately acknowledged as our finest season. The emotions of the coterie were most highly charged at the come backs in the 1984 Grand Final and in the 1993 Preliminary Final (after trailing Adelaide by 7 goals). Needless to say that the 1999 Preliminary Final loss to Carlton by a solitary point was the nadir although some feel this might be eclipsed by the current ASADA investigations.

The partners of the original TYOTB members have delivered 10 offspring in the era whilst the group has conservatively worked their way through 37,490 bottles of predominantly red wine (9). To celebrate the auspicious occasion of their 30th anniversary they swilled and sank inter alia a 1983 and a 1984 Penfolds Grange both of which were generally acknowledged by the group as rich, opulent and full-bodied – not unlike a successful AFL footballer in retirement!

TYOTB adjourned early with pep in their step to get a good sleep in order to ready themselves for the season’s opener against the formidable Crows at Adelaide’s AAMI Stadium the following night.


Expectation all-round as the Bombers travelled interstate to confront the Adelaide Crows on their home patch for the opening game of the 2013 season. AAMI Stadium is not a happy hunting ground for Essendon having won less than a quarter of the matches they have played there against the two South Australian sides. Surprisingly the Bombers wore white shorts and the Crows black although they were festooned with logos and other markings.

From the opening bounce it looked as if the Bombers had been to the TYOTB dinner on the previous night as they were jumped by the Crows, ably led by Dangerfield living up to his name. Adelaide was 3 goals up before you could say “Jack Robinson”. What can only be described as flukey saw a major to Brent Stanton close to the quarter time siren giving Adelaide a lead of thirteen points at the break.

CROWS 3.4 – 22

BOMBERS 1.3 – 9

Essendon came out a different side at the start of the second stanza quickly scoring goals through Crameri, Howlett and Bellchambers and snatching the lead from the seemingly bewildered Crows. Jobe Watson was having a picnic along with Heppell and Dempsey whilst moves to shut down Adelaide’s play makers were working a treat with both Dangerfield and Thompson managing just 2 possessions each for the term. Their prime goal-kicker, Taylor Walker was being forced a long way from the goal square to gain kicks and was generally worked over by the ageless Inspector Gadget whilst at the other end of the ground the lanky Bellchambers was proving an all to tall obstacle for full-back Ben Rutten. Hird was clearly winning the strategic battle which took his side to a lead of 14 points in at half-time following a 6 goals to 1 quarter.

CROWS – 4.9 (33)

BOMBERS – 7.5 (47)

Essendon, largely through the efforts of plucky forward, Alwyn Davey,who scored 3 majors in the term, consolidated its lead over the home team. They continued to hold out the Crows key on-baller Dangerfield and to effectively restrict Taylor Walker’s opportunities to score. The Bombers worked together as a team being superbly led by the reigning Brownlow medallist, Dyson Heppell and Ben Howlett scoring 6 goals to Adelaide’s 4 for the term.

CROWS 8.14 (62)

BOMBERS 13.7 (85)

A notable feature of the final quarter was the Essendon tackling and whilst the Crows showed some life getting to within 3 goals of the Bombers at one point the visitors fought back booting multiple majors toward the final siren.

This was a game where strategy worked for one side and left their opponents floundering in response. After their initial flurry at the start of the game Adelaide failed to make any positive moves to gain advantage over the Bombers. A tribute to James Hird and the on field leadership of Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher.

CROWS 11.16 (82)

BOMBERS 18.9 (117)


ESSENDON – Howlett 4, Davey 3, Goodard, Stanton, Dempsey, Myers, Hocking, Melksham, Watson, Hibberd, Kommer, Crameri, Bellchambers

ADELAIDE – Walker 3, Douglas 2, Mackay, Johncock, Jenkins, Petrenko, Porplyzia, van Berlo


ESSENDON – Watson, Fletcher, Heppell, Howlett, Hocking, Myers

ADELAIDE – Jacobs, Sloane, Reilly, Douglas, Wright, Jacobs

MALARKEY VOTES: 3. Watson 2. Fletcher 1. Heppell



  1. The Hawke Government came to power in 1983 amidst an economic downturn, but pursued a number of economic reforms that assisted in a strong recovery through the 1980s. Economic factors at play during the Hawke government were globalisation, micro-economic reform and industrial relations reform, as well as the opening of Australian finance and industry to international competition and adjustments to the role of trade unions.Hawke concluded his term as Prime Minister with Australia in the midst of its worst recession since the Great Depression. Economic reform included the floating of the Australian dollar, deregulation of the financial system, dismantling of the tariff system, privatised state sector industries, ended subsidisation of loss-making industries, and the sale of the state-owned Commonwealth Bank of Australia. A fringe benefits tax and a capital gains tax were implemented.
  2. The TYOTB originals can best be described as a motley lot. They came from academia and university management with a sole member from the Big Australian. More than half of the members were born overseas and only two had played senior Australian Rules football. Over the years many rose to great heights in universities. Overseas travel for work and play was a regular feature on the agendas of most members. They all had developed palates although agreement on the virtues of some wines they shared were not as consistent as their collective support for the Bombers.
  3. University House is the Staff Club at The University of Melbourne. It sits at the North end of Professors’ Road. The Victoria Room is used for high end entertainment although it has hosted some events at the other end of the scale – see “any old eleven” (Cape Weed Press, 2001) by Jim Young for an amusing story about one such occasion.
  8. King Lear
  9. One half bottle per day with one alcohol free day per week is 3 bottles a week over 52 weeks equals 156 bottles p.a. (13 doz.) for 30 years is 4680 bottles (390 doz.) per head by 8 persons is 37490 (3120 doz). sic transit gloria mundi


  1. PeterSchumacher says

    I really loved he way that you back grounded your piece and then went on to describe precisely what happened in the game. This was a great read.

  2. Bob, a group of mates and I have made a traditional VLine trip to Kardinia Park for each year for three years now. I’m hoping it will continue for at least another 27. There’s always room for tradition in football.

  3. Bob, best use of statistics in a match report I’ve seen for many a long year. Sic transit gloria mundi alright. (1)

    (1) Also noted the influence of C. Little in the presentation. (Interesting that C. Little will be known as the originator of footnotes – did they actually exist beforehand?)

  4. A fine read Bob. Being native to WA I was brought up in the AFL Tradition: East Fremantle to be exact. However, I moved East in the 70s and have become hopelessly muddled as a result. I started with the Wollongong Steelers but they merged with St George at Kogarah which further weakened my loyalties. Now, at 73, I have given up trying to work it all out. Keep writing mate.

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