AFL Round 14 – West Coast v Essendon: Déjà Vu

Back in early 2004, James Hird spoke out against the umpiring display of Scott McLaren following Essendon’s 34-point loss to St Kilda – upset that (in his eyes) the Bombers copped a raw deal from him.

Following the surprising attack delivered via interview on The Footy Show, uproar understandably followed. The end result was a tribunal hearing, a $20,000 fine, and intense media scrutiny on him the following week.

Football pundits watched in anticipation for Hird’s response to the scandal in their Round 3 clash against West Coast– would he go into his shell and struggle under the pressure, or would he deliver a typically commanding performance?

Up to three-quarter time in a high-scoring encounter (Essendon leading the Eagles 99-98), his influence was respectable, but by no means game-breaking – 19 touches and a goal. Perhaps the extra attention was getting to him.

But if ever there was an occasion for a captain to lift his side, this was it.

The 30 minutes that followed contained what might well be the best quarter of Hird’s brilliant career. Up against three of the better midfielders of the last decade – Ben Cousins (30 touches and 3 goals), Chris Judd (23 touches) and Daniel Kerr (22 touches and 2 goals) – there were no easy kicks.

Yet despite the opponents, despite the boos, and despite the pressure on him following the controversy, Hird did as he pleased in the last quarter; turning in no less than 15 touches.

His final contribution was most telling.

With 1 minute31 left on the clock, Hird received a handpass from Marc Bullen on an acute angle in the forward pocket.

Running closer to the boundary line, he threaded the needle from 30 metres out. Jubilation overtook him and in a surprisingly emotional reaction, Hird grabbed the closest bloke in the crowd to him and embraced him.

Essendon won by 6 points.

Fast forward 9 years and Hird might well have spoken to Jobe Watson about his experiences in the lead-up to this game.

Taking a guest spot on Fox Footy on Monday night, Watson stunned the football world with the admission that he believed he had been injected with AOD-9604.

To say it was a brave move is as big an understatement as you can get.

Journalists from all corners of the media spectrum called for him to be stood down immediately. Headlines screamed that he should hand in his Brownlow. Even Jobe’s club came out and said they couldn’t quite believe he said what he did.

I doubt there has been a footballer under more pressure before a game as Jobe.

As luck would have it, West Coast were his opponents the following round.

Once again the game was in the balance at three-quarter time – although this time round the Eagles held a 17-point lead.

With no Shuey, Selwood or Hurn, it was Matt Priddis (33 touches and a goal), Dean Cox (16 touches, 21 hit-outs and a goal) and Mark LeCras (14 touches and three goals) leading the charge for West Coast – recovering from a slow start to slowly force Bomber mistakes with relentless forward pressure.

Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy were having an influence up forward with some powerful displays of contested marking.

Every time Jobe even though about touching the ball there were jeers.

It looked like Essendon may have run out of comebacks.

And yet, history has a funny way of repeating itself.

There weren’t 15 touches for Jobe in the last quarter – he could only manage 9 – but there was the same level of influence.

Watson began the final term by slotting through a goal in the second minute of the last quarter that kick-started the Essendon charge.

Ably supported by Ryder – the only player in the competition who can beat Natanui at his own game – Jobe began to exert his dominance at the clearances, willing himself to the ball and feeding out exquisite handball after exquisite handball.

Davey and Goddard capped off the Bombers increased work-rate around the ground to move within a kick of the Eagles, and Jake Carlisle continued his meteoric rise with a huge goal at the 25 minute mark that tied the scores.

There was no hugging of Essendon supporters, but the emotion was there.

You only had to watch each and every Bombers player run over to their captain at the siren to see how much love and support there is for him.

Essendon: 4.1.25; 6.3.39; 10.5.65; 15.8.98

West Coast: 3.4.22; 6.6.42; 12.10.82; 13.13.91


Essendon: Winderlich 3, Watson 2, Carlisle 2, Davey 2, Merrett, Ryder, Dempsey, Crameri, Goddard, Heppell

West Coast: Darling 3, LeCras 3, Kennedy 2, Dalziell 2, Kerr, Priddis, Cox


Essendon: Watson, Carlisle, Ryder, Winderlich, Dempsey

West Coast: Priddis, Cox, Masten, Darling

Votes: Watson (3), Priddis (2), Ryder (1)


About Sam Laffy

Thirty-something year-old Essendon supporter. Winning the flag in 2000 when I was 12 was supposed to kick off a dynasty I could boast about for years. Still waiting for that 17th flag.....


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    It certainly was an emotional win Sam . The Bombers seemed to be getting beaten in the clearances and wasting kicks but managed to guts out a win.

  2. Our delivery inside 50 is still very suspect a lot of the time, so that worries me for games against top four sides!

    Running on sheer determination and spirit late in games it seems!

  3. Running on sheer determination and spirit and the residual strength and endurance built up by………………………………

  4. The sheer amount of love Essendon supporters possess for Jobe and Jimmy.

    Or the massive amount of peptides we took.

    One or the other.

  5. Pamela Sherpa says

    I agree Sam,we stlll have to improve a lot to match the top four sides, particularly Hawthorn who are physically strong and tough . Carlisle is my new Neale Daniher. He’s as cool as a life saver in a crisis and Goddard is marvellous. The progresss of the other young players such as Kommer is great to watch too. The adversity that is galvanising us at the moment will stand us in good stead. One way or another we will survive it and the hypocritical football world will find another issue to get hysterical about

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