AFL Round 17 – GWS Giants v Essendon: British Invasion

By Neil Jackson

There was a buzz in the air at Olympic Park on this sunny Saturday afternoon, reminding me of the glorious Olympic days in 2000. Surely the atmosphere was not limited to the fact that this was GWS coach Kevin Sheedy’s last game against the club who provided him with a legendary 27 season coaching career? Or did it relate to the Meguiar’s MotorEx, advertised as the “largest and most prestigious motoring enthusiast event of its kind in Australia”, taking place at the Showground’s Dome, just 80 metres from SKODA Stadiumkoda Stadium. Maybe the atmospherics of the recent League State of Origin held at the next door ANZ Stadium three days earlier still lingered on?

More likely, Olympic Park was experiencing a British invasion. Manchester United was in town. They were playing later that night at ANZ Stadium before a sellout of nearly 84,000 people. Consequently, not only were there hundreds of Man U supporters, wearing their Red and Black coloured scarfs and jerseys, enjoying the winter sunshine in the precincts of Olympic Park. There were also dozens of supporters actually watching the great game of Australian Rules football at Skoda Stadium. For two and half hours as an impressive entrée to their main course, they could enjoy the sight of many goals, no off side rulings, spectacular marks, and handballs that are rewarded.

The Giants came into the game with a zero-fifteen win/loss record, most recently enduring a humiliating 129 point thrashing from the current real Sydney giants, the Swans. However, they began the game with great spirit, with goals kicked from Jeremy Cameron and Jonathan Giles. The latter was an example of sling shot that so typifies the modern game. By the first break, the Giants led the Bombers by 3 points.

No doubt Essendon coach James Hird had read the riot act during the quarter time break. Being not far from the huddle, I could not help but notice television boundary rider, the well-dressed Barry Hall, trying to listen in to Hird’s instructions. The Bombers must have taken the message, as they dominated the centre clearances and were more precise with their targets during the second quarter. In due course, Essendon achieved a 51-39 lead at half time. .

In quarter number three the Bombers had at one stage extended their lead to 4 goals. Essendon’s defence by now was making it hard for GWS to get inside their attacking 50. In addition, the young Giants were frustratingly creating too many turn overs. However, GWS did not give up, with 3 successive goals, leading to just a straight kick between the two teams 15 minutes before the final break. Included in those 3 goals was a magnificent 45 metre kick from Adam Tomlinson taken from the pocket. (Four days later Tomlinson received a Rising Star nomination).

By this stage of the game, Essendon must have been desperate to avoid being the first team in 2013 to lose to GWS. 6 straight Bomber goals thereafter followed.

Even as the sun set at Olympic Park, the Giants never appeared to give up, kicking nine scoring shots in the final quarter.  However, Essendon, led by young stars Dyson Heppell, David Myers (with a sixty metre goal on the run), as well as accurately kicking Travis Colyer (with 4 goals), pushed the Bombers to a fairly comfortable 39-point victory.

It was apt to observe the 376 game veteran Dustin Fletcher approach his first coach, (for no less than his first 16 seasons), with a firm shake of Sheedy’s hand. As the song “See the Bombers fly up” sounded out, I wondered what Sheeds was thinking. This was after all a club who he coached to 4 Premierships. For the many Man U supporters present, it could be compared with a scenario where Sir Alex Ferguson heard the victory sounds of “Glory Glory to United”, whilst he was coaching a new soccer club from London’s West End.

Everyone left the ground with a prize. Essendon got their 4 competition points. GWS earned respect. And the crowd of 10,783 represented only the second occasion that Skoda had ever achieved a five figure attendance. The Sydney Showground is a magnificent boutique stadium, covered with bright orange seats, and containing the biggest electronic scoreboard in the southern hemisphere. I can’t wait for the day when there is a full house of 25,000. I am sure that we will not have to wait for another Man U visit for that to occur.

Three votes-Jake Melsham (Essendon)

Two votes-Travis Colyer (Essendon)

One vote-Jeremy Cameron (GWS)

Leave a Comment