AFL Round 23 – Carlton v Essendon: Time Travel

The old Bomber crew from Shepparton High teaching days decided it was time to get together to celebrate our ’84 flag, won 30 years ago.

Back then our avid group, put our money where our mouths were, bought memberships  and travelled down to Windy Hill for every home game.  We experienced the thrilling highs and the devastating lows of finals football, had some memorable after game encounters and held Bomber parties whenever we had a half reasonable excuse.

As Bomber Kevin(Arthurson)  and I wait for Bomber Peter(Feain) at the Hilton, we fondly recall the thrill of meeting fabulous Phil Carman here, many moons ago.

After the Bombers had suffered an unexpected loss, being too demoralised to get into the car and drive straight back to Shepp we chanced upon the Bombers official function upstairs where a sombre mood prevailed. On the closest table to the door was ‘fabulous Phil’ who kindly invited us in to join his friendly group. We were completely unaware that Sheeds had given the team an almighty post- game bake.

When Timmy Watson turned 21 we held our own mid week party for him. One season we journeyed  to Kardinia Park. At finals time we travelled down to training.

No important Bomber event escaped our attention. They were glorious football days and it was a great time to be an Essendon supporter.

We’re aged in our 60’s now and although some aspects of football may have changed some things endure.  Good old fashioned Bomber talk is still second nature. The latest trade rumours are discussed.

When Bomber Ken(Fletcher) and wife Rosemary arrive  we talk ‘travel’ before getting down to the serious business of the finger injury to  their ‘young’ 39 year old son Dustin,  who was knee high to a grasshopper when we first met in Shepp. Unfortunately Dustin is out for the remainder of the season but the challenge of making it to 400 career games remains alive.

Time hasn’t dulled our passion for Essendon. If anything it has been stirred and reinforced by the off field drama.

After last year’s unceremonious eviction from the finals courtesy of the AFL administration, here we are sitting on the verge of the finals series facing arch rival Carlton (who replaced us last year) without having to worry about today’s result. And thanks to our other arch rival Collingwood losing last night, we are finals bound.

My daughter Tashi joins us before it’s time to wander across to the ground on a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon to meet up with more relatives. Spring is a sniff away .

The game begins with Carlton goaling first through Armfield. The Bombers look lacklustre and you wonder if the effort of just getting here has drained the players. It’s seven minutes into the game before Jobe Watson scores our first and only goal for the quarter.  Judd is everywhere. Carlton are more energised and score six goals for the quarter. The Bombers look out of sorts.

In the second quarter it’s Carlton’s turn to rest and Essendon who do the scoring. The Bombers pile on  eight for the quarter, the highlight, being a beauty from young Joe Daniher who kicks a left foot banana from the boundary. Scores are level at the 16 minute mark of the quarter. Their Watson (Mathew) scores before Ryder levels the scores again. A classic piece of play starting with a handball from our Watson(Jobe) out of the centre to Winderlich who goals shows us a glimpse of what we have been expecting. The Bombers are finally warming up. Stanton adds one to the  Bomber’s tally. Both teams are playing scratchy, non urgent, end of season football.

Ironically the crowd comes to life after Carlton’s McLean flattens Goddard in a contest for the ball. Goddard,no shrinking violet is stunned and takes some time to get to his feet.

At half time a Bomber fan walking past remarks “Just like the old days, Watson and Daniher our main scorers.”  I smile wryly.

Nephew Cameron and I discuss the latest plots in the Essendon off field saga.

 

After halftime Goddard misses from point blank range. Perhaps he is still feeling the effects of the clash with McLean. Paddy Ryder roves like a true ruckman and snaps a goal. Chappy flies to take a screamer. “ Mark of the year!”the Bomber fans scream . We need something to get excited about. Chappy goals to seal the deal. Judd is still everywhere and propels Carlton forward  to get on top again. At times the game is a bizarre comedy of errors. What are we playing for today? Carlton score four goals for the quarter to Essendon’s  two. At three quarter time the Bombers are seven points in front.

The fourth quarter begins with the ball bouncing through from a kick by McLean to put Carlton a point behind. Goddard marks and goals for us. Thankfully he has recovered.  Daniher marks in the right pocket but kicks out on the full. Their Watson marks and kicks his fourth for the day and the Blues are a point behind.  The Bombers fumble, Wood snaps for Carlton. They  are in front again.   Sheehan’s kick hits the post  for Carlton. Gleeson kicks a running to goal to save the Bombers and put them in front again. Carlton’s Tuohy kicks a behind and scores are level.  When the ball sails into the Carlton goal mouth again it is a miracle that it isn’t rushed through for a behind but instead is pushed across  and outside the boundary line. The play is all down Carlton’s end. When Tuohy’s kick is marked by a leading Bryce Gibbs ‘of all people’ as my sister exclaims, tomorrow’s headlines and dollar signs flash through my mind.  He lines up, gets ready to roost it but gets under the ball, kicks it high and it fails to make the distance. There is a collective sigh of relief from Bomber fans. We have been saved  the embarrassment of losing to a team not in the finals this year.

We put in an average performance today and will have to smarten up considerably before next week’s elimination final. But we are there. We will play a final this year.

Unfortunately not all of our Bomber crew could make it today, but we have plans to meet again  next year, and to celebrate our 85 flag.

 

Carlton       6.3   7.4     11.4      14.6   (90)

Essendon    1.3   9.6    11.11   13.12  (90) 

 Goals : Carlton Watson 4, Yarran 2, Menzel 2, McLean, Wood, Armfield. Waite, Lucas, Bell.

Essendon Daniher 2,Watson2, Ryder 2, Goddard, Stanton , Winderlich, Gleeson,  Ambrose, Chapman, Merrett.

BEST CARLTON- Judd, McLean, Gibbs, Simpson, Watson.

          ESSENDON- Heppell, Watson, Stanton, Hurley,Ryder

Umpires-Wenn, Dalgleish, Jeffery,  (AFL site says third umpire was O’Gorman but papers say Jeffery I didn’t take any notice on the day. )         CROWD 56,658

OUR VOTES- Judd (C) 3 Heppell 2  Watson (C) 1

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