AFL Round 3 – Fremantle v Essendon: The Old Heave Ho

We’ve been in our house for 30 years.  When we first bought it it was a small brick clad cottage in a good street in a suburb with lots of trees in it.  A modest house in a good place.  With a thumping big tree right outside the back door.  A huge canopy adjacent to and hovering over the entire roof of the house.  Our very own green Sword of Damocles.  Heavy limbs, a squillion leaves, possum food.  On the day of the auction the words of my father (practical to a fault, a depression era child, green was the colour of trams not a guiding principle) still echo.  “Get rid of the tree”.  Pause.  Beat.  “Soon”.

In your mid-20s you know things.  Or think you do.  You’ve got a point of view, a stance on many things.  Not informed by experience mind you, more likely by a bit of that and a cartload of contrariness.  The tree stayed.  And fed a thousand orange lidded bins, several generations of possums, the children of a procession of tree-trimmers, gutter clearers, roof tilers and tv antenna installers over 30 years.

“Get rid of the tree”.  Pause.  Beat.  “Soon”.

Wisdom vs. new ideas.  As is so often the case, wisdom proved its worth, the new idea had a few flaws.

The tree came down last week, ravaged over time by the predators (does anyone actually like possums aside from tourists) and droughts, it was now a huge, multi-tentacled dead stick, much of which was regularly falling during high winds.  Again.  Sword.  Damocles.  A humungous tree.  Wind.  Hundred year old roof tiles. Hmmmm.

It took 6 hours for the experts to get it down.  Ever seen professional tree loppers at work?  A sight to behold.  We drew a crowd in the street.

And 3 days for a weary old man (me) and his patient, stoic, brave, fabulous (I said beautiful too didn’t I?) wife to clear the space, lug 3 tonnes of dirt and stones down the back and make it look like it had never been there.  Can’t wait to show dad.

In the midst of that Essendon travelled West into the not very welcoming arms of the Dockers and the Purple hordes.

It seems that the Dons had been considering the virtue of a few new ideas of their own.  Deviating from the tried and true.  A bit of ‘smart’ thinking.  Whatever it takes.

I sat down on Friday night to watch.  A terrible week for the coach, the club, the players.  And yes, an old, infirm, dog tired man. A late adopter in the wisdom stakes.  A glass of the Langmeil in hand, heat bag on the neck, the spare on the back, wife cursing in the den.  Kids all out and about, the eldest texting me from whatever trendy beer emporium he found himself in with the young suits of his cohort.

A lonely vigil.  A deserved fate.  I reflected that I’d have been much more chipper if the chipper had been brought into play 3 decades earlier.  Wisdom.  Foresight.  Short supply.

In the first half the new fangled Lyon’s pride showed the Bombers the way and all the new ideas looked to be holding sway – run and spread, flooding, defensive structures – the Dockers knew what was needed and the Dons were floundering.  Fyfe and the pest rampant, no space for the red and black, confusion, muddy thoughts, a scoring drought.

Late in the second quarter we had managed to slow the Freo advance but they got the last two for the half and at the big break Fremantle 7.5 47 to Essendon 1.5 11 seemed about right.  Ryder had shown some aggression in delivering a bone cruncher to McPharlin and Hibberd and Carlisle were brave and resolute up the back but the best players on the ground had the anchor on their chests.  They were showing why they were feared in the East even if it’s a dog of a method employed by the boy from Preston.  Not pretty but dour, ignited by occasional bursts from the spark plugs in Ballantine and Walters.  Effective.

At half time the crock on the couch was feeling every shovel full of the Tuscan tops that had been laid on the tree’s grave.  The Bomber boys looked how I felt.

Wise words were needed from the coach.  Who would blame him for a burst of Neeldian exasperation.  Not me.  Keeping your head on the back of that week, the recent past takes something not found at a new age seminar.  But something passed between coach and players if the second half is any guide.

In the second half  the Bombers found that there was no substitute for hard work, nothing that could be added to effort that would make a difference.  They played like maniacs.  They played as though uncluttered by confusing method, just muck in, get there first, move it on.  No short cuts.  No easy way out.  And no impatience.  The tried and true does work.

Added to the 1st half grunt of Hibberd and Carlisle we now got improvement from Stanton, Ryder, Hurley and Howlett.  It was infectious.  All players did their bit by the end and the siren brought as genuine a sigh of relief from all concerned as I’ve seen from the Bombers ever.  The story was with the Bombers but its hard not to reflect that Pavlich has rarely looked so out of sorts, that as game as Griffin was, Sandilands is irreplaceable and that when Lyon coached teams get beaten it’s usually because they can’t score enough.

The Bomber players learnt something that those in charge of them should have known all along.

After the game I rang dad and told him about the tree.

ESSENDON       0.3    1.5    6.10    10.12 (72)

FREMANTLE     5.3    7.5    7.7       9.14 (68)


Essendon: Crameri 3, Hurley 2, Kavanagh, Howlett, Kommer, Heppell, Ryder

Fremantle: Mayne 3, Fyfe 2, Walters 2, Ballantyne, Duffield


Essendon: Hibberd, Carlisle, Hooker, Crameri, Ryder, Hurley

Fremantle: Duffield, Fyfe, Mundy, Barlow, Ballantyne, Walters


Essendon: Hurley (right wrist)

Fremantle: McPharlin (concussed), Bradley (cut head)

Umpires: Margetts, Farmer, Mollison

Official crowd: 35,963 at Patersons Stadium

Our Votes: 3 Carlisle (Ess) 2 Hibberd (Ess) 1 Fyfe (Fre)



  1. Peter Fuller says

    As a parent, I’m sure you would understand that every generation makes its own mistakes, and it is hoped acquires enough wisdom to learn from the more obvious examples. The most difficult task for the parent who has offered wise counsel, which is for a time (even thirty years!) disregarded, to pass on the overwhelming temptation to say “why didn’t you take my advice sooner?”
    I expect that your father was suitably disciplined when you told him that the tree was an ex-tree.

  2. Trevor Blainey says

    To his credit he was more concerned with the Bombers winning than any “I told you so”.

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