AFL Round 8 – Brisbane v Essendon: The Bullfight

I went to a bullfight in Madrid last night. When in Rome right? You have this image in your head obviously – mano y toro, man vs. bull, agility and a cape (and swords) against a huge bulk with lethal horns, the young man staring down the beast with the support of the baying crowd. The ultimate test of your manhood? Possibly to some.

To a degree, this mental image holds true. At the end of the ´fight´, the matador strides to the middle of the ring. Dazzling in his tight, sequined outfit as the sun sets in glorious hues of orange, red and yellow, he dances and weaves away from each attempted gore, dodging skilfully as the bloodied, weary bull desperately tries to inflict a blow. Once this ´ballet´ has ended reached its final act, a last flourish of the sword sends the blade down the back of the neck, severing arteries, causing lethal internal damage and puts down the animal for good. Man emerges victorious from its fight with the beast.

Unexpected to me however was the team aspect of the fight. Groups of five or six work in tandem to distract and wear down the bull, slowly draining blood, viscera, and vital energy from the bull through the flamboyant delivery of multiple decorated barbs to the back and side. They aid their teammates when needed, and work the bull around the ring – putting on a ´show´ for the paying customers.

The bull fights valiantly, but can´t match the weaponry of its opponents. Eventually, it runs out of stamina and the fight is finished, the animal vanquished, it´s existence snuffed out. It´s a sad sight to see the carcass dragged off, sand turning purpley-red, but I knew what I signed up for. Rarely is there a happy ending for the bull.

There were slight hiccups from the matadors – barbs fell out, a matador was knocked off his feet by the bull, the final sword thrust not quite effectively laying out the animal on occassions. Signs that maybe nature would emerge on top, that the matador would not quite survive the encounter. But nothing prevented the ´expected´ result. Perhaps it´s a noble death for the bull, going out fighting in an arena, rather than meeting its end in a back shed?

The crowd celebrated with vigour as the last bull was defeated, the matadors walking off to a standing ovation.

Paddy Ryder was Essendon´s chief matador against Brisbane. When the time came, he marked and kicked truly from a tight angle to kill off the Lions´ chances – the final blow needed to take down his tenacious opponent. His supporting cast of fighters – Watson, Heppell, Goddard, Stanton, and the backline – helped to wear down the young Brisbane ´beast´, absorbing their best efforts before proving just too good.

Essendon: 2.3.15, 6.4.40, 7.8.50, 9.11.65
Brisbane: 3.0.18, 4.3.27, 8.6.54, 8.9.57


Essendon: Z.Merrett 2, Goddard, Daniher, Carlisle, Zaharakis, Watson, J.Merrett, Ryder
Brisbane: Green 3, Merrett, Brown, Zorko, Paparone, Paine


Essendon: Watson, Heppell, Goddard, Stanton
Brisbane: Rockliff, Green, Paparone, West


Watson (3), Heppell (2), Rockliff (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. Callum O'Connor says

    I’m imagining a bunch of red and black matadors circling a bull that looks like Jonathan Brown…

  2. Major issues at Essendon. This mob have fallen away quicker than the Coyote chasing down the Road Runner. How on earth they challenged Hawthorn they way they did in Rd 2 is a mystery to all

  3. Callum – thats as good an image as any, and was true back when Johnno was at his peak, he loved beating up on Essendon.

    Steve – I´m quite glad I havent been able to watch much footy – from reports, the Bombers are struggling horrifically up forward. Maybe we are the bull, about to get put down for good!

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Gore blimey

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