AFL Round 9 – Richmond v Essendon: The one where a wedding almost got in the way

I’m a summer wedding kind of man. It just makes sense to me.  Dance, sing and be merry when the sun is shining.  Love is warm, so celebrate it in February. I’m not a married man, but when I do tie the knot, it’ll be on a day so hot that even Tony Abbott seems cool.  Summer is for socialising, but autumn and winter is for footy.

“Excuse me family and friends.” The celebrant has started early. There is no sign of the bride and the groom is still fixing his tie. She’s a joyful looking lady, who seems clearly very happy to be there.  “The bride and groom have requested that you all turn your phones off for the ceremony.”

“Fair enough,” I think aloud. I wasn’t planning on calling anyone during the wedding service, nor was I planning on answering a call.

The celebrant continues. “They’ve also requested that you leave them off until you get home tonight after the ceremony.”

I am stunned.  Shocked. With my mouth open and eyes bulging I look around for reciprocated outrage.  Everyone seems to be pretending they are ok with this absurd request.

It wasn’t my fault the bride and groom decided to get married on a Saturday in late autumn and it sure as hell wasn’t my fault the AFL had scheduled the Dream Time at the G on the same day as this joyful bloody occasion.

It just wasn’t going to happen. My phone would not be turned off.

The ceremony is a blur. I can’t concentrate as I plot a way to stay connected to the G.  I hear the bride and groom say ‘I do’ and see the groom kiss his bride. People cheer and clap and pose for photos.  We’re taken to the Dairy Room for drinks.  Dave waltzes up with his phone in hand. “G’day Sammy!  See the Doggies got up?” He shoves his I-Phone 5 in front of my face and sculls the bottom half of his Peroni.

“Dave! Put your phone away.”  Dave’s wife, Kristin, has appointed herself Chief Phone Police.” I voice my objection on the phone ban. Kristin thinks it’s “a beautiful request.” I tell her I don’t’ even know what that means.

We take our seats on a table with a cheerful group from Sydney who are fascinated that it’s not raining in Victoria.  At 7.45pm the speeches commence. I get out my phone and place it on the table.  The Sydney-siders frown in my direction. “Just checking the weather,” I tell them. I’ve had a few drinks and I’m starting to enjoy myself.

The Father of the Bride begins his speech.  He has a quiet, gentle, engaging voice.  He believes that a short speech is a good speech. He makes a great speech.  We’re told there will be a break before dessert and Dave invites me out the back to watch him have a cigarette. I’m an outspoken critic of smoking, but agree to head out and watch him smoke so that I can check the footy scores.

Essendon lead by a point at quarter time. Riewoldt has one for the Tigers and Watson has one for the Bombers. I check the stats – everyone you’d want getting the footy for the Bombers looks to be up and about. Watson, Zaharakis, Heppell, Goddard, Stanton, Hibberd and my man, Courtney Dempsey, have had plenty. I’m encouraged and walk back to Table 2 with spring in my step.

The Best Man is a comedian. We get a free show. He starts slowly, but then gets on a roll. So too do Essendon. Despite an onslaught of objections, I keep the phone turned on and subtly refresh the scores. The comedian starts dishing out one knee-slapper after the next. His confidence grows and he shows no sign of stopping.  While he provides the crowd with his routine, Zaharakis kicks a goal, then Crameri, then Zaharakis again.

As the Bride takes the microphone Watson slots one, then Hibberd.  Martin gets one for the Tiges just before half time, but it seems to me the Bombers are up and about. They lead by 20 points but seem to be well on top.

The Bride puts on a real show. Between her and the comedian before her, I feel like I have front row seats at a Melbourne Variety Show. She addresses her bridesmaids individually. She has five bridesmaids. She thanks her Greek uncles, her parents and then gives her husband great, big, kiss on the lips.  The crowd roars. It reminds me of the footy. I check the scores. Watson is dominating and I notice Melksham has kicked a goal. Things must be going well.

Crameri kicks his second and Essendon go 38 points in front. Riewoldt cuts the margin to 33 later in the quarter, but when Howlett answers I declare the game over and call over the waiter to top up my drink to celebrate.

The Groom is now making his speech and starts speaking in Greek. He is not Greek, but his wife is. I sense the night is morphing into ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding.’ I like the idea and encourage the situation by joining the crowd for a bit of ‘arm around shoulder’ Greek dancing. My spirits are high.  Essendon are going to win and I’m having fun.

I take a breather and head out to watch Dave have another cigarette.  The last quarter is 20 minutes in and Richmond has crawled back to within 20 points. I’m slightly concerned, but Crameri bags another one and soon after the siren sounds. I check the stats. We’ve dominated in what is described as ‘a great defensive effort.’ Watson is declared best on ground and one of my favourites, Courtney Dempsey, has played a ripper.  On a special night for the Indigenous boys he’s provided the Bombers with that spark, run, dare, magic and effortless class that he and his fellow Indigenous players so often do. I put my phone in my pocket and smile.

“What are you smiling at Sammy D?” The beautiful bride is standing in front of me looking like the happiest woman alive. I put my arm around her. “I’m smiling because it’s been a wonderful night.  Just magical.”

We head to the dance floor.  The Bombers have won, my friends are hitched, I’m at an autumn wedding and I’m having fun.

Richmond 2.2 4.5 6.5 9.8 (62)

Essendon 2.3 7.7 11.9 13.13 (91)


Essendon: Watson 3, Crameri 3, Zaharakis 2, Stanton, Winderlich, Howlett, Hibberd, Melksham

Richmond: Riewoldt 2, Martin, McGuane, Edwards, Nahas, Vlastuin, King, Cotchin


Essendon: Watson, Hibberd, Dempsey, Stanton, Goddard, Zaharakis

Richmond: Jackson, Newman, Chaplin, Grigg, Rance


Donlon, Findlay, Rosebury

Official Crowd:


Our Votes:

3. Watson (Ess) 2. Hibberd (Ess) 1. Dempsey (Ess)

About Sam Duncan

My name is Sam Duncan, a very passionte, slightly one eyed and mostly optimistic Essendon supporter. Originally from Yarrawonga, the home of the mighty Pigeons, I moved to Melbourne to go to Swinburne Universtiy in 2002. Feeling right at home as a uni student, I stayed for a long, long time, completing an undergraduate degree in media and communications, an Honours and Masters degree in the same field, and finally, a PhD in sport, media and cultural studies. I'm the author of 'Rolling with the Punches: Tales of an Aussie Traveller', lecturer in the Bachelor of Sports Media at Holmesglen and boundary rider for AFL Live. I love footy. I love Essendon. Go Bombers!


  1. Peter Schumacher says

    Weddings during the winter are a bummer. I suffered a few years ag, a long time ago actually when the Lions had to beat the Swans in a night game to either take place in the finals or go further in the finals, can’t remember now. Anyway I too resorted to subterfuges to keep track of the scores. Bloody terrible situation really

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