Celebrating Essendon’s Back to Back Flags


*Editor’s note: contains lots of ANTI-Hawk porn.


Look, there is enough bad press out there concerning Essendon that it could sink a fleet of battleships. Various court cases, investigations and chemistry set experiments will in time decide whether the club warrants all that bad press, and the sooner the better.

But one bit of good press, that isn’t and doesn’t deserve to be fabricated, is the upcoming celebration of the club’s back to back premiership achievements – 30 years since the famous victories in both 1984 and 1985. Whatever people may believe about the club now, the modern Essendon – the famous Sheedy Edition – was born then, taking a relatively conservative club and making it a power to be respected, loathed, loved and hated in equal measure for all the right reasons.

It was also, funnily enough, an era of my own awakening. Leaving behind the relative comforts of home to go forth and explore the world, to meet people, to experience a wider life and create a future.

I didn’t know it then, but all of the above occurred as a backdrop to those Essendon flags…or maybe the other way around.

I was too young to member the 1962 or 1965 Essendon flags, but I have very vague memories of my dad doing a war dance of sorts after the 1968 grand-final loss to Carlton. It was about that time that the word “Essendon” entered my lexicon. Soon after came words like “Barry Davis”, “Geoff Pryor”, “Alec Epis”, “Ken Fletcher”, “John Williams”, “Alan Noonan” and “Darryl Gerlach”. I was becoming a Bomber convert, but my awakening occurred at the beginning of a lean time for the club – the 1970s.

By the time 1983 galloped along, expectations were becoming great. We had a real show against Hawthorn and I remember packing into a room at the Portsea Pub to watch the game on a “big screen”, which in fairness was about the size of most tv’s currently in my house today. It was a huge day, but shattering. The massive 83 point loss was hard to swallow. Despite the optimism of some who said we would bounce back, I left the pub wondering if that was the last chance to watch my Bombers win a flag.

Obviously, history says I was a fool and great things did happen in coming years. But I remember that empty feeling. One thing that was true, however, was that I would not ever be back in Victoria to enjoy a Bomber premiership.

In late 1983 I accepted a job with the touring company Centralian Staff and commenced a “boy’s own adventure” lifestyle, travelling to all parts of Australia as a tour guide on camping trips. It was a different era, and things just aren’t the same now. This was just prior to the mass 4WD epidemic which would hit the world. I was lucky enough to be like an explorer of sorts. But the price was having little to do with Essendon.

Grand-Final day 1984 saw the Bombers back on the hallowed MCG to again take on those evil Hawks. It was also the second last day of our tour from Melbourne to Darwin and back again. This day we would travel from Renmark in South Australia to Narrandera in New South Wales.  Morning tea would be at Mildura, lunch at Balranald. The match would be played as we crossed the Hay Plains.

Just prior to match time we tried the bus radio. All was good if you wanted the ABC or classical music, but not a footy match could be found. We knew it was there somewhere…right where all that static was. Try as we might we couldn’t get match reception. This really only disturbed myself and the half a dozen or so Victorians on board. Most of the passengers were from Austria, Germany, Sweden and a couple from the United States. None understood our dilemma, but sympathised.

One of the young Austrian blokes, however, bought out this amazing transistor radio. It seemed to have dials all over it which looked great but meant little. He did offer one suggestion. In his broken English he said “If antenna I put out of window maybe we find you a football.”

And so, without further ado, we yelled at him to get cracking and sure enough, to our sheer and absolute delight, the sound of a football match crackled through the tiny speakers. It didn’t take long to establish that this was the VFL Grand-Final. It was late in the second quarter. Essendon was behind but still a shot. Better still, we now had the ability to listen and a small group of footy fans, bemused Germans and curious Americans crowded around the radio, held gamely by one Austrian who hadn’t read this in the tour brochure.

The bus was an older model Denning with the sliding top part of windows. It was heavenly to hear the game and I began to relax and enjoy. Then…STATIC!! We had turned a bend on the Sturt Highway and lost reception. The jiggling of the antenna had little to no effect. Three –quarter time and Essendon trailed, but the commentators were suggesting that the Hawks were tired and Essendon just might run them down.

Suddenly a bend in the road and the match was back. We heard Leon baker’s first goal and Peter Bradbury’s. We were fighting back. Then…reception lost. We didn’t hear Bomber Thompson’s goal or the next by Baker than put us in front. We heard Curran’s goal that put Hawthorn back in front, but missed Merrett’s that got us back. We did hear Paul Weston’s goal that got us 11 points up and began to believe we could do it.

The next couple of goals sounded a little like “Pfft, ssshhh, going to win…sssshhhh…Williams to…..ssshhhh…”, or something very similar. But pretty soon, after another compliant bend in the highway, we heard the siren. We couldn’t make out who had won but thought we had held on by about two goals by our reckoning. Turns out it was 23 points, which we had confirmed later at the Narrandera RSL where we had dinner.

But for all that drama (for us and for them) Essendon had won the 1984 premiership and I was elated. To celebrate I started home when the tour finished in Franklin Street, Melbourne, around dinner time the next day. Living on the Mornington Peninsula I faced a long trip home, so instead hopped a train to Essendon station and wandered up to Windy Hill expecting parties to be continuing on the streets. They weren’t. They had either finished or moved on to indoor venues, so home I went, tired but tickled pink. My Bombers had won a premiership.

A year later I was back on the road. I met a lovely young girl at the camp grounds in Broken Hill on the second day of a tour to the Red Centre. A few days later this young lady and I sat in the relative comfort of the old Ford Resort in Alice Springs. No antennas required this day. Big screen (at least, bigger than Portsea), air-conditioning, drinks and a great friend with me. Essendon would go on to crush Hawthorn by 78 points and go back to back. Less than two years later I would marry this lovely young lady.

I retired from life on the road, but still travelled around. I moved to Sydney to be with my now wife and watched the 1993 premiership from our unit the year my daughter was born. My son arrived, coincidentally, in 1990 when Collingwood beat us. Life took other strange twists and I watched the 2000 flag win (and, sadly, the 2001 loss) from our first family house in Cairns, where we still live today.

I look so fondly on that time. Two premierships, a career in tourism (until I eventually gave that away to be a teacher) and a wife and subsequent kids came out of that two year period. Little wonder I will be celebrating just a little with the Essendon crew next month when they recognise the 30th anniversary of the back to back flags.

And where will I be for Essendon’s next flag? I would suggest Cairns, but a small piece of me would dearly love to be at the MCG…or at least somewhere in my native Victoria that day.



About Wesley Hull

Passionate lover of Australian Rules football. Have played and coached the game and now spend my time writing about the game I love and introducing young people to the game through school coaching. Will try and give back to the game what it has given me for more that 40 years.


  1. Grant Fraser says

    2 hours sitting in the shower post ’84 to hide the tears. Will never get over it.

  2. Rick Kane says

    Hi Wesley

    I liked your paragraph about 1983, that was great. I drifted off after that. I watched the 1984 game at the Roebuck Hotel (or The Roey) in Broome. At three quarter time I had a $20 bet (I never bet) with a guy who I’m sure was less intoxicated than me that the Hawks would hold out. Every time I’ve watched they replay (which is to say, not very often) I marvel that I could not see the writing on the wall for the mighty Hawks. Damn. Hope springs and all that.

    Good piece Wesley, and enjoy the celebrations.

  3. That last quarter effort was amazing. Leon’s goal, Tim Watson’s two goals, and Paul Weston’s effort to seal the game was just sensational. A very young Bomber Thompson’s set shot like it was something he was born to do were so very, very special.

    Not sure about you Wesley, but I can’t split this game and the second half comeback of the 1993 Prelim Final against Adelaide.

    You certainly can’t say it’s boring supporting the Same Olds

  4. Great yarn Wes. Almost made me feel some empathy for the Bombers, and then I figured it was just for you and the feeling didn’t go that far.
    As a kid growing up in country SA I can really identify with the long car drives and the radio fading in and out,, or madly twisting the tranny in the hope that it will restore reception.

  5. Neil Anderson says

    Loved your passion for your team over the years and how you marked many milestones of your life with its success or otherwise.
    I can only relate to the success part on that one glorious day but the feeling has stayed with me after all these years. In the meantime I remember some of the places I happened to be when other clubs have won.
    In 1985 I was given tickets to the GF by Jack Hamilton’s widow who was the principal of a primary school where we just happened to give extra attention to the buildings and maintenance requirements of her school.
    In 1963 I was hitchhiking between Melbourne and Bendigo and we got picked up by a car-full of hoons and I thought I was going to die. But I still remember hearing on the radio that Geelong had won the premiership as I gripped the back of the seat.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if you start a run on stories about where people were when their team won the GF.

  6. Pamela Sherpa says

    A bend in the road and reception lost-classic. I was fortuntae to see the 84 and 85 finals with friends from Shepparton .We will forever savour those back to back flags. We got together last year to celebtrate the 84 flag and plan on doing the same this year. Go Bombers!

  7. matt watson says

    I watched Essendon go back to back in the lounge in Oak Park. In 1984 I wanted Essendon to win.
    By 1985, I was sick of Essendon. I lived a couple of suburbs away. Oak Park High School was full of Essendon fans. I got sick of their rapture…

  8. Michael Webster says


    Wonderful writing that brought back many great memories. I went to all of the Grand Finals, and consider myself very lucky, but ’84 was the truly special one to me, I still remember jumping in the air at the end, turning around and seeing a great mate a few rows away, and us both climbing over the seats to hug each other.
    Thanks for bringing back those memories for me.

Leave a Comment