English lessons at Windy Hill.

by Shane Goss

In the days pre-AFL and Metricon Stadiums, suburban grounds played host to the game’s biggest stars. Back then the AFL was the VFL. Telephone-booths were still in use and Big M milk was the flavour of the times.The ‘match of the day’ or ‘games of the round’ were taking place every Saturday around the ‘burbs of Melbourne.

Each season the twelve clubs would play each other twice, once at each other’s home ground.Carlton and Collingwood would settle their differences at either Princess Park, home to the Bues, or over in Collingwood at the hostile surrounds of Victoria Park. Footscray had the unusually shaped Western Oval and the Saints (St.Kilda) had traditionally the muddiest ground at Moorabbin.Even when Melbourne hadn’t seen rain for a fortnight, for reasons known only to those in the trenches of Linton Street, the ground would be caked in mud!

Some of the hardest and toughest games played back then were the clashes between Hawthorn and Essendon. When these sides met the whole of Melbourne could hear the crunching of bodies as players threw themselves at every contest.There was no such thing as the blood rule. At the final siren the wounded would trudge off the ground, complete with battle scars and aching bones.

Some of these battles took place on Essendon’s turf at Windy Hill. It was a ground that hated strangers.Saturday afternoons spent on the terraces at Windy Hill could turn a freckle-faced, brown-and-gold scraf wearing teenager with a pleasant outlook on life into a jibbering, jelly-legged coward in three hours!

Sometimes it was hard to decipher the outrage and tyrants coming from the Bomber fans. It didn’t matter whether you were five goals in front or five goals behind. Watching a game at Windy Hill was like taking an English lesson and terrorising your next-door neighbour’s cat at the same time!

The ground still hosts the odd match with Essendon’s alignment with Bendigo in the restructured VFL competition forming the Bendigo Bombers. In round twelve of that competition the rivalry between the aforementioned combatants was renewed with Bendigo throwing their hat into the ring as a contender for this year’s title. The Bombers thrashed an undermanned and youthful Box Hill Hawks by 73 points at Windy Hill.Bendigo’s AFL listed players found plenty of the ball and despite the Hawks being only eight points down mid-way through the third term, the Bombers always seemed in control.

The lead swelled to 34 at the final change with the injury-plagued Scott Gumbleton, Jay Neagle, Jake Carlisle and Ariel Steinberg dominating the marking contests. Steinberg, a second-round draft pick last year, snagged five goals and looks a good prospect for the affiliated Essendon AFL team. His ability to take a contested mark and shoot accurately would have impressed Essendon coach James Hird looking on from the sidelines.

Neagle was strong in the stoppages and former Hawthorn premiership player Mark Williams found plenty of space in the opening quarter enabling him to pound the sherrin forward. It was William’s best game for the year, he kicked three goals  and it may have sparked his possible return to senior AFL football. Gumbleton took a game-high eight marks as well as kicking three goals and will be closely looked at for this week’s AFL game against Hawthorn where he could stretch the Hawks defence.

With Hawthorn’s mounting injury list the affiliated Box Hill team are being forced to dig deep into their own. Jarryd Morton was the only player with AFL experience for the Hawks compared to almost half the Bendigo team. Nineteen-year-old Tim Northe from the Gippsland Power kicked three goals and was one of the Hawks better players. Former Western Bulldog listed player Jarrad Boumann battled hard in defence as did Riley Milne. Will Langford, son of former Hawthorn legend Chris, and promoted rookie Will Sierakowski continued to show progress in their developing careers.

Thirteen goals to three in the second half ensured a runaway win for Bendigo which now sees them in the top four.They had plenty of support at a ground which provided some memorable moments for both Dons and Hawks fans in days gone by. Who could forget the day Hawks hard-man Leigh ‘Barney’ Matthews broke the behind post in half at the eastern-end goals, or the battle of the high-flyers when Essendon’s Paul ‘The Flying Dutchman’ Van Der Haar and Hawk centre-half-back Peter Knights thrilled the crowd with their arial duels.

Windy Hill was indeed a ground where opposition teams reluctantly played. Even if Essendon’s weren’t at their best, the parochial crowd packed the stands and squeezed into the terraces, hurling abuse at opposition players and screaming encouragement for their own. The crowds may not be as big and the ground has changed dramatically, but the Box Hill Hawks will still vouch for that fearsome presence that remains loyal to Windy Hill.

Final Scores:
Bendigo Bombers 21.15.141 d Box Hill Hawks 10.8.68.

Goal-kickers- Bendigo: A.Steinberg 5, S.Gumbleton 3, M.Williams 3, T.Dickson 2, J.Webster 2, J.Jenkins 1, M.Quinn 1, M.little 1, J.Maddern 1, K.Reimers 1.
Box Hill: B.Fagan 3, T.Northe 3, L.Kitchin 2, R.Jackson 2.

Best – Bendigo: J.Neagle, M.Williams, J.Carlisle, K.Reimers, A.Steinberg and R.Dyson.
Box Hill:J.Boumann, T.Northe, L.Lowden, R.Milne, W.langford and W.Sierakowski.









  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane Shane, and the progress report on the Bomber reserves. I enjoyed going to games at Windy Hill in the eighties. A group of us Bomber supporters used to travel down from Shepparton to watch Essendon home games every second week . Beaut times.

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