Essendon’s everlasting legends

There has never been a shortage of legends at Windy Hill.

Dick Reynolds was announced Essendon’s greatest player of all time at a September function in 2002.  King Dick was a four time premiership player, won Essendon’s best and fairest seven times and claimed three Brownlow Medals in a career that spanned some 320 games.  While he was alive he was the heart and soul of the club.  Many argue he still is.

Reynolds proclaimed on several occasions that his teammate, Bill Hutchison, was the best player he’d ever seen.  Hutchison is also a seven time best and fairest winner and managed a couple of Brownlow Medals for good measure.

Both men were in awe of John Coleman.  Coleman flew like no other man had before him.  He drew thousands to each Essendon game throughout his 98 game career, with most fans swapping ends at the end of each quarter to follow Coleman.  He kicked over five hundred goals in just five seasons.  A devastating knee injury forced him into retirement at just 25.  One wonders exactly how good he could’ve been if he played just a little longer.

James Hird was inducted into Essendon’s Hall of Fame as a Legend last night at Crown Palladium. Another official legend, Tim Watson, hosted the evening.  Tim played in a time where legends played to his left and to his right.  Tim famously tells a story about a time when Essendon, in the eighties, were bleeding for success.  In 1984 they’d made it to their second Grand Final in a row and found themselves four goals down to the reigning premiers, Hawthorn, at three quarter time.

Somehow, another Essendon Legend, Kevin Sheedy, convinced his boys that they could come back from four goals down against the mighty Hawthorn and win.  In the last quarter Essendon stormed home like they hadn’t done in a final for almost thirty years.  They took on their rivals and pushed them aside.  They kicked goal after goal and late in the last quarter they had an overwhelming sense that they were going to win.

After another late goal, Watson was running back to the middle of the ground for the centre bounce when he noticed ruckman Simon Madden crying – tears streaming down his face.  Watson, a little surprised, asked Madden if he was ok.  Madden simply nodded and said, “We’re going to win this.  We’re going to bloody win.”  They did, and minutes later Watson and Madden joined Sheedy and captain, Terry Daniher on the premiership podium.  Daniher, Madden and Watson are all Essendon Hall of Fame Legends.

Their coach, Kevin Sheedy, is also in Essendon’s Hall of Fame as a Legend.  Every time his name was mentioned last night, the crowd cheered with approval.  Sheeds was not, and still is not, loved by everyone in football.  But, like him or not, his status was unquestioned at Essendon last night.  Four flags.  Seven Grand Finals.  Ten Preliminary finals.  Nineteen years of finals appearances.  Yet it’s as much what he did off the field to promote the club that is admired by the Essendon faithful.

When he spoke about Hird, he spoke about a street fighter who was mistaken as a ‘golden boy.’  Many people suggest that Hird had it easy.  Sheedy reminded everyone that Hird had it harder than most.  Selected with pick 79 he almost didn’t make it at all.  Cut down in the prime of his career by a foot injury that kept him out for the best part of three years, he returned.  Then he had is face smashed in. He returned again.  According to Sheedy, Hird hated the sound of the final siren because it meant he had to wait another week before he could compete again.  He was a competitor.  He was fierce.  He trained better and harder than most.  That made him better and harder than most.

When he arrived on stage, he was greeted with a standing ovation.  Legends are important to all clubs.  They remind us all of how great our club is and has been.

At the beginning of 1992, Essendon fans were still talking about Daniher, Madden and Watson.  Then Hird came along.  Dustin Fletcher arrived with him.  Two years later, Matthew Lloyd walked through the doors of Windy Hill for the very first time.

At the beginning of 2011, we are still talking about Hird.  Bomber Thompson is back too.  In fact there’s a lot of talk about Essendon’s coaching panel.  But there were also forty two current day players presented to the crowd last night.  All of them keen.  All of them willing.  Some about to become the next legends of the Essendon Football Club.

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. Pamela Sherpa says

    Wonderful piece to read Sam. I grew up hearing about how wonderful Dick Reynolds, Bill Hutchison and John Coleman were. In the 80’s I was able to watch Essendon play and win back to back flags. They were fabulous years to be living the ultimate supporters dream.
    You are so right about how important legends are to clubs.

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