AFL Round 1 – North Melbourne v Essendon: First Essendon game on the outer

I sat down on my own to watch the Bombers game on TV. “We” (sorry, force of habit) “they” banged on the first 4 goals and that classic opening round question popped into my head. How far this year? North had been backed into raging favouritism by the time the game started and we’d blasted all that away in an instant. Underrated again. Only a fan knows how good his team’s players actually are. How to remain neutral with Jobe getting in and under, scooping out possession after possession, Fletch bombing long and new recruit Chappy slotting through classic Chappy goals?

Do neutral observers actually appreciate all this? Besides if I was really a Bulldogs fan now surely I’d be barracking for North. But try as I might I couldn’t pay much attention to the players in blue and white. Granted they didn’t get near it much but it was more than that, it was how I’d always watched footy, just seeking out black and red jumpers and their proximity to the ball. The other sides players are always just a blur of obstacles, their goals cursed, only feats of rare brilliance even vaguely acknowledged. This is how most real fans watch the footy, one eyed, and yet my eye was supposed be elsewhere.

Still, I tried to remain aloof. Told myself I was just watching for the sake of numbing myself to the heady charms of this team, so I could watch the Bulldogs on Sunday and really barrack. Then late in the 2nd quarter Joe Daniher ran back with the flight of the ball and took a pack mark. He stood up and I saw his face. A Daniher face.  Unmistakable. When I was a kid my Dad used to get free beers cos bartenders thought he was Terry Daniher, they looked that similar. There’s nothing more Essendon than a Daniher, and this one was a giant Daniher. Could he be as good as the mythic Neale, who every Bomber kid gets told about in hushed tones:

“You think Terry was good, shoulda seen his brother”

So as “we” (force of habit) they romped home I found myself thinking the same thing as last year. The only thing that’ll stop this team is ASADA or ourselves. With a cloud still hanging over 10 players, it’s something all Essendon supporters have in the back of their minds. The commentators drew the days events into the narrative; they’d avoided all the distractions, winning had cleansed all division’s. Like Kennett before him Paul Little was shown grinning, as this win somehow legitimised his presidency.  Bruce McAvaney declared it  “one of the great days for the club, only the last day in September could compare”.

I remember this well from last year too. I remember one game in particular in Perth where Hird was likely to be sacked that day and the boys triumphed and Hird was dragged in the huddle to sing the song. He couldn’t wipe the smile off his face, and neither could I. But how had last season ended?

Before the game Timmy Watson had said Jobe and the players were “in a bubble”. Perhaps when a team wins like the Bombers did last night that bubble expands to take in all the fans. Everything seems right with the world, all sins are forgiven. In victory is purity.

The TV screen was full of more legends from my childhood; Bomber Thompson purring in the coaches box, Tim Watson giving him a hug after the game, and Fletcher, of course, eternal and eternally humble. Even Wayne Carey was there, perhaps proving that anyone’s reputation can be rehabilitated in the AFL. No alpha male left behind. The truth was I loved seeing Bomber and Timmy grinning from ear to ear and embracing after their interview, both had seemed quite tortured last year. At that point I got a text from my oldest mate, a bloke I used to collect cans with at Windy Hill as a 5 year old. We must have been to hundreds of Bombers games together It said:

“Come back Joey! Don the sash mate”

When I watched the team sing the song I found my mind ticking through the names of all the players as the camera scanned around. When I watch the Bulldogs on Sunday I’ll know just a few. Instead of trying to stay aloof I’ll be trying to feel some passion. And at some point James will get a phone call in Singapore, and Essendon will want to have a little chat.



  1. Nice one JF. I feel your pain.
    Virtue and vindication; or that glorious feeling of being swept along by the cheering mob?
    Bomber is a much smarter coach than Lord Jim.
    But I reckon ASADA charges will blow up the Bomber’s season once again, so the pain shouldn’t be too long term.

  2. What happens if the bombers again make the top eight and are then pushed out of the finals again? Can’t something be done to finish this, for want of a better word(s), saga, farce, calamity, indecisiveness, mediocrity, ridiculous, stupid, absolute utter crap, before another season is ruined. As you see by tag, not an essendon supporter, but as a lover of the game for over 50 years, please give us our game back.

  3. Bomber4Eva says

    How’s the fairweather in Sunshine FlohJoe?

  4. Blind faith is the cause of many of the world’s problems Bomber4Eva. Don’t think many fair weather supporters are jumping on the Bulldogs right now.

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