Hate for Essendon

by Josh Barnstable

Hate is a very strong word. I try not to use it too much, but it doesn’t do itself justice when talking about the Essendon Football Club. As a North Melbourne supporter, I have grown up despising the red and black brothers. Older, richer and more successful brothers. In Grade 3, my teacher was an Essendon supporter. A James Hird poster covered one side of the classroom, and everyone loved it. “Why is there not a North Melbourne poster up there?” I asked. “Why does everyone love the Bombers?” They denied us entry to the VFL in 1897, stealing a crop of our best players, and it took us years to finally recover and be granted admission to the league in 1925. We played our first Grand Final against the Bombers in 1950, and lost. And it is almost fact that had Sydney and Carlton both succumbed to the Bombers in the 1996 and 1999 Preliminary Finals, then we’d have only two premiership cups to show in our cupboards down at Aegis Park. Perhaps we have Tony Lockett and Anthony Koutoufides to thank for those. Both teams were the powerhouses of the late 90’s and early 00’s. Both sides had the two best goalkickers of the era, Wayne Carey and Matthew Lloyd, and two champions in the midfield, Anthony Stevens and James Hird, among many others. They flogged us by over 20 goals in a final in 2000, and came back from 69 points to beat us by 12 in 2001. They were making up for those two lost premierships. Of course there was the marshmallow controversy, but now that Sheeds is up at GWS that joke no longer holds much meaning.

After that embarrassment at the MCG in 2001, North went on a rampage streak against the Bombers. Between 2002 and 2007, we didn’t lose to them once. In 2002, we beat them on a Friday night at the MCG, our last game at the home of football. A year later, on a Friday night again, we beat them by the same margin as ’02 (eight points). 21 and 42 victories followed in 2004 and 2005, before a tight seven point victory on a Friday night in 2006 as both teams tried to avoid the Wooden Spoon. Our last victory from this stretch of dominance came in 2007, again on a Friday night, at Etihad Stadium in the infamous James Hird-Glenn Archer battle, in which we won convincingly by 22 points. The Bombers flogged North on an Easter Monday clash to start off the 2008 season, winning by 55 points, before North got one back with a scrappy victory early in 2009.

The quality of those battles have lifted up a couple of notches in the past two years. In 2010, Essendon overcame an injury-riddled Roos by three points in a high-scoring affair, before North saw off a resurgent Bombers outfit in 2011 with a high-quality, entertaining match ending in a 21 point victory. Ever since the fixture was released late last year, I have eyed off the Round 1 clash on a Saturday night at Etihad Stadium against the Dons as the key ingredient to a possible year of success. Win, and we could be top eight, if not top four, going into the mid-year break. Lose, and we may be outside of the top eight. Such an important, and 50-50 contest. Drew Petrie’s 200th match, Daniel Wells defying the odds to play after blood clots threatened to take his life, and the return of Hamish McIntosh. On the other side of the fence, Essendon need to redeem themselves after a failed plan to fly to Wangaratta for a pre-season match against St Kilda that caused much controversy and debate. A good showing in Round 1 will regain the faith of those supporters that were the most critical, and also set them off to a good start to the year with games against Port Adelaide and Gold Coast to come. They have hit a raw nerve however, requesting permission from North Melbourne to have supporters tin-rattling before the game on the concourse of Etihad Stadium. For all the supporters that laugh at North for being money-stricken, this is quite comical. If one were to approach me asking for a donation, they would get nothing more than pocket fluff.

It is a huge contest, and I can’t wait to bury those Bombers hard into the turf. I hate them.

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.


  1. Me too, Josh.
    Go Roos.

  2. Phil Dimitriadis says

    The are worthy of hate Josh.

    I was at Windy Hill for the last game of 1986 with a North mate. We were in the outer among a group of particularly feral Bombers who were giving it to us until Ross Glendinning knocked out Billy Duckworth. Well, the game changed, North won and we were lucky to get out of Essendon alive. It was one of the most brutal hip and shoulders that I’ve seen, yet in those days totally legit. It was also his last match for North before he crossed to the Eagles.

    Hope North can get the points for you on Sunday Josh.

  3. Hugh O'Brien says

    Excellent article. Clearly, as your thorough research shows, all of us North fans are morally obliged to HATE Essendon.
    I love your comment that “it is almost fact that had Sydney and Carlton both succumbed to the Bombers in the 1996 and 1999 Preliminary Finals, then we’d have only two premiership cups to show in our cupboards down at Aegis Park.”
    Even the most one-eyed North fan would have to totally agree about 1999.
    That game in 2001 where North led by 69 points at quarter time was one of the greatest matches ever played. It was so good, I actually did not mind losing, even to Essendon. That’s how good a game it was.

  4. Andrew Else says

    Well seeing the names James Hird and Anthony Stevens in the same sentence certainly got my attention

    How you can hold such hate for a club who gave you a flag (you would’ve smashed us in 96) is interesting. Though I agree that a 20 goal hiding in a final would be hard to let go of.

    I assume that since its Petrie’s 200th then we’ll be in for another Shinboner milestone game effort? Roos fans must have the best posture in the league considering the amount of time their backs are against the wall.

    Our most recent win against you was a fine effort, but I recall a controversy around a late scratching from the Roos team and a reluctance to pay the fine meant that The Shinboners had to play someone who had played twos the day before? It may have cost them the game given it was a close one.

    Maybe that’s why we’re rattling tins? Just to make sure we can assist should a similar stroke of bad fortune occur.

    I feel Joe Misiti may be a truer comparison with Stevo. Helluva player Smokin Joe. 41 touches and 4 goals in the 00 Qualifying Final would attest to that

    Dons by 6 goals. Ryder and Hurley 4 each.

  5. pamela sherpa says

    Josh , North and Essendon have had a great rivalry and some great games as you’ve mentioned. Both clubs should relish that history and enjoy their clashes.
    You may find this odd, but although I have been a lifelong Essendon supporter North had been my second team. I bought a membership when you were you in Canberra, but now I’ve dumped you for the Giants!!!

  6. Josh – may I recommend a ‘belly button fluff’ donation. Pocket fluff is too good for them. Keep up the good work. I tipped you for 9th this year (Bombers were 12th).

  7. Andrew Starkie says

    I hate Carlton more.

    But, I still hate the Bombers. Saty night will be huge. Seasoner opener, Drew’s 200th.

    We have a few out – Jack, Grima – but still confident.

    Will keep an eye out for you, Josh.

    Come on you Rooboys

  8. Josh Barnstable says

    Thanks guys.

    @Andrew, sadly I won’t be there. Dad chose the John Fogerty concert in Melbourne last night over the footy! Oh well, can’t blame him. Just hoping like hell we win. Go Roos.

  9. Richard Naco says

    My dad, who spent a fair slab of his childhood years in a hellish German slave labour camp just outside of Koln, once admonished me for using the ‘H’ word by saying, “You don’t know the true meaning of ‘hate'”.

    It’s all a matter of context and perspective, so I can honestly say that there is no other football club that I truly hate, and that, at worst, there are only half a dozen players that I do hold in low regard.

    A sheltered life is a truly wonderful thing, Josh.

  10. Beautifully said Richard. I think when Josh says “hates” he means “envies”.

  11. Josh Barnstable says


  12. Andrew Else says

    Dustin Fletcher once stared at the sun for hours…then the sun blinked

    When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, he had 3 missed calls from Dustin Fletcher

    Dustin Fletcher doesn’t sleep. He waits.

  13. Richard Naco says

    I think that the relevant H word the morning after is “hurt”.

    And Josh, I do feel your pain today.

  14. Looking forward to the review, Josh.

    As an Essendon fan, thought our midfield was superb after quarter time and without a key player in Hocking. Important four points.

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