Round 2 – Essendon v Hawthorn: If Only It Were That Simple


SC Lennon and assoc






As part of my university course I am required to take a class in business and economics statistics, which I love. In this class we learn how to collect and collate data into meaningful insights, taking seemingly random factors and blending them together to give us colourful graphs and tables. Got a random result that has absolutely nothing to do with your hypothesis or any of the other variables? No worries: label it an outlier, put a footnote in your report and move on. This stuff is simple. Logical. It follows rules.

Football does not.

The Essendon vs. Hawthorn match defied pretty much every rule in the book. There was no rhyme or reason to anything that happened, and it had me itching to get back to my comforting, perfectly labelled trend graphs.

I meet Dad at the seats about twenty minutes before play starts, having rushed to the ground from my own football game in Port Melbourne. We’re feeling good, with last week’s thrashing of Geelong still fresh in our minds. Dad tells me that Sam Mitchell is a late withdrawal, and I shrug it off. Even when the Bombers kick out to a twelve point lead we’re still feeling OK, given that half of their team has missed out on the NAB Challenge. I maintain that if the Hawks are still within a reasonable margin at three quarter time, we’ll be able to run them off their legs.

My resolve takes a hit when Frawley comes to the bench nursing his left arm. Shoulder? Hand? Finger? Regardless, he shrugs on the dreaded red vest. James Sicily comes into the game, and our back line is all of a sudden missing two key figures.

This is where the rules start to crumble – the rules that whispered tales of a big Hawthorn percentage booster into the receptive ears of the club’s faithful. One team is defending a premiership, coming off an easy win last week and is lauded as being head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. The other was bundled out of last year’s final series with barely a murmur and is emotional exhausted after having fought a two year legal battle with the AFL. Simple, yes?

No. It’s Hawthorn that is fumbling the ball everywhere and can’t hit a target. Roughead can’t buy a goal and Breust’s rugby-like marking style fails him for the first time in years. Anyone watching the sport for the first time would guess that Essendon is the reigning premier, and their inside run lets them transfer the ball to their forward fifty quickly and efficiently. Daniher looks like finally belongs as a key forward. The first half is all Bombers.

But then: Gunston. Gunners. Dead-eye Jack. Almost singlehandedly, he puts the universe the right way up again. He bags three goals in the third quarter and I say goodbye to both Essendon’s lead and my voice. We’re feeling good again.

When the Hawks stretch out to a sixteen point lead in the last quarter, I’m pretty sure I’m not imagining that the Bombers look dead on their feet. The ball is trapped in Hawthorn’s forward line for the first ten minutes, and my hypothesis is being supported by the evidence I see before me.

Carlisle goals. Wait. Colyer runs into the open goal. OK, maybe I was imagining their fatigue. No, that’s not what’s supposed to happen. They’re moving the ball far too easily. Clog the corridor, flood the defensive fifty ohmygodHawthornjustdoSOMETHING.

But they don’t, and Cale Hooker skips past the brown and gold and pops it through the big sticks. Essendon is not meant to be in front. All-Australian defenders are not supposed to kick goals like that.

The runners yell to the players there are twenty seconds left. My head is in my hands, and through the gaps in my fingers I see Hawthorn force the ball into their forward line. It travels beyond a pack and Luke Breust is on to it quickly. He’s an All-Australian forward. These are the ones that he’s supposed to kick. But as we know, footy doesn’t follow rules.

And he doesn’t kick it. And Essendon have beaten Hawthorn.

But that’s the thing about footy – there was no way to quantify Essendon’s sheer determination to overrun their long-time rivals, or Frawley’s absence, or even just an unlucky bounce of the ball. And this is partly why we love it. This is what keeps us coming back every week for the thrill of the unknown. It’s just a shame it doesn’t bode well for anybody’s footy tips.


University student with a weakness for good coffee and doughnuts. Half of the reasons why I like football have to do with the $9.50 crepe and coffee combo at the MCG. The other half is Jarryd Roughead.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    This is going to be the year of the weird, out of whack footy tips and predictions and I think it’s great for the game to have a few upsets. The order will establish itself and its happened so early in the year, the Hawks have time to regroup. Having said that, I’m a Sainter so I hope the weirdness continues and we defy odds all year.

    Lovely write up


  2. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks a lot Essendon! Now you’ve made them angry!
    Does anyone think Roughead will take it easy against the Dogs next weekend? Does anyone think Breust will miss the goals? I don’t think so!

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