NAB Challenge | West Coast v Essendon: Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again

NAB Challenge 3: West Coast Eagles 1.23.11 (158) defeated Essendon 0.7.11 (53)


Watching the West Coast Eagles tear apart Essendon on Sunday evening was an unexpected thrill. Yes, West Coast fielded a very strong team, yes Essendon were depleted and will continue to be in Season 2016 with some of their best out of action, and yes, it was 40 degrees, playing to the Eagles advantage but I don’t care. There is something so sweet in the victory over a foe and during the match I realised why I had held a special animosity for Essendon for long.


Growing up I was surrounded by vocal and insufferable Bomber fans. My brother and uncle making every victory unbearable, but it was more than that now and it wasn’t that Eagles legend John Worsfold was now at the Essendon helm. Something had fuelled the fire in the last few years that I hadn’t given much thought to until today, on this public holiday in Victoria that gave me a day of post-preseason pensiveness.


It was Season 2010, I was in my final year of my undergraduate degree and working a casual job for a Melbourne events company. My latest gig – working at the ABBA exhibition that was located in the middle of Federation Square for the winter school holidays. Remember that?! I sat in the foyer day after day, selling tickets and listening to a sampler disc of five ABBA songs on repeat. Yes, I was that desperate as a student living away from home that I subjected myself to this repetitive 70’s pop-disco torture.


A shift was made available one Saturday night (the exhibition opened until 9pm on weekends) and it was offered to me. It was extra pay, but West Coast were in town to play Essendon at Etihad Stadium that night. Being a West Coast fan based in Melbourne, seeing them play live was rare and something I cherished. But I couldn’t turn down the gig – not for the extra cash I needed to have a week of not eating two-minute noodles. How I don’t miss the student life.


So I sat in that foyer that Saturday night, surreptitiously checking the scores online when no one was watching while ‘Dancing Queen’ bellowed through my ear drums.


Mark LeCras had kicked four in the first quarter but we only went into the break with a 3-point lead. It was close. I could feel the anxiety rising and the saliva sticking in the back of my throat. I looked at my watch, I had another half hour to go on my shift.


The second quarter was underway and I was busy trying to pack everything up so I could leave the second the clock struck 9pm. Maybe I could pop into the pub next door and watch the second half – LeCras kicked another three.


However the urgency inside me had heightened, urging me to just get to the game, something special was happening.


I put everything away speedily, not stopping to double-check if the safe was locked, and bolted through Fed Square down Swanston St with ‘Ring, ring why don’t you give me a call?’ playing on repeat in my head.


I jumped on the 86 tram down Bourke St while maniacally checking for updates on Twitter for the score. LeCras had kicked 10. I didn’t really care about the score anymore.


I made it to Etihad Stadium just after the start of the final term. I ran to the box office but all the ticket windows were closed and I didn’t have a membership card to get into the game.


I went up to the gate and pleaded with the attendant. He told me the turnstiles drop ten minutes into the fourth quarter to get ready for when people leave – I would have to wait until then without a ticket.


Those ten minutes seemed to go for hours but finally with a loud, metallic twang, the barriers dropped and I bolted. I ran to the only place I wanted to be – in the West Coast cheer squad.


The I saw the flash of the number 2 guernsey from the other side of the ground. As I was coming down the wing I saw him gather a loose ball and slot it through from the pocket – he had 11!


I punched the air, not stopping running until I made my way behind the goals to where my people were still chanting his name.


I couldn’t believe it – I had made it in to see his 11th goal!


I almost relaxed after that moment, West Coast were winning 108 to 74, I knew we were going to win, I could feel it, and I had seen Lecca’s 11th goal. I felt like I achieved a goal of my own for making it all the way there from the land of bejewelled platform shoes.


Essendon caught up a little but I enjoyed the next ten minutes, just the fact that I was there, after thinking that I would miss it all due to having to work.


Then it happened. LeCras took an almost one-handed mark about 45 metres from goal on a 30-degree angle. He lined it up and booted it through.


Twelve. He had kicked 12.


I had witnessed history, the most goals kicked in a game at Etihad Stadium. A record he still holds today.


All I could do was laugh at myself. It was all so ridiculous. The stupid things I did (still do) in the name of the West Coast Eagles and this game of AFL! Mamma Mia!



It’s all worth it though. When West Coast play Essendon now, the memory of thrilling anticipation is subtly bubbling under the surface – even during a NAB Challenge game it seems, begging the football gods for another 12 goal drilling (I’ll settle for the 105 points).


There are so many special moments to remember and cherish when we look back at the achievements of our teams and favourite players. It’s some of the best build up to a game when you watch the ‘last time they met’ vision, especially if the rivalries run deep.


However, while so much of the game is about reminiscing on how you felt when something amazing happened, the anticipation of seeing something that special again then being completely surprised at a new, incredible experience is the reason we keep watching.


NAB Challenge doesn’t matter, I know, but I do enjoy the tiny flickers of what can be expected in the season ahead and I thoroughly look forward to being completely surprised by it all over again in 2016 because my, my, just how much I’ve missed it.

About Kasey Symons

Kasey Symons a writer and PhD Candidate at Victoria University. Her research is focused on gendered issues in sports cultures (primarily AFL) at a fan level. Kasey is a born and raised Victorian who barracks for the West Coast Eagles and yes, she knows that is weird.


  1. E.regnans says

    Well played Kasey.
    Memory is a strange and wonderful thing.

    Twelve goals?
    Mamma Mia.

  2. Good stuff Kasey. Great memories. I went to the Essendon game on Sunday afternoon. 38 degrees and humid!!! The Eagles were awesome. Obviously the Dons have weaknesses with their cobbled together side – mainly with height and strength. Their running unit is OK, but the Eagles just monstered them.
    Will have a bit more to say about the mighty High Flying Eagles on the site before Round 1. The Avenging Eagle and I are coming to Melbourne at Easter and to stay for our Round 2 revenge over the Hawks the next Sunday. Get on now. We are good things.
    The only thing that worries me is that at this stage last year I thought we were shit and we made a GF. Confidence and optimism does not sit well with my life experience.
    Main differences I sensed is that our depth is greater now. Huge competition for places and at least a half dozen good players like Sheed and Hutchings won’t get a game with Redden (looks very good) and Jetta. Stronger and better skills than last year. And EMac back makes McGovern the most dangerous swing man in the comp.
    Grand days. Great to have another Eagle in the Almanac nest.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Entertaining read, Kasey.
    Love watching Le Cras at his best. His sublime skills and intuition create so many unlikely goals for himself and his teammates. Now a Magpies v Eagles GF would be something.
    Hasta Manana, I have a Dream and that’s The Name of the Game until The Winner Takes it All…

  4. Veronica Symons (proud mum) says

    Personally I would have rather been at the ABBA exhibition! Ring ring why don’t you give me a call :)

  5. Colin Ritchie says

    It is going to be a very long year for all us Essendon supporters, but like all true supporters you have to take the good with the bad. The good thing at the moment is that things can’t get any worse (or can they?) and it won’t be too long before the wheel turns and the misery ends!

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