AFL Elimination Final – North Melbourne v Essendon: The Rest Is History….

It’s s been the longest week. The days crept by slowly. There was a significant date on the calendar coming soon. Saturday the sixth of September. MCG. North Melbourne and Essendon. A ticket was already in my grasp, now I just needed the weekend to come around.

Oh, and I needed to get the night off work.

Luckily, I was able to swap my 7:30 to 12:30 shift on Saturday night to earlier in the morning. I was jittery at work. I felt sick in my stomach.
Tonight was going to be the biggest night the North Melbourne Football Club has experienced since 2007. The anticipation was high. The weather was beautiful and warm. So this is what September in Melbourne is like. I’d heard good things about it. Finally, it was time to sign off at Woolies and head home for a couple of hours. I watched Buddy Franklin turn it on against the Dockers at ANZ Stadium. I wondered who would be the one to stand up tonight. I felt slightly confident, but you are always uneasy when playing a team in finals that boasts Paul Chapman and Brendon Goddard. Well, I guess you do. I can’t even remember the last time we played in a meaningful September clash (2012 doesn’t count).

I reach my car to drive to the train station, only to realise I left my ticket in my room. I did the exact same thing when attending a concert last week. My train departs from Jordanville station on the Glen Waverley line and it’s packed. Barely a spare seat anywhere. Once it leaves Richmond, it’s empty. Everybody is going to the footy.

The crowd is going to be massive, the biggest I’ve ever been to. It takes 10 minutes to walk down the ramp at Richmond station thanks to a combination of the amount of people and the inept Myki system. You’d think a train full of footy-goers would be a good time to unleash some ticket inspectors, Metro? Been living in this city for seven months now and have only been asked for my Myki card twice. But I digress.

The MCG is a beautiful sight as the sun disappears behind the Melbourne CBD and illuminates the horizon. Technically, I’ve never been to the home of football for a night match. I’ve been to a few twilight games, but you don’t get to experience walking through the leafy carpark looking up at the beacon of light that is the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Once inside the stadium, I try to find my seat. Great Southern Stand, M6, row G, seat 15. Forward pocket to the Punt Rd end, right next to the Essendon cheersquad. The crowd is buzzing and the teams are only going through their warm-ups. The Bombers get a much louder reception upon breaking through the banner, but the cheer the Roos get moments later suggests they’ll have plenty of vocal support from the outer.

We all stand as one for the national anthem, again, something I’ve never experienced at a football match. The roar following the anthem sends shivers down my spine. I feel like jumping the fence and joining in with the biffo towards Joe Daniher. He’s a massive specimen is Joe, and he can move like the wind. It’s these attributes that gets him the first goal of the night, and allows him to have the next two shots, albeit unsuccessful. Michael Firrito, on Daniher, needs a swap as soon as possible. Travis Colyer gets the Bombers their second, and North are rattled. We can’t retain possession. Thank God for Nick Dal Santo. He and Wellsy seem to be the only ones who haven’t lost their head. We settle, and peg goals back through Dal Santo and Levi Greenwood, who’s probably contending with Boomer for the Syd Barker Medal. It’s largely a stalemate for most of the first quarter, with North spending majority of it trying to chip it around and keep the ball in their hands.

The second quarter is all Essendon. They run extremely hard, they hit targets, and they have the appropriate structures in place to kill our offensive game. Colyer and Daniher replicate the first term with early goals, before that dangerous duo in Goddard and Chapman both put through majors of their own.

We trail by 25 points, and that sick feeling in my stomach is turning into anger. Not again. I barely handled the weak excuse of a performance against West Coast a couple of years ago, and getting smashed by both Geelong and Port in 2007 took some time getting over. I wasn’t ready to let our biggest enemies embarrass us on the big stage. But it seemed like our players were. Thankfully, they miss some chances to really put the game beyond our reach, and we trail by 27 at the main break.

I leave the stadium in search for some phone reception. I don’t know whether I want to go back in. I’ve seen us do some incredible things in third quarters this season, so I return to my seat. Chappy haunts me once more by marking right in front of us and snapping a goal to give Essendon a 33 point lead.

Enter Ben Brown. A skinny 200cm Tasmanian with long, curly red hair and donning the number 50 on his back, he is everything a cult figure should be. No, first, enter Sam Wright. The kid from Katamatite, who has grown in stature in the past two months, faces a crucial two-on-one contest on Essendon’s half forward line.

Jobe Watson and Chapman look set to mark and combine for another goal. The ball hangs in the air for Watson, who looks ready to dish off to Chappy. Wright beautifully intercepts the ball, keeps running and delivers up the field. Wells storms through our forward line and dishes off to an unmanned Brown in the goalsquare for our first goal since the first quarter, and seconds later, the big fella has taken an uncontested mark inside 50 after some clever play from Kayne Turner, the youngest and smallest player in the league. I would’ve scoffed at you if you told me earlier in the season that Brown and Turner would feature in an Elimination Final. Brown slots another goal. Wells wreaks havoc again for the Bombers, finding space in the forward line and giving off to Lindsay Thomas in the goalsquare who capitalises.

We’re suddenly back to within 15. The MCG is shaking.

Brown again steams out from full forward to mark and then coolly slots his third of the quarter from a tough position on the flank. Reputations are forged in September, and Brown has just announced himself as a player unmoved by pressure.

Essendon start dropping marks, missing targets and we are the ones with the loose players. Shaun Atley wins a crucial contest with Dyson Heppell on the wing, leading to Ben Cunnington running forward. A handball to Sam Gibson ends in another major to the blue and white, and the sound reverberates around this great stadium. The Bombers finally muster a reply through Ben Howlett, and he implores his teammates to keep fighting.

Ziebell has gone forward. He throws himself at a huge pack and drags in a big mark. Jack is a player that September yearns for. He’s the type that could win that crucial contest at half back late in a game, the type that could lay a game-saving tackle. The type that could have 20 touches and kick four goals on Grand Final day. He stands up here, slotting a goal. Daniher, like Brown, is ungainly, and does things someone of his size shouldn’t be able to do. But he stands a little taller with the forward line to himself. He kicks his third from a snap from the boundary, but it’s Turner who effects a turnover in the forward line leading to a goal to Thomas. These young kids have made a name for themselves. We are robbed of some of the momentum when Tom Bellchambers marks on the boundary line and slots a goal after the siren to give his side a nine point lead at the final break, but North Melbourne are definitely coming hard. You can barely hear anything, such is the excitement.

The final quarter begins. My leg can’t stop shaking. I have the shivers from nerves. North are kicking our way. It isn’t long before I’m on my feet screaming and shouting, with Brown given a free 40 metres from goal. With his superb run-up, he slots his fourth goal, a career-high, and celebrates hard. Up the other end, Daniher returns serve with an impressive shot from the boundary line, also equaling a career-high four goals. Turner starts having an influence in the middle, while Aaron Black, quiet for most of the night, shows his superior fitness by working up the ground and providing a valuable link for the midfield. A long ball into our forward line meant for Ziebell drops out the back to an unmarked Ben Cunnington, who wanders in and kicks a goal and he celebrates with a raised arm, muscles flexed at the crowd. A man of not much emotion, it gets the North faithful up and about. Thomas has the chance to put us in front but misses, but soon has it back in his hands after copping another free kick for high contact. Purely coincidental, right? Whatever the matter, he slotted it to give us the lead for the first time all evening. We are in front but there is still far too much time left to get comfortable. The minutes tick by, and I feel more uneasy. I just know the Bombers will come again.

And they do. Patrick Ryder, in what I hoped would be his last game for the Bombers, outmarks Drew Petrie with one arm, and then outlandishly plays on and snaps a ripping goal from 45 metres out. I am filthy. Time and time again, Petrie has failed to stand up in a big game. Tonight is no exception. He has had the footy bounce off his chest or come out of his hands numerous times. In the time that it takes Ryder to hold Petrie off with his body and then mark with just one arm, then slot a major, I decide in my head that Petrie is finished. He has cost us yet again.

And as they say, the rest is history.


North Melbourne 2.3 – 2.4 – 9.5 – 14.9.93
Essendon               2.4 – 6.7 – 10.8 –12.9.81


North Melbourne: Brown 4, Thomas 3, Petrie 2, Dal Santo, Greenwood, Gibson, Cunnington, Ziebell

Essendon: Daniher 4, Colyer 2, Chapman 2, Howlett, Ryder, Bellchambers, Goddard


North Melbourne: Cunnington, Wright, Thompson, Greenwood, Wells, Brown, Dal Santo, Grima, Gibson

Essendon: Heppell, Colyer, Daniher, Chapman, Hurley, Hibberd, Ryder


78,559 at the MCG


3: Ben Cunnington (NM)

2: Sam Wright (NM)

1: Scott Thompson (NM)


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. Nice writeup Josh. I loved the MCG at night too, but at my age as a throwback to when we used to play there all the time rather than a new experience.

    Was so great seeing that as part of a big crowd, eh?

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    You beaudy Josh. A famous night for NMFC. Bring on the Cats.

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