Nothing Sweeter

I’m not old enough to understand the hate and bitterness North Melbourne folk have towards the people of Windy Hill, but I do know that there is probably no better feeling than beating Essendon, especially when you’re the underdogs and they are ‘premature premiership chances’. I know that North’s push into the VFL was thwarted by the Bombers back in the 1800’s, a John Coleman-led Bombers defeated the Roos in the 1950 Grand Final, and the two were the powerhouses of the late 1990’s, with Essendon failing to make it through to the Grand Final in ’96 and ’99 by one point each time, thus not giving them the opportunity to play against North in the big dance. They also had perhaps the largest array of stars at that time. Carey, King, Stevens, Martyn and Archer for us, Hird, Lloyd, Long and Mercuri for them. And of course, the infamous day in 1998 where North supporters let Kevin Sheedy know how soft his team were by pelting him with marshmallows. Yep, the old-timers of North really do hate Essendon. And I do too. The black and red jumper is enough to make my blood boil.

Sadly, the AFL does not recognise this rivalry. Sure, we may be about fifth in line as rivals for the Bombers, but a battle between two proud Victorian teams should be on free to air TV instead of Hawthorn and the Gold Coast in Tasmania. It doesn’t matter anyway, I had plans for my Saturday afternoon.

After an easy win over the Tungamah Bears in the morning, I went home with Mum to have a quick shower, collect some clothes and make myself look half-presentable, which was made easier by a new-look haircut. I was off to watch my girlfriend play netball before going out for tea for her 18th birthday. I got into the ground for free, which was a bonus, and made my way to the netball courts. I greeted her, and was introduced to her aunty and uncle, who had come over from New Zealand for her birthday. I spent the next hour talking to them about AFL and other things as the netball was on. Some girl hurt her knee and was carried off, although I reckon she was faking it to stop the momentum of the other team. Liz’s team lost, but Waaia still won so I let her know all about that. During the match I was discreetly on Facebook on my phone, checking the official North Melbourne page. I watched a bunch of randoms paint the picture of the first half for me, which saw North storm to a strong lead in the first quarter, but putting their foot completely off the pedal in the second to let the Bombers back into the game. I gave it a rest for a while, as I didn’t want to be glued to my phone for the rest of the afternoon.

I went to her house with her mother, and after being given a small tour, she turned the TV on. Dwayne Russell on the screen, a picturesque view of Etihad Stadium with the lid on behind him; I forgot she had Foxtel! Not wanting to watch the third quarter however, for fear of not moving from the couch for an hour or so, I went outside with her little brother and kicked the footy around. He was impressed with my one-handed marks, which was pretty easy considering it was an Auskick ball, small enough to fit my whole hand around. Liz came out, and soon we were just passing it around, and playing keepings off with her brother, who got a bit angry and chucked the towel in. Back into the loungeroom, hopefully to watch the last quarter.

My heart skipped a beat when the three quarter time scores flashed up on the screen. Still up by seven points. Essendon were coming hard. Michael Hurley was dominant up forward, while the likes of Angus Monfries and Jobe Watson were standing up when it counted. Everytime North kicked it forward, an Essendon player was there, waiting for the ball. Judging by the commentary, North were tiring, and Essendon had all the run, despite coming off the dreaded Perth trip with an interrupted preparation. Watson found Jake Melksham for a goal to put the Bombers in front, and I conceded defeat. Half a quarter to go, I was familiar with this setting. The Roos would normally roll over and die.

Ziebell booted the ball as long as he could inside 50. It cleared the pack, into the path of Lindsay Thomas who kicked his fourth (I didn’t know at the time he had kicked that many). North back in front. Dwayne Russell was making it sound like a game for the ages. Petrie started getting his hands on it at half forward, while the option of Cam Pedersen in the forward line looked very appealing to me. It was those two that combined to set up another goal, with Pedersen running back with the flight of the ball and marking over the top of Michael Hibberd in the goalsquare, Nick Riewoldt-esque. ‘Pedo’ launched the ball into the top tier of a packed Etihad Stadium, unfamiliar for North. I was starting to get quite animated, which caused a couple of weird glances from Liz’s aunty and uncle. They soon realised that I supported ‘the blue and white team’. Liz joined me on the couch and put her arm around me. My eyes stayed fixed on the telly. Bastinac was given a free kick inside 50, and he converted. I knew we were home. But as if he thought he hadn’t given his fans enough highlights, Petrie capped a superb day off with an amazing goal from the forward pocket. Russell called it as if it was the match-winner in a Grand Final. Petrie gave a fist-pump to the crowd, the tired look on his face evident, but he knew he just put about 25,000 Essendon fans back in their rightful spot as less superior than the North Melbourne Kangaroos.

The siren sounded, and I raised my hands in victory. Nothing sweeter than beating Essendon. The players celebrated like it was a final. And rightly so.

Liz wanted a kiss. Too bad, I wanted to give Petrie a kiss instead. I’ve got my priorities right, right?


Essendon 1.8—6.13—10.17—12.18.90

North Melbourne 5.3—9.3—13.6—17.9.111



Essendon-Hurley 4, Monfries 3, Melksham, Stanton, Hibberd, Crameri, Ryder


North Melbourne-Thomas 4, Wright 3, Pedersen 3, Petrie 3, Bastinac, Wells, Harvey, Firrito



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. John Butler says

    On the subject of priorities Josh :)

    I agree with you regarding the decision to telecast the Tassie game in preference to this one.

    Is there some sort of deal concerning these Launceston games?

  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    I’m surprised the North -Essendon game wasn’t telecast in Victoria Josh- What’s going on down there.? We got the Suns Hawks game here in NSW
    My Bomber friend said it was actually a good game of footy to watch. It is a shame about the two teams not playing off in those finals in the 90’s

  3. Jake Stevens says

    Good one mate :)

    It was a great game to watch (thankyou foxtel) haha

    It is nice to see that you’ve got your priorities straight,

    It takes a strong man to watch netball instead of footy!

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