Round 1 – Hawthorn v Essendon: Top of the pops



Last week, I noted that each new footy season brings hope. I also acknowledged that I was ready to get hurt again. Sure, a big Round 1 win might give a little too much hope and, ultimately, intensify the hurt a little more when it inevitably arrives. But those are future problems and, for this week at least, I’m living in the now.

There’s nothing like a victory in the opening round to cleanse the palate after an off-season of bad news. One of my all-time favourite memories of going to the footy was Essendon’s win over Hawthorn in Round 1 of the 2017 season. In that case, it had been four years of bad news, but the banned players returned to the field that night. The band was back together.

That was a magical night at the footy. The sight of Jobe Watson howling to the roof in the rooms afterwards during the victory song is etched into my memory. It’s such a great image that it’s emblazoned floor-to-ceiling on a wall at The Hangar. It was passionate, it was powerful, it was catharsis. It was a timely reminder that footy was worthwhile. Plus, the Hawks were still a powerhouse of the competition at that time, so beating them was a noteworthy result regardless of the backstory around the occasion.

Hawthorn might not be as fearsome in 2023, but they’re still Hawthorn, so you never turn down the chance to get a win against them. The opening half on Sunday was tit for tat, both teams trading goals as their respective supporters took the first proper look at what 2023 might bring. At the main break, it remained unclear which way the game was headed. A couple of late goals gave us a slight lead.

Six goals to none in the third quarter broke the game open, and Essendon were able to take control. In my son Jesse’s brief footy fan career, he’s collected a couple of favourites. Tippa and Sammy Draper sit top of the list. The night after Tippa had announced his comeback, Jesse whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “Do you think Tippa will mind if Sammy Draper is my new favourite?” Another favourite is Mason Redman, especially when he kicks a goal and gives the dog ear celebration as he runs back to defence.

Needless to say, Sunday’s game ticked a full bingo card of Jesse’s main footy fandom items: Draper kicked a couple, Redman kicked two, and then Tippa got subbed on in the last quarter and kicked a late goal to put the icing on the cake. These were the types of sugar hits that, just days earlier, Brad Scott had warned us against indulging in but, when you’re six years old, sugar hits make the world go round.

Kicking the footy together in Yarra Park after the game provided another sweet moment. There’s something about the pure simplicity of ‘having a kick’. Paul Kelly – the musician, not the Sydney Swans legend – put it best when he wrote that a football was “a thing of enchantment” and could “turn ponderous age into enthusiastic youth”. I think those words capture the essence quite well.

On the train home after the game, it was time for one more supposedly forbidden sugar hit: I told Jesse we were on top of the ladder. It was a little too much for his mind to compute. We were in unchartered territory for his lifetime and, as much as I tried to explain the folly of reading too much into Round 1 ladder positions, I got the feeling he couldn’t wait to see his mates at school the next day.


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About Ged McMahon

Ged McMahon has been a Bombers fan for as long as he can remember. With a Grandpa who grew up just a spiralling torpedo punt from Windy Hill he didn't have much choice. When his junior football career resulted in almost as many possessions as games he eventually had to bite the bullet and give up his dream of captaining the Bombers to a Premiership. So his weekly footy fix became confined to the stands. He yearns for the next Premiership.


  1. Ian Hauser says

    Yes, Ged, one win doth not a season make (even if it is over the old rivals), but let’s enjoy it while we can! At the very least, there were genuine signs of hope in that performance.

  2. Ann Louise Steven says

    Sorry Jesse, Go Pies

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Great win – Archie Perkins superb!

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