Round 15 – Essendon v Melbourne: Sell me this pen…


I’m staring at a blank page, trying to think about how I can sum up the Essendon v Melbourne game from round 15.

I keep returning to the final scene in Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street. Di Caprio, as Jordan Belfort, is conducting a sales seminar in Auckland. He confronts random people in the front row, holding out a garden-variety ball-point pen. “Sell me this pen,” he challenges them. Three befuddled attendees nervously slip into the features and benefits of the pen as if that’s what is going ‘sell’ the pen. For those playing at home who haven’t seen the movie, the ‘correct’ answer – as illustrated about 95 minutes earlier in the film – is to take the pen, then ask Belfort to write his name down for you. He’ll answer “but I don’t have a pen”, to whit you reply; “it just so happens, I do and it’s my last one. How much do you need this fine writing instrument?”

I have no idea how to ‘sell’ Saturday’s game to you.

As happy as I was to see the Bombers rebound after the St Kilda mess, the reality is that this is not a game that Essendon won. It’s a game that the Dees lost. 7.18 is a train time from Sandringham, not a scoreline, a fact no doubt drummed into Tom McDonald’s head since 4:30pm Saturday (but he had plenty of mates). If the Demons brains trust wants to play a three-card-trick of the defender-to-the-forward-line again anytime in the near future, pick one that can kick straight. Like, say, Paul Weston.

Trolling aside, the Dees grunt players were sublime. Don’t worry about Jesse Hogan, Jack Viney is the big show at Melbourne; harder than a cat’s head and hates being beaten. The Angus Brayshaw love-train has well and truly left the station. Max Gawn is a beauty, Aaron Vandenberg knows how to find the footy and Tom McDonald’s praises can’t be sung loud enough. Nathan Jones is always front and square when the whips are cracking. There’s enough there, but the gap between the Demons hardest and best falls away pretty sharply after their best five or six players.

Joe Daniher’s almost flawless conversion in front of the sticks is beyond welcome, as is the grunt Shaun McKernan provides even as a horrifically undersized ruckman. Max Gawn took him to the cleaners, but McKernan’s attitude is exemplary. He’s not the first player to fire at a second club after getting the khyber pass from somewhere else. He won’t be the last. If we accept that the three years of innuendo and uncertainty are beginning to take its toll on the players implicated in the supplements mess still at Essendon, a few more recruits with McKernan’s attitude will hopefully hold us in good stead as the Ancien Regime of 2012 passes – eventually – into history.

Shaun Edwards’ third game for Essendon and 15th career game hints at what might be to come. He was able to find space in front of goal on more than one occasion. That kind of thing can’t be coached. His ability to stand up in tackles and sure hands are worth watching. He’s not a star yet, but the quality is there.

There’s plenty of problems at Essendon and yes, most of them are arguably of their own making.

The biggest problem at Tullamarine though, is that James Hird is fast running out of the ability to sell the most valuable of commodities to supporters of clubs outside the top eight: hope.

It cost Matthew Knights his job, it cost Mark Neeld, it cost Brendan McCartney, Brenton Sanderson, Scott Watters and hundreds of other coaches their jobs over the journey.

The club can’t go back to the draft as part of its ‘disrepute’ penalties. With no first round picks for a while yet, and little by way of talent with which to trade to other clubs, rebuilding the list will require a drafting strategy that would leave both Chris Pelchen and Stephen Wells in awe.

The responsibility for this would also fall to Merv Keane and Adrian Dodoro. You only get one Fremantle Dockers licence in which to offload Tony Delany and Todd Ridley in exchange for Matty Lloyd and Scott Lucas in your lifetime. To his credit, Adrian Dodoro has milked that coup for all it was worth, but even a stopped watch is right twice a day. And with names like Banks, Bolton, Bradley, Laycock, Johns, Neagle, Kirzner, Doering, Forster-Knight, McAllister, Bullen, Bannister, McGrath, Christian Bock, Ken Hall, Tom Hislop, Andrew Merryweather, Sam Hunt and Austin Lucy in your ‘failed to fire’ folder, well, you’ll forgive me if I declare the task well beyond the current mob in the back office.

Despite Caroline Wilson’s almost frenzied – and by now petulant – calls for James Hird’s head on a plate, on what plane is the current situation at Essendon appealing to any coach – potential or experienced? No draft picks for while? A shit list? Trouble with WADA and the playing future of your best players uncertain? Factionalised Board? Where do I sign?

Whether this is Essendon’s just desserts in the wake of the use of supplements and the club’s failure to execute fundamental Microsoft office skills (with regards to the saving of Excel spreadsheets) or not, the fact remains; if James Hird – a club legend – can’t sell hope to Essendon fans, then how will an ‘outsider’ galvanise Bomber supporters to stick for what will conservatively be a decade or more in the lower half of the AFL ladder?

I enjoyed Saturday’s win. I don’t think there’ll be many more between now and the end of the season. I’m happy to be proved wrong come the end of August, but I know how to sell you this pen.


Match Details:

ESSENDON:  1.3   3.4   9.7   10.9.69
MELBOURNE:   1.3   3.9   4.13   7.18.60


Essendon: Daniher 5, Edwards 2, Howlett, Stanton, Heppell

Melbourne: Tyson, Howe, vandenBerg, McDonald, Dunn, Viney.


Votes: Hurley (Ess) 3, Gawn (Melbourne) 2, Daniher (Ess) 1


Umpires: Deboy, Schmitt, Mitchell

Crowd: 38,861 at the MCG


About Steve Baker

"Colourful central Victorian racing identity". Recovering Essendon supporter, and sometime weekend night racing presenter on RSN Racing and Sport.


  1. John Butler says

    I have to disagree Steve. Sign James up for 10 years right now. With his increasingly unhinged ramblings about “the truth” he’s sounding nuttier then Fox Mulder. It’s sure giving hope to the rest of the competition.

    BTW, do you need a pen?

  2. Too many pens here JB…

  3. E.regnans says

    Good call S Baker.
    It doesn’t feel right. Will it ever feel right?
    There remains a fair old reek coming out of Tullamarine and it’s not the aeroplane fuel.
    But I’m with J Butler.
    Yer man no doubt was formerly a club champion.
    But reputations – you don’t get to choose your own.
    Ball magnet? Dextrous user by hand or foot? Sad and benighted forfeiter of responsibility? Paragon of narcism? Injector of tanning drugs? Who knows?
    There was (and remains) an option for EFC to lead themselves anew. To reset.
    Ahh well.
    EFC looking increasingly like one less opponent for us all to worry about.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Joe Daniher=hope. Like him a lot. Just depends who the Bombers can get to support him. Plenty of vacancies.

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