Round 15 – Essendon v Melbourne: The “annual breakup game”


So it went something like this. There was a rambling speech, then I got out out a small pair of diamond earrings (because I was too scared to pick a ring by myself…). Then I said: “So, I was thinking it would be a good idea if we got married”. She said: “I also think that would be a good idea”.  Not exactly the most amazing proposal story, hey? I didn’t even ask her, it was just a short discussion and agreement!

But, hey, it’s not about the means, it’s the end! The search for a venue was started and finished, the local church was booked, and we were all systems go for our wedding next year.  What’s this got to do with footy, I presume you are asking?  Well, there’s really only one thing that could upset this process.  We call it “the annual break up game”. I’m a Melbourne supporter. My fiancée is an Essendon supporter. In fact, her whole family are.  When I first visited her parents place I was confronted by the WEG poster from the 2000 Grand Final, not a happy day for us Demon fans. I’ve been reminded by her family about that game regularly at family dinners despite the fact it was 8 years before I met their sister/daughter.  Like most “mixed-footy team” couples we get along pretty well and generally hope the other’s team wins when they play – except when they play each other.

Now usually the annual break up game is a pleasant day for me as I’m going in with low expectations. Apart from one occasion in 2010, the Dees have always started underdogs. But, I’ve often been happily surprised, as we’ve had a bit of an edge over Essendon, even during a period where Melbourne has been poor, winning 4 times in the last 6 years. This has led to some interesting times as I sing the Grand Old Flag at the top of my voice with my girlfriend giving death stares from a short distance away. On the opposite side, one of those losses was by a mere 148 points, which led to a visit to the bar in the 2nd quarter which didn’t end until after the final siren…

This year was a bit different though – while both teams aren’t going particularly well, Essendon’s recent form was terrible, and their captain had been ruled out for the season a few days prior, so Melbourne would start favourites.  While I like to think I’m normally a “glass half full” type of person, when it comes to following the Demons I am very “glass half empty” and was very nervous at what would occur.  Having been to a number of Essendon games this year and watched Joe Daniher drop marks and shank set shots at goal, my nervousness was not helped when he started taking marks in packs and kicking goals.  In the second quarter we had fixed some of the woes we had at half forward but continually failed to take our chances in front of goal.  While it was nice to be leading at half time, a scoreline of 3.9 to 3.4 was not a confidence builder.  With a low standard of footy, neither of us were really able to highlight what was going well for our respective sides.

I felt that it was definitely not going to be our day when in the 3rd quarter a pack formed, crashed into each other, and all spoiled each other to allow Daniher to come from behind to take what was almost an uncontested mark.  It was a mark that would make Stephen Bradbury proud.  Instead of the Demons taking their opportunities and pulling away, it was all Essendon.  Suddenly we were almost five goals down and staring down the barrel of embarrassment.

But, in true Melbourne style, they gave me a glimmer of hope in the last quarter. The momentum moved back in our direction, with Jetta and Garlett kicking goals, but other shots by Viney and McDonald would cannon off the post. When McDonald finally found the gap between the big sticks, the margin was back to a mere two points, before that man Daniher again popped up.  He slotted his fifth, putting him only two goals behind the entire Demons side.

When the siren went, there was no joyous celebration. Even the Bomber fans knew that this game was not the stunning comeback they needed after the St.Kilda thrashing, although the 4 points would surely help.  We briefly tried to dissect the game over a couple of post-match drinks (which led to me exclaiming “seven EIGHTEEN?” multiple times) and reached the conclusion that Essendon were just “less bad” than Melbourne.  Perhaps it was fortunate for keeping the wedding plans on track, but the result was forgotten by about 5.30pm.  I’m sure I’ll be back helping my love cheer for her Bombers in a few weeks time, but every Daniher mark and goal might result in a short but cutting flashback to what might have been.

See you next year for the first annual separation game…

About Joseph Ryan

Lawyer, amateur sportsman, and full-time sports-watcher. Follows Melbourne Demons and Melbourne Storm and is trying to be better at golf.

Leave a Comment