Round 17 – Essendon v Adelaide: Random Thoughts on Football





Essendon are beating somebody on the telly. The Giants? Swans? Adelaide. That’s it. A good yellow jumper. They’ve always gotten their playing kit right, from their first game on, even when being thrashed. Kept it simple.


It’s a strange match. The Bombers are eight goals up, yet both teams are playing like they don’t want to win. Missing goals, not taking chances.


The Bombers at least have some new flesh. Put Archie Perkins back in the oven for a few years, and something incredible just might pop out. Sam Draper is dominating. Built like a donk, runs like a gazelle. It’s almost odd to watch.


Then there’s the gristle. Cam Hooker is performing a role as old as footy. The full forward when you don’t have a full forward. Each word spoken slow. Big man contest. Bring to ground. Little men swoop. I no get kick, I no care. He seems a ripper bloke. Somehow, that counts.


Paul Seedsman has a name that sounds like a stoner making a statement, but is sweeping up everything and a bit along Adelaide’s half back line. It’s impressive to watch.

Other than that, Merrett is being Merrett, the Dons backline is shifting its numbers en masse left and right, up and back, beautifully, and Tippa is being TIPPA! This player from the Dreamtime, from Heaven. His gut looks like a time bomb, straining to balloon the day he announces his retirement. But that’s just another thing to love about him! The Stewie Dew factor. That bit of us out there.


Only, footy-wise, on another planet.


Some Crows player is running back with the flight, into oncoming players, and copping it, hard. The sooks are going to sook on that one. They’ve taken the king hit out, thank Christ! Good riddance. Then the biffo. Fine. Then the shirt front. Then the bump. Then the bad body language. Now, they’ll be outraged at some poor slob for trying to show a bit of courage.


When Brownie ran back with the flight, plates still in his head from the last time, the sooks were out in numbers. Simon Black told me it was the most courageous thing he’d ever seen. “Who cares if he was out of position? He was going to impose himself on the contest!” Simon’s awe of the moment sent shivers down my spine more than the act itself.


Black should know these things. He was a champion, fair, fearless.


Old Mate from the Crows is no Brownie, but so what? Maybe he was just sick of losing?


When the sooks have finished having their way, they’ll turn around to empty stadiums, and sook that it’s because the game has no character.


That moment aside, the game drifts, and my thoughts go with it.


I decide we’ve entered an Age of Chips. Not the Smiths or Pringles. I’m fine with them – indeed, hungry. The beautifully skilled, one step, keepings off variety. At one stage, the Bombers have eleven uncontested possessions across, forward, and back over their defensive 50 line without gaining one solid metre.


It’s funny, each new generation of style of Aussie Rules puts the previous in perspective. Before the Age of Chips, was the Time of Rolling Zones, only truly great if you’re a Hawks supporter.


Before that the Age of Abandon. Geelong, with Gazza leading the charge, just running straight at people, firing of stupid, reckless handballs. In hindsight, it was fast and loopy and exciting!


Before that was the Age of Givemetheshits. Collingwood’s well crafted boundary game. Long to contest, out of bounds. Long to contest, out of bounds. Long to contest, out of bounds. We have less talent, so lets strangle the bastards!


Before that, the Age of Eade, and Years of Roos. Free flowing players who became blue-balled coaches. Tighter than drums. Bringing it back to cavemen.


Before that, the 80s and early 90s, the Age of What Defence? Play on, be free! Be entertaining! Oh, it worked well, was a joy to watch, until it hit the wall of better defending teams in Grand Finals.


And, beyond that, echoes. History. Barass and his handball. Farmer. Dyer’s drop punts, Regan’s attacking backman. Before that Scotch College versus Melbourne Grammar, 1858 in a paddock, Aboriginals watching, complaining they’d ruined a perfectly good game of Marngrook.


Each generation, from 60,000 years ago until now, a joy – though driving you a little batty. With individuals, and teams, to die for. Each generation peppered by doomsayers. That game evolves, but in its heart is it free, courageous, a test of character. Australia at its finest. It will always find a way to move forward, be entertaining.


There will always be close matches between hard, fast teams, with so much pressure, the game goes back to basics.


It was always better during the previous generation, whatever the generation is now, simply because we were younger, more ready to love things unconditionally. Most doomsayers simply miss being teenagers.


Adelaide kick three points. Where’s Tex and his porn star mo when you need him?


The mind drifts.


Will Snelling slots a goal from a sweet pass, just perfect, from generic modern footballer Hind, and gives the best finger point of the round. Happy, laconic, he just nails it; “Haha, onya,” written all over his face. I love and am obsessed with the finger point. It is the single most bestest thing about modern Aussie Rules! Better than speckies and bananas!


Jack Reiwoldt is the king of them. Every goal he kicks, every goal a teammate kicks, he’s pointing earnestly to another Tiger. Carlton have a handful of blokes who go better, pointing to runners, members of the crowd, water boys, ushers. Melbourne’s Tom McDonald is old school. Other players break their backs to give him goals, he doesn’t point to anyone. I don’t like him.


The point is just so Aussie! Cricket is a game of individual actions. The point is done verbally, drolly. “Oh, nice ball, Johnno.” But even then, it is not thanking someone else. Not letting the crowd know the  other person really got you your wicket.


The point is like Pascoe getting a key wicket and casually pointing to Lillee. “Thanks mate, he was only hitting out against me because of your pressure.”


I’d have a heart attack if I saw a soccer player use the point. A soccer player can draw defenders, weave and spin and bedazzle, use all his slickness and work ethic to lay up a gimmie, and the one who taps it through TAKES OFF as if he just singlehandedly won the revolution!


The same with Gridiron, Basketball, whatever, wherever. The finger point is ours, it tells everyone we don’t get a big head about things. It says thanks and onya to the unsung, the real heroes.


Butters from Port is the next generation. Young. Last year, when Scott Lycett did the best bit of ruck work since Patty Ryder, laying up the winning goal for him – i mean, fair dinkum putting it on a platter – Butters took off, soccer style, as if it was all solo. Just a kid, I know, but it still annoys me!


The point, the point! It’s as team orientated a gesture as it gets, it’s everywhere and I damn well love it!


Junk time in the game, I’m still watching, but nothing’s sticking.


The mind drifts.


Somebody please, please, please, invent what the game is begging for! A web page called; AFL Players Touching Their Hair.


It drives me nuts! Lining up for goal, brush… After a goal, when they know the cameras are on, oh man… brush, brush, pat! God, being interviewed after the game, brush, groom, pat, pat! Even when their opponent has just snagged one, and the dude with the telly camera runs out… Bush, touch, buff a little.


Brisbane’s Rhys Mathieson is the dead set king of it! He’ just so wannabe 90s, Gordon Gekko!


Tippa never touches his dreadies. Tippa is deadly!


Sorry to those who’ve never really realised it until now. It’s like a bad card trick; once the hair touching has been pointed out, you’ll see it EVERYWHERE!




Back on the telly, Sloane is playing with pride right to the death rattle. Someone just did something. Someone else kicked somewhere. Whatever. Sometimes there’s just too much footy on the telly.


A final siren mercy-kills the contest. People will rage and sook about the Crows only kicking two, but, simply, not every game is diamonds.


My focus switches to what I can take out of the match for the Under 18s game I’ll be coaching in the bush tomorrow. There’s something to be learnt from every game, every training, every aspect of footy.


At the start of the season I contacted Geelong, a supposed rural club, that is meant to value community. Told them I wanted to bring the kids to watch a training run, see how the big time does it. Learn, be inspired, observe tips. Get out of the bush bubble. Maybe, even for a few of them, sew the seeds of the hunger to aspire to that level.


Just 20 Under 18s, standing in the outer, with masks on, all from a virus free zone, in a time of no new Covid cases in the nation, watching. The club very politely responded; We are sorry, but due to the virus, no public members are allowed to watch training, (which is free), but if you want to go to a game with 30,000 other screaming idiots, crammed in, mask free and shouting at the players, here’s the link, just contact the ticket office for prices.    


I will always love watching the AFL, learning from it, being inspired by it. Always, every match. But it is just a brand of a game bigger than itself. I would not swap one game of coaching Under 18s to go to it, not for a season’s ticket, not for an MCG final. Not even in the members.


The young men I coach are gold, worth every bit as much as any AFL team. More, because I know their backstories.


There is such a sweetness, and sense of community with bush footy, of knowing! A feeling of involvement.


We went to watch an AFL game together last week, when we had a bye, and not much else was happening. To bond and to learn. But not a Geelong one, obviously.


Thanks Crows, thanks Dons, my mind wandered.


Thanks Tippa, your footy is amazing!




ESSENDON              2.5      6.8     9.12     11.18 (84)
ADELAIDE               0.2      1.3       2.7     2.9 (21)


 Perkins 3, Wright 2, Hooker, Jones, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Snelling, Stringer, Waterman
Adelaide: Murphy, Schoenberg


 Merrett, Redman, Ridley, Perkins, Hind, Snelling
Adelaide: Laird, Seedsman, Smith, Schoenberg 


 Langford (hamstring)
Adelaide: Himmelberg (illness) replaced in selected side by Will Hamill, Doedee (concussion), Seedsman (calf)


Essendon: Ham (replaced Langford in the fourth quarter)
Adelaide: Davis (replaced Doedee in the second quarter)




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  1. Matt Zurbo says

    Well, I liked it.

  2. This piece was far more entertaining than the game itself and comes with the added bonus of a few relevant points to take away and ponder.

  3. Very good Matt, love the bit on players hair and Rhys Matheson Gordon Gecko

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