Round 17 – Essendon v Port Adelaide: Shaun

Being an Essendon supporter in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was a different time. Ignore the fact we were an actual premiership threat at the time. Because football – contrary to popular belief – isn’t just about that.

It was mainly because every season you could be sure that there’d by another ‘journeyman’ footballer playing their trade in the black and red.

Obviously, Kevin Sheedy was the catalyst. Sheeds was – among other things – just a tiny bit odd. He loved nothing more than to find a ‘project’, someone he could mould, mentor, and play in every position imaginable.

The original was Dean Wallis. Debuting in 1987, over the course of 15 seasons Dean made his way to 127 games – only playing more than 13 games in a season in his 13th and 14th years.

The early and mid-2000’s in particular carried on this glorious tradition. The likes of Aaron Henneman (58 games in 6 seasons), Courtney Johns (21 in 4), Kepler Bradley (49 in 4), and Jay Neagle (28 in 4), and even Nathan Lovett-Murray (the most successful of the lot with 142 games in 9) had that…special something about them.

Y’know, the aptitude only seen in a rare few. The legends of the game who would start on the wing, spend a quarter at centre-half forward, drift down back as a loose man when the opposition got a run on, and finished up with a spell in the ruck.

Complementing them on this journey were the cavalcade of recycled players which for some mad reasons Sheeds and Matty Knights consistently signed up. Ben Haynes, Matthew Allan, Justin Murphy, Mark Alvey, Ty Zantuck, Scott Camporeale, Richard Cole, Hayden Skipworth, Brent Prismall – you name ‘em, we went out, recruited them, and gave them a season or two.

What a time to be alive!

Which brings us to 2015.

Combining the best of both worlds, we have perhaps the ultimate hybrid journeyman/recycled player to grace the field for Essendon: Shaun McKernan.

I watched him debut for Essendon when they played North Melbourne earlier this year in Round 7 and again on TV in Round 16, and with the utmost respect for Shaun and the fact that he’s an AFL player and therefore far, far better at the game than me, to watch him play on Todd Goldstein was a sight to behold. I’m not sure what ruck manual he was reading from, but the idea of simply running blindly into the opposition ruckman in an effort to – I guess – distract him from tapping the ball, isn’t one I’ve seen often.

Unperturbed, Shaun turned out against Port Adelaide.

Port Adelaide had Matthew Lobbe and Paddy Ryder, and a point to prove after yet another disappointing loss against Adelaide last weekend.

Lobbe towered over Shaun at times on his way to 46 hit-outs that helped Port to a crucial win in the clearances. Ryder switched between pinch-hitting in the centre and crushing Essendon’s hopes up forward – especially in the last quarter when he kicked three typical Paddy Ryder goals – the toe-poke, the snap from 40 out, and the measured set-shot.

And yes, Travis Boak and Ollie Wines were just that bit too influential in the middle, and Chad Wingard was just that bit too good up forward, and despite Essendon’s forward line working the best it’s done all year, the Power were just that bit too clinical come game’s end.

It was a shoot-out, and we’re just about the least-equipped side for that – with the exception of the Lions’ current woes.

They needed to win to keep their season alive, and win they did – edging out the Dons by 13 points. The six behinds we kicked in a row to end the second quarter came back to hurt in a big way.

Shaun, however, summed up Essendon’s night – and season.

15 touches, 6 clearances, 30 hit-outs. 5 clangers and 4 frees against.

A bit of good, a bit of mediocrity, and a few moments which made you shake your head is disbelief. The way he operates doesn’t quite make sense – much like our forward set-up. Baffling free kicks are given away – much like our willingness to turn the ball over by foot heading inside 50.

But every now and then, Shaun will win the tap, follow up with a tackle, grab the loose ball and boot us forward.

Much like Zerrett and Jerrett (Zach and Jackson Merrett), Jayden Laverde, Kyle Langford, Nick O’Brien, Alex Browne and Mo Daniher all stood up and made their mark at various times on Saturday night.

And Shaun.

The future’s not looking too terrible.

Essendon: 6.1, 8.9, 12.12, 17.14 (116)
Port Adelaide: 4.3, 10.5, 13.6, 20.9 (129)

Goals:

Essendon: Hooker 3, Laverde, Langford, Daniher 2, Heppell, J.Merrett, Goddard, Hurley, Z.Merrett, Zaharakis, Browne, Edwards

Port: Ryder 4, Schulz, Wingard 3, Neade, Boak 2, Ebert, Westhoff, Lobbe, Gray, Moore, White

Best:

Essendon: O’Brien, Stanton, Z.Merrett, Goddard, Hooker

Port: Boak, Ryder, Wines, Wingard, Lobbe

Votes:

Boak (3), Ryder (2), O’Brien (1)

About Sam Laffy

26-year old Essendon supporter. Winning the flag in 2000 when I was 12 was supposed to kick off a dynasty I could boast about for years. Still waiting for that 17th flag.....

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