Round 18 – Essendon v Fremantle: Macaque Attack

It’s a strange thing to be alpha’d by a monkey (or a macaque to be precise).


After all, in terms of physicality, sheer size, and – for the most part – intelligence, we humans have the upper hand.


Fear of long-tailed macaques is by definition – and observation at the famed Batu Caves the day before – limited purely to their exquisite ability to pilfer food, drinks, and unsecured jewellery from wide-eyed unsuspecting tourists.




However, ‘those damned apes’ have an ace or two up their sleeve.


1) Fangs that upon examination appear entirely capable of face ripping.


2) Tremendous leaping ability.


So it was that two weeks ago the Kuala Lumpur Eco-Park proved to be the setting for a Malaysian stand-off worthy of thousand-yard stares, 40-gallon hats, six-shooters, and the faint overtures of Ennio Morricone’s magnum opus (‘The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly’). A sweaty jaunt through the ‘Canopy Walk’ brought the three of us – myself, Tristan, and his housemate Patmore – to a paved track heading in the general direction of the ‘padang’.


The first giveaway that not all was right with the world was the bewildered look on the faces of two Chinese tourists almost cowed near a wooden walkway that veered off to the right of the track. The second was the monkey languidly lounging nearby; the hand railing it perched on enabling easy reconnaissance of the surrounding areas.


A few metres down the track, three juvenile primates took up position on the lower branches of a tree overhanging the path.


Pausing to assess the situation, the call went out from Tristan – “Perhaps we have to answer a riddle to pass?”


Thoughts of the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow leapt to mind. “African or European?”


Patmore, who the previous day had not one, but two drink bottles, and a banana taken from his grasp by a macaque, mused sadly on today’s lack of ‘offerings’.


“It’s a genuine monkey trap!”


Tristan, whose limit for refusing to turn back from an endeavour was the taking of just four steps, suggested a course of action.


“Just walk past it…”


Let it be known to all and sundry that this was after he channelled Bruce Lee and aimed various ‘Kung-Fu’ gestures in the vicinity of the monkey.


Each cautious step towards the macaque was met by a step towards us in retaliation. At the conclusion of each step, the sight of the monkey’s dextrous hands curled on railing greeted us, body coiled ready to leap, and a look of impending doom in its eyes. Of course, with genuinely no knowledge of macaque-related assault statistics, or their proclivity in completing said ripping off of faces, the ‘unknown’ of the whole situation resulted in a tense atmosphere. The intimidation was real.


“Game over man, game over!”


At least Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson had machine guns to fight off the xenomorphs. We had sweat-filled ostentatious Hawaiian shirts.


“Right. I’m going for it…”


So it was that I took it upon myself to brave the monkey’s potential wrath, to hell with the consequences. I might lose an eye in the ensuing scuffle, but I’d have a ripper of a travel story as a result!


A tentative jump, followed by a jog past the younger monkeys had me reach safety. Hardly a heroic Hollywood-esque head-on charge towards the enemy. But you weren’t there, OK?! Unbeknownst to me, the wily macaque briefly pursued and looked set to launch the entire way.


There was no doubt who the ‘big dog’ in this fight was.


Content with having messed with us pesky tourists enough, the monkey leapt into the trees allowing others to easily pass. No doubt he was heading straight to the local hangout to boast to his monkey pals about how he’d added three more to his tally of cornered and concerned travellers.


Patmore summed up the scene best: “That was genuinely worrying. My first time overseas and I’m almost attacked by a wild monkey!” Tristan found a stick to use as a rudimentary samurai sword if another encounter ensued. I warily kept looking for signs of more ‘monkey traps’.


Essendon similarly alpha’d Fremantle in the last quarter of their Saturday afternoon encounter at ‘The Dome’.


The sign for Fremantle that not all was right should have been the inclusion of two of Brian Taylor’s favourites – Messrs Zaharakis and Fantasia.


However, the Dockers held their ground in the a tight first three quarters and doggedly attempted to put to rest any queries of how they could cope with their ever-increasing injury list (of which now contains the likes of Fyfe, Sandilands, Stephen Hill, and Hayden Ballantyne). Help even came in the form of Shaun McKernan ruining his hamstring and departing for the day before halftime.


Fremantle’s accuracy in front of goal was a key factor in making up for the marked deficit in possessions, clearances, inside-50’s, and tackles. However, Essendon managed to atone for their early wasting of repeat inside-50 entries and kicked away in the final stanza, extending their slender lead into a comfortable 29-point victory.


In a glorious return, Fantasia finished with a literal handful of goals, whilst Tom Bellchambers did as he pleased in the ruck (with 49 hit-outs and 15 touches). Zerrett (28 touches, eight tackles), Devon Smith (10 tackles and two goals to match 23 possessions) and Zaharakis provided the necessary metaphorical leap from the railing to rip Fremantle’s face off.


Lachie Neale and Michael Walters led the youthful Dockers admirably, and were largely responsible for Fremantle staying in the game as long as they did, but they lacked the support needed to take down another highly fancied opponent.


Thanks to the late onslaught, Essendon’s recent resurgence continued – with the team still a ‘mathematical’ chance to make the finals, whilst the Dockers retreated from the ground with their tails between their legs. Much like we hightailed it out of the KL Eco-Park.


I now have trust issues with monkeys…


ESSENDON   2.5   4.11   9.16   13.21   (99)
FREMANTLE   4.0   7.1   10.4   11.4   (70)


Fantasia 5; Brown 3; Smith 2; Baguley, Zaharakis, Myers
Fremantle: Walters 3; Johnson 2; Neale, Cerra, Sutcliffe, Mundy, Matera, McCarthy


: Smith, Zaharakis, Fantasia, Heppell
Fremantle: Neale, Walters, Banfield, Pearce


Official Crowd: 31,564 at Etihad Stadium

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About Sam Laffy

Thirty-something 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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