Round 18 – Essendon v North Melbourne: A tale of two run ups

 

Etihad Stadium cops its fair share of criticism. Some say it’s sterile, some say it lacks atmosphere. And I’ll admit there can be something a bit strange about it, like going to the movies during the day and emerging into the daylight after the show, wondering what time it is. But I actually quite like it, and last Saturday I was happy to be there. Standing on the Bourke Street Bridge I saw a passerby point to an illuminated thermostat and say “it’s four degrees”. With that information in mind I was more than happy to be spending the afternoon indoors.

 

I met my Kangaroo-supporting mate “Booma” on the bridge and we made our way towards the stadium. Coincidentally he was given that name before the wider world knew of Brent Harvey’s existence, but that’s a story for another time. The frigid gale whipped up from the nearby bay pushed us sideways as we marched through the man-made wind tunnel. It was definitely not cricket weather, but the match we were about to see had parallels to the summer game.

 

Perched up inside the Medallion Club we sipped our first beers and spoke excitedly about the game ahead. While Booma was learnedly pessimistic about North’s chances, I was just plain nervous about my Bombers. The first three quarters were close, with neither side opening up a substantial break.

 

At half time, Booma had confided that the first half had following a pattern he’d seen all too often this year. North would be competitive to a point, but then the opposition would pull away. I mused that I was familiar with that pattern… I felt like, at times, Essendon had been playing that tune for the last 10 years. In the third quarter it looked like Booma’s prophecy would be fulfilled, as the Bombers pulled ahead, only to be pegged back again by North.

 

Like most games worth watching, this one reached its zenith in the final quarter. And it was here that a stark contrast was provided between the set shot run ups of two opposing forwards: Cale Hooker and Ben Brown. Hooker’s run up is like Wasim Akram’s – short and sharp. Like Akram, it’s possibly the fastest and most terrifying of all the players in the AFL this year. Brown’s is long and almost robotic, conjuring up images of Shoaib Akhtar. One commentator counted it at 32 steps. In cricketing terms, Brown would be pushing off the sightscreen.

 

On Saturday, the two big men operated from the Fletcher End and the Lloyd End of Etihad. While these ends aren’t as steeped in Aussie sporting folklore as, say, the Stanley Street End and the Vulture Street End at the Gabba, they’re still significant sporting names – especially for an Essendon supporter. As a fast bowler, I picture Fletcher as a wiry handful, all arms and legs at the point of delivery. Calm in a crisis, and plenty of bounce. Kind of like Bruce Reid, but a lot more durable than the bowler that The 12th Man wrapped up in sticky tape because he kept breaking into pieces. Apparently left arm Lloyd plays a bit of local cricket these days, but I’ve never seen him bowl. So I picture him using a combination of method and muscle. Maybe Mitch Johnson in his prime – albeit with a focussed tossing of grass at the top of his mark.

 

Back to the footy, Hooker’s frenzied approach delivers the first goal of the quarter. And then he hurries the second. The Bombers lead by 20 points. Then Brown bounds in for one. His long approach is one of the key ingredients to him being that rare footy beast of “cult figure”. To earn that moniker you need a dash of talent, a sprinkle of quirk, and a memorable hairdo. To tick these boxes, Brown sits equal second in the league goalkicking, employs an elongated run up, and sports wild frizzy hair.

 

Hooker responds with two more. Then Brown kicks a point from a tight angle before kicking another goal. The siren sounds and the Bombers triumph. Hooker ends with four for the quarter, and Brown with 2.1 – but 6 for the game. It was a tale of two run ups.

About Ged McMahon

Ged McMahon has been a Bombers fan for as long as he can remember. With a Grandpa who grew up just a spiralling torpedo punt from Windy Hill he didn't have much choice. When his junior football career resulted in almost as many possessions as games he eventually had to bite the bullet and give up his dream of captaining the Bombers to a Premiership. So his weekly footy fix became confined to the stands. He yearns for the next Premiership.

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