Round 20 – Essendon v Sydney: You have to love these Bloods!

The last time I attended and wrote about an Essendon v Swans match was in May 2019. I’d moved from Sydney and been living in Melbourne for just over one month, there was no pandemic, no lockdowns, no masks, and games were being played at the SCG. That day, as with today’s game at the MCG, we won by seven points.

Until our July 2018 at Etihad, and July 2019 at the MCG losses – when people were actually allowed to attend – all 60,199 of them at the G – we had won every close match against them since 2014. Then in 2020 they defeated us by a goal in Sydney.

Games between us are becoming legendary. They are always close, nerve–wracking affairs. The most memorable perhaps, being the 1996 Preliminary Final, with Plugger kicking a point after the siren. And then in the June 2017 match at the SCG, with the Bombers having kicked seven consecutive goals, at the 26–minute mark of the last quarter, 19 points up, we witnessed a miracle from my team. All within five minutes Ollie Florent dribbled a goal (13 points down), Buddy a point (12 points down), Nic Newman a goal from five metres out (6 points down), Buddy a point (5 points down), and then the miracle: Gary Rohan marks in the goal square – all over Red Rover! Surely one of the most amazing comebacks ever witnessed.

Today’s game at the MCG could also be described as a comeback of sorts. Not that we ever want a comeback, but these past few weeks we’ve been slow to start. Who knows why? The constant interstate changes due to Covid certainly haven’t helped, and most teams are being affected in similar ways, but the Swans and Giants have certainly been uprooted at very short notice several times since having to leave Sydney. Despite everything, we seem to have thrived!

The first half is a sluggish affair. Down by two goals at half time, with both sides slow and seemingly in need of a boost come the third quarter, we produce seven magnificent goals. Trouble is, they also kick five. A goal fest indeed!

Will Hayward (love this bloke) starts us off with a goal around his body; Merrett goals for them; and Luke Parker (really love him) reduces the margin to five points after Isaac Heeney produces some of his magic and kicks to Luke, for another; Tom Paley and Sam Wicks combine for another, and the pressure has certainly gone up a notch. When Luke kicks another goal for our third consecutive, his red and white passion is there for all to see. Merrett, having an influential game for them, combines with Langford to reduce the margin by six points. Paps bounces one through and just as I’m thinking about my love for this little bloke, Stringer sends a 60– metre bomb through – one point the difference. Blakey runs and bounces in his now customary fashion, and Paps collects and dribbles it through from the boundary 20 metres out. Then the impressive Errol Gulden (certainly getting to love this young kid) kicks to Hayward and onto Paps again, and he kicks his third for the quarter and our seventh. No sooner are we celebrating, when Stringer and Wright combine for Essendon and goal, followed by that man Merrett adding another. A 13–goal term, and it’s back to just a two– point lead before the final 30 minutes. Exhilarating stuff, as long as you’re not a Swans or Bombers fan!

Up until now, I have to admit (again) that I’ve been doing the unthinkable and unforgivable: fast forwarding. I started watching the Fox recording late and up until now I am in what might be called ‘a state’, with closeness of it all. I’m starting to think that my ‘condition’ must have something to do with age. I could never really understand why my dear aunt, who took me to my first game at Lake Oval when I was four, would be so wretchedly nervous watching games on television way back when she was my age now. “I just can’t watch”, she’d say, “I can’t bear it, I’ll have to turn it off”. She never got to see our 2005 premiership, and I wonder how she would have coped.

With Marshall not seeming to care too much about today’s battle, and with no one else to share my emotions, I wonder whether to be brave and watch the final quarter at normal speed. You must be bloody joking!

Goal for goal, except when Joey Kennedy (loved this bloke for years now) and Nick Blakey (a recent love) both kick goals, and at that stage we’re up by 13 points. With 11 minutes left, it’s all becoming a bit too much for me, so I increase the fast forwarding to almost unrecognizable figures and just concentrate on the score. I’ve really no idea who kicked what from then on, and only when I could relax and watch the whole thing again after the siren and the celebrations from the players, did I know that Errol Gulden, Buddy (we all love him), and Callum Mills all goaled to give us a game–high 19 point lead. The Bombers added two more and it was only seven points again. With 1.2 minutes on the clock, that magnificent player Isaac Henney (Oh, how I love Heens) took the final kick as the ball headed into our forward line. A 6.0 quarter to us and 5.1 to them. Another 11 goals for the term. Brilliant stuff.

This game was quite extraordinary. Both teams achieving over the century mark – quite rare in recent times – and as expected, it was again one of those typical Sydney v Essendon close encounters. I don’t suppose one could ask for anything more from a game of footy, except, for me, how I would just love to be able to watch it in real time with none of the ridiculous nervousness I don’t seem to be able to rid myself of when it comes to close ones involving my beloved Swans. And talking of love, of course I love them all, not just the ones mentioned above.

Marshall certainly doesn’t seem to get affected by close games, as he once did. When watching the replay, he asked “Who won?” “I don’t watch games again when we lose, darling!”

Can we continue in this vein for the rest of the year, and into September? I’m still refusing to predict anything – absolutely no point – so will just wait and see, along with all other Bloods supporters, and meanwhile enjoy and rejoice in what we’ve done so far this year. We have been one hell of a footy team.

Go Bloods! And may we continue to wear the Red V as long as possible!


ESSENDON    3.3    6.5    11.5    16.6    (102)
SYDNEY         2.1    4.5    11.7    17.7    (109)


Essendon: Langford 3, Merrett 2, Stringer 2, Smith 2, Wright 2, Clarke, Cutler, Hind, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Shiel
Sydney: Papley 4, Parker 2, Franklin 2, Hayward 2, Blakey, Gulden, Hickey, Kennedy, Mills, Reid, Wicks


Essendon: Merrett, Parish, Stringer, Langford, Draper
Sydney: Mills, Parker, Papley, Dawson, Lloyd


Essendon: Laverde (right shoulder)
Sydney: Nil


Essendon: Brayden Ham (replaced Laverde)
Sydney: Dylan Stephens (unused)


The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE


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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016.


  1. Julie Cattlin says

    I can’t believe that you remember all those Swans-Essendon games, Jan. But then I’m not a ‘Bloods tragic’!
    Another very detailed account of the game last weekend. I do think it’s very funny, though, that you fast-forward the game. Wonder if other ‘AFL tragics’ do the same.
    Very best wishes for the last games. And it’s probably about time the Swans win the MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF THE YEAR!!!

  2. Antony Courtin says

    Jan,I do exactly as you do with the Foxtel remote. Mental stability and close Swans’ games do not go in the one sentence. Go Bloods.

  3. polly courtin says

    hey Jan yes an entertaining story about our magic team
    and all our players are worthy of your love!!
    what a game what a win!!! go swannies
    go swannies as Longmire says ‘ one week at a time’
    bit hard at this stage given our next three opponents and finals knocking at our front door!! woooooha. a good story! thankyou

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