Round 21-Essendon v Gold Coast Suns : Relief for Bomber fans.

Call it karma or call it whatever you like but the good vibes were coming my way when I heard the news regarding Zach and Jake for Sunday’s game against the Gold Coast Suns. I knew I had to attend this match.

Like many Essendon supporters, I was slowly succumbing to the pressure of the relentless, constant floggings inflicted on our team during this disastrous season, and my support in following my team was waning.

However, with Zach Merrett’s appointment as acting captain for the game and Jake Long making his debut for the club, I felt that something special was in the making and I was not going to miss the match. I felt those two decisions by the Essendon Football Club were memorable, and decisions that supporters of the club will in the future reflect upon as critical to the revitalization and the re-generation of success for the club. I wanted to be able to say, “I was there!”

Zach Merrett, together with his brother Jackson were both students at Cobden PIMG_0203rimary School when I was a teacher there, as was Sydney Swan’s player, Gary Rohan. As an Essendon supporter, it has been a great thrill for me to watch the continuing development of theMerrett boys as footballers, fulfilling the potential they so obviously displayed on the playing fields of Cobden Primary School all those years ago. When I think about it, it is really quite an amazing feat for this small rural school of two hundred students to produce three current AFL players suggests it has well and truly punched above its weight in the production of AFL footballers.

Jake Long, of course, is the son of Michael Long, one of Essendon’s favourite sons and an all-time great of the club. Watching Michael Long play brought great pleasure to me, and undoubtedly to many supporters throughout his illustrious career. Who could ever forget his bouncing run through the centre of the MCG to goal against Carlton in the 1993 Grand Final? I never will, it was certainly a moment to remember. And, if his son is half as good as his old man then Essendon supporters will have something fabulous to look forward to in the coming years.

Zach and Jake are the future of the Essendon Football Club and with this in mind and my good vibes I took my usual seat at Etihad Stadium in a positive frame of mind.

From the first bounce, the intensity applied by the Bombers was noticeable. We were winning in the ruck with Leuenberger doing a fine job, but importantly we were getting a lot of the clearances, many by Zach Merrett, who did not appear to be overawed by the responsibility of leadership but was thriving in it by leading from the front. It was only our inaccuracy with some early set shots at goal that stopped us from developing a good lead. Each time Longy Jr went near the ball you could hear and feel an increased buzz from the crowd in anticipation as they willed Jake on, and although his possessions were few there was a magic about the ones he did have. A couple of goal assists showed remarkable maturity and his ability to quickly sum up the situation and to make positive choices brought joy to the faithful.

For most of the game, the Bombers played attacking football and were willing to take chances through the centre corridor. Tippa and McKenna provided some promising runs from the back line, some were successful, some were turned over but I liked the fact they were willing to take the game on. I was impressed by the game from Mitch Brown at both ends of the ground but his intercept marking when down back after Hartley was injured was quite telling at times. Ambrose is blossoming in his role in defence, his strength and close checking of his opponents provided many opportunities to rebound strongly from the backline.
Matthew Stokes got the ball a lot and played his best game since joining the Dons. His former Geelong team mate James Kelly was a steadying influence behind the ball and I think Essendon should make moves to retain him for next year.

When the Suns kicked three unanswered goals and looked like they would run away with the game I thought to myself, “here comes the flogging!” To the Bombers credit, they took the game on and did not allow this to happen. Led by Zaharakis and Kelly, but more importantly by their captain, Zach Merrett, a real belief in the team’s ability to win the game emerged. For the faithful, the feeling that the faith was to be restored became evident.

Not since Cale Hooker kicked the winning goal against Hawthorn early last season did I leap so high from my seat when the final siren rang. And to sing the team song, well, it was sung with great gusto by myself and all the supporters around me. By the time the theme song was played a second and third time my voice had gone, but it was well worth it!

See the Bombers fly up!

ESSENDON             3.3   6.6   7.7   11.9 (75)
GOLD COAST           3.1   5.5   8.8   9.15 (69)
GOALS  Essendon: Fantasia 3, McKenna 2, Cooney, Grimley, Daniher, Brown, J.Merrett, Bird
Gold Coast: Lynch 2, Day 2, Wright 2, Grant, Miller, Matera
BEST  Essendon: Zaharakis, Z.Merrett, Fantasia, Stokes, Ambrose, Gleeson
Gold Coast: Miller, May, Hall, Rosa
INJURIES  Essendon: Hartley (nose)
Gold Coast: Nil
Reports: Nil
Umpires: Brown, Foot, Mitchell
Official crowd: 16,622 at Etihad Stadium

About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Earl O'Neill says

    A rare moment of joy in a miserable season, enjoy!

Leave a Comment