Round 23 – Essendon v Fremantle: The unbroken circle

Essendon v Fremantle
1.10pm, Sunday, 27 August 2017
Etihad
Trevor Blainey

 

The Unbroken Circle

 

So here we are at Etihad.  My two sons and me.  It’s 4 years, 6 months and 22 days since the terrible day.   5 February 2013.  Those two sons are 30 and 27.  When the eldest was 5 in 1992 I took him to the MCG to see the Bombers play the Hawks in the last round of that season.  The Hawks won by 160 points.  I made him stay until the final siren.  We were premiers the next year.   The 27YO wavered briefly in the late 90’s when Gavin Wanganeen went to Port.  He didn’t barrack for Essendon he barracked for Wanga.  He was 5 when that happened.

 

But they’ve both stuck since.  Some great moments along the way and, of late, plenty of heartache.  Through it all, without the sustenance of finals, there have been the players to follow, to admire, to root for.  None more so than the mighty Jobe, beaten finally by the toll and the toil, retiring today, a warrior to cherish.  A melancholy figure to some but an unalloyed hero to the Bomber clan.  So attendance today is compulsory, the chance to cheer him off and the lure of finals is hard to ignore.

 

So, again, here we are.  The crowd mood is hard to gauge.  Nervous sums it up.  The pre-game poll of our neighbours in the stand is that there’s a lot to lose.  The sons and I decide that 11-11 would be a fair cop, a lot better than the dismal 2016, we’re a next year team really etc.  I’ve taught ‘em well but we all know that that’s a load of the proverbial.  It’s not a time for being reasonable or fair minded.  Eff that.  We have to win.

 

In the early going the Bombers have slipped away, 3 goals quickly and then the grind.   The Dockers regroup and at the break we’re up by a goal.  Up not down, but a team playing for finals is playing a team with literally nothing to lose.  Win or lose the Dockers will finish right where they are pre-game.  The mood at ¼ time amongst the almost totally Essendon crowd (there are about 100 Dockers behind the Coventry end goals) stays until the final siren.  It’s like watching Black Caviar at Ascot; she is winning, she should win, she has to win, but here they come.

 

And so it goes.  We surge, they respond.  Merrett is great again, Bellchambers plays like an All Australian and James Stewart confirms the recruiters’ faith.  But Fyfe, Neale and Mundy point to what Freo have lacked to date and may yet recover next year.  They keep them in it which keeps me and the boys in a state of head shaking anxiety.  Never headed but can’t bury them either.

 

The modern game as checkers is what we get.  Make a blue in the middle and the opposition pings it around the witches hats on the green carpet.  The ball goes from one end to the other in a heartbeat and too often a recently hapless Freo forward is lining them up again.

 

But finally, finally – it’s done.  The siren.  We’ve won.  A collective sigh and then the applause.  For the Dons, for us all in the Bomber army and of course for Jobe.  By any measure the most damaged by the troubles but to his immense credit he stood up throughout and upon announcing his departure was a dignified figure.  Returned when he needn’t have, gave his all always, with time and absence harsh judges.  But on this day a glimpse of better days, enough of the ball to remind us and weary enough at the bell to confirm his decision.

 

My sons and I parted as they headed to a bar for a couple of jars with the cousins.  Hugs and shrugs; they got home later and told me they were all going to Sydney for the final.

 

Go Dons.

 

ESSENDON     4.3       8.5       14.8     16.11 (107)
FREMANTLE    3.1       5.3       9.6       14.8 (92)

GOALS
Essendon:
 Merrett 4, Stewart 4, Daniher 2, Hocking 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Bellchambers, Begley, Laverde
Fremantle: Griffin 2, Fyfe 2, Sheridan 2, Taberner 2, Ballantyne 2, Cox 2, Bennell, Crozier

BEST
Essendon
: Merrett, Goddard, Watson, Zaharakis, Heppell, Stewart
Fremantle: Fyfe, Mundy, Neale, Ryan, Griffin

INJURIES
Essendon:
 Hooker (calf, replaced by Hocking)
Fremantle: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Kamolins, Ryan, Mollison

Official crowd: 42,665 at Etihad Stadium

 

Our votes: 3 Merrett, 2 Bellchambers 1 Stewart

 

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