AFL Round 3 – Fremantle v Essendon: What a big week its been in football

No offence to Eddie, but that statement is quite significantly underselling the circus that has been the start of 2013 for Essendon. It’s been a big couple of months.

The drugs scandal that has engulfed football – in the minds of the media at least – had intensified with allegations of drug use by the Golden Boy himself. There were calls for James Hird to fall on his sword, players feeling the media scrutiny, and revelations that pig’s brains and cows ‘first milk’ are today’s drugs of choice (what ever happened to good old steroids?)

Fremantle had knocked off their elder siblings in Round 1 in a show of strength, and their frenetic pressure and tackling – a traditional hallmark of Ross Lyon’s charges – easily accounted for the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Essendon had pulled off an uplifting 35-point win over the Crows, and enjoyed an extended light training run against the Demons.

For an early-season match, there seemed to be a lot riding on this encounter. Could Essendon hold their nerve and composure and stay focused enough to win? Or would Fremantle’s defensive discipline prove too much to handle? More importantly, could James Hird stop injecting himself with supplements long enough to actually coach?

The first few minutes of the game were among the more frenzied I’ve witnessed. The slippery, humid conditions weren’t helping anyone and with seemingly every player on the field crowded into a quarter of the ground, clean possessions were few and far between. Dissatisfied with the way his team was going Paddy Ryder had a 70’s flashback and laid out McPharlin with a huge bump.

Unfortunately the impact seemed to kick-start Fremantle’s relentless forward pressure. Cale Hooker twice panicked under high bombs into the forward 50, although he wasn’t alone as Essendon produced scenes all too familiar in recent years; skills failing dismally under pressure from the opposition. The perfect snapshot of Essendon’s first quarter was Tom Bellchambers nabbing a last-millisecond mark and promptly skewing his kick out of bounds on the full.

The second quarter followed a similar script to the first, with Fremantle’s work around the stoppages a class above. Crowley was tagging Watson out of the game, and Fyfe and Barlow led the charge forward for the Dockers. Ballantyne was pestering his opponents and proved too fleet of foot for even Fletcher to match. At six goals down I’d lost hope. Every time we went forward it was hopeful and speculative rather than clinical and composed. Kicks missed targets, handballs sold teammates into trouble, and we just couldn’t match the spread from the backline of the Dockers.

But somehow over the course of the half-time break the teams simply switched.

It was the Bombers turn to force errors around the contests through relentless tackling. When there was a 50-50 ball to be won, Essendon willed more players to the ball and emerged with the Sherrin. Stanton and Goddard began to find the space they had so effectively been denied up to this point. Newcomer Kommer was everywhere, throwing his body around with reckless abandon and providing invaluable run.

With Pavlich being blanketed by Carlisle, Fremantle looked bereft of options up forward – even with Fletcher being subbed out halfway through the third – and come the last break there was just three points in it. The last quarter was truly gripping football.

It fell to the ‘big’ names of Essendon to make the difference in the final stanza. Jobe Watson tunnelled in frantically after a loose ball, and as only he can, slipped a handball through traffic to free Heppell who snapped truly. On a quiet night for the reigning Brownlow medallist it was a moment of brilliance.

Carlisle was caught in a seemingly hopeless one-on-three scenario at the edge of Fremantle’s 50-metre arc, and somehow smothered, chased, and side-stepped his way out of trouble to deny the Dockers again. Ryder capped off a splendid second half with a curling snap to put us up by six points with a minute to go.

In the final sixty seconds Fremantle had their chances to snatch victory. Duffield raced free but somehow kicked a late-breaking leg-spinner, and Mayne cannoned a snap into the post from just 15 metres out. In the dying moments, Hurley destroyed a pack – and apparently his wrist – to belt the ball away from goal and seal the four-point win.

Watson seemed on the verge of tearing up in his post-match interview. Mayne was a shattered man, lying on the turf in disbelief. Goddard gave a back-hander to his old club by saying it was the best win he’d been involved in. Fremantle supporters were in uproar. Hird had his game face on speaking to the Channel 7 commentators – daring them to suggest he should admit guilt or step down.

It was a big night in football.

Essendon: 0.3.3; 1.5.11; 6.10.46; 10.12.72

Fremantle: 5.3.33; 7.5.47; 7.7.49; 9.14.68


Essendon: Crameri 3, Hurley 2, Howlett, Heppell, Kavanagh, Kommer, Ryder

Fremantle: Mayne 3, Walters 2, Fyfe 2, Ballantyne, Duffield


Essendon: Carlisle, Hibberd, Ryder, Goddard, Stanton

Fremantle: Fyfe, Barlow, de Boer, Ballantyne, Mayne

Votes: Carlisle (3), Fyfe (2), Ryder (1)


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.....


  1. Super stuff my friend.
    A delectable blend of humour and insight into the game!
    Hird for Prime Minister..

  2. Great report! Can’t wait to read more!

  3. Good read indeed! Love the prelude to actual game report…gives my weekly “fix” all the way from Malaysia. Keep it coming sammy!

  4. PeterSchumacher says

    I liked the way that you provided a detailed description of what happened and the atmosphere of the whole thing. For me it was a great example of how to construct a match report.

  5. Thanks for the feedback guys! Always a bonus to hear some encouraging words about your writing.

    Will look to keep the standard up as the year progresses!

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