Round 4 – Essendon v Geelong: A Taste of the ‘Country’

Country Footy can be a slog.

Every winter my home cricket ground 100% proves this.

The turf centre wicket at Western Park is used and abused by two senior football clubs in two separate competitions. Four matches each weekend, combined with your usual winter rain, and you end up with a centre square that resembles a bog – a quagmire where players are at a genuine risk of sinking below the surface.  With no carefully manicured turf, advanced drainage systems, and drop-in/drop-out centre area, the going can be tough.

But that’s what country footy is all about isn’t it? I could – and many have – wax lyrically on the joys of country footy – the crucible where ‘boys become men’ under the tuition of hard-nosed, tough old bastards with hearts of gold. But I’m hardly equipped for that job. My entire footballing career consisted of two seasons of U-14 football in Gippsland.

No, you should head straight for the footballing gurus that exist at every country club. Head down to any local oval during the colder months, and you’ll have no shortage of tales from club stalwarts who have seen it all – and then some. Regale yourself with stories of the ‘country versions’ of any of your favourite VFL/AFL stars.

The ‘big smoke’ had a taste of country footy on Saturday – on perhaps the most appropriate weekend of all. It was the ‘Country Game’ – a celebration of the importance of AFL to many rural communities, and a celebration of the players from ‘the country’ who have made their mark on our beloved sport.

Many walked in expecting a ‘country drubbing’ – the sort of result you see in the side columns of the city tabloids, where a team has put 47 goals past some hapless opposition. Thankfully – for Essendon supporters at least – the match was instead an ugly, error-filled, frantic encounter where neither side was truly dominant.

For the whole four quarters, players from both sides, ‘gave a yelp’. They ran, they tackled, they pressured, they panicked, they made mistakes, and they provided a close contest.

From an Essendon standpoint, we were performing well above expectations. Come the long break we were just two points down against the highly fancied Cats. On the back of some sterling footy from Zaharakis – easily the most improved Essendon player this season – the continued strong showing from Zach Merrett, and some plucky defending from the likes of Gwilt, Gleeson and Baguley – we had a chance.

Of course, it didn’t last. Geelong came out after half-time and began to stamp their authority with the class of Mitch Duncan and Paddy Dangerfield coming to the fore. If not for some errant kicking they should have shut the door on the match.

But ‘bad kicking is bad football’ and a return of 1.7 meant that Essendon still had a sniff.

Geelong have a well-drilled backline however, and they held firm in the final stanza, keeping Essendon to just one behind. At the same time the Cats began to even out the possession and clearance tallies and extended their margin to 30 points by the final siren on the back of classy finishes from Lang, Smith and Motlop.

The class of the Cats was enough for them to pull away.

The Bombers never stopped trying – despite shortcomings in manpower and skill.

‘City Footy’ can be a slog.

Geelong: 2.3, 5.6, 6.13, 9.18 (72)
Essendon: 2.2, 5.4, 6.5, 6.6 (42)


Geelong: Motlop 2, Gregson, Lang, Bartel, Caddy, Cockatoo, Stanley, Smith
Essendon: Zaharakis, Laverde, Brown, Stokes, Fantasia, Merrett


Geelong: Duncan, Dangerfield, Lonergan, Taylor
Essendon: Zaharakis, Merrett, Gwilt, McDonald-Tipungwuti


M.Duncan (3), D.Zaharakis (2), P.Dangerfield (1)

About Sam Laffy

26-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. Dennis Gedling says

    Definitely the country round as the skills from Geelong were probably at the level of a country league side. The MCG just needed cars to be parked around the boundary and the illusion would have been complete.

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