Round 4 – Essendon v Geelong: Provisional entertainment



By Mark Browning


If 2016 was meant to be the season of ‘more attractive football’ then unfortunately in Round 4 the match between Essendon and Geelong missed the touch of the McLachlan magic wand.


I am no friend of AFL umpires, and I had never, ever said this before, but at half time I rated the performance of messrs Hay, McInerney and Mitchell ahead of any of the players.


This assessment has come from a Geelong supporter when the free kick count was 12 to the Bombers and six to the Cats.


At that point in the scrapping, fumbling, battling contest the two teams shared 10 goals and the Cats led by two points. Geelong’s first goal for example had only come after ‘constructive’ fumbles (should this be a new stats column?) from Cockatoo and Smith.


The Bombers were given a standing ovation by their supporters after the siren ended the second quarter. The underdogs were taking it right up to their more fancied opponents.


Sadly I had already seen the best of the skill and scoring. After the break this match offered just five more goals.


At one stage I shouted out to no one in particular, “I’ve seen more goals at an A-League game.” And I had, too. Especially if you narrow it down to the 28 minutes of the one all third quarter.


The soccer analogy could go further. Both teams used huge chunks of time with pass after pass across the defensive section of the midfield as players sought to find an opening through the opposition defence.


Gradually through the second half, as the younger Bombers ever so slightly wilted, the Cats found some of these magical gaps. But their shooting for goal became abysmal. Daniel Menzel, although at times winning the ball brilliantly, was a major culprit.


The team in the white footy nicks added 4.12 after the long break. That included 1.7 in the third quarter. After their eventual 30 point win Chris Scott’s side sat 3-1, but no thanks to their third stanzas to date. Coupled with the previous week against the Lions the Cats’ ‘Premiership Quarter’ sprays amounted to 3.16.


It was during the third that there was a sniff of a chance that the Cats’ profligate inaccuracy in front of goal would eventually haunt them.


When an untended Mathew Stokes ran in to slam through the Bombers’ sixth from nearly their first entry inside 50 for the quarter the underdogs were up by a point.


I forcefully told ‘Stokesy’, a man I once loved as one of the quiet achievers of Geelong’s best ever era, that he ought to be ashamed of himself. My wife said I should be ashamed saying that to a former hero. Chris, an even greater football enthusiast than myself, and regularly a sensible calming influence, was right, of course.


Jimmy Bartel soon put Geelong back in front, his juggled mark restoring a modicum of class and decorum to the otherwise boring and incompetent proceedings.


We didn’t know it then, but Essendon had finished with any real thoughts of actually scoring anything more that day. Matthew Leuenberger kicked a behind on the final siren. It had been the home side’s only score since the Stokes goal at the 17 minute mark of the third quarter.


I hadn’t expected a repeat of the 1993 classic between these two stalwart clubs when Ablett Snr and Paul Salmon had their own personal 24 goal shoot out. But they could have done better than this.


Ablett had kicked 14 goals himself that iconic day, only one less than these 44 guys could manage between them all afternoon.


Eventually as a grey afternoon gloom descended upon the MCG, Darcy Lang and Steve Motlop showed that the modern player is a far more reliable shot when he faces 90 degrees away from the goal front and doesn’t have to think.


Geelong at last had ascendancy and won by 30 points. No singing occasion this, though. A sigh and moderate applause instead. Disaster and embarrassment avoided.


But I had been waiting since 1997 to be offered an MCC Membership. It had been a proud moment at 1.30pm when I flashed the barcode of my Provisional Card at the turnstile for the first time and marched through.


It felt like I had been allowed into the hallowed stadium for free. By the time of the final siren, though, I was questioning whether despite my pseudo free entry, I had achieved worthwhile value.


ESSENDON   2.2   5.4   6.5    6.6 (42)
GEELONG     2.3   5.6  6.13  9.18 (72)


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



Geelong: Dangerfield, Taylor, Duncan, Motlop, Lonergan

Essendon: Zaharakis, Stokes, McDonald Tipungwuti, Cooney


Crowd 42,723


Votes: Duncan 3 Dangerfield 2 Zaharakis 1

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