Round 4 – Sydney v Essendon: Another of those heart stoppers!


Sydney v Essendon

7:20pm, Thursday April 8




It’s 2am and I can’t sleep. That’s what Swans v Bombers games do to you! Maybe it was the alcohol that my sister brought over (I rarely drink), maybe it was the chocolate another sister brought over (I rarely eat chocolate), or maybe, just maybe, it was simply the adrenalin still racing after another of those unbelievably close matches between the two sides that had me lying in bed, eyes wide open.


Have any two teams such a recent history of close encounters? I doubt it. Recalling some of them, the most famous of all comes to mind. 1996, Preliminary Final at the SCG. That game against Essendon has gone down in history as one of the best and most exciting of all finals games – all games really, considering the implications. Swans (and indeed Bombers) fans will never forget that last passage of play. With scores level and the siren, surely, about to sound, Chapman marks from Essendon’s clearance. Onto the boot, and the ball goes forward. Plugger marks. All we need is a behind! The siren sounds. Deadly silence around the SCG. (Even now, 25 years later, the heart races). The ball soars for 55 metres, and he’s done it! We are into the Grand Final. The Swans’ first since 1945.


Since then, we’ve seen some pretty amazing close ones:

1997 SCG, Sydney by 1 point
1999 SCG, Essendon by 14 points
2000 SCG, Essendon by 13 points
2002 Telstra Stadium, Essendon by 2 points
2004 MCG, Essendon by 10 points
2005 ANZ Stadium, Sydney by 6 points
2007 SCG, Essendon by 1 point
2010 SCG, Sydney by 9 points
2011 ANZ Stadium, Sydney by 5 points
2011 Etihad, Essendon by 1 point
2012 Etihad, Sydney by 4 points
2015 ANZ Stadium, Sydney by 12 points


And who could forget 2017? Two goals behind with 1:19 on the clock, we witnessed a miracle! Swans a goal, with just 51 seconds remaining. Needing a further 6 points, Buddy managed one of them from 50 metres, leaving us five points down, with 15 seconds remaining. Gary Rohan marks in the goal square. All over! Pandemonium at the SCG! Sydney by one solitary point!


And since then, our close encounters have not waned.
2019: SCG, Sydney by 5 points
2020 SCG, Essendon by 6 points


And now, on Thursday night 8th April 2021 at the SCG, we’ve done it again. Sydney by 3 points


I’ve been there to witness them all, except for last year’s no–games attendance for Victorians, and last night’s thriller. Oh, I wish I’d been there!


All week I’d been nervous about this one. Essendon, one of the youngest teams around at the moment, had played brilliantly the previous week, their inspirational captain Dyson Heppell was back from injury, and, well, simply, it was Essendon! Enough said. I also wondered whether my team could sustain the incredible pressure they had applied in the first three games, and whether the psychological ramifications after beating Richmond would come to the fore. All very possible.


This time it was Essendon applying the pressure, preventing us from playing how we had in the first three matches. It was Essendon who kicked straight, with six unanswered goals across the first two quarters that saw us down by 25 points at one stage. We could well have become despondent, but, on the contrary, we responded and kicked six of our own to take the lead, going into half time with a five point advantage.


The third quarter was pretty even, just one point separating us, and then our kicking woes returned. Having managed 2.5 in the first term, our last quarter, despite the ball being in our forward half for the majority of it, produced a lousy 2.6. Luke Parker (best on ground), Tom Papley, Nick Blakey and Tom Hickey some of the culprits. Three points up, with just minutes to go, Justin McInerney kicked perfectly to Buddy, who, despite being relatively quiet on the night, kicked his third and more importantly put us ahead by 10 points. Cale Hooker snapped one through for Essendon, but we managed to hold on.


28 to 20 shots on goal told a story, but the ending was a happy one! And all without our star Isaac Heeney, off early with a broken hand.


John Longmire’s summation of the game was perhaps the best: ‘When a team (Essendon) comes in and has 36 tackles in the last quarter you’ve got to do a lot right to win. To withstand that and do the things we needed to be able to do, and find a way, was a really good sign. I think that’s the most pleasing thing out of it. You get behind, you’re scrapping along, you’re coming from behind, you’re finding a different way to win. All of those things add up to just getting the overalls on and getting to work.’


And that’s just what we did! Another great win!


Go Bloods!




SYDNEY          2.5     7.9     9.11     11.17     (83)
ESSENDON     4.1     7.4     10.6     12.8     (80)


Sydney: Franklin 3, Reid, McInerney 2, Parker, Florent, Mills, Papley
Essendon: Stringer, Hooker 3, Waterman 2, Cox, Smith, Parish, Jones


Sydney: Parker, Warner, Lloyd, Mills, Gulden, Kennedy
Essendon: Merrett, Ridley, Stringer, Parish, Cox


Crowd: 28,039




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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016.


  1. hey Jan well expressed!! great story. on the edge through the game. wow. thankyou!

  2. Lynn Baker says

    Great story Jan . I remember all those games too … especially the 1996 prelim !
    Last nights game was certainly another heart stopper !
    I too was still awake at 2:am … adrenaline working overtime !!!
    So proud of the young bloods and of course our senior leaders/ players .
    Cheer Cheer ! ??????

  3. Keiran Croker says

    Bombers/Swans games always seem to deliver a nail-biter no matter our respective positions or the personnel out there. One could argue that we were the better team overall last night and wasted some chances, though the Bombers kept coming. With both teams coming off a 5 day break, I think some of the young blokes on both teams were running on empty. Great game. Glad we could hold on.

    I reckon the Bombers have picked a few young gems. In particular, Nik Cox looks outstanding. So it looks like it will make for more close encounters in coming years against all our young guns. Errol was fabulous again, despite missing a few goals and Chad continues to impress. Hope to see Dylan Stephens out there before long.

    Might catch up on some sleep tonight too!

  4. Julie Cattlin says

    I only follow the AFL for my Swan-loving family. A couple of sisters, a brother and a couple of nephews. But you, Jan, is the sister I check the scores for. I actually turned on the TV at the 15-minute mark of the last quarter. So close I immediately turned it off!! Just don’t know how you all do it!! The tension mixed with excitement must make for very racing hearts!! Great story, Jan, with all those close Essendon-Swans games. Just look after those racing hearts!!

  5. Hi Jan, great article. Love these close games, very exciting, especially if it’s your team that wins. Full marks to both the Swannies and the Bombers. Tour not being able to sleep after this epic reminded me of the 1978 Grand Final here in Adelaide between Sturt and gross underdogs Norwood. Down 29 points at three quarter time, the Redlegs found their second wind to charge home to snatch a most unlikely 1 point victory. Sturt has never forgotten or forgiven the Legs. I was so excited it took me ages to nod off. I can’t wait for the Swans to play (and beat) the Port Power.

  6. Thank you one and all. Comments much appreciated.
    Cheer cheer

  7. Richard Davis says

    Thanks Jan for your response to the exciting game on Thursday. I felt it was going to be a danger game due to the 5 day break, but also because it was Essendon and these two go at it hard every time. They didn’t allow us to play our new open style of overlapping football but we persisted and in the last quarter it was nothing more than a hard slog. I was very pleased to see the experienced players coming to the fore when things got tough. Luke P was outstanding and easily best on ground. He led the way but Josh K and Dane R were also great leaders.Sam R played his best game for a while and Ollie F showed that he is beginning to mature as a footballer. The young boys played their part as did Buddy when needed.Essendon have a lot to look forward to to. Nik Cox is really something. Cheer, cheer.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Another fantastic win for your Swans Jan, they are playing great footy and are entertaining to watch. Hope you can get to the SCG soon to see them!

  9. Thanks Richard and Luke. Appreciate your comments
    Cheer cheer

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