Why do Bombers fans keep showing up? Tim Pegler thinks he has worked it out

Round 8 – Essendon v North Melbourne: Winners, not grinners

Part of me wonders why Bombers supporters bother turning up this year, given expectations for their side are so low. Or why nearly 60,000 of them have paid for memberships, funding the institution that let them and their playing list down so badly.

Another part of me gets it. We’re a tribal town and few of those with red and black in their bloodstream would consider switching allegiance, or taking a year off spectating. Come the footy season, the ritual of attending matches is akin to turning up to church.

Plus a football team becomes like family. Even when times are tough, there are favourites whose fortunes we follow and novices we want to witness coming of age.

At Etihad, early on a Saturday afternoon, devout Bombers fans have swarmed in for a home game, surely expecting a drubbing from the undefeated Kangaroos. (It’s a ‘replacement game’ for Roos members, although designated seating is seemingly restricted to the roof guttering.)

As per the script, North Melbourne canter to control. Essendon are hapless and goalless at quarter time. In the second session Orazio Fantasia misses the only obvious chance. The Dons arrive at the match midpoint without a major. The crowd is all but silent. The scoreline is 8.6 54 to 0.4 4.

As an away side supporter, the interest is in whether the Kangas can find their killer instinct and how four tall forwards might function in unison. We have aerial dominance, Majak Daw and Ben Brown have kicked Daicos-like goals, and the omens are good. I dare to wonder whether we can keep the Bombers goalless for an entire game.

During the half-time break, students sing a song from a new musical about cyber-cruelty. ‘Dons personnel speak from the scoreboards about the need to stand up to bullies.

The Essendon team must be watching.

Come the third quarter and the Bombers have new-found defiance. Fantasia goals within three minutes and the crowd roars with relief. Adam Cooney turns back the odometer, finding space and pace. Mark Baguley, Zach Merrett and flyweight Darcy Parish, run and run.

There’s a long lull when Kangaroo Mason ‘Holly’ Wood throws himself backwards for a pack mark and renders himself unconscious. Waite nails the shot on goal for him but all the Roos look groggy. Essendon accrue five goals to two, the fans’ volume is up and the home team don’t look like easy-beats any more.

In the final quarter, the Kangaroos seem out on their feet. Whether it’s the injury list, complacency or fatigue, they’re grappling to defend a lead, not cement one. Kyle Langford goals twice in two minutes. Bombers fans are out of their seats.

Essendon win the second half 8.8 to 2.8 and I understand why their members keep turning up. The match score doesn’t matter. Defying the odds does.

Making our way from the stadium, it feels like it’s Essendon who should be singing their song.

North Melbourne 4.2 8.6 10.10 10.14 (74)
Essendon 0.2 0.4 5.5 8.12 (60)

North Melbourne: Waite, Daw, Petrie 2; Brown, Thomas, Jacobs, Wood
Essendon: Daniher, Fantasia, Langford 2; Redman, Cooney

North Melbourne: Swallow, Goldstein, Gibson, Harvey, Tarrant, Daw
Essendon: Z Merrett, Fantasia, Baguley, Goddard, Cooney, Kelly

Umpires: Shaun Ryan, Craig Fleer, Nick Brown
Crowd: 30,321
Our votes: Swallow 3, Z Merrett 2, Gibson 1


Tim Pegler may once have sported a blonde, Dermie-like mullet, but the evidence is elusive.


  1. Andrew Starkie says

    Tim, North have lacked two main things my whole life: a killer instinct and good percentage.

    Ist half: the new North
    2nd Half: the old

    All up, a typical North effort.

    We haven’t played four quarters since the Dogs’ game, which was brutal. Appear to be running on empty. Injuries beginning to pile up. Can’t complain about 8-0, however.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    It’s all about management Tim. Got rest the old boys for the marathon.
    Starkers, your comment makes me feel like the old bloke in the Life of Brian dungeon scene. “You lucky bastard…what wouldn’t I give for the Pies to be 8 and zip without percentage and killer instinct”

  3. Andrew, I’m struggling to remember a game where we annihilated anyone. There was the Essendon game in the 90s where we kicked 10-straight or similar and looked to be in total control … and then Lloydy kicked about 30 goals and we lost the game.

    That said, it’s better to win ugly than lose. And with Bulldogs, Hawks, Swans and Giants in our last month of the home and away, every win in the bank is important.

    Hopefully Anderson, Garner, Wood, Wells, Higgins and Wright are all on the park, come September.

  4. Phil, you’re absolutely right. All too easy to lose perspective and wallow in what ifs, rather than what is.

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    True Philo. 8-0 is 8-0.

    Our fixtire gets ugly from here so the more wins early on the better.

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