Round 8: Essendon vs. Brisbane – Mayday! We’re going down!

World War II was the heyday of aerial combat, with stoushes, skirmishes, bombing raids and reconnaissance missions an everyday occurrence across the skies of Britain, Germany and France.  Only the top pilots survived ‘til the end of their campaigns and their skills are marveled at to this day. Take for instance James Edgar ‘Johnnie’ Johnson. Flying 515 missions throughout the war, he sustained just one hit to any aircraft that he flew. A feat of incredible instincts and cunning. Perhaps more impressive is the record of Erich Hartmann, a fighter pilot who scored 352 victories across 1404 combat missions. The sheer statistics on hand are staggering. For each of their successes however, were the fiery deaths of many more, falling victims to a machine-gun strike, a jammed rotor, or a wrong-turn through the clouds ending in doom.

Of all the AFL clubs that could match such stark differences in fate in recent years, it is Essendon. It’s hugely appropriate that we are dubbed ‘The Bombers’.

This century has seen us veer from the dizzying heights of 2000-2001 (just six losses across two completed seasons) – shooting down all and sunder on our way to the top – to the terrifying nose-dive of 2006 (just three and a half wins for an entire campaign) and 2010 (a lowly 14th place finish putting the full stop on Matthew Knights’ coaching career).

Recent seasons have seen us perfect this transition from world-beating brilliance to obscene mediocrity to such an extent that we can veer from one mode to the other in the space of one or two games.

2012 was the perfect case-in-point. After nine rounds we were 8-1, with an eye on a surprising top four berth. Unfortunately, some accurate shooting from the injury gods saw player after player fall victim to various malaise  As it was, our skill level dropped accordingly, and alarmingly, we finished with an 11-11 record.

2013 has played out thus far in similar – and worrying – fashion. Two weeks ago, having overcome GWS with a second-half blitz, we were sitting smugly atop the ladder with a percentage of 176. A lack of finishing saw us fall short against Geelong, and this weekend’s loss to Brisbane has once again raised worrying questions.

Brisbane’s daring raid on Etihad Stadium was marked by efficient counter-attack, making the most of limited advances into enemy territory to land blow after piercing blow. They made their way inside 50 a staggering 22 times less than Essendon yet emerged victorious once Brent Staker capped off his comeback with an emphatic finish from the boundary.

Their defenders out-muscled Essendon’s talls – which were depleted without Gumbleton (dropped) and Hurley (knocked into next week). The Brisbane midfielders were physically harder, their tackling pressure (a 72-49 advantage) proved too much for Essendon to handle, and their ability to hit open targets deadly (109 marks for the game). An inability of Stanton, Zaharakis and Co. to drop their eyes and hit smaller targets proved costly come the final siren. It didn’t help that Zorko was returning to his form of last year

Every time Essendon looked to settle into a scoring pattern and pull away they were thwarted by their more determined opponents. Brisbane – having been on the back-foot since their win in the pre-season cup – was taking a stand which the Bombers couldn’t weather.

The 10-point defeat now sees us now staring down the face of multiple consecutive losses with upcoming clashes against Richmond, Sydney and Carlton. Has our mission to the finals been halted already? Will we once again crash and burn in a horrific nose-dive?

What I do know is that this Saturday’s clash with Richmond takes on huge proportions. Another loss will see us back with the main pack, and our early advantages counting for nought.

Essendon: 3.1.19; 7.6.48; 10.9.69; 12.14.86

Brisbane: 3.4.22; 6.5.41; 11.7.73; 14.12.96


Essendon:  Heppell 2, Crameri 2, Bellchambers 2, Watson, Hocking, Howlett, Kavanagh, Myers, Ryder

Brisbane: Zorko 3, Brown 2, Lisle, Redden, Staker, Black, Hanley, Leuenberger, Moloney, Polkinghorne, Raines


Essendon: Goddard, Heppell, Hibberd, Carlisle, Watson

Brisbane: Zorko, Leuenberger, Redden, Polkinghorne

Votes: Zorko (3), Redden (2), Goddard (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. Pamela Sherpa says

    It certainly will be a crunch game against the Tiges Sam. The Bombers may crash mid season but there is still time to repair and take off again. Don’t worry too much .

Leave a Comment