Saturday Afternoon Spectacular

You have to give it to the AFL for innovation, today they came

up with the novel idea of footy at the G on a Saturday afternoon!  You know

what ,I think it could catch on, there was a very large crowd there to see

the Dons play the old enemy Carlton on this sunny afternoon, and what a

magnificent day it is after four or five days of very average weather down

here in Melbourne. There aren’t too many better sights than the “G” when the

stands are pretty near full, the  grass is in top condition and mown to

perfection and the sun is shining out of a brilliant blue sky.

Being an old  Don tragic and trying to keep the lid on

expectations I was quietly hoping for a win, the bigger the better but as

long as we got the 4 points I would be satisfied. A couple of things caused

me a little concern with the selection of the Don’s team on Thursday night ,

the dropping of Davey for Prismall  and the preference of Bellchambers over

Hille. I reckon Alwyn Davey is fantastic and while Brent Prismall gives it

his best, he isn’t in the same league as Davey. As for Hille maybe his

fitness is not up to a full game yet.

Right on the knocker at ten passed two, the ball is bounced and

it’s the usual arm wrestle. Players are hunting in packs, tackling, bumping

and tagging, what you expect at the start of a game. The Don’s are great in

defence, the ageless Dustin Fletcher and Nathan Lovett-Murray repel any

forward movement of the Blues and then Michael Hurley gets the first major.

A couple of minutes later Jason Winderlich goes down with what turned out to

be a season ending knee injury. Play is held up as he is treated and put on

the “field ambulance”. Essendon start to move the footy in a more structured

way and Sam Lonergan  and Tom Bellchambers both score majors for the Dons.

But tragedy strikes again, one of the Don’s speedy defenders Courtney

Dempsey goes down with a season ending knee injury.  No “field ambulance”

for Dempsey, I guess they were still getting Winderlich off it.  That’s two

Essendon footballers in about ten minutes , at this rate the Dons will be

down to four players  in the last quarter !  By quarter time Carlton hadn’t

bothered to kick a goal and we had a handy three goal lead but down to

twenty fit players.

The second term starts and one of the highlights of the game

was the goal by Dustin Fletcher. Running from full back he took a hand pass

around the centre of the ground , had a bounce and banged through a

magnificent goal from about sixty five metres out. It brought the house

down, the oldest bloke on the ground showing speed , poise and skill.

Unfortunately Carlton decided to spoil the prolonged celebrations and Jeff

Garlett kicked Carlton’s first. Essendon’s back line were great especially

Nathan Lovett-Murray and Mark McVeigh and Dustin Fletcher of course. Carlton

squandered quite a few chances and kicked badly at goal. Another highlight

for me was the way Chris Yarran managed to evade about six Dons in the

centre of the ground and get the ball out to a Blue who scored a major, it

was absolutely magic.  By the big break  Carlton had added four goals seven

behinds  to their score, to the Dons three goals one,  Essendon  holding on

to a  six point lead. Thankfully no more serious injuries  to the Dons

Carlton took charge of the of the game in the third

quarter, the seemed to get the ball moving with players everywhere,

supporting each other  in the packs . They seemed to dominate, every time a

pack formed Carlton managed to feed it out to a running player. Essendon on

the other hand seemed to lose momentum. The only thing that managed to keep

the Dons in the game was because Carlton wasted so many opportunities near

goal. Waite and Curnow managed a couple of goals and I had a sinking

feeling. There are some teams in the AFL that I don’t like, and I don’t like

being beaten by Carlton!!! And that’s the way I felt at that moment.  Just

before three quarter time Lonergan scored a major for the Dons, so scores

were Carlton six thirteen to Dons seven eight a lead of two points.

I watched the Essendon huddle at three quarter time,

Winderlick and Dempsey on crutches, five or six other players getting

serious attention to their legs, shoulders etc, could we hang on? Leroy

Jetta gave us a good start but a couple of defensive  errors by the Dons

allowed Carlton two goals and they were back in front. Now it was Essendon’s

turn to waste chances as Angus Monfries and Michael Hurley missed getable

shots. Leroy  (the excitement machine) bobbed up again with a nerve calming

goal to put us back in front, but before I could sit down again Carlton’s

Simpson had a four bounce run and goal which would have blown the roof off

the “G” if it had one. Carlton up by a point with only a minute left.

Exhausted bodies throwing everything they had to get the ball, packs and

scrimmages and tackles across the ground. It looked like cross country

wrestling.  Carlton kick the ball out on the full on the Don’s forward line

and David Zaharakis snaps a behind, scores level.  Siren.

A draw. I have been following the Dons for well over fifty

years and I can’t remember  being at a drawn game involving the Dons. I felt

relieved, I really thought Carlton would win in the last quarter.  It’s to

the Dons great credit, to their courage and fighting spirit that they hung

on for this very honourable draw.

Final Scores  Essendon 11.13  79   Carlton  11.13 79.

Best players for the Dons.   Dustin Fletcher,Nathan Lovett-Murray, Jobe

Watson, Brent Stanton ,David Zaharakis and the Medical team at the Dons


  1. There’s one other draw for the Dons that stands out in my mind, Rod. 1993, again against the Blues, and Kernahan has a kick after the siren from about 40m out on the southern flank at the Punt Road end. Scores are tied. Anything Kernahan scores will win it for the old enemy. Kernahan kicks and the ball sails, inexplicably, out on the full. Bombers faithful erupt in joy! I recall that instant when I realised the ball was going out as vividly as almost anything else in my life. It’s about the only time I can recall actual joy at a draw!

    Saturday’s game was wonderful, for all the reasons you mention. Dons fans feel marginally happier at having escaped with two points after losing two players early. It’s not quite a 2009 Anzac Day experience (Hille down, Ryder steps up, Zaharakis goal), but we certainly felt better than the Blues folks.

    Just realised on re-reading that Zaharakis is again the last-second hero! Coincidence? Or is he a ready-made, last-quarter sub? ;-)

  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    Ho Rod , all, I travelled down from NSW to Vic last weekend and stopped in Shepparton to visit friends. They were going to the game and had room in their car so I jumped on board We drove to Essendon station and it was a buzz getting the train in with hoards of Essendon supporters- just like the old days on a Saturday afternoon. We were lucky to get away with a draw- but much better than a loss!

Leave a Comment