Simpson’s Fine Line

A long drive home from Tungamah was on the cards. After a 67-point victory over the Bears, Waaia had one win and two losses, and I was feeling happy. Another reason to be happy? A massive blockbuster clash at the MCG.

I don’t know why, and it is puzzling, because I dislike both teams, but Carlton and Essendon, both in good form, is good for the competition. There’s something nostalgic about it. Pride has been on the line in past clashes between these two teams, but today would be a good insight into which team would finish top four, and which team would not.

I take the Herald Sun into my room and stretch out my aching body. The MCG looked magnificent, the sun was out, and there was 70,000+ in the stands. I don’t like how all the massive games, like Collingwood v Geelong and Carlton v Collingwood, are played at night. Yes it brings a better atmosphere, but the conditions get greasy, it is cold, and seriously, what is better than a sunny day in early Autumn in Melbourne? It makes for good football.

The opening minutes weren’t exactly that. The first few minutes was end-to-end footy, but both times failed to have a serious shot at goal. Michael Hurley made it his job to split a pack and mark, right on the boundary line. He looked inboard, but found no teammates in a good position. So he had a shot himself, and nailed it. The Bombers were off to a great start. I didn’t like Hurley to begin with, I thought he was arrogant. I preferred the schoolboy version of Jack Watts. But, I feel the roles have reversed, Hurley is fast becoming one of the power forwards, while Watts is afraid to get his hands dirty. Another player I like immensely: Tom Bellchambers. This kid will be the next big thing, no pun intended. His work rate is excellent, he taps the ball in the ruck instead of bashing it to no one, and he can take a mark, as demonstrated by his mark over the top of Marc Murphy, 40m out. He drilled the goal, before one of Essendon’s revelations for 2011 worked hard to set up another goal to Sam Lonergan. Stewart Crameri, off the rookie list, made a big impression in the NAB Cup, and he’s the only thing standing in the road for Scott Gumbleton to reclaim his position in the forward line, apart from his hamstrings. But Gumby doesn’t deserve a game. Yes, he’s a number two draft pick, but he’s simply no good. Consistency is needed in a good team, he’s been a part of a bad Essendon side for his career, but the dream is over for him. GWS is calling. Crameri does the things good forwards should do, he runs with the flight of the ball, Jonathan Brown-esque, and he holds marks, he is quick on his feet, and an accurate kick. A strong midriff also helps. Essendon’s good first quarter was offset by two things, and they were major worries. First, Jason Winderlich did his knee, then 10 minutes later, Courtenay Dempsey did the same thing, to the same leg. Both were taken from the field (Winderlich on a stretcher-cart) and the Bombers had all of a sudden lost a hell of a lot of speed, a hallmark of their game. Carlton could not hold a mark up forward though. Jarrad Waite was flying for mark of the year at every chance, Lachie Henderson looked majorly underdone, and Jeff Garlett was getting outnumbered. For not the first time, in fact for the fourth time in 2011, Eddie Betts was as useless as the proverbial.

The double-page feature in the Herald Sun was on Jobe Watson. It described his transformation from a white, pudgy forward to a bronzed, tanned midfield machine. I like Watson, he’s an honest footballer. I can picture him with a Brownlow draped around his neck, and I can picture him in the coaches box, leading the way. But that’s at least 10 years away, or 20 or 30 with the way Hirdy has his team going. In a stunning fact, Watson was just eight when Dustin Fletcher made his debut, now he is Fletch’s captain. There must be something in the water down at Windy Hill, in fact some of those persistent Lawn Bowls members would be younger than Fletcher, but he tossed aside his walking frame to start the second quarter, marking in the middle of the ground before taking off towards the forward line. With an pro-Essendon crowd behind him, he booted it through the air for a magical goal, one for the ages. Overweight 30-somethings in the crowd would’ve been feeling a bit down about themselves after watching the incredible piece of play. Carlton finally hit the board, although it almost came undone after a terrific Mark McVeigh-tackle, who has taken his game to a new level in 2011, much like his teammates. Garlett skilfully split the middle from 50m out, before the goal-for-goal contest that we were promised started to eventuate, with David Zaharakis being gifted a handball from a very unselfish Crameri to kick a goal. Chris Yarran was good, bullocking his way through a pack to squeeze a handball out to Waite who banged it through for his first, but Watson restored the order somewhat with his first from 45m out. The forlorn look of Winderlich and Dempsey on the bench with large, unattractive knee braces was depressing, and it got worse for Essendon supporters, with Kade Simpson booting back-to-back majors, one from 50m out on the run, and the second from a poor delivery by Marc Murphy. There was a goal in it at half time, and the sun was still shining over the grand stadium.

I felt a tug at my blanket as I awaited the start of the second half. The new family kitten was trying his darndest to claw his way up the doona and onto my bed. He successfully reached the summit, before collapsing in a heap on my lap. He wouldn’t move for a few hours. I started to wonder if those goal umpires were Carlton supporters, I mean, it isn’t a hard job to get in to, any Blues fan can point two fingers, right? It seemed that way when Jeremy Laidler, an ex-Cat who should’ve been dropped in Round 1, kicking long towards goal, only for it to brush Henderson’s hands on the way through. But the goal umpire signaled a goal, drawing scores level. Ed Curnow, who’s made many friends this season through the Supercoach competition, snapped a high goal from a congestion deep in the Carlton forward line, giving Carlton an eight point advantage, and all the money was going the Blues’ way. They had a fresh sub on the bench (Andrew Walker), and all the run. To Essendon’s credit, they stuck around to make things interesting. Angus Monfries tried his hardest to chase down a ball in the forward line before passing to Lonergan at close quarters, who duly booted his second goal. The Bombers were back in front at three quarter time.

The Essendon avalanche that has hit the competition in 2011 has come from three things, one of those is the C and D grade players becoming quality B-graders. Jake Melksham is a quality youngster, David Myers, Bellchambers, Crameri, Kyle Hardingham and Leroy Jetta have all taken that next step to becoming vital cogs in the Essendon line-up. The latter is becoming one of the Bombers’ best opportunist goalkicker. Receiving from close quarters inside 50, Jetta snapped around the body for the all-important first goal of the final quarter. The margin was out to eight points. Carlton came back strong though, and really took the wind out of Essendon’s sails. Waite received a free kick at half-forward, with Hardingham tossing the ball back and not going anywhere near Waite on the full. But, the umpire did the correct thing. Hardingham threw it blindly as he chased after his opponent, who was running deep inside 50, so it would’ve been cruel to penalise him with a 50m penalty. It didn’t matter though, with Andrew Carrazzo marking the Waite kick, before slotting the major. In the blink of an eye, Carlton were back in front thanks to a goal on the run from just inside 50 by Murphy, then a smart Andrew Walker, who was subbed on in the dying minutes of the third quarter, spotted Robbie Warnock all on his own in the forward line. Carlton were six points closer to the four points after Warnock’s goal, and they led by 10 points. Essendon had barely any legs left. Wrong. Brent Stanton, a B-grader hoping to become an A-grader, marked on the forward flank, before playing on, running and booting long for an outstanding goal that shook the MCG to its core. Melksham found himself chasing a loose ball inside 50 with an opponent hot on his heels. The young man kept his composure, gathered and booted the goal to give Essendon the lead again, amazing football! Chris Yarran, productive all day, earned another tick next to his name when he split the middle on the run from 45m out. Yarran is a silky player, he’s in the top 10 in the AFL for skills and speed. Jetta tried to outdo him up the other end though. He marked, 45m from goal. He seemed to take an eternity to line the goals up and kick. But once he did, watching the ball float towards the goals was like poetry in motion. Another big time goal to Jetta, Essendon back in front! Chris Judd, being shadowed by Heath Hocking, started to win some vital clearances. Judd is one of the few players that can make a single handball so important. His little flick out to Simpson was almost a match-winner. Simpson took off through the middle of the ground, taking one bounce, two, three, four, before shooting for goal from right on 50m, without even attempting to straighten up. He didn’t need to though, it landed at the goal umpire’s feet, a third goal to Simpson, and he was the hero in all the Navy Blue’s eyes.

The next minute would change that.

Carlton 0.2—4.9—6.13—11.13.79

Essendon 3.2—6.3—7.8—11.13.79


Carlton-Simpson 3, Garlett, Waite, Laidler, Yarran, Curnow, Carrazzo, Warnock, Murphy

Essendon-Jetta 2, Lonergan 2, Hurley, Bellchambers, Zaharakis, Watson, Fletcher, Melksham, Stanton


Carlton-Simpson, Murphy, Duigan, Curnow, Yarran, White, Scotland

Essendon-Watson, Fletcher, Bellchambers, Stanton, Heppell, Lonergan, Hooker


78,605 at the MCG


3: Jobe Watson (E)

2: Kade Simpson (CARL)

1: Dustin Fletcher (E)

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.


  1. John Butler says

    Some hard calls on players there Josh.

    You still dirty on not getting your 5 goals against Tungamah? :)

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