Some Perspective Needed For Bomber Fans

The events on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium, when Essendon fans booed their players from the ground, is the latest in a series of episodes which have clearly shown the emotional strain on players,officials and fans of the club. It showed the strain faced by all levels of the club under an enormous weight – a weight that few, if any, clubs have faced before.

Supporters from other clubs will continue to have their opinions and look at the club with high levels of distrust above and beyond the usual dislike for other teams. But there is a world of people behind those emotions who have done absolutely nothing wrong other than love their club, and they do deserve to be treated with more respect than is being in some sections of the media and fandom.

But Essendon fans need to rise above these emotions where possible, as Saturday night painted another ugly picture that overlays all that has gone before it.

The following is a post I put on a club site which I believed needed a wider audience. It is not about the guilt or otherwise of the club, but examines the journey of the people behind the scenes…the fans.

It goes like this:

There has been plenty to read in recent days about the dawning of the new Essendon era now clearly suffering under the emotional weight of one off the biggest cases of alleged drug abuse in sport.

Tim Watson’s remarks on SEN echo some of those thoughts, whilst the usual cast of vandals in the media continue to bring us to our knees.. one way or the other.

But none of this is new. The club, from players to supporters, has been finding ways to cope for years now. It may be coping on a season to season basis, or maybe for some it is hard enough to cope from hour to hour.

But where this story needs a revisit is in the behaviours of our own supporters. The variety of ways that people cope is being shown through the variety of ways people act.

I am just as guilty as any other fan of airing my views.

But there isn’t a singular answer to how we must support. All I can say is our response needs to be positive and harmless as possible. We ourselves cannot be the ones to help erode further the fragile confidences around this great club in these times.

The booing is an emotional response. It isn’t right, but it was a collective response to a situation people just couldn’t get their heads around. I couldn’t. A goal-less half just sucks the wind out of sails. The fact that people cheered the players back on proves that it was an emotion of the moment…the booing prior was a response from people lost for alternatives.

The tearing into players is equally poor, but grounded in some level of fact. Players who performed poorly or made particular errors would have placed themselves firmly in the emotional sights of fans that wanted something or someone concrete, tangible, to blame for the on-field fiasco in the first half.

But some things need to be balanced.

There is not a single player on our list that cannot play footy. They are all drafted or traded in based on their form in other areas – TAC, interstate, other clubs. None of them are accidentally there. They all have talent…admittedly some have more than others. They all have potential to do more. They all play each game with heart, just at times lacking the confidence to go with it. To suggest a player is playing without heart undermines every effort that person has ever put into their career as a football player – from juniors to the big league. It is a charge that would need more than emotional evidence to prove. We need to remove that charge from our footy vocabulary.

I have read many people saying that they are professional footballers who just have to get over the elephant in their room (WADA). I remember my wife being told it was time she stopped grieving when her mother died. How? Is there a prescribed period of mourning. Should I by now be over my father’s recent passing? WADA/ASADA isn’t the same emotional level as mourning a death, but the ability to let the emotion go is similar. No person can tell these guys when they should stop being haunted by something that might well effect their careers and the rest of their lives. How dare we!

The players must be allowed to find their own way through this, just as we should allow anyone their own time to face anything emotionally overwhelming. Money has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the process of emotional damage.

I. too, am a member. I live 3000 kms from Melbourne so I don’t pay the costs of match day, but I do give membership money, Flight Plan, buy jumpers, spend what I can to support the club. That does buy me some level of expectation…but is it more than the average fan? No, because I chose to do so. At the end of the day I am just a fan like the ones who don’t buy memberships for all manner of valid reasons…who cannot travel…who cannot afford to purchase things…they just love Essendon and will listen on radio or watch on TV their beloved Bombers. Am I more important than them just because I had some spare money that I could send Essendon’s way? I believe not. Spending that membership money was my choice, not a contract of assured success on the part of the receiver.

We also, collectively, seem to have this idea that we know better about selections, form, injuries, recruitment…and I am also guilty of this…and are quick to question the club’s decisions. OK, we are entitled to as fans and members, but these people are PROFESSIONALS who live these roles. They know things way beyond what we do. There are times we lose faith in the mechanisms of the club…sometimes justifiably as the poor governance charges proved…but by and large these people know the players better than we ever will. We need to let them do their job. Someone under performing will find themselves out the door. Just as players are delisted.

We need to believe that the club, started in 1872 by most accounts, that has won 16 flags, has one of the biggest fan bases in the game, has produced some of the greatest names in footy, has some idea how to run a club.

End piece…Yes, we as fans deserve and can have a say. But there are ways to do it and channels that go through that are way, WAY, more productive and show ourselves and our club in a good light.

Can we find a way to love and respect everyone that lives red and black. Every person who in whatever way Dons The Sash.

About Wesley Hull

Passionate lover of Australian Rules football. Have played and coached the game and now spend my time writing about the game I love and introducing young people to the game through school coaching. Will try and give back to the game what it has given me for more that 40 years.


  1. Dave Brown says

    Interesting piece, thanks Wesley. I was at the game on Saturday night as a neutral hoping for a good game. As a result I was disappointed in Essendon’s effort, obviously nowhere near as much as any donners of the sash.

    I still just wonder how the club moves on from here. They seemed on Saturday night to be desperately trying to pretend that nothing was wrong (on the field that night and over the last few years). Meanwhile their loyal premium price paying fans in the stands are running on a pre-shortened fuse. If they’re not careful the first thing that will give are the fans – in the short term they have the least to lose.

  2. I’ve never booed my club.
    No matter the loss.
    Not saying that means Essendon fans are bad for doing it.
    It means the fans have had enough of it all.
    They’re frustrated.
    They realised the booing was unnecessary and cheered their boys.
    A turnaround inside 15 minutes.
    Well done.

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