The 2002 ‘Mopsy’ Fraser Cup – Round Nine Preview

Goldarn it, I can be a prescient swine sometimes.  Eleven years ago I tried to drop the boom on Essendon but Zeus couldn’t handle the truth.  Now it can be told again…

Greetings Tipsters

Collingwood seem to be flavour of the week, media-wise, so I don’t see any point in adding to it.  I am, if anything, more impressed by Dick Reynolds’ hair.  It’s so quintessentially Essendon, and thus hateable, but full, rich and thick, sparkling in the light like a silver lion’s mane.  I hope to be so lucky.  At 87 years of age, Dick is still a handsome ol’ devil, glint in his eye, kerchief in his pocket and impeccably turned out.  Wasn’t it always the case?  Look at some of those photos of Dick in his playing days and ‘dashing’ is the first adjective that springs to mind.

From whence did he spring?  In eleven complete seasons as captain-coach, the Bombers won the flag four times from eight grand finals and finished lower than third just once, though his other seasons with the club weren’t near as bountiful.  Did they breed him?  Did the founding fathers of the Essendon Football Club back in the 1870s, playing out of the McCracken family paddock in Ascot Vale, set up a specialist breeding programme which would produce, not just good footballers, but good blokes, gentlemen honourable and true?  The McCrackens were big in booze, owning a brewery and several hotels, so it’s fair to say the strength that is Essendon was built upon the weaknesses of others – uncontrolled abuse of an addictive substance, really – and the massive profits generated by preying upon the misfortunes of the poor and benighted were invested in producing ‘good stock’.

Genetics is a delicate science and one that necessarily takes many decades to produce a result.  Dick was probably an aberration, an unexpected success story, like making the grand final in your first year of ‘rebuilding’.  He is the archetype of everything the Essendon Football Breeding Programme has, is and will continue to work toward.  Joel Reynolds, Dick’s grandson, is on the Essendon list and he is one young man who knows how to knot a tie, let me tell you.  He is surrounded by top-flight role models, including the EFBP’s most successful production to date, Gentleman James Hird.

He’s a third-generation Bomber.  Hird the Third!  Did they really think we’d never notice?  Good heavens, the arrogance of it all!  Brave to the point of insanity, sublimely skilled, well-spoken, beautifully groomed – his hair was looking good even as he walked (of course he walked!  You don’t breed supermen for 130 years just for them to leave the ground on a stretcher!) from the field with half his face threatening to give in to gravity and tumble down into his innards.  His great-grandad volunteered the family to the EFBP, but they couldn’t name the stand at Windy Hill after him, ‘cos that would’ve been a bit too much of a clue, so they named it after Allan, 102 consecutive games, coach of the seconds and president.  What a clubman!

Not that he had a choice, it was his pre-ordained fate, kind of like the Truman Show, except that these people want it that way.  It’s all part of the indoctrinal training.  And don’t think it stops there, with the Hirds and the Reynolds.  The EFBP, backed by the secret McCracken fortune cunningly invested around the world, in Chilean silver mines, Venezualen and Kazakhstani oil fields, Wall Street financial institutions, Japanese manufacturing conglomerates and a brace of cutting-edge technological research institutions, including bio-technology laboratories, has been most adept at covering its tracks.  Tim Watson’s another one.  They had to rush him into the seniors at 15 ‘cos he turned out a little too good too early.  By drawing attention to Little Timmy and running newspaper pictures of him hanging his footy kit on the line under his mum’s supervision the EFBP drew attention away from itself.  Tim’s nipper is cutting up the field in the TAC this year, too.

Naturally, the Danihers are part of all this.  They were sent to NSW, cos no-one would ever believe there wasn’t something fishy about four footballing brothers playing in the EDJL (not to mention all those netballing sisters).  Of course, they weren’t a complete success, lacking as they are in the suave and debonair good looks, but they certainly proved their value where it counts.  Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris’ grandad smashed the nose of a fast, cheeky little rover in a Riverina League match about 80 years ago.  That rover was my grandad and that’s why I didn’t get to hold up the 1993 premiership cup.  Grandad became a North Melbourne fan and they can’t afford a breeding programme.

Matthew Lloyd is another product of the EFBP.  Notice how his hair always looks perfect, even after he‘s kicked 12 goals?  The hair is often a giveaway, but his monosyllabic speech and limited range of expression has caused the Masters to wonder if they shouldn’t broaden the gene pool somewhat.  “Hmm”, they said, stroking their beards thoughtfully, “Matty seems a bit retarded, wouldn’t you say?”  This is where John Barnes comes in to the picture.  His transfer to Geelong was part of a deliberate ploy to seek out new stock.  Barnesy wasn’t part of the programme to begin with, he was just a larrikin boofhead, but that image has made him a genius pointman, enabling him to get under the guard of many an unsuspecting sister-of-a-footballer.  He’s proven most adept at forging links amongst the kiddies, so don’t be surprised if you see one of Gary Ablett Jr’s sisters on the arm of Joel Reynolds at the Brownlow in a few years time.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though.  Perhaps the riskiest and most dangerous period of the EFBP was the internal warfare of the early 70s, which derailed the whole club, sent them right through the seventies with barely a finals appearance, let alone a premiership and sank to it’s absolute nadir when John Coleman’s risky tactics of bluff and brinkmanship led to his execution.  No, I can’t say who ordered it, these are ruthless people and they would hunt me down like a rabid dingo, but they did import a specialist from Holland to do the deed and I will neither confirm nor deny reports that Paul van der Haar’s unlikely career was part of the payoff.  Look, that Sheeds is one tough little headkicker and I don’t wanna get on his wrong side, alright?  Just look at the record and try to tell me that there’s anyone else you’d rather have running your top-secret football breeding programme, huh?

Good luck, Tipsters

About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.

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