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The Footy Almanac 2007 Round 10 – Sydney v Essendon: Lamenting umpires, curse the Dons

The first printed edition of The Footy Almanac came out in 2007, before we had a website. In the absence of a real 2020 season, we will be publishing the 2007 pieces for the first time ever on Follow the season!



Sydney versus Essendon

7.15pm, Saturday, June 2

Sydney Cricket Ground



ADAM SPENCER IS A POPULAR SYDNEY PERSONALITY – ABC radio breakfast host, comedian, mathematician, women’s soccer coach, and former world champion student debater. Spencer is also a self-confessed Swans tragic and he hosts most club events. On this night, as the MC for the post-match presentations, he was booed by more than 26,000 people.


Spencer was booed because he was perceived by the SCG crowd to be the face of the AFL. He was not the only one hooted off the ground. So were the victors.


Most vitriol, however, was directed at the umpires. They were the real villains.


Swans coach Paul Roos claimed the crowd was expressing its frustration at the hands-in-the-back rule and its interpretation by the adjudicators. He forgot to mention the frustration at the sight-impaired and speed-impaired boundary umpire when Adam McPhee kicked from Driver Avenue, the street adjacent to the SCG, in the last quarter!


To add the proverbial insult to injury for Swans supporters, the Bombers won by one single point – a point that was scored after the three-quarter time siren, when the umpires appeared not to know the rules after Scott Lucas had taken a long shot at goal and Spida Everitt lazily punched the ball over the goal- line. The umps work-shopped their decision and declared a behind. That was the correct call.


In my 25 years of watching the Swans at the SCG, I’ve never witnessed such anger as that displayed by the crowd after the match. Kevin Sheedy thought it was terrific. He believed it’s a sign of the game coming of age in Sydney, as the fans become more knowledgeable.


However, those comments mask some real concerns that many of the stakeholders have about the way the game is being played, and more critically umpired. Not just in Sydney.


There is no doubt that Sydney versus Essendon fixtures have assumed epic proportions. And this was another for the annals. Dons fans claim that the result was payback for Plugger’s point after the siren in the 1996 Preliminary Final. I think the Bombers are more scarred by the 163-point shellacking in 1987, when the Swans kicked a massive 36 goals.


Such is the appeal of clashes between these teams that the SCG was declared a full house earlier in the week (even if the house is smaller these days, because of that popular Sydney pastime: renovations). On another almost balmy night Essendon got off to a flying start, booting three goals in the opening five minutes before the Swans scored through Nic Fosdike, who was playing his 150th game. James Hird was finding the ball and with players such as Mark Johnson and Brent Stanton winning the one-on-one contests, the Dons moved the ball quickly into the forward line to their big guns, Lucas and Lloyd.


The fast pace of the game was nullified in the second stanza when the Swans fought their way back into the game, and then fought their way to the front. The first of four free kicks paid against Barry Hall for the match was awarded in this quarter. All were controversial. His tally against him for the season was 20 – the highest in the AFL.


There was only one goal scored in the third quarter – a banana goal by Adam Goodes after seven minutes 52 seconds (such is the precise information you receive during a quick phone call to Sydney stats man Kevin Taylor). Captain Kirk came into the game and the Swans were winning the stoppages. They controlled the tempo in the third quarter and appeared to have the Bombers’ measure.


But they couldn’t kick clear of their persistent opponents, mainly due to the fine defensive efforts of Dustin Fletcher and Mal Michael – who were effectively tag-teaming Hall.


In the end it came down to a lucky break. McPhee was scorching along Driver Avenue when he passed to Mark McVeigh, whose shot just eluded the padding around the goalpost for a goal. The Bombers were 14 points ahead and seemingly home. Then the Bloods came back, as they always do, with successive goals. The second sausage, a long set shot from superb defender Craig Bolton, brought the Swans within two points.


The Swans had the chance to snatch victory when Amon Buchanan had a right-foot snap, only for the ball to clip the padding of the goalpost. The injustice! Essendon, largely through the efforts of Hird in the final quarter, were still clinging to the lead by a point when the siren sounded.


Swans fans felt shocked and cheated. Their booing was so loud that the Bombers’ victory song was barely audible. The booing continued until the victors had left the field. Even the SCG members joined in. The game should have marked a celebration for Hird, who was probably playing his last game in Sydney, but all the talk was about the umpires.


The controversy continued well into the week in Sydney. It was the major talking point among AFL fans whenever they could seek out a fellow aficianado. The painter from Manchester who was doing the renovations in our office (it really is a pre-occupation for Sydneysiders) went to the game and was disgusted at the adjudication, although he didn’t quite put it in those terms. The AFL umpiring department released a statement to say that there were no errors made during the game. By the Wednesday, fans had posted a staggering 250 postings and 5200 views about the game on the website Red-and-White Online. This is another statistic that validates Sheedy’s thesis about AFL fans in Sydney.



Sydney  3.2 7.4 8.4 11.7 (73)

Essendon  5.1 7.2 7.7 11.8 (74)



Essendon: Lloyd 3, Bolton, McVeigh 2, Welsh, M. Johnson, Watson, Stanton.
Sydney: Davis 3, Fosdike, Dempster, Bevan, Schneider, O’Loughlin, Goodes, Hall, C. Bolton.



Essendon: Fletcher, McVeigh, M. Johnson, Michael, Hird, Stanton.

Sydney: Schneider, Kirk, Richards, Kennelly, J. Bolton, Buchanan.



Fosdike (Sydney) 150 games.



Donlon, McLaren, Chamberlain.



M. McVeigh (E) 3, Hird (E) 2, Kirk (S) 1.



Hird (E) 3, Watson (E) 2, J. Bolton (S) 1.






For more Round by Round reports of the 2007 season click HERE


Printed copies of The Footy Almanac 2007 can be purchased here.


2007 Footy Almanac

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