The Footy Almanac 2007 Round 11 – Essendon v West Coast: Hird wills the Bombers over the line

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 www.footyalmanac.com.au. Follow the season!

 

 

Essendon versus West Coast

7.40pm, Friday, June 8

Telstra Dome, Melbourne

by JOHN HARMS

 

FOR A LONG TIME I didn’t understand the fuss over James Hird. I lived in Brisbane. In those days television and radio coverage of footy was adequate, but we didn’t get anywhere near as much as was dished up to fans in the footy states. Commentators raved about him. Writers in The Australian deified him. His coach praised him. He was in the top half-dozen footballers in the league.

 

I had seen him play some pretty handy matches on TV: Anzac Days, finals, and home-and-aways. He was good, but in my mind he was no superstar. And he was often injured.

 

Then, in 1996, I saw him play in a final at the Gabba. Quite a few of the Lions players remember that match as one of the best they’ve played in. They won by a point. The Bombers struggled against their classy teamwork. Just three players kept them alive: Gary O’Donnell, Gavin Wanganeen, and more than anyone, James Hird. He was all over the ground, getting possessions, directing, leading. My mind changed: Hird had some special quality.

 

On Friday night he was at it again, still adding to his reputation in what he says will be his final season; still doing all in his power to make valid his public claim in April that the Bombers could be a top four side. Still believing.

 

The Bombers went into this match with more than a sneaky home-town chance. At the Cricketers’ Bar at the Windsor Hotel in Spring Street, a few of us gathered for a quiet session to see whether they could give the premiers a scare.

 

It’s always a good night when you see Bill Hunter. And there he was, sitting at the bar, cuddling a pot. Another bloke enjoying an end-of-the-week beer was listening to the radio coverage. He excitedly told us the game was over at the 15-minute mark of the first quarter. We thought he was joking.

 

When the delayed television coverage started we learnt he wasn’t. In just minutes the Eagles kicked the first four goals; the Bombers hardly touched the ball. Matthew Lloyd later said he thought they were playing the Harlem Globetrotters. It seemed that every bounce went the Eagles’ way, and once they had the Sherrin (sponsored by Yakult yoghurt), they used it with faultless precision.

 

The Eagles’ dominance continued. They became wasteful. But even though they kicked a series of behinds, the game was all over. Our concentration wavered; conversation took over. Adam McNicol told us he was off to watch footy at Edenhope in the Western District the next day, which led to a discussion of the town’s favourite son, Phil Carman. We contemplated Carman in the Edenhope under-14s. Paul Daffey’s old mate, Hayden Kennedy, was umpiring his 400th AFL game. So we watched him with interest. And we sorted out the Stradbroke Handicap. Chris Riordan and I decided Mr Ubiquitous had a rough chance at $40. (He ran fourth the next day).

 

However, the Bombers didn’t drop off. And gradually the game won us back. They were solid in defence, and started to win the footy in the middle. Hird was inspirational. Damien Peverill and Henry Slattery (who looks like Gary O’Donnell) were in and under. Jason Winderlich ran. They all fed Lloyd and Lucas and even Laycock. Remarkably, the Bombers had a sniff.

 

The final quarter was an absolute beauty. We were totally engaged; no sense of whose shout it was. Fast and furious footy. Tired players digging deep.

 

A Lucas goal put the Bombers in front by a point. It was still anyone’s game. Rowan Jones’s errant shot levelled the scores and the minutes ticked by with both sides throwing themselves into the contest. David Hille was about to rush a behind but had a moment of clarity, realised the score, and cleared bravely. Daniel Kerr, running into goal, chose to pass from 40 metres when any score would have given the Eagles the lead and possibly the match.

 

Essendon swept the ball forward and again it was Hille, this time marking at centre half-forward. His shot from beyond 50 metres registered a point. The Eagles attacked desperately but in the dying seconds Dustin Fletcher climbed above the pack in the square to spoil. His superbly timed punch crossed the boundary line on the right side of the point post for Essendon. They were home by a single point.

 

It was one of the games of the year. We sat around analysing it with the enthusiasm of kids leaving a Disney film. Was Hird best on ground? Is he really so brilliant or does he just attract the eye?

 

On this night we decided he was brilliant. At the most crucial times he won the ball. His will was the difference. Or that’s what it looked like to me.

 

 

Essendon  1.0 6.2 12.4 15.5 (95)

West Coast  5.5 10.8 13.9 14.10 (94)

 

GOALS

Essendon: Lucas 5, Lloyd 3, Camporeale, Laycock 2, Davey, Monfries, Winderlich.
West Coast: Staker 3, Lynch 2, Brown, Hunter, Hurn, Judd, LeCras, Morton, Priddis, Rosa, Seaby.

 

BEST

Essendon: Hird, Winderlich, Peverill, Lucas, Fletcher, Slattery.

West Coast: Rosa, Priddis, Stenglein, Judd, Cox, Jones.

 

MILESTONES

Kennedy (umpire) 400 games, Lucas (Essendon) 400 goals.

 

UMPIRES

Vozzo, Kennedy, K. Nicholls.

 

OUR VOTES

Hird (E) 3, Winderlich (E) 2, Fletcher (E) 1.

 

BROWNLOW

Peverill (E) 3, Rosa (WC) 2, Hird (E) 1.

 

CROWD

48,913

 

 

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

 

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie9. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Jason Laycock, another one of those Bombers unable to fulfil his obvious potential. I’ll admit persistent injuries probably had a lot to do with that but I did think he was going to be a Bomber champ. Wrong again!

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