The Footy Almanac 2007 Round 13 – Essendon v Melbourne: No fairytale for Neale

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!



Essendon versus Melbourne

7.40pm, Friday, June 29

Melbourne Cricket Ground



THE ORIGINAL PUB at 82 Flinders Street, Melbourne, was optimistically named The Fail Me Never. It burnt down. Twice, so they say. Which is how it came to be known as the Phoenix.


While it’s a smart, sharp bar now with great grog and lovely food, the walls of the Phoenix once dripped football. Collingwood legend Lou Richards owned and operated it during much of the time when the pub was, effectively, the boozy staff-room for those who produced The Sun and The Herald in the Herald and Weekly Times building a few doors down. Countless hours of footy has been talked on this site.


The top floor is un-renovated. It used to house up to seven tenants. It now has only one: me.


Those of us who make up the Above a Pub Club tend to retreat when our lounge rooms are filled by those who’ve emptied out of offices. I took a beverage up to my room (how do you people manage to live in houses without tap beer?), turned on the telly, and settled in for a night’s viewing.


Neale Daniher, whose ears ached as a result of the sound of sharpening knives, had announced that this game would be his last as coach of Melbourne. Although the Bombers were favourites, there was a sense before the match that the Demons would come out firing in a tribute to their well-liked coach.


This sense was nonsense. Melbourne barely touched the ball in the first quarter. By halfway through the term, the Bombers had kicked five, two of them from Scott Lucas, while the Demons had managed a solitary major. Jason Laycock and James Hird were combining brilliantly in the centre and although Demon James McDonald (who would finish the match by far Melbourne’s best player) tried hard, he had little or no support. Bomber Matthew Lloyd kicked his 800th career goal during time-on and the Demons looked lost.


Did Daniher’s words to his team before the game mean he was a poor coach? Did the words at quarter-time mean he was a good one? Wherever blame and credit lay, it was a different Melbourne side after the break. McDonald, Travis Johnstone and Matthew Bate were inspiring. By the 11-minute mark of the second quarter, the Dees had kicked five unanswered goals. Their endeavour and drive were overwhelming the Bombers, who regained their composure in the last few minutes of the half to score three quick goals.


At half-time I went downstairs to fetch another beer. The bar was smoky (for the last Friday in its history) and buzzing with the hum of those whose week had finished. I went back to my room, where the drumbeats thumping through my floorboards were the only reminder of the bar.


As the second half began, Melbourne appeared to be the more motivated side. They jumped Essendon, who, strangely, seemed complacent. Russell Robertson, unsighted in the first half, kicked two goals for the Demons in the first five minutes. Bate and Cameron Bruce were both creative play-makers? and when Michael Newton kicked truly after 12 minutes the Dees were in front for the first time in the game. Robertson kicked another goal to make it three for the quarter. The Bombers could do little to counter Melbourne’s effectiveness. The unflappable Lloyd was reduced to playing the part of antagonist in a feisty little scuffle after missing his set-shot on the siren.


So how did it all go so wrong for Melbourne, and poor Daniher, from there? The Dees’ brave and injured skipper, David Neitz, missed two gettable shots mid-term before Robertson took a Robbo speccy and then missed. Aaron Davey kicked a steadying goal for the Demons at the 23-minute mark, only for his brother – and opponent – Alwyn Davey to kick an instant reply.


With two minutes left, the Demons tried to shut the game down while only a few points up. It looked like they would post a win for their coach in his last game. But the footy gods, who have toyed with Neale Daniher throughout his football life, had other ideas. With just nine seconds to go, the ball fell to Lucas, who kicked the winning goal.


The Melbourne players were shattered. Their coach was stoic, although, I suspect, rather heartbroken. But it’s only football, right? It’s not “real life”? Real life was happening in the pub two floors beneath me. Maybe someone there was getting heartbroken. Maybe someone else was falling in love. Maybe someone, after a 40-hour week of talking about money, was talking about money.


Maybe. Even probably. But, just as in Lou’s time in the Phoenix Hotel, there was one certainty. As with any weekend winter night in a Melbourne pub, this question was sure to have been asked: “Hey mate, do you know who won the footy?”.



Essendon  8.3 12.5 14.8 19.11 (125)

Melbourne  2.2 9.4 16.9 18.15 (123)



Essendon: Lucas 5, Lloyd 4, Laycock, Lovett, Davey, McVeigh 2, Hird, McPhee.

Melbourne: Neitz, Robertson 3, Sylvia, Davey, Petterd 2, Bruce, Godfrey, Ward, Johnstone, Bate, Newton.



Essendon: Laycock, Lucas, Hird, Fletcher, Lloyd.

Melbourne: McDonald, Sylvia, Robertson, Bate, Petterd.



Godfrey (Melbourne) 100 games.



Newton (Melbourne).



Margetts, Grun, Ryan.



Laycock (E) 3, McDonald (M) 2, Lucas (E) 1.



Lucas (E) 3, Hird (E) 2, McLean (M) 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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