The Footy Almanac 2007 Round 21 – Essendon v Richmond: Legends struggle to say bye

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 Richmond

5.10pm, Sunday, August 26

Melbourne Cricket Ground



ESSENDON WENT INTO THIS GAME with an outside chance of making the finals, not that anyone believed they would be good enough if they got there, while Richmond were assured of the wooden spoon. And yet the match had one of the build-ups of the year. Two giants of the game, Kevin Sheedy and James Hird, were representing the Bombers for the final time in Melbourne.


Sheeds was in his 27th season as Essendon coach. Hird was in his 16th year as a player. A crowd of 88,500 turned out to farewell them. It was a far bigger crowd than the game deserved, but it was a crowd that complemented the occasion.


The twilight start had two effects. It was early enough to allow kids to see Hird play one last time (kids don’t care for coaches). And it was late enough for the young bucks to enjoy a long lunch and get a skinful into them before the game.


The twin effects of alcohol and late-winter sunshine produced fights in the crowd, which is something you don’t see much any more.


As if to script, Hird got the first meaningful touch of the game when he grabbed the ball ahead of his opponent, Chris Newman, and booted it around his body towards the goals. The attack was repelled. At the other end, Richo started by sharking the ball off a pack and giving off a bizarre handball to Graham Polak, who was forced to rush an ineffective kick towards goal. (Let that be a summary of Richmond’s season).


The ball swirled around as both teams tried to move the ball on quickly. Nathan Lovett-Murray, playing in the hole in Essendon’s defence, showed enormous courage to mark as an advancing pack threatened him. Jason Winderlich bounced the ball through the midfield before passing to David Hille, who booted a goal from 60 metres.


Amid the helter-skelter, Hird strolled into spaces as if the Richmond players were complicit in his plans. Why is it that the play always seems to open up around Hird? In the final minute of the opening quarter, he pranced into a gaping hole just inside the fifty to accept a raking pass from Adam McPhee. Hird’s goal put the Bombers two goals up at quarter-time.


The second quarter went slightly the way of Richmond before Andy Lovett grabbed the ball at half-back and took off. When four Tigers players confronted him, he took another bounce and sped away. His audacious run resulted in a goal that put Essendon nine points ahead. On a night that meant a lot to the Bombers, it should have inspired them to pull away. Instead Richmond kicked the final few goals of the quarter and led by four points at the main break.


Richmond drew away in the third quarter. Kayne Pettifer was involved in so many attacks that the playing days of his opponent, Mark Johnson, must surely be numbered. Richo ran up to the wings and regularly marked 10 metres in front of Mal Michael, who looked slow and frustrated.


Sheeds was playing Scott Lucas in defence on Jay Schulz or Jack Riewoldt, which in both cases was severe overkill. Lucas was needed up forward. If he had to play in defence, he should at least have played on Richo. While Hird showed glimpses of his best throughout the game, Sheeds’s coaching performance was below par.


The mitigating factor in this criticism is that, with Lucas in defence, Paddy Ryder and Scott Gumbleton had the chance to breathe in attack. Gumbleton, who is raw and lanky, showed a willingness to lead hard and he kicked a good long goal.


But the longer the game progressed, the more Richmond took the upper hand. Joel Bowden directed the Tigers from defence. Pettifer maintained his lively tempo. Daniel Jackson was involved in several passages of play and didn’t muck them up. The Tigers looked skilful! They kicked seven goals to four in the final quarter to score a convincing victory.


Really, the Bombers were disgraceful. Sheeds and Hird deserved better. At least after the final siren, they received their rightful due when the crowd rose to cheer them as they embarked on a lap of honour. After 100 metres, Sheedy turned back and walked along the boundary flanked by a moustachioed security guard. Hird continued on a lap of honour, his three children jogging with him. Sheedy looked solemn; he knew the gravity of the moment. Hird was smiling; he’s got most of his life ahead of him.


The great thing about the tribute was that the crowd performed it. There was no music and, best of all, there was no inane interview from a two-bit TV star. It was just us, nearly 90,000 of us, cheering and cheering until we got hoarse. Some perfunctory fireworks broke our momentum, but we got back to the cheering soon enough.


Players and officials from both teams formed a guard of honour that led out from the players’ race. Richo was then handed a mounted Richmond jumper and jogged the length of the line-up to present it to Sheeds.


His gift made me proud. I grew up in a suburb near Essendon. As a student I worked as a barman at the Essendon social club and once fielded a few questions from Sheeds after a team meeting. But Richmond is my club. The way Richmond combined with Essendon to honour Sheeds and Hird brought huge credit to them both.


While the tributes continued out on the ground, I recalled my short chat with Sheeds in the social club. Like everyone in the stadium, I felt part of the celebrations. Sheeds and Hird walked off the MCG for the last time together. I was quite emotional.



Essendon  5.3 7.5 9.11 13.14 (92)

Richmond  3.3 7.9 10.15 17.17 (119)



Richmond: Deledio, Riewoldt, Newman, Pettifer 2, J. Bowden, Brown, Foley, Johnson, Polak, Richardson, Tambling, Tivendale, Tuck.

Essendon: Lloyd 4, Hird, Hille 2, McVeigh, Lovett, Dempsey, Stanton, Gumbleton.



Richmond: Richardson, Pettifer, J. Bowden, Newman, Brown, Johnson, Jackson.

Essendon: Lovett, Dempsey, Lovett-Murray, Hird, Lloyd.



Raines (Richmond) 50 games.



Rosebury, Wenn, Ryan.



Richardson (R) 3, Pettifer (R) 2, Lovett (E) 1.



Richardson (R) 3, Pettifer (R) 2, Johnson (R) 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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