The Footy Almanac 2007 Round 7 – Kangaroos v Essendon: Trailblazer Bachar promises lots in a Bomber loss

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!



Kangaroos versus Essendon

7.40pm, Friday, May 11

Telstra Dome, Melbourne




THE BLOKE BEHIND THE TRESTLE TABLE on the Bourke Street concourse lurched forward, pointed at my breast pocket and yelped like an Antiques Roadshow boffin who’s just been presented with Queen Victoria’s teaspoon.


“Where’d ya get that, mate?”


Badges bearing the handsome, smiling face of Bachar Houli – 43 were a sought-after commodity on this night. “Haven’t seen any for days,” the merchandise man went on. “Bomber shop’s sold out, don’t reckon they’ve got any inside either.”


Thirty years, to the round, after the debut of a 15-year-old from Dimboola named Tim Watson, the arrival of an 18-year-old from Werribee via Spotswood and Lebanon clearly had the footy world raising an inquisitive eyebrow. Inside, hundreds of Muslim Australians, young and old, gathered to watch the first devout practitioner of their faith play the game at the highest level. Alongside them, more familiar footy-going folk wondered what the fuss was about. They seemed to draw the right conclusions.


“We all bleed the same mate, ya know?” was the simple take of one basic Bomber, who could see no reason why “havin’ to pray a lot” should stop someone from being good at footy. His acceptance was more genuine than The Footy Show’s adoption of Houli a week earlier, which could not hide a sense that they’d rather take the piss than pat him on the back.


An hour before game time, Waleed Aly, Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman and, like Houli, an important figure in contemporary Australia, was buzzing.


“Already, it’s impossible to overestimate the impact this has had,” Aly said. Not to mention the opportunities it presented. Armed with video equipment used for their Channel 31 panel show Salam Café, Aly and his mates planned to front Ian Collins and ask him why his Telstra Dome did not actually have a dome, offering suggested improvements along the lines of some of the world’s great mosques. Post-match, the chance to ask Kevin Sheedy if he drafted Houli just because he couldn’t resist the cheeky prospect of a Muslim playing for a team known as the Bombers would not be missed, either.


But there was a game to be played first, and in the tradition of recent meetings between these clubs, a game for Essendon to lose.


A mate, fed up to the point of physical illness with the alliterative explanation for the unbending nature of the Shinboners, has taken to referring to them mockingly as “the Spirit”. Soon after we’d exchanged text messages (along the lines of “*%$# the Spirit”), the siren sounded, the umpire held the ball aloft… and a free kick was paid to Leigh Brown in the Kangaroos’ goal square.


It’s easy to have spirit when your opposition is full of boneheads. Whether or not Adam McPhee’s mine’s-bigger-than-yours push-shove with Brown warranted such a pedantic reaction from umpire Ray Chamberlain, McPhee and friends should realise that a sure-fire way to test the patience of expectant supporters is to give the other mob a goal before the ball has even touched the turf.


Another is to outscore the opposition by 11 shots to four in the opening quarter, as the Bombers did, for a return of 2.9. As blokes queued up to outdo each other with miss after miserable miss, I fast-forwarded to a time late in the game, when Essendon would rally to a cause already lost, and a special comments clone would opine that “the Bombers must be rueing their early inaccuracy”.


Before that moment of blinding enlightenment, they would also rue the sight of Harvey, Grant and Rawlings performing their annual dance of the red and black, and ponder that, for all the early-season banter about more zing in the Bomber line-up, they could do with a couple of blokes who could gather, carry and use the football like Harris, Swallow and Smith.


Two of Essendon’s greats encapsulated the team’s demise: Matthew Lloyd, for without him the forward line again had a barrenness that even five goals from Scott Lucas (still arguably bettered by Josh Gibson) could not override; and James Hird, forever in the storm’s eye, who consistently moved the ball forward in his awkward but effective way, without resort to the modern norm of sideways, backwards and ultimately nowhere.


During the warm-up, Hird spoke to Houli at length. If his urgings were for a cool head and quick release to the first option, they were well heeded. The high point of Houli’s debut was a fine third-quarter goal, but he would be better marked on having been sharp of hand and foot in close, and looking enough the part as to go largely unnoticed.


Except in the stands, where a new wave of football fans took every step with their man, and went home smiling. In a Yarraville fruit and veg shop the next morning, the Muslim teenager behind the counter was still beaming as she regaled a mate with tales of “going to see Bash”. Kevin Sheedy is no stranger to tapping the marketplace, and even in defeat he was on to another winner.



Kangaroos:  4.0    8.5   13.8    18.9 (117)

Essendon:    2.9    5.11  8.14   13.17 (95) 



Kangaroos: Brown 4, Grant 3, Edwards, Jones 2, Hale, Harvey, McIntosh, Petrie, Smith, Swallow, Sinclair.
Essendon: Lucas 5, Davey, Stanton 2, Houli, Laycock, Monfries, Johns.



Kangaroos: Harris, Swallow, McIntosh, Firrito, Harvey, Rawlings, Smith, Brown.

Essendon: Hird, Stanton, Lucas, Monfries.



Houli (Essendon).


Vozzo, Margetts, Chamberlain.






Harris (K) 3, Swallow (K) 2, Hird (E) 1.


Rawlings (K) 3, Harris (K) 2, Stanton (E) 1.



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


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



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