The Footy Almanac 2007 Round 8 – Essendon v Brisbane: A hit to Brisbane’s finals hopes

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 Brisbane Lions

2.10pm, Saturday, May 19

Telstra Dome, Melbourne



WINTER ARRIVED, FINALLY, at Mayer Park, Thornbury on this morning. Discontent followed swiftly at the Dome. Well, for Lions fans; not so for Bomber fans – not yet.


Scarred by the Lions’ entropic finishes to the last two seasons, I had tipped them to finish 15th in 2007 (North Melbourne 16th). After Round 6, with a 4-2 record and having just walloped my flag pick Fremantle, I raised my sights to sixth. (You know: “Give the kids a feel for it” in the two weeks of phony finals before the real contenders sweep you from the stage.) In Round 7 and Round 8, however, there were reality checks from heavyweights Adelaide and middleweights Essendon, who should have no more realistic ambitions than Brisbane.


Along with the biting wind, I wasn’t lacking for bad omens. My brother-in- law Phil was making a rare trip down from Castlemaine, in central Victoria, to see his Bombers. Due at my place at noon. No show. Nor 12.30. At 1pm he called me – his car had broken down (outside Calder Park Thunderdome). I rushed to the tram and met my Lions mate John and his 14-year-old nephew, Jordan, at the Doom. Too late for Nando’s. So inside. Two beers: $11.20; chicken burger (so-called) and chips: same.


Ash McGrath swooped on a loose ball in the goalsquare at the two-minute mark and converted. My day looked up – briefly. Before the 10-minute mark, James Hird had put Essendon in front for good, first with a nerveless free kick and then with a cleverly positioned mark that, before he landed, became a killer handpass to Matthew Lloyd, enabling the nominal captain to stroll into an unguarded goalsquare. In some recent matches, old Bomber Hird had appeared in danger of declining into Jimmy Doolittle, but this would never happen against the Lions. Brisbane only got properly on top of the Bombers when Brad Scott quelled Hird’s influence in the few years from 2001, and Essendon’s get-square victories in recent seasons all owe much to him.


Meanwhile, at the other end, Jonathan Brown had scored two points from three set shots by the 21-minute mark. He ended the game with 1.3. After Daniel Bradshaw’s knee injury before the season, Brisbane’s scoring fortunes in 2007 were always going to be determined by Brown. Each week, the nexus becomes more inflexible: if his first two shots salute, Brown has a big day and those around him cash in. If he misses early, Brisbane’s glass, like Melbourne’s dams, is 29.9 per cent full.


This over-dependence on Brown has been distorting Brisbane’s structure and draining the Lions’ will. Against Essendon, Brown was denied the supporting strength of Chris Johnson, through injury, and Joel Patfull, whom Matthews had directed to the backline, having patently decided against trusting his “project” centre half-back Jared Brennan against Scott Lucas. In a narrow sense, this move worked; Lucas had little influence. It was just that the Bombers found many ways to score going over, under and around him, while Brennan supported Brown in the way that a rope supports a hanging man. Later in the match, various defenders were shifted forward, at a cost to the backline and without profit on the scoreboard.


No doubt, Matthews envisaged Brown turning the match into a public show trial of the Lions’ most infamous quisling, Mal Michael. With only four Lions in the forward arc, however, the reality was that Michael and Duncan Fletcher were able to double-team Brown. Michael spoiled, Fletcher cleared – long and often. Various Messerschmitts and Stukas profited. Even the rumbling Junkers 88, David Hille, showed Jamie Charman (the umpires’ Anti-Christ) and Beau McDonald the worth of foot skills in a ruckman. McDonald embarrassingly wasted a gift shot from a 50-metre penalty (“Michael! Ha, ha!… Beau… Oh, no!”) before Hille ran to the wing to claim a pass and then weighted a perfect kick to Mark McVeigh, who ran around his marker to kick a goal from the arc on the stroke of half-time.


Brett Stanton, Bachar Houli and Alwyn Davey give the Bombers pace, combined, in Davey’s case, with power tackling (a family trait). But after Hird, McVeigh was the most influential player in this match. Midway through the second quarter, McVeigh defined the contest when Daniel Merrett (can spoil, can’t think) tried to run and chew gum at the same time in the centre as the Lions pushed forward. McVeigh, who is half Merrett’s size, dispossessed him easily and spotted Houli running towards the open goal.


Brisbane were lucky to be within two goals at the main break. Essendon’s six-goal third quarter tore the façade of competition from this mismatch. Brisbane’s only two points in this term were instructive. At the seven-minute mark, with Essendon then only 20 points to the good, Simon Black ran around his man on fifty but pulled his kick to the right. Not two minutes later, Brennan benefited from Brown’s blocking work to mark just 20 metres out… and pushed his kick to the left. Of course.


Three consolation goals to Brisbane midway through the last quarter only served to train the spotlight on their previously barren 50 minutes. For anyone still caring, Hird appropriately had the last word.



Essendon     3.6 7.10 13.15 18.19 (127)

Brisbane Lions  2.4  5.8  5.10  8.15 (63)



Essendon: Lloyd 4, Hird, Monfries, McVeigh, Houli 2, Watson, J. Johnson, Hille, Stanton, Lucas, Davey.

Brisbane: Selwood 2, Notting, McGrath, Brown, Patfull, Drummond, Begley.



Essendon: Hird, McVeigh, Davey, Monfries, Fletcher, Stanton.

Brisbane: Selwood, Adcock, Hadley, Black.



Kennedy, K. Nicholls, Pannell.



Hird (E) 3, McVeigh (E) 2, Davey (E) 1.


M. Johnson (E) 3, Davey (E) 2, Hird (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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