3 clubs, 23 rounds, A slab of passion….

The House of Coleman

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Adjacent to the mother of all Chip fryer exhaust fans one row from the back of Etihad stadium, this game was interpreted through an attack on the sense of smell as the frying oil progressively met it’s use-by date during the course of the game. High way robbery per bucket of chips wasn’t the only redistribution of wealth as the Hawks nationalised 4 premiership points in the dying minutes from a bound for victory Essendon.

Given the history and great rivalry between Essendon and Hawthorn that we’ll describe below, Hawk coach and now legend Alistair Clarkson ensured pre season that this game was to have an edge. His oration that footy was “ambushed” by the Essendon supplements probe in 2013 and that clubs chasing “golden boys” as Midas coaches (to wit – Hird at Essendon, Voss at Brisbane) had failed both in football and responsibility terms.

His apparently sensible suggestions around rookie coaches needing initial training and mentoring by more senior figures was seen by the Dons as a continuous improvement hip n shoulder to Hirdy’s coaching credentials given he’d strolled into the job without the vaunted “apprenticeship”. Clarko went on to use Hirdy as an example of someone who needed accreditation to coach under 9’s but not an AFL side.  Clarko is an expert on the under 9’s footy scene after being suspended from four rounds of the South Metro Junior Football League after abusing a league official at his son’s under-9 game in 2012. Taking a lead from the inspired methodology of continuous talking provided by Hawk ex President Jeff Kennett in the lead up to this game, Clarko reinforced this thread by observing the 2014 Mark Thompson (and Cat premiership) coached Bombers looked Geelong like in their decimation of the Roos last week.

But this was all a distraction like pondering how many shooters were after JFK on that grassy knoll. It didn’t count for much as the game was played in good spirit though you could feel that pre-game edge stewing in the remnants of a glorious autumn sun filled day.

Tonight, the Hawks look down in the midfield and short (for the 30th time in as many games) down back. Sam Mitchell pulls out with calf soreness pre-game just as the chip exhaust fan kicks in. The Hawks jump the Sash and kick out to a 30 point lead by half time. Bombers are reborn in the 3rd and take the lead. Hawks look tired and Hodgey is subbed out. With 6 minutes to go, the Hawks are a couple of majors down but proceed to roll the dice, kicking long and direct down the middle hoping for small forward salvation and it comes first from Bruest and then Cyril at the death to grab the lead. It’s only into the 3rd rendition of the Hawk song when the adrenalin drops off we realise the frier fan is transmitting the last remnants of the oil’s shelf life expressed in the aroma of burnt chips. It’s 24 degrees up in the nose bleed and the fog drifts our final vision of the lads handing out those cheap little footys manufactured in the sweat shops of Asia.

So where did this – one of the great rivalries of the modern era –  begin?

The prologue was surely Leigh Matthews who shirt fronts a Windy Hill (then Essendon home ground) behind post, snapping it in two in 1982.

In 1983 Hawthorn played Essendon in the Grand Final. The Hawks applied the baton winning by a then record-breaking margin of 83 points.

The Bombers atoned in ’84 and ’85 against the Hawks who finished the 80’s with back to back flags of their own in 88 and 89. 1985 included a bench clearing brawl in Leigh Matthews last game.

Eternal mischief maker and Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy got the cops involved with his accusatory chicanery that the Hawks were sniffing an illegal substance during the 1984 finals. Ironically Hawk coach Allan Jeans was part of the Force. By the time the boys from forensic concluded the Hawks snuff was an old school brew of smelling salts and liniment to unblock their airways for cardio vascular intent, the damage was done.

In 1988 Hawk Dermott Brereton kisses Don tough man Billy Duckworth which results in a Hawk goal to Jason Dunstall being over turned. Brereton now ropable  then runs through the Essendon huddle like a battering ram during the quarter break.


255681-dermott-breretonAfter a quiet nineties in which the Sash get the upper hand on the Hawks, the rivalry erupts again in the new millennium.

In the 2001 preliminary final the Hawks clutching to get back into the game finally have the Bombers in trouble until Hawk Trent Croad’s 55m ball burster to give the Hawks the lead hits the stick. On siren we’re down by 7 points and miss the Grand Final parade. Croady gets shipped to Fremantle for punishment, pines for the Hawks, finds his way back to a joyous reception of reconciliation and bows out with a foot injury in the second quarter of the 2008 Grand Final, his last limping act to put a solid block on a Geelong player “on principle”.

Line in the sand. That’s the measure against which continual defeat at the hands of the Dons gets measured in the half time discussions in this 2004 clash. Now Hawk board member Dermott Brereton pumps up the lads to make a stand, to end the chain of defeats. The Hawks come out like they’ve been on the ice pipe head hunting Don’s players at will. Hawk Richie Vandenburg takes full advantage of the mental freedom from above to pursue Don punishment and enjoys multiple weeks of suspension as a consequence.

Then in 2005 Don full forward Matthew Lloyd sports an arm guard in his comeback from injury and smashes the cheekbone of Hawks young gun Josh Thurgood. Hawk fans are particularly aggrieved that Josh never really recovers his game, in two years he’s gone and we’ve lost a cult hero – albeit one that’s long, lean and red haired with dreads to his shoulders. In the 60’s his label would be “beanpole”.

By 2009 Lloydy is getting old and crabby and heading for the end. With the finals beckoning for both teams in the last round of 2009 and the Hawks collective head is thumping in a premiership hangover. Lloyd is absent from the action and the Dons are done at half time until he wakes up to knock a pack burrowing Brad Sewell into a galaxy far far away.  Both Campbell Brown and Clarko have to been restrained at games end as accusations of “sniper” are aired, despite Lloyd’s protestations that he’s never been to Dallas.

Tonight will be locked away in the Bomber vault, as one that got away.

Hawthorn 13 12 90 defeated Essendon 12 14 86

2014-03-28 19.08.22

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