JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Win for the bigger picture

Keeping the faith: Essendon supporters show their true colours on Saturday night.

Keeping the faith: Essendon supporters show their true colours on Saturday night. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Last week, a phone call to a radio station from a woman claiming to be the mother of an Essendon player offered a disturbing insight into the human cost of the drugs saga. On Saturday, a caller to a pre-match preview show gave a different perspective again.

The clearly emotional woman had been an Essendon supporter for more than 40 years, attending every week with her mother and daughter. But the other pair had pulled the pin on that evening's game against Carlton, and even she wasn't sure whether to go.

She was uncertain whether wearing red-and-black colours might make her the target for some of the flak that's been flying in the direction of Bomber fans lately, the off-field equivalent of what Jobe Watson has put up with most of this season, and publicly contemplated going in ''plain clothes''.

By the looks of things, she wasn't alone. Just 53,630 people were at the MCG on Saturday, the lowest crowd at a Carlton-Essendon clash for six years and a dozen meetings of these bitter rivals.

But those that did stick it out were at least reminded, however briefly, what it means to support a team through thick and thin. And they deserved it. Because they and the Essendon players are the two most innocent parties in this sorry saga, both pawns in a much bigger game.

If the spirit of the playing group had taken a pounding over the past month, its efforts in the final term of a game it really had no right to win proved it hasn't been completely broken. That they came against a backdrop of the likelihood of no material rewards for six months' sweat and toil, a 12-month suspension for their coach, and fears about potential sanctions still hanging over their heads, is remarkable. And almost perversely, Essendon's last-minute steal seemed all the purer for it.

Watson's captain's game, Brendon Goddard's efforts, Paddy Ryder's crucial goal with a bandaged and bleeding head wound, David Zaharakis shaking off a form slump with a monster last quarter, none of those examples were about finals preparation, a competitive edge, pushing the professional boundaries or raising their market value.

They were simply about a team of players, many of them good mates, rediscovering their football instincts, fight and love of a contest, with effectively no more on the line than did Koo Wee Rup thirds at the weekend.

That much was obvious when the siren sounded and in an emotional rendition of the club song in the rooms afterwards. And for the supporters in the stands, the feeling was similar.

As revered a figure as James Hird is at Essendon, he isn't the reason supporters follow the club, as even the legendary John Coleman wasn't 60 years ago. The Bombers will go on without him, the officials who've fallen on their swords or also face suspension, not to mention the misguided attempts to gain that competitive edge.

On this issue, Hird has been slow to come around, and reluctant to take responsibility for his role in the drama. But in the air of resignation that seemed to grip him post-match on Saturday night, perhaps it was sinking in. Or when he surveyed the Essendon hordes celebrating after the siren.

You don't need larger-than-life personalities to sustain your love of football and support for a club. You don't need the promise of ''whatever it takes'' in the lust for material success. You don't even necessarily need success.

What you do need is a sense of belonging. Of being part of the family. And that your support for whichever set of colours you follow means something. Essendon's supporters have done it tough this year, but for those couple of hours against a traditional and bitter rival , the joy returned again.

Monday's expected announcement that Essendon has lost its premiership points will test them again. No side has been docked similarly in nearly 120 years. The stigma will last some time, and for Essendon the club and its support base, so will the inevitable gibes.

It won't be easy. But Essendon has the advantage both of a compelling historical legacy, and a big support base. That's what drives this foundation club. And whatever penalties are handed out, perhaps that roar when Zaharakis ran into goal with 30 seconds left on the clock on Saturday night was already the start of the comeback.


  • Thank you Rohan. Its good to read some Fairfax coverage of this that doesn't seem (almost vindictively) trying to create "fear uncertainty & doubt" about Essendon. A crusade that nevertheless hasn't been able to explain to me exactly what anybody has actually DONE WRONG. Thank goodness at least 1 Fairfax writer realises what we care about is the actual game!

    Date and time
    August 26, 2013, 8:05AM
    • Fairfax did what it is meant to do, tell us things. I for one appreciated it even subscribed to help them be around.
      It would take too long to explain the difference between right and wrong in this case, we all have to care about more than the actual game, a fair and level playing field is essential otherwise we won't have a game.

      Date and time
      August 26, 2013, 9:08AM
    • I agree, whats more disappointing is the blue boys efforts. Mick Malthouse was called the "messiah" and "Magic Mick" when Carlton got into the highly respected NAB Cup... now they look like a second rate team without a clue... What I want to hear from tomorrow on-wards is all about footy...actual footy... whether it be Melbournes continued slump....North Melbournes ability to shake up the finals (if they get in) or maybe it's Garrys form "slump" (if you can call it that) ... I've heard nothing about the brownlow and I think it's just heating up!

      Date and time
      August 26, 2013, 9:18AM
    • I think Fairfax have been the shining light in this saga. Reminded us all that fair journalism still exists. Unfortunately their rivals have been telling it through the eyes of a boy club which skews and panders to people who don't want the truth, just the best outcome for themselves.

      Date and time
      August 26, 2013, 9:29AM
    • Don't mention the injected banned substances or your comment won't get through, thanks Rohan (bomber) Connolly.

      Interim report, meaning more to follow...

      Date and time
      August 26, 2013, 10:04AM
    • Yeh, thanks Rohan for restoring a bit of balance to an otherwise nasty campaign waged by the media and non-EFC supporters.

      I too was reluctant to go to the footy on Saturday night with my two daughters because I felt that the nastiness had got to a scary level and I was worried there would be some aggro in the outer. How sad that I couldn't feel safe going to the footy. The lynch mob mentality that has been whipped up around this issue exemplified by the ridiculous and ugly booing of Jobe shows that it's not just EFC that has brought the game into disrepute.

      Like other EC supporters I am disappointed in our officials, but like most EFC supporters, I still support our players and the club. Nothing will change. If the snipers from the other clubs want to keep giving us hell, I guess we'll just have to cop it sweet, and like Saturday night keep serving it up to our detractors on the field. Great work Rohan. Time for The Age to tone it down.

      Reality Check
      Date and time
      August 26, 2013, 1:12PM
  • Look at world sport history. All clubs stripped of premiership points were stone-cold guilty of some form of cheating - match-fixing, salary cap etc. Adelaide blatantly cheated the draft, yet were not stripped. Carlton systemically cheated the salary cap, yet were not stripped. Essendon being stripped for....governance issues?? Who are these genius in charge at AFL, they making game a laughing stock.

    Date and time
    August 26, 2013, 8:37AM
    • I see you point except its based on ignorance. Essendon were caught breaching the salary cap in 1996. They also won the 1993 premiership due to this. So theoretically Essendon are the only club to have won a flag after cheating.

      Also governence?? Consider that for a moment. Cheating with money is one thing cheating with player safety is entirely different.

      Date and time
      August 26, 2013, 9:07AM
    • You are Wrong Slaugh. There was no salary cap breaches from the '93 premiership side. It was a list full of kids!
      Do you really think that they breached the cap by overpaying a bunch of second and third year players?

      The Real World
      Date and time
      August 26, 2013, 9:56AM
    • Yes you are correct, in my opinion. Governance issues, not cheating. Essendon was done for salary cap breach because they failed to put their hand up, which other clubs did, so were penalised. A governance issue! Only a fool would call the '93 flag an il-gotten gain..

      Captain Carrot
      Date and time
      August 26, 2013, 10:29AM

More comments

Comments are now closed

Related Coverage

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers