There wasn’t a lot of joy to come from the 1996 ANZAC Day game for the Bombers.
Having led for most of the day, the Dons were reeled in during the last quarter and eventually went down to Collingwood by 12 points.
But the game did launch one of the great modern day careers.
Scott Lucas remembers having to rearrange his work schedule just to ensure he was available to play.
“It was a very different time back then, I actually had training the day before and the morning of [the game], so I had to take some time off work and then I had work the next day,” he said.
“It was a great thrill and it was really what you play all of your junior football to do … to play a game of AFL football was always a dream of mine and to debut on ANZAC Day – the biggest game on the home and away calendar was just enormous.”
Lucas ended his debut match with seven disposals, one mark and two tackles.
“I played on Shane Watson – I didn’t get a lot of kicks, didn’t get a lot of handballs, or a lot of anything, but it was just great to be out there,” he said.
But 13 years later, Lucas’ career ended with 270 games to his name and 471 goals.
For three straight seasons, Essendon Coach Kevin Sheedy picked a debutant to play on ANZAC Day.
Lucas kicked things off in 1996, followed by Matthew Banks in 1997 and Dean Solomon in 1998.
“He [Sheedy] spoke often about the need if you’re an Essendon player to be able to play in big games and play well in finals – it was an expectation at the Club.
“So he was prepared to ‘debut you’ in any game, big or small.
“Fortunately at Essendon as a big Club we were playing a lot of big games, so that was just the way it went.
“Finals aside for intensity, crowd participation, the build up – they were the biggest games we played in.
“That’s why I think it’s great for the players now who haven’t played a lot of finals football in recent times to be able to be part of ANZAC Day to get a sense of what a big occasion is about.
“I think it holds you in good stead when they do make it back into the finals.”