ON THE Sunday afternoon of round 23, I was jumping around the lounge room like a little kid! Not just because my Bombers had beaten the Pies and made the eight, but more so that the elimination final the next week against the Western Bulldogs would be played at University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston.
My love for the Bombers started in primary school.
Thankfully my dad didn’t force the Roos onto me like I am with my offspring. The success of the mid-80s was a factor in why they became my team and by the 1993 premiership, I was a full-blown Bombers nuffy.
The first half of my life was full of plenty of highs. The early premiership success, especially the Baby Bombers of ‘93 when I was in high school, and the 2000 premiership as a young adult had me one of the lucky footy fans.
James Hird’s Brownlow Medal is a fond memory. I wore my long-sleeve guernsey with the No.5 stitched on to school following his win and was in trouble for being out of uniform. The detention was worth it.
I also wore that to a Tasmanian Essendon supporters’ function in Launceston around the same time and can still remember Mark Harvey saying to me: "If I see another kid with a number five on their back, I’ll…".
My next jumper adorned a No.1.
Since that 2000 flag, and more specifically the last 6,000 or so days, there hasn’t been as much joy as the first 20 years of my life, but I never miss a game on TV and try to get across the Bass Strait when I can to see the boys play live.
I live 800m from York Park - the ‘home’ of the 2021 AFL elimination finals.
Earlier this season, the Bombers played against Hawthorn at the Hawks’ home away from home for the last 15 years. There was an incredible buzz around the city of Launceston from the time of the announcement that the venue would host the round 14 fixture in the days prior to the match taking place.
Tickets sold out quickly with many Tasmanians picking up Essendon memberships just so they could be part of the sell-out crowd in the biggest match we’ve seen on the Apple Isle.
On game day, that buzz was at fever pitch.
It felt like an Essendon home game. The stands were packed with a sea of red and black. In the dozens of AFL matches I’ve attended at the ground, I’ve never heard as big a roar each time a Bombers goal was kicked.
I was there with my partner, Jo, and our passionate four-year-old who wore her No.43 proudly on her back. Walla’s two goals were the highlights of Georgina’s day!
Hawthorn’s fortress, where it boasts a 51-1-17 win-draw-loss record, was overrun by thousands of Essendon supporters. Every section of the ground was full of punters decked out in their Bombers gear. The Northern Stand, where we were sitting, was pumping the whole game with most attendees being members; many new ones as they signed up just so they could secure the hottest ticket in town.
The song was sung with gusto when the siren blew for the 13-point victory; sweet revenge following that one-point loss in round one.
It was just the second time the Bombers had played a home-and-away match in Tassie. Back in 1992, the club defeated Fitzroy by three points at North Hobart Oval.
More than four points are on the line this Sunday.
The 10,000 tickets available for the game sold out in minutes with members snapping up seats for what will now be the biggest game the state has seen. The demand could have seen the tickets sold three times over as there were thousands of disappointed footy fans devastated that there wasn’t even a public sale.
Again, the crowd should be pro-Essendon.
I was at UTAS Stadium a fortnight ago watching the Bulldogs and while they had some support, it was far from what we saw on June 20 when the Dons rolled into town.
It is still hard to believe that we are hosting two finals in Launceston. When there was talk that we would get one, the Sydney Derby, the community was up and about for the historic first final to be played in Tasmania. The AFL’s announcement that in fact there would be two, and featuring two Melbourne clubs, you could feel the excitement throughout the state, helped by the blue skies and early spring-like weather.
As a family, we are absolutely stoked to be able to walk out our front gate and be at the ground in 10 minutes for the game of a lifetime.
We’ll get there early, grab our hot chips from the North Launceston kiosk and settle in for one of the most anticipated games of the four decades I’ve supported the Dons.
I have plenty of hope that our boys will get the job done, but it will require our best footy to do it. The 2021 venue record of 1-0 for Essendon and 0-1 for Western Bulldogs has been reeled off a few times at work this week, but that is said with pseudo confidence.
Georgina, Jo and I will be doing what we can from the outer to make it feel like a Bombers home game, and celebrating like there’s no tomorrow if the 'days since Essendon won a final' is reset to zero.
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