They remain one of Essendon’s most famous teams: the 'Mosquito Fleet' of the early 1920s.

The moniker referred to the successful operations of the Royal Navy during World War I, but would soon become a famous title in footballing circles. Buzzing their way around dumbfounded opponents, the Mosquito Fleet were clever little pests who swept all before them for two memorable premierships.

Why the nickname? No fewer than 18 players, between 1922-24, stood taller than 175cm. Six were below 170cm. Rover Charlie Hardy was a jockey-like 157cm, the smallest player in League history. According to long-time Essendon historian, Michael Maplestone, those Essendon little men “created a completely new football style,” a whole “new ball game” that saw football gradually move away from the big-man game of previous generations.

Charlie Hardy.

The key function of Essendon’s plan under captain-coach Syd Barker was for the forwards to sacrifice their game in order to create space for the smaller, speedier players to run into. Hardy explained, “Our players, when in possession, would drive the ball low and swiftly to that space. My job was to anticipate the kick and lead to the ball yards ahead of my opponent, then dash on, draw the opposing back-pocket player [out] and [use the] odd man to goal.”

After having not played finals since 1912, due in part to the war, and despite claiming a ‘wooden spoon’ in 1921, the Mosquito Fleet rose to second place in 1922, ultimately losing the preliminary final to Fitzroy. In 1923, however, they finished in top position for the first time since 1911. On Grand Final day, they were too quick and clever for Fitzroy, winning by 17 points.

Twelve months later, after a controversial round-robin finals format, the ‘Mozzies’ had secured back-to-back premierships, ensuring their unique team would be remembered for all time. They had changed the style of the game, something only great sides can do. And they had done it with the smallest team in history.

This moment is the fourth of a virtual series presenting the Bombers' best 30 moments over 150 years, which fans can vote on for their chance to win prizes. Check out each moment via our virtual experience or vote below.


Round 1 (May 6-9) - 1872-1939

Round 2 (May 10-14) - 1940-1959

Round 3 (May 15-19) - 1960-1979

Round 4 (May 20-24) - 1980-1989

Round 5 (May 25-29) - 1990-1999

Round 6 (May 30 - June 3) - 2000-2021

Round 7 (June 4-9) - Finals round


Round 1 – One 2022 merchandise pack, including an Essendon New Era Black on Black 9FORTY Snapback cap ($40) and an Essendon Heritage Bar Scarf ($30)

Round 2 – One Essendon Fibre of Football Scarf ($80)

Round 3 - One Essendon Football Club 150-year anniversary commemorative mosaic ($295)

Round 4 – One Essendon Football Club 150-year anniversary commemorative mosaic ($295)

Round 5 – One 2022 team-signed guernsey ($500)

Round 6 – One copy of the Red & Black Collection special 150th anniversary book ($329)

Round 7 – One copy of the Red & Black Collection special 150th anniversary book ($329) and one 2022 team-signed guernsey ($500)