This moment is the 22nd of a virtual series presenting the Bombers' best 30 moments over 150 years, which fans can vote on for their chance to win prizes. Click here to view and vote, and see the schedule and prizes below.

During the mid-1980s, with many VFL clubs struggling financially and League administrators pushing for a national competition, it was evident to the Essendon board that, in order to thrive long into the future, they would need to consider the difficult decision of moving home matches away from Windy Hill.

During the financial uncertainty that hovered over the VFL and its clubs, Essendon was one of just two clubs (along with Carlton) that didn’t have its survival questioned, but that did not mean the club could afford to be complacent. President Ron Evans later recalled, “Financial projections for the medium and long term confirmed that our financial situation would worsen because of the limitations at Windy Hill.”

Evans had first hinted at the move in the 1988 Annual Report, but in 1989, the club signed a new 25-year lease to remain head tenant at the Napier Street oval, giving supporters false hope of a long-term future in Essendon.

However, with the MCG opening its new $150 million Great Southern Stand in 1992, and with the AFL pushing for ground rationalisation throughout suburban Melbourne, clubs such as Essendon, Collingwood, St Kilda, Footscray and Carlton were on borrowed time in regards to playing matches at their own stadium. For Evans and his committee, the move, while difficult, appeared the only way that the football club could remain competitive against the likes of the West Coast Eagles and Adelaide Crows, who both entered the competition in 1987 and 1991 respectively.  

If you were one of the 12,970 people at Windy Hill on August 10, 1991, for the round 21 match where the Bombers defeated the Brisbane Bears - 23.19 (157) to 17.10 (112) - you were, unknowingly, a witness to the 628th and final match at the ground Essendon had called home since 1922. Supporters were unaware at the time that their club would drop a bombshell just weeks after the season, revealing that, from 1992, Essendon would play its home matches at the MCG, while retaining Windy Hill as a training and administration base.

Evans’s former Essendon teammate Ken Fraser was part of the committee at the time. “We knew the Essendon footy ground was becoming too small and we had the option of trying to get the city council to build a bigger stand. We also had a company come in and analyse the possibility of going to the Showgrounds - that was a strong possibility for a while - or, we could go to Carlton, as Princes Park was fairly close by, or we’d go to the MCG, or we’d stay.”  

Not all Essendon supporters were happy with the decision. After a Windy Hill 'fightback' group was formed, the club was forced to put the decision to a vote of members. Despite a heated meeting in the Allan T. Hird grandstand at Windy Hill, which saw the pro-move supporters booed, when votes were finally tallied 2085 were for the move, 413 against. With 75 per cent approval required for the vote to pass, it was a significant endorsement for change.

Of Essendon’s eight home matches at Windy Hill in 1991, the club averaged crowds of 15,803 per game; in 1992, 10 home matches at the MCG produced an average crowd of 34,986. On numbers alone, the move appeared an instant and resounding success. Total attendance figures and gate receipts were the second highest in the AFL behind Collingwood. But perhaps in one last show of resistance by the diehards, memberships for 1992 were down more than 15 per cent on 1991 figures.

Come 1993, however, with the emergence of the ‘Baby Bombers’, membership began to head upwards. After 10,034 members in 1992, there were 11,546 in ’93, then, on the back of the premiership triumph, figures jumped to 19,720 for 1994 as the club began to emerge as one of the largest in Australian sport.  

Fraser said, “In the long run, people saw the wisdom of it. I was always a little apprehensive about the move, because I loved Windy Hill; it had been a huge part of our history, and my history. But the first day that we went to see Essendon play at the MCG, it completely wiped out any concerns that I had. I could see mums and dads and their kids go in, sit down easily and watch the match without having to stand on beer cans. After that, it was no question. It was certainly one of the best moves the club has ever made."

SCHEDULE OF MOMENTS

Round 1 (launching May 6) - 1872-1939

Round 2 (launching May 10) - 1940-1959

Round 3 (launching May 15) - 1960-1979

Round 4 (launching May 20) - 1980-1989

Round 5 (launching May 25) - 1990-1999

Round 6 (launching May 30) - 2000-2021

Round 7 (launching June 4) - Finals round

PRIZES

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)