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Rivalry rewind: 1985 Grand Final

BTV: 1985 GF | Salmon's six Paul Salmon kicks six in the 1985 VFL Grand Final as the Bombers claim back-to-back premierships against Hawthorn in style.

Essendon versus Hawthorn for more than 50 years was a clash just like any other in the then-VFL competition. Until 1983, that is.

That season, as two teams both climbing towards premiership status butted heads, this time literally, seemingly out of nowhere sprung one of league football’s great rivalries, marked by relentlessly tough affairs played for high stakes and with a catalogue of controversial incidents.

These two teams would meet in three straight grand finals between 1983-85, the score 2-1 to Essendon, a host of other finals, and even when September wasn’t part of the equation, their clashes were no less fierce.

That they remain decades later, the respect of each club towards the other only ever grudging, the enmity still present in every tussle, even more than 35 years on.

It’s been some rivalry. And on the eve of another big Essendon-Hawthorn stoush, we're looking back at the five games we’ve enjoyed the most.

1985 VFL Grand Final

Essendon 26.14 (170) def. Hawthorn 14.8 (92)

Essendon had stolen Hawthorn’s crown in 1984.

But by the following season it was the undisputed king of the competition, and on Grand Final day 1985 was intent on proving so.

The Bombers had lost just three games all season and beaten the Hawks three times, including a second semi-final a fortnight earlier.

Hawthorn needed something special to win, and an all-in brawl early in the game involving virtually every player on the ground fired things up.

But the longer this game went, the better Essendon got, leading by nine points at quarter-time, 18 at the long break, 30 at three-quarter time and a whopping 78 by the finish after another astonishing final quarter burst of 11.3, breaking the record set the previous year.

Simon Madden was outstanding in the ruck, winning the Norm Smith Medal.


Simon Madden pictured during his dominant performance in the 1985 VFL Grand Final. (Photo: AFL Media)

Paul Salmon, after missing out injured the year before, was unbeatable at full-forward with six goals.

Roger Merrett was a colossus at centre half-forward, booting five, while Leon Baker delivered a second sensational grand final performance with 28 disposals.

This was one of the greatest teams of all time, delivering arguably its finest performance, and another premiership.

You can read more of Rohan Connolly’s work at his FOOTYOLOGY website.