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Don this Ground: Round one, 2012

The clash between the Dons and the Roos in round one, 2012, was one for the ages. (Image: AFL Photos)

Essendon and North Melbourne entered the 2012 season with plenty of hope and similar expectations.

The Bombers had snatched the last finals berth in 2011 with the Roos snapping at their heels a victory adrift in ninth place, so there was always going to be some heat in the sides’ anticipated clash in round one.

The game certainly lived up to the hype, going past the final siren in a heart-stopping game in front of a massive 45,818-strong crowd at Docklands.

A competitive start from both sides saw North take a slender seven-point lead into the first change, but the early signs were promising for the Bombers with Michael Hurley asserting himself as an important target in the forward line.

But three of the first four goals in the second term had the Bombers quickly on the back foot just 12 minutes into the quarter.

Needing to respond, some of the side’s most experienced players began to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Prolific onballer Brent Stanton, tough utility Nathan Lovett-Murray and versatile veteran Mark McVeigh joined Hurley to combine for five of the next six goals in a blistering patch of quality football.

Lovett-Murray celebrates one of two goals against the Roos. (Image: AFL Photos)

Now well and truly on top, the Bombers continued to pile on the pressure in the premiership quarter, bouncing back after conceding two quick goals to close out the term strongly and make it nine of the last 12 goals.

Bomber Jake Melksham’s goal 10 minutes into the final quarter took the Dons 25 points clear of North, but the Roos refused to give in.

Four goals to the blue and white in the next 13 minutes brought the game right back into the balance and a nail-biting finish was on the cards.

 

North continued to drive the ball inside its forward 50, but Essendon legend Dustin Fletcher was repeatedly up for the challenge, showing unbelievable class and courage to constantly repel all attacks.

But with just seconds remaining, the Roos had one final chance at claiming an unlikely victory, launching the ball inside 50 to 203cm ruckman Hamish McIntosh, who had somehow managed to create an enormous mismatch against 186cm Bomber Michael Hibberd.

Naturally, the big man took the mark, and the final siren blew shortly after as the crowd released an almighty mix of cheers and groans. 

Roughly 40 metres out and on a 45-degree angle, it was no certain goal.

The noise inside the enclosed arena as McIntosh approached his shot was deafening, and as soon as the ball sliced off the outside of his boot those players and fans in red and black were sent into chaotic celebration.

McIntosh reacts to missing the chance at victory after the siren. (Image: AFL Photos)

The behind brought the final margin to just two points, a stunning win to kick off the season.

Stanton was deservedly awarded the three Brownlow Medal votes for the stirring victory after racking up a sensational 35 disposals, 18 contested possessions, nine inside 50s, eight clearances and two goals.

Brilliant captain Jobe Watson (28 disposals, 18 contested possessions, five clearances and a goal) was the other Bomber to collect votes, taking home one in a year in which he would lead the final tally with 30 after a remarkable season.

Watson leads the Bombers off the ground after a typically impressive effort. (Image: AFL Photos)

This Saturday at Marvel Stadium the clubs will battle once again in an extremely important game with a possible finals berth to play for. It will all begin at 4:35pm.

This flashback is brought to you by DON Smallgoods.