I've followed the Mighty Bombers for as long as I can remember.
There are the vague memories of waiting to read about the 1962 premiership in the Saturday night Herald, listening to the 1965 flag on the old transistor radio, and players like Jack Clarke, John Birt, Brian Sampson and Alec Epis being my boyhood heroes.
After appearing in the 1968 Grand Final which we lost to the old enemy Carlton, we went through a period of doom and gloom. But Barry Davis, Ken Fletcher and Neville Fields, plus a new crop in Simon Madden, Tim Watson, Paul Vander Haar, Terry Daniher and 'Rotten' Ronnie Andrews - the toughest of them all - gave us supporters cause for hope.
In what seemed desperate times, the club's committee appointed an arrogant, mongrel Richmond premiership player named Kevin Sheedy as Essendon coach for the 1981 season.
After a bit of a rocky start, there seemed to be a bit of improvement (if you could call successive elimination defeats improvement). In 1983, we made the Grand Final where our most loved of all - that man Andrews - was left out of the side. To make matters worse, we were completely outplayed and thrashed by 83 points. If that wasn't enough, Sheedy then delisted Rotten Ronnie.
In the pre-season ahead of 1984, Essendon played a practice match against Hawthorn in my hometown on the Mornington Peninsula. It was a festive occasion for all spectators, and after the game a few players and officials came into the social rooms to mix with supporters. One of those officials was Sheedy, who despite taking us to a Grand Final, was still in my bad books.
As Sheeds and I passed at the entrance to the social rooms, I asked him why he thought it was a good idea to flick the much-loved Rotten Ronnie. Given I'd had a few 'refreshments' throughout the day, I would have understood if he had given me some throwaway explanation and kept walking. But no, what did Sheeds do? He stopped and explained his thoughts on why someone who had given great service to our club like Ronnie had to be moved on, even challenging with me some questions.
I'll never forget that conversation. Sheeds gave me about 15 minutes of his time when I knew he would have had more pressing issues to deal with than discussing football with a half inebriated supporter. From that day forward, he lost the arrogant ex-Richmond player tag and in my eyes was a caring Essendon coach.
But that wasn't it.
More than a decade later, 1999 to be precise, Rosebud came up against Hastings at Hastings, and a young footballer representing Rosebud had a shocking on-field accident which sadly saw him become a paraplegic. So in the pre-season of 2000, Rosebud Football Club and Rye Football Club - two clubs the family of the injured footballer held ties with - held a fundraising 'Legends Game' for local players of the two clubs on a Friday night in late February at Olympic Oval, Rosebud.
The two umpires for the night were ex-Richmond and Collingwood player David Cloke, and ex-umpire Peter Cameron, who are both related to the injured footballer.
The very next night, Essendon was due to play its then-arch enemy North Melbourne in the pre-season grand final at the MCG. The year 2000 was one where all involved at the Bombers had made a pact that they would do everything in their power to atone for the shock defeat in the 1999 preliminary final to Carlton, so this game was hugely important in setting the tone.
There was undoubtedly a lot of planning that had been done, and on the night before that game, you'd expect the coach would be fine-tuning tactics and refreshing his notes on the opposition. Nope, not this time.
Amazingly, Sheeds had offered his services to coach one of the sides involved in the fundraiser, driving all the way down the highway to Rosebud to support a great cause. What a man.
These are only two small examples of Kevin Sheedy and the person that he is, and I'm sure other Essendon people could elaborate further and probably give better examples of his compassion, love for life and football.
To me, he well and truly shedded that view I held of him during his Richmond days. Yes, he kept that mongrel, but I saw first-hand so many sides to him I never knew existed.
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