So, given it’s the off-season, and we’ve just crested the peak of pre-season as Essendon fans, AI-cucumbers and muscle-filters, so here’s a little parlour game where you are presented with a dilemma… This is a thread about difficult choices, and what it reveals about your reasoning and how you see the game. First the (in this case, long) hypothetical scenario, and then the Advokaat. Will you sip from the bitter cup? Here’s my scenario…
So it’s the 28th of September 2024, sheets of light mizzling rain shift over the parks and roofs of East Melbourne. People are starting to emerge in a thicker and thicker stream from the turnstiles of Jolimont, from the helicopters-eye view. Here and there you can see the tents and marquees of Grand Final breakfasts, which are turning into Grand Final Barbeques and Grand Final Lunches. There’s a lot of people on the ground, dark little pixels and clumps moving from the station and walking in from the city to the big stadium with the flags flying on top. Despite the weather there’s a certain buzz in the air. There’s a feeling that something is happening that’s a bit special - a bit of a turn-up for the books. Well it certainly is for us. A lot of the crowd are wearing red and black.
Things have gone much much better than any of us have expected this year. Even CarrotSalad is slightly stunned. It didn’t really start that way. Hawthorn ran all over the top of us in round 1 but couldn’t put us away in the end; as unconvincing a victory as you’re ever likely to see. Losses to Sydney, Saints, and Port followed, and as injuries mounted up we were all thinking ‘here we go’ as we rolled into Easter without key personnel, and with only the one win. In round 5, we beat the Dogs in a tough but also high-scoring encounter. A corner is felt to be turned. We lose narrowly the next week in Adelaide, unfairly, controversially, but those of us with eyes are starting to see some of the key pieces come together.
Reid has been a revelation, as has Gresham played mainly as a small forward, and we’ve seen some flashes from Cox playing off the wing, and HBF, and HFF, that remind us why his first year was so exciting. Caddy debuts on ANZAC day and hits the ground (and several Magpies defenders) running with a couple of important goals, and Wright kicks 5 - but the game is really won in the centre, with Tsatas and Martin and Merret and Duursma being fed by Parish and Durham, who looks to have a promising future playing a more inside role.
We look to be a much stronger team physically, as we roll into winter, and much more cohesive with our movement and our defending. We drop a few games we shouldn’t have, but win plenty including against the odd premiership fancy. There’s a feeling that the players just know where their teammates will be, that we are a unit. We seem to have depth in places where there was little before. Each week there’s a minor revelation. One week Alwyn Davey has a stunner off half-back, next week it’s Hobbs inspiring from the middle. Hunter debuts, and kicks his first bag. Lual debuts, and turns heads. J Davey debuts and sparkles. Hayes takes his spot in defence and doesn’t look back. Development. Different facets emerging, shining a light on what the team is becoming as we head towards finals. We win 5 in a row, draw Round 19, and then it’s the last 5 rounds. We are 6th! But 2023 is in everyone’s minds.
The last 5 weeks are as intense as you’d like. Each game is within 10 points. We add another draw to our total, win 3 and then lose the last round in Brisbane. There are still holes on our list. We can still give up a lead quicker than Stewy Dew can disappear a donut, but there are positives. Jones has emerged as a great foil to Wright, with Hunter and Caddy showing they have the tools. Stringer and Shiel, much maligned, are up and down but both seem to hit form at the right time and are vital. Martin should win our B&F. We are a good young team, but it’s across the board where the improvement has come from. We DESERVE to be in the finals. ■■■■, we might even win one here!
And actually, we don’t lose a final. It’s never convincing, and we are beneficiaries of luck/umpiring (as if)/supernaturally straight kicking/injuries if you ask other fans - but we get through and we the supporters do not give a flying fig. One thing everyone agrees on: we are on the rise.
And now it’s GrandFinal day. And that roar - that roar you can hear is the end of the national anthem, and though we are underdogs in this game we are in with a hell of a chance.
The team plays well, and we don’t disgrace ourselves. The rain early on keeps it pretty even. But it’s pretty clear at half-time that the oppo is the better team on the day, and they lead by 32 points. We peg it back in the third, and get within two straight kicks in the first part of the final-quarter - but the other team kicks away and in the end they are too strong, we lose by 33 points. Our heaviest defeat for the year in the end. Still, we’ll be a force next year we think, and almost all of us are pretty lid-off about the future.
Sounds good huh? Would you accept this possible future if…
The team that beats us in the Grand Final is Carlton, taking them to 17 Premierships