ESSENDON’S FORGOTTEN FAVOURITES
Pick 28, 2002 rookie draft
Games: 21 (2003-2008)
There’s no better place to start Essendon’s forgotten favourites than arguably their greatest cult hero, Courtney Johns. The dreadlocked forward’s legacy was fuelled in part by Kevin Sheedy, dubbing him ‘The Messiah’ and ‘The Southern Aurora’ (a train) to the media. This only saw more of the Dons faithful jump on the Southern Aurora, despite waiting until his third season for his long-awaited debut – and until his fourth game for his debut goal. Such was his status, Johns told the Herald Sun in 2017 that he saw an image of the Pope with his face superimposed over the top. The blond bombshell booted 18 goals from his 21 appearances, but he’ll always be remembered for one of the greatest set of dreads the game has seen.
Courtney Johns celebrates a goal next to Chris Judd.
Pick 10, 2002 National Draft
Games: 58 (2004-2010)
Another 2002 draftee, another massive Kevin Sheedy pump-up. A top-10 selection, Sheedy said Jason Laycock could become a “very, very mobile Paul Salmon” at a very, very early stage of his career. The prospect of having Matthew Lloyd, Scott Lucas and the next Salmon in the one forward line had Bomber fans salivating, but persistent injuries denied him the chance to flourish. Laycock became synonymous with the long sleeves before he was let go at the end of 2010.
Jason Laycock was regularly sighted in long sleeves.
Pick No. 2, 2006 National Draft
Games: 35 (2007-2014)
If you looked up ‘injury-plagued’ in the dictionary, you’d find this man’s name. After the Bombers drafted the promising forward with the second choice of the draft, Gumbleton played just five senior games in his first three seasons – all coming in 2007. He managed some continuity in 2010, booting 19 goals from 17 matches, but his career ended four years later with a meagre tally of 35 games. Gumbleton showed glimpses of his talent even in his final season at The Hanger, slotting 11 goals in his first four games of the season before injury struck yet again. But Bomber fans do have something to thank him for; Gumbleton was traded to the Fremantle at the end of 2013 for pick No. 55, which Essendon used to snap up Orazio Fantasia.
Injury cruelled Scott Gumbleton’s career.
Pick No. 47, 2006 National Draft
Games: 60 (2007-2012)
Where were you when Kyle Reimers kicked eight goals in Essendon’s 139-point triumph over Gold Coast in Round 6, 2011? It’s one of those days that sticks firmly in the minds of footy fans. Besides this historic game, the No. 37 was best known for his flamboyant boots, often wearing fluoro orange footwear, and his provocative approach. These features made him a player that opposition fans loved to hate, but this only made him more endearing to Bomber supporters.
Kyle Reimers celebrates his eighth goal against Gold Coast.
Reimers’ in his orange boots.
Pick No. 3, 1998 rookie draft
Games: 100 (1998-2006)
Dean Rioli, the nephew of Richmond’s Maurice, was another who didn’t mind the long sleeves, and joins Lion Cheynee Stiller in the exactly 100 games club. Rioli was much-loved by the Bomber faithful for his dynamic play and his strong build, which led his fitness to be questioned at times. Collingwood great Tony Shaw was met with staunch criticism after describing him as a “fat pig” in 2002. An integral part of their historic 2000 side, Rioli suffered a cruel twist of fate, missing their grand final triumph and the entire finals series after breaking his collarbone late in the season.
Dean Rioli in action.
Pick No. 39, 2005 National Draft
Games: 28 (2006-2011)
Mooted at stages as a potential successor to champion Matthew Lloyd, father-son Jay Neagle was promoted to the No. 1 guernsey after just one season – the same number his father, Merv, wore. However, his career followed a trajectory similar to fellow forgotten favourite Courtney Johns, with slightly better results. Neagle slotted 41 majors from 28 games before he was delisted at the end of 2011, alongside Bachar Houli and Jarrod Atkinson.
Jay Neagle looks to get a handpass away.
Pick 23, 2007 National Draft
Games: 70 (2008-2016)
Probably makes the cut on name alone but how Tayte Pears’ ended his career is also rather unusual. Pears became a regular in his second season, playing 23 games, but played just 42 more in the next five seasons due to injury. With good footy still left in him after the Essendon-34 drug ban, Pears opted to retire from the game at the end of 2016 to become a firefighter.
Traded along with Pick 15 to Brisbane for Blake Caracella
Games: 53 (2000-2003)
The former No. 6 selection in the 1999 draft had an immediate impact after arriving at the Bombers at the end of 2002. Cupido booted 16 goals in his first seven games at his new club, including an unforgettable five goal haul on ANZAC Day. Essendon looked to be the big winners of the trade following his 39 goal 2003 season, but Cupido would play just another 17 matches in his career. Cupido’s decline was severe, dropped to the VFL reserves in 2005 by Kevin Sheedy, who said at the time: “He wasted Brisbane’s time and he has wasted Essendon’s time and he will waste his own time now.” He was delisted by the club at the end of that season.
Damian Cupido gets a kick away on ANZAC Day in 2003.
Pick 31, 2010 National Draft
Games: 10 (2011-2015)
How can this name ever be forgotten? Ariel Steinberg is a favourite among obscure football fanatics on name alone. KFC SuperCoaches will also remember him as a trusted vice-captaincy loophole servant.
Pick 46, 2004 National Draft
Games: 96 (2004-2012)
We love featuring some role players devoid of the spotlight among our forgotten favourites and Henry Slattery was as workmanlike as they come. Slattery was a regular in the Bombers defence during the late 2000s, consistently getting the job done as a lockdown defender. Despite sharing the same surname as teammate Tyson Slattery, the two are not related.
Henry Slattery leads Jake King to the ball.
Pick 39 (father-son), 2007 National Draft
Games: 6 (2008-2011)
The older brother of Joe Daniher, Darcy, played six games in four injury-ravaged years before pulling the pin on his career at age 21. While he is forgotten on the field, he is creating a legacy off it thanks to his Twitter account, dedicated in its entirety to Pete Siddle’s legendary birthday hat-trick.
AND ANOTHER FORGOTTEN FAVOURITE …
JOE MISITI ON AFL LIVE 2004
It’d be remiss of us to leave out smokin’ Joe Misiti who is entrenched in obscure footy folklore through no fault of his own. The Bomber was on the end of one of the greatest stitch-ups of all time from game developers IR Gurus, casting Misiti as a rotund redhead in video game AFL Live 2004. We hope this misrepresentation wasn’t the reason for his retirement at the end of that year.
Joe Misiti in 2004.
Joe Misiti in AFL Live 2004.
Unlucky to miss: Kepler Bradley, Ricky Dyson, Mark Alvey, Kyle Hardingham, Robert Forster-Knight