Herald Sun thinks Zaka is a better Bomber than Smokin’ Joe

Top 20: Is Lloyd or Hird greatest Don of modern era?


(Can anyone tell me how to paste a protected article into Blitz)

Cut and paste, cant access.

Joe was better than Zaka





Joe is often criminally underrated.



Russell Gould ranks the 20 best Essendon players of the past 30 years

Do you go with the inspirational captain or the legendary Coleman medallist? Russell Gould had the task of splitting James Hird and Matthew Lloyd when he named his top-20 Bombers of the modern era.

March 30, 2020 7:00pm

The Essendon finals has become a running gag among non-Essendon fans.

But it’s a misplaced slight on a team which has, since the AFL began in 1990, won two premierships, played in four Grand Finals, had three Brownlow medallists and, in James Hird, one of the best players in the modern era.

There have been a few off-field issues which seriously curbed the capacity to turn out on-field gold too.

In reality the Bombers have underperformed this decade given the resources at their disposal, but those resources[ were the ones which landed them in trouble. ]

Go back 20 years however, and Essendon was, without doubt, the best team in the AFL.

That they only secured one premiership in that stretch between 1999 and 2001, is criminal.

In those three seasons the Bombers won 56 games, lost just 10 and collected three straight minor premierships.

It should then come as no surprise that the bulk of the best 25 players come from that era, and the last premiership team in 1993.

Ah, the glory days.


1. James Hird

The premiership captain, Brownlow medallist, Norm Smith medallist, five-time All-Australian and five time club best and fairest not only gets top spot on this list, he was also named the third best player in Essendon’s entire history. Only a three-time Brownlow medallist and premiership winning captain coach, Dick Reynolds, and AFL legend John Coleman were deemed better Bombers in a storeyed history. Hird was an absolute champion, among the best of his era in the competition, as courageous as anyone who has played the game and a matchwinner. The key qualities of a champion.

Key Stat: Three-time Anzac Day medallist in 2000, 2003, 2004.

2. Matthew Lloyd

The star forward was his club’s leading goalkicker 12 times, as he should have been, but not with totals in the mid-40s as has been the way for the Bombers in recent years. A five-time All-Australian, the left-footer twice kicked over 100 goals in a season, and twice got to the 90s as well. In another five seasons he kicked over 60, still playing out of the goalsquare as the game changed, and full-team defences started to dry up scoring. A career haul of 926 goals puts him in the all-time top 10.

Key Stat: In Round 3, 1999, Lloyd, aged just 21, kicked a record 13 goals against the Sydney Swans at the MCG.

3. Gavin Wanganeen

A backline star from his debut game Wanganeen made an immediate league wide-impact, earning All-Australian honours in both his second and third seasons in the AFL. In his third the diminutive yet wildly creative defender also won the Brownlow Medal in a premiership season for his club. Despite never winning a club best and fairest in his 127 games in red and black Wanganeen set a new standard for back pockets, and was named in that position in the Essendon team of the century to ensure his status among the best Bombers ever.

Key Stat: Number 19 in the Champions of Essendon, the club’s best 25 players ever.

4. Mark Thompson

The fact Thompson was rated just behind Wanganeen in the Champions of Essendon list is testament to the regard in which the 1993 premiership captain is held. A two-time best and fairest winner, including in 1990 when the Bombers went all the way to the Grand Final, Thompson was an uncompromising defender and leader who was unwavering in any contest and delivered in every one of his 202 games.

Key Stat: Finished top five in the best and fairest on six occasions, winning twice.

5. Michael Long

Not many players can say they have picked up 33 possession in a Grand Final, kicked a goal that will be remembered forever and collected a Norm Smith medal to boot. That one single game, in Essendon’s 1993 premiership victory, stands out, but go through the highlight reel of Long’s entire career and you get the true sense of just how good he was. Wily, and even ungainly, his propensity to cut games open with his run was the hallmark of his brilliant, but relatively short, 190-game career which earned him a spot in the AFL Hall of Fame.

Key stat: Long kicked the first ever goal at what is now Marvel Stadium.

6. Mark Harvey

Hard to believe a player who won a club best and fairest playing at centre half back was all the Bombers leading goalkicker in a premiership year. Harvey was just a kid when he played in back to back flags in the 1980s as a mop-haired forward, but developed in to one of the most reliable defenders the club has seen, often playing on bigger opponents. But using his guile, and his courage, Harvey never saw a contest he wouldn’t enter. His great understanding of the game pushed him in to coaching, and, eventually, back to Bomberland.

Key stat: Harvey kicked four goals in Essendon’s 1985 premiership win.

7. Dustin Fletcher

No, the long-serving Bomber defender doesn’t get in just for his longevity, even though his 400 games is a club record. Ask an of the forwards Fletcher played on in a career that started as a schoolkid in 1993, when he played in a Premiership team, to his last season in 2015, and the thought of his long-arms reaching in at the last second for a crucial spoil, with a rub of the ears for good measure, will be a lasting memory of their own careers. As no-nonsense as defenders come, Fletcher could play on talls and smalls, and his booming torps for the backline were a thing of beauty. Also won the best and fairest in 2000, one of the most dominant seasons by a single team ever.

Key Stat: Two-time All-Australian, 2000 and 2007

8. Paul Salmon

The AFL Hall of Famer only played the first five years of the 1990s with the Bombers before crossing to arch rivals Hawthorn, but his record at Essendon can’t be denied. In 224 games he kicked 550 goals for the Bombers and it could have been so many more of not for achilles injuries which curbed his output in his final couple of years in red and black. Legendary Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy picked Salmon in the team of best players during his 27 year tenure, and Salmon was also number 26 in the ‘Champions of Essendon list.

Key Stat: Kicked 63 goals in 1993 premiership season, including five in the Grand Final.

9. Jobe Watson

It was never going to be easy for the son of club legend Tim, and the younger Watson conceded he coasted for the early parts of his career. But when the switch flicked, Watson turned in to the exact player his team needed him to be. A prolific ball winner he has exemplary vision and while his kicking wasn’t perfect he made an impact where it mattered. Watson went on to be a three-time club best and fairest, a two-time All Australian, a Brownlow medallist, later taken off him, and maybe more importantly a strong leader during the darkest times in Essendon’s history.

Key Stat: Polled 30 votes in the 2012 Brownlow, more than double anyone else at Essendon.

10. Scott Lucas

The great number two to Matthew Lloyd in the Essendon forward line, Lucas was a strong mark and his booming left foot was his trademark, so much so any vision of him kicking on his right has been archived for posterity it was so rare. A two-time best and fairest with 471 career goals in 270 games Lucas left an indelible mark on the Bombers when he booted seven goals in the final quarter against West Coast in 2007.

Key Stat: Lucas was inducted into the Essendon Hall of Fame in 2013.

11. Gary O’Donnell

It’s not always the brilliant players that are the best and perhaps O’Donnell fits that idea perfectly. There was no flash in the left-footer’s play, but a whole heap of reliability and consistency, so much so the defender finished in the top three in the club best and fairest six years in a row, ultimately winning it in 1993, a premiership year. O’Donnell also represented Victoria nine times in State of Origin football, a marker of his standing in the competition.

Key Stat: O’Donnell coached Essendon in one game, a draw against Carlton in 2006.

12. Mark Mercuri

Undoubtedly Mercuri was one of the best of the “Baby Bombers” who shocked the football world when the won the 1993 Premiership. A mercurial type who never relied on huge number, he relied on impact. His 1999 season, in a dominant team, was one for the ages, winning the Anzac Day medal, finishing second in the Brownlow, winning his first club best and fairest as well as being named All-Australian. Mercuri also played multiple State of Origin games for Victoria.

Key stat: named in the VFL/AFL Italian Team of the Century

13. Steve Alessio

When asked to vote in 2015 for Essendon’s best player of the AFL era Simon Madden, one of the greatest ruckmen ever, went for Alessio. The kid who walked in off the street for a game went on to forge an impressive career at Bomberland which included playing in the 1993 premiership. Madden said he went for Alessio because he kicked goals, 193 in fact.

Key stat: Alessio wore the same number as Simon Madden, 27, for 11 seasons.

14. Damien Hardwick

Ask anyone these days and Hardwick is known solely a dual-premiership coach. But he was also a dual-premiership player, including the 2000 Essendon victory in a season which was near unrivalled for its dominance by the Bombers, with Hardwick a crucial cog in defence which would not be scored against. Rugged, niggly, but extremely effective, Hardwick’s all-round game knowledge, which he took to the coaches box, was always on display in his 153 games in red and black.

Key Stat: Essendon best and fairest winner in 1998.

15. Jason Johnson

A two-time best and fairest winner including in the Bomber’s run to the Grand Final in 2001, Johnson was a hard-running midfielder who could be known for sending the odd helicopter kick forward but was also reliable as a ball-winner and was a key player in one of the best teams of the modern era.

Key Stat: Two time best and fairest winner, 2001 and 2005

16. Brent Stanton

Before you raise any eyebrows consider that Stanton, one who fits the bill of “much maligned” among Bomber fans especially, was good enough for Simon Madden’s best Essendon players since 1990, and who’s going to argue with that. Stanton finished his career with 255 games in the red and black, and while it wasn’t a glittering one littered with accomplishments, he had five top-five finishes in the club best and fairest to sit comfortably on this list.

Key stat: Stanton was given James Hird’s number five jersey the year after Hird retired.

17. Michael Hurley

Twice the key defender has been included in the All-Australian team, playing in a backline often under siege in recent seasons. A Bombers supporter as a kid, Hurley made a huge commitment to his team with a five-year deal, and despite having shoulders that could potentially fall off at any time, and being prone to the odd headshaking turnover, the former first round draft pick is a future Essendon Hall of Famer.

Key Stat: All-Australian in 2015 & 17

18. Dyson Heppell

The current Bomber skipper gets underrated by plenty but he has been as consistent as anyone at Essendon over the last five or six years in delivering for his team. Heppell only has one best and fairest to show for it, in 2014, but has only finished outside the top three twice since 2012. That’s six top-three finishes. He’s an All-Australian and a Rising Star winner too, underlying his quality.

Key stat: Named AFL Coaches Association Best Young Player of the Year in 2012.

19. Zach Merrett

A two-time best and fairest winner in his first 120 games, Merrett gets on the list as much for what he could become as what he’s done in what really is a short period of time. He’s a ball magnet who has also lead the club in pressure acts and been named defensive player of the year, an indication that he gives value to his team all over the ground. He was also All-Australian in 2017, which puts him in the elite category.

Key stat: Merrett’s 651 disposals in 2019 was the third-highest tally in club history.

20. David Zaharakis

No-one on Essendon’s 2020 list has played more games than the fleet-footed wingman who has shown himself to be a matchwinner too. His 2013 goal late in the Anzac Day clash with Collingwood is part of the celebrated game’s folklore, and he was best on ground that day too. A best and fairest winner and Bomber stalwart, Zaharakis doesn’t have the resume to match the club’s greats, but he remains a key servant as a player, and a leader.

Key Stat: 2013 Anzac Day medallist.

I’d have Lucas higher and wouldn’t have Alessio in there.


For 2 seasons, yes.

What the actual hell? Was he standing next to him at the time?


Did I ever mention that I bought a pram of ebay and Steven Alessio ended up being the owner.


I’d have Lucas Mercuri and JJ higher. Misiti should be in before Stanton, Merrett and Zaharakis.

Salmon, Harvey and Alessio (he never played in the 93 flag) are to high for me.


Gary O’D higher than Mark Mecuri? I don’t think so.


How can Zaharakis be in ahead of Goddard, Misiti & Caracella.


G’OD was a very good player and very consistant throughout his career. Mercuri was clearly the better player in the first half of his career, but after his brother died he became average.

1 Like

We talked about this in another thread, but I think Mercuri is at no.2 behind Hird.


Fletch #2


Beat me to it Wimm… Fletcher is always criminally under-rated.


I mean…obviously, empirically, #2

He is one of, if not The, best full backs to ever play the game.

There are some fine players above him on that list, but no.


1- Hird
2 - Fletcher
3 - Wanga
4 - Lloyd
5 - Mecuri


I’d have Rama in there somewhere