Simon Madden creates off field performance


AFL legend Simon Madden producing theatre play about Bombers highs and lows

A theatre play about Essendon Football Club champions — produced by Bombers legend Simon Madden — will premiere in Melbourne in April.

A theatre play about Essendon Football Club champions — produced by Bombers legend Simon Madden — will premiere in Melbourne in April.

Essendon Champions: From Thurgood To Hird, by playwright Neil Cole, will cover the club’s dramatic and glorious history, revealed through the eyes of Bombers superstars including Albert Thurgood, ■■■■ Reynolds, John Coleman, Kevin Sheedy and James Hird.

Cole said the play covers victories, losses, bribery scandals, war years, Coleman’s suspension, Sheedy’s flag-winning dynasty, and the supplements saga.

Actor Matthew Richard Walsh plays Thurgood, Coleman and Sheedy in the play. Alec Gilbert plays Reynolds.

Cole said Madden asked him to write the play as part of Essendon’s 150th anniversary celebrations last year.

It opens at Chapel Off Chapel in Prahran on April 26.

“It’s been very interesting. How do you cover 150 years of the Essendon Football Club?” Madden said. “Neil has managed to do it by picking out the heroes, and he’s telling a story about the ups and downs at the club.

“I’m big on the word ‘resilience,’” Madden added. “The play shows how resilient the supporters and the club have been over the years. It’s a great story.”

The play cites Thurgood as “arguably the greatest-ever player at Essendon,” Cole said.

The chapter on Reynolds covers the 1942 premiership, and life during World War 2.

Coleman’s controversial four-week suspension ahead of the 1951 Grand Final, is also studied in the play.

Sheedy won four flags during his tenure as Bombers coach from 1981 to 2007. “We look at Sheedy’s obsessions and expectations on players,”Cole said.

Hird, a highly decorated footballer and a Brownlow Medallist, was senior coach at the Bombers during the supplements saga.

“He’s up there as No. 1, 2 or 3 best-ever players at Essendon,” Cole said. “We put a lot of emphasis on that. We didn’t want to detract from his greatness as a player because of the supplements saga.”

Walsh adds: “The play doesn’t take a view one way or another on the supplements saga; it simply relays the facts. It’s worth seeing the show just to see the way James Hird portrayed.

The Bombers story is relived through an encounter between a diehard supporter (also played by Gilbert) and two journalists (Nicola Pohl and Melanie Madrigali) at the club’s 150th birthday.

Madden also executive produce Cole’s last play, Shawry, about Magpies hero Tony Shaw.

“I like being involved with theatre because it’s a very good introduction to theatre for football fans,” Madden said. “They’re not necessarily the same crowd, but it’s a good way to link the two.”

Madden studied drama at university and featured in several productions. In one show, he garnered attention by simply standing up.

“My character was sitting down, and as I stood up, people didn’t realise how big I was,” Madden said, laughing. “I unfolded in front of everybody. Someone said I just kept going and going and going. I got a laugh without even trying.”


@Albert_Thurgood what do you have to say?


Whose “facts”?


Might have a look at this. I hope they bring it to the Clocktower Theatre in Moonee Ponds.


1942 premiership was the first since 1924. Hird’s grandfather played in that.

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As to bribery, there were rumours about the 1947 GF, which Carlton won by a point

Is it a musical?

Will there be seats for the attendees?


Theatre will be full but not to capacity.


Interesting. I wonder who they will cast as Kyle Reimers

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I hope Dodoro is not in charge of casting.


You know it’s over when Jake Stringer sings.


Rhonda Burchmore is cast as Dustin Fletcher.


Hope Tippa gets a guernsey.


and a lol to you too

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Doesn’t matter who is casting. They’ll get criticised on Blitz for getting too many VCA and NIDA graduates and not enough from local production companies.


We need to invest in a WAAPA scout

I’m sure there will be some conspiracy theory involved too.
Like all the big parts went to certain people because of their relationship with coteries.