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A rivalry for the ages

Jackson Paine  March 20, 2017 3:29 PM

Hodge on Essendon rivalry Then captain, Luke Hodge speaks to HawksTV in 2015 about the significance of the Line and the Sand match between Hawthorn and Essendon played in 2004.

­Since their first meeting on June 20 1925 at Glenferrie Oval, Hawthorn and Essendon have clashed 159 times, with the Bombers holding the advantage, winning 96 to the Hawks 63 games.

Interestingly, the two teams have never played out a draw in their rivalry's 92 year history.

Over this time, the Hawks have met the Bombers at seven different venues: Glenferrie Oval, Windy Hill, Princes Park, Waverley Park, the MCG, Etihad Stadium and the Gabba.

An opportunity for a trivia question, the Gabba was used to host the Round 14 1981 clash as the VFL looked to develop the code interstate and thus played matches between Victorian teams in both Sydney and Brisbane from 1979-81.  

The rivalry between Hawthorn and Essendon is one of the strongest in the league. Facilitated by a string of three consecutive grand final clashes between 1983 and 1985, these two superpower clubs have enjoyed many memorable battles.

Let's take a look at some of these famous encounters...


Round 18, 1982, Windy Hill

This game will forever be etched into football folklore for the moment that Hawthorn legend Leigh Matthews famously snapped a point post in half, but the game itself marked a famous Hawthorn victory. With finals looming, the match represented an opportunity for the winner to claim third spot and earn the vital double chance.

The first half lived up to expectations, proving a tight tussle as the Hawks took a 10-point lead into the main break.

But the third quarter was disastrous for the brown and gold as Essendon's star midfielder Tim Watson began to dominate and helped Essendon to a three-goal lead at the final change.

Enter Leigh Matthews.

Arguably the greatest of all time, Matthews changed the course of the entire game, willing the Hawks forward, kicking two goals of his own, as the Hawks kicked seven final quarter goals to run away with a resolute win.

While the Hawks would end up bowing out in the preliminary final that year, this was widely regarded as a victory that signalled the beginning of a golden era for the brown and gold.


Grand Final, 1983, MCG

The first of three consecutive Grand Finals to be contested between these teams, the match, attended by 110,332 spectators, was a blow-out as the Hawks asserted their control on the game from the first siren to the last, winning by 83 points.

This victory marked the club's fifth premiership victory.

The Hawks held a three-goal lead at quarter time in what would be the tightest margin for the rest of the game.

The Bombers only managed a single goal in the next two quarters as the Hawks piled on 11 of their own in the same period to put the game well beyond reach by the final change.

Captain Leigh Matthews kicked a game-high six goals but that wasn’t enough to receive best afield honours as the Norm Smith Medal was awarded to Colin Robertson, after he executed an outstanding tagging role on Tim Watson.

Among the other things this game was remembered for were its two claims to history as it kick-started a run of seven consecutive grand final appearances for the Hawks while also posting the greatest winning margin in a grand final (before the Hawks beat their own record in 1988, and then Geelong claimed the title in 2007).


Grand Final, 1984, MCG

The stage was set for a grand final for the ages and the game lived up to the hype.

Whilst seeking redemption for the embarrassment from the previous year, and in pursuit of their first premiership in 19 years, the Bombers started poorly, kicking just five goals until three-quarter time and trailing the Hawks by 23 points.

This brought about some radical changes from legendary coach Kevin Sheedy, who employed a "nothing-to-lose" approach as he swapped the majority of his defenders into the forward line and vice versa.

Led by Norm Smith Medallist Billy Duckworth (two goals) and Leon Baker (four goals), the Bombers slammed on a then-record nine goals in the final quarter to snatch victory from the Hawks' grasp.

Read: Hawthorn's season preview

Grand Final, 1985, MCG

For a third consecutive year, the Hawks met the Bombers on the season's final day.

With the ledger squared at one premiership apiece and a ferocious tone underlining each of the teams' clashes, a fierce rivalry was ensured and has since remained.

This game had so much to be remembered for, although these were predominantly things Hawks fans would rather forget.

The first memorable moment arrived not long after the opening bounce, as both sides cleared the benches in a monstrous brawl on the MCG wing. Unsurprisingly, Hawks star Dermott Brereton played a prominent role in the scrap, earning himself a four-week suspension to kick off the following year.

As it happened, the Bombers were in control of the game from beginning to end, leading by nine points at quarter time, 18 points at half time and 30 points at three quarter time.

Essendon were at their most destructive in the final term as they booted a record 11.3 (69) to completely blow the Hawks away.

Bombers forwards Paul Salmon and Roger Merrett each had a day out as Salmon kicked six goals while Merrett added five of his own. However, the Norm Smith Medal was instead awarded to Essendon ruckman Simon Madden, who had 22 disposals and 22 hit-outs.

The Bombers' final winning margin was 78 points, as they claimed their 14th premiership flag in front of 100,042 spectators.

A rare shining light on the day for the Hawks, Brereton kicked eight goals for the game, to claim the record for most goals kicked in a losing grand final side. This record was snatched by Gary Ablett Snr four years later when he kicked nine goals in the 1989 Grand Final against the Hawks.

After the game, Hawks great Leigh Matthews was chaired off the ground by his teammates in what would be the final game of his remarkable career.


Round 11, 2004, MCG

The Round 11 clash between Hawthorn and Essendon has since become infamously known as the "Line in the Sand" game.

As the story goes, Dermott Brereton, who was a club director at the time, implored Hawks players to "draw a line in the sand" and take a physical stand against the ­Bombers, who had bullied the Hawks on their way to a 32-point half-time lead.

After Hawthorn sharp-shooter Mark Williams kicked his second goal of the game to reduce the Essendon lead to 26 points, wrestling and numerous jumper punches ensued at the subsequent centre bounce.

As the game played on, Justin Winderlich, who was playing just his sixth game in the league, was on the end of a long kick out of the Essendon backline when he was struck down by a powerful hit from Hawk midfielder Chance Bateman.

This moment ignited the ground in a flurry of spot-fire brawls as almost every player on the ground was involved.

Television commentators described it as "the 1980s revisited", "unbelievable" and stated "we haven't seen these sort of scenes for a long time in AFL football".

A number of players from either side were forced to leave the ground with injuries sustained from the fighting as Hawthorn's Richie Vandenberg, Campbell Brown and Lance Picioane and Essendon's Adam McPhee, Mark Johnson and Justin Murphy were notable participants.

With melee fines totalling a record $36,700, 18 players faced charges at the Tribunal with Vandenberg, Picioane and Brown all spending at least a month suspended on the sidelines.

After the melee, Essendon were able to regain composure quicker than the Hawks, which reflected on the scoreboard as they kicked nine out of the next ten goals to build the foundation for their 74-point winning margin.