Hawthorn v Essendon: footy’s fiercest rivalry

Barnard (L) and Mark Graham (R) clash in 2001. Photo: Getty

Barnard (L) and Mark Graham (R) clash in 2001. Photo: Getty

The seeds of Hawthorn’s rivalry with Essendon were sown out at Princes Park in Round 8, 1983 – the first of three successive years in which the two sides met in the Grand Final.

Robert DiPierdomenico cleaned up Allan Stoneham on that day and Essendon’s Cameron Clayton later evened the score, setting the tone for future clashes.

There was Colin Robertson whacking Tim Watson in the 1983 decider and, one year later, Kevin Sheedy’s claims that the Hawks were sniffing an illegal substance.

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And who could forget the infamous all-in brawl in the 1985 Grand Final and Dermott Brereton putting Paul Vander Haar into next week in 1989?

Barnard (L) and Mark Graham (R) clash in 2001. Photo: Getty

Paul Barnard (L) and Mark Graham (R) clash in 2001. Photo: Getty

More recently, we’ve seen the ‘Line in the Sand’ match – which saw the biggest fight in modern AFL history – and Matthew Lloyd’s crunching hit on Brad Sewell in 2009 that left the Hawks midfielder sprawled on the ground.

That incident enraged Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson so much that he had to be restrained, as he abused Essendon players after the match had ended.

Put simply, there’s no love lost between the clubs.

The brown and gold view

Drafted to Hawthorn in 2001, it did not take Campbell Brown long to develop a dislike for Essendon.

“At Hawthorn, you were taught as a young guy what the rivalry means,” Brown, who played 159 of his 205 AFL matches for the Hawks, told The New Daily.

“It was always the first game I looked at on the fixture – to see when we were playing the Dons. I certainly had a hatred for Essendon on the field.”

Brown’s first four matches against the Bombers ended in defeat.

From 1997 to 2005, Essendon won 10 in a row against the Hawks, including a 2001 preliminary final, with their physical dominance a hallmark of that streak.

“Guys like Dean Solomon, Paul Barnard and Mark Johnson were very physical against us,” Brown said.

Campbell Brown loved playing against Essendon. Photo: Getty

Campbell Brown loved playing against Essendon. Photo: Getty

“They probably thought of Hawthorn as pretty boys with blond hair that weren’t very hard.

“We heard they joked at training that you had to put your hand up if you’d lost to Hawthorn. Not many did.”

Sick and tired of being bullied by Essendon, the Hawks declared enough was enough at half-time of an eventual 74-point loss in Round 11, 2004.

And although they were thrashed that day, Hawthorn won 11 of their next 15 against the Bombers.

“It was pivotal to stand up [in the ‘Line of the Sand’ game],” Brown added.

“We’d been getting bashed by them for years. They used to love telling us how soft we were.

“But that was the day Essendon lost their fear factor against us.

“Then to beat them in 2005 was massive. It was a big moment for us.

“Guys like Richie Vandenberg, Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, myself, we’d only ever lost to Essendon.

“From there, we took great pride in smashing them physically and intimidating them when we played.”

And Brown’s feelings for Essendon look like they haven’t faded since retirement. He posted this on Twitter last month:

The other side of the fence

James Hird’s distaste for Hawthorn goes back a long way.

The current Essendon coach, and former champion player, grew up supporting the Bombers, who his father and grandfather played for.

So, naturally, he’s never liked those in the brown and gold.

“As a kid, I hated Hawthorn more than anyone,” Hird said in 2012.

And in text messages obtained by the ABC’s 7:30 in 2013, Hird, on the subject of Hawthorn, is alleged to have said to controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank: “I hate them more than anyone.”

One thing Hird certainly did love about the Hawks was playing – and beating – them.

As revealed in Michael Gordon’s Playing To Win, an old comment of Hird’s has been used as motivation by Hawthorn in recent seasons.

The quote – “I used to love tormenting them, rubbing their noses into the turf, calling them soft, pretty boys” – is placed prominently on a whiteboard by Clarkson for players to take in ahead of facing Essendon.

Good mates off the field but rivals on it: Murphy squares up to Beaumont. Photo: Getty

Good mates off the field but rivals on it: Justin Murphy squares up to Simon Beaumont. Photo: Getty

Mark Bolton, who played 124 games for the Bombers from 1998 to 2007, also grew up as an Essendon fan who didn’t think much of Hawthorn.

He said Essendon had the players to intimidate their rivals in his playing days.

“We had guys like Mark Johnson, Jason Johnson and Dean Solomon,” Bolton said.

“They were ultra-tough, ultra-competitive and weren’t bad on the lip either.

“I watched the rivalry develop through the 1980s … there was a sense of occasion around each contest.”

Bolton’s misplaced kick to team-mate Jason Winderlich triggered the 2004 all-in brawl.

Winderlich was hit late by Chance Bateman, sparking the wild scenes that saw five players suspended and 17 fined a total of $70,700.

“There was a bit of niggle in the game which wasn’t unusual,” Bolton recalled.

“But the brawl was chaos. I remember thinking – ‘geez, this is going to cost a bit’.

“After the game, I remember the war stories being told. It surfaced that Justin Murphy and Simon Beaumont [ex-Carlton team-mates but then on opposite sides of the rivalry] had a good stoush.

“Their wives were sitting next to each other in the stands so we had a good laugh at that one.”

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Hawthorn are massive favourites to beat the Bombers at the MCG on Saturday afternoon.

But Essendon stunned the premiers in Round 2, with Cale Hooker’s last-gasp goal handing them a memorable two-point win. And this is a game that often delivers.

Both sides will have no shortage of motivation.

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