Essendon 2018 – A season lost, a new hope gained

Let’s be pragmatic for a moment – this is a team that finished DFL¹ two years ago (circumstances….) and snuck into the 8 and got handily beaten last year so given that why would a 10th place or so finish this year be a hugely bitter pill to swallow?

Simple, it’s footy and pragmatism has no place here.  Emotion and hope drive us and cloud almost all of our judgments.  This was going to be the triumphant return to Glory and Fame for a club not used to being on their knees, this was the Bombers not fearing the other teams who for over a decade now had more or less dismissed us.

This was the year we were a threat.

This was the year the Red and Black were BACK!

Then it didn’t happen, and it didn’t happen in a hurry.  After a false dawn in round 1 against Adelaide we dropped a winnable game to Freo in Perth and then lost to the Dogs. At the time neither of those games seemed too bad and the Round 4 win against Port had us back on level pegging.

Then the wheels fell off.

If you will all indulge me for just a minute I’ll share an anecdote from Alice in Wonderland.  It’s when we first meet the Cheshire Cat as Alice has come to a fork in the road and she doesn’t know which path to take.  It’s here the Cat appears, toothy grin first then the tail then the body, he asks Alice if she is lost.

Alice says she is and asks the Cat “which path should I take?”

The Cat asks here back “Where would you like to end up?”

“I don’t know” responds Alice.

To which the Cat replies “Then it doesn’t really matter which path you choose”.

That one universal truth – if you don’t know where you want to go, how will you ever get there – rang true for the Bombers as we crashed backwards playing meandering, slow, un-focus footy all culminating in a round 8 loss to a team wearing navy leaving us sitting at a horrible 2-6 mark.

We were a club in crisis, done, headed for a potential spoon.  This was it.

But just like that it wasn’t.  Something happened, it started to click and back to back wins over Geelong and GWS gave us the most important thing around – hope.  The team went on to win nine of the next twelve and be right in the hunt for a finals spot until a Round 22 loss to the Tigers sealed it.

Ultimately the poor start did us in and we could never really recover.  In the end the inspirational leadership from Heppell and the outgoing Goddard were not enough.  The continued ascendance of Zach Merrett into the ranks of the truly elite midfielders wasn’t enough.  The case put forward by Devon Smith for recruit of the year wasn’t enough.

In a season of highs and lows we can’t celebrate the West Coast win, surely the best of the year, without remembering the aforementioned loss to the team from West Fitzroy.  The balance of evidence says we finished about where we should have and for that reason alone I can hand out a solid grade of C-.

So with all that said let’s look to next year – this is a team that finished DFL three years ago (circumstances….) and snuck into the 8 and got handily beaten two years ago and finished 10th place or so this year which was a hugely bitter pill to swallow.  Given that what should we expect from the Same Olds in 2019?

Well if we work on our goal kicking, get one more big midfielder, the Mosquito Fleet (remember 1920-21, what a team) continue to harass and kick goals up forward, Joey comes back to full fitness.

Maybe?

What if?

Obviously there is only one answer – our 17th Premiership is clearly on the cards!  This is why we watch, this is why we cheer, this is why we dream as young kids about making the League, this is why we share the stories of “could have been” as middle aged men.

Pragmatism has no place here, its footy.  Go Bombers!!!

¹If you didn’t work it out DFL = Dead Fucking Last


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