This week’s edition of All Those Yesterdays focuses on one of the great home and away clashes in recent history with the round four, 1995 Anzac Day clash between Collingwood and Essendon.
Tuesday, April 25, 1995 saw the final game of round four in which Collingwood took on Essendon at the MCG on a cloudy overcast day with some sunny breaks. The second largest home and away attendance in VFL/AFL history of 94,825 saw the third-placed Bombers coming off a 16-point victory over Melbourne. They were battling the winless Magpies who were desperate for a win after three competitive defeats to open their 1995 season against 1994 finalists Carlton, West Coast and Geelong.
Essendon after its 1993 premiership failed to make the finals in 1994 and their promising beginning to the 1995 season had Bomber fans hoping that they would return to September action. On the other hand, Collingwood fans just wanted to open their account against the team they defeated in the 1990 Grand Final.
In what would prove to be one of the classic games of the 1990s, Essendon began the better in the first half after a close first quarter, going into the long break with a 16-point advantage, but this was to be turned on its head after a third term Collingwood fight back. The Magpies kicked seven goals to two in the third quarter, opening up a 14-point lead at the final change, and extended their lead to 22 points early in the final term before the Bombers surged once again.
The lead changed five times in time-on, and young Essendon star James Hird, with poise and composure beyond his years snapped truly from the pocket to put the Bombers six points in front with less than four minutes to play. Two minutes later, Collingwood’s spearhead, 21-year-old Saverio Rocca marked and despite the pressure of the situation at hand, kicked truly for his ninth goal of the day to tie the scores at 111 apiece. In the dying seconds, Collingwood however, had one final chance to snatch victory.
Nathan Buckley, streaming through the centre of the MCG, had a bounce and elected to pass to Rocca with three opponents on him, instead of having a shot himself from 60 metres out to kick the winning score. While it was undoubtedly the team thing to do, Buckley’s prodigious right boot would surely have made the distance and given Collingwood victory in a classic encounter, but instead both teams had to settle for the first draw of the 1995 season.
As it happened the final score was Collingwood 17.9 (111), Essendon 16.15 (111), with Rocca booting nine for the day and receiving two Brownlow votes. Brett James was the only other multiple goal kicker for the Magpies with three majors. However, surprisingly Rocca was pipped for best afield honours by Buckley, who with 30 disposals and a goal earned the three votes from the umpires. In 2011, retrospective Anzac Day medals were awarded for Anzac Day clashes prior to 2000, when the medal was established, and Saverio Rocca received the 1995 Anzac Day medal accordingly.
For the Bombers, Rick Olarenshaw, Joe Misiti and Gary O’Donnell each were solid performers, and Che Cockatoo-Collins led the scoring with three goals, with multiples coming from Dustin Fletcher, James Hird, Mark Mercuri, Peter Somerville and Michael Symons.
Of course now the annual Anzac Day clash between Collingwood and Essendon has entered football folklore and there have been some absolute classic matches in the 19 encounters these teams have had on this famous day.
However, none will ever top the first, in which a tradition was born with an epic drawn game.