Dermott Brereton said on ‘League Teams’ that the rivalry between Hawthorn and Essendon started when Kevin Sheedy lost the 1983 Grand Final to the formidable Hawks. From then on, in every match against the Hawks, Sheedy wanted the Bombers to not only win, but take physical scalps too. He wanted to hurt the Hawks. Some of the Hawthorn players, Brereton included, made sure they stood up to the bullying Bombers.
Leigh Matthews famously snapped a behind post in half in 1982 after courageously running straight through it. What many forget though was Hawthorn was 19 points down to Essendon at three quarter time. The Hawks kicked seven goals to one in the last term to run out victorious.
But there were foundations laid before that. Former Hawthorn Captain Don Scott implied that a ‘sniper’ was playing in the 1983 finals series. Roger Merrett was the man Scott had taken aim at in his column in The Sun.
The 1983 Grand Final saw the Bombers go down by 83 points, a record at the time. Colin Robertson, the 1983 Norm Smith Medallist crunched Tim Watson and left him only somewhat conscious. Earlier that year, Robert DiPierdomenico copped a five week suspension after crushing Bomber Alan Stoneham, leaving him with a re-arranged nose and swollen eye.
Sheedy claimed the Hawks were sniffing an illegal substance during the 1984 finals series. A police investigation was sparked, but it was concluded that the substances were actually just smelling salts.
The 1984 Grand Final saw the Hawks lead by close to four goals at every change, until the last quarter, where the Bombers kicked nine goals to the Hawks’ two. It wasn’t until 2009 that another team won the Grand Final after being behind at three quarter time. A pivotal figure in the rivalry, Billy Duckworth, took out the 1984 Norm Smith Medal, with 19 disposals and two goals.
The 1985 Grand Final was almost the exact opposite of 1983. The Bombers won by a staggering 78 points. The most astounding part about it was Brereton’s eight goal haul in such a thrashing. The game is most often remembered for the fight on the wing soon after the opening bounce, with both benches getting involved. The game was Matthews’ last.
Jason Dunstall was lining up for goal in 1988 when Brereton kissed Duckworth as the kick was being taken. Despite Dunstall converting the goal, the six points were disallowed and Brereton gave away a free kick. The irate Brereton ran through the Bombers’ three quarter time huddle, which started a scuffle.
1989 came around and again, Brereton was the centre of attention after crushing Paul Vander Haar with a shepherd in the semi final. The ‘Flying Dutchman’ missed the preliminary final with a concussion.
It all seemed to calm down after the 1980’s. That was until Trent Croad hit the post from 55 metres out after the Bombers seemed down and out late in the 2001 Preliminary Final. The Bombers went on to win by seven points.
Then of course was the infamous ‘Line in the Sand’ match. Brereton, a club director at the time, revved up the Hawks at half time in a 2004 home and away match. The Hawks came out and ignited an all in brawl. The conclusion? Four players were suspended for a combined 16 weeks and a record $70,700 was handed out in fines from the brawl.
In 2005, Bombers enforcer Dean Solomon claimed a toe poke goal, which on later review was clearly off Hawks’ fullback Jonathan Hay’s foot. The Bombers won by two points and the umpires claimed they had made a mistake following the game.
Matthew Lloyd’s final game came with a six week (reduced to four) suspension, following his devastating high bump on Brad Sewell. A fractured cheek bone and eye socket filled out Sewell’s medical report.
The Bombers secured a finals berth win a 17 point victory over the Hawks in that game. Campbell Brown labelled Lloyd “one of the biggest snipers in the game”. Lloyd had fractured Josh Thurgood’s cheekbone in 2005, as the star forward had come back from injury with an armguard.
Round two promises to be filled with fire and pre game hype, as the blood stained rivalry resumes.