The last time the Swans beat Essendon at the MCG, 96 years ago, Roy Cazaly was playing, women wore ‘flapper’ fashion, and an average Melbourne man’s wage was 17 pounds a month.
And, potentially, the next time the Swans beat Essendon at the MCG we’ll be driving flying cars and Mars will be our summer holiday hotspot.
Sadly, despite a spirited-if-not-stylish performance against the Bombers at the AFL grand final venue today, the red and white couldn’t quite end the MCG losing streak, going down 11.10 (76) to 9.12 (66).
Neither team were particularly polished, with plenty of dodgy kicks, wayward handballs and multiple turnovers, but Essendon’s better goal-kicking efficiency - particularly in the final quarter - proved the difference.
David Zaharakis, with 22 possessions and three goals, was the difference for the Bombers, alongside Dylan Shiel (29 disposals, 9 tackles) who was unstoppable.
Essendon did well considering captain Dyson Heppell was ruled out with a foot problem for the game started, with his replacement Kyle Langford kicking the sealing goal late in the final quarter.
Swans co-captain Josh Kennedy lead from the front-foot brilliantly, from first to final whistle, amassing 35 disposals (15 contested possessions), nine clearances and four inside 50s, in his most dominant performance this year.
In the end, there weren't enough contributors from the Swans, while classy midfielder Isaac Heeney (33 disposals, 10 marks) and Zak Jones (22 disposals, 1 goal) provided plenty of attacking pace throughout the game.
Heeney looked back to his almost unstoppable best in the first-half, picking up 22 disposals, but managed just 3 disposals in the third quarter, when the Swans could have put the match beyond reach, while George Hewett (26 disposals, 7 clearances) grew into the match.
A late goal to Shaun McKernan in the third quarter, from just one of the myriad of baffeling umpire decisions, kept the Bombers within reach at the last change.
Aliir Aliir, who not only had the better of lumbering Essendon ruckman Zac Clarke, but had eight clearances, eight inside 50s and a shot for goal (which slewed across the goalposts for no score), could do little as Zac Clarke took a crucial mark late in the game, halting another Swans attack.
While Sydney won the clearances 33-26 and the inside 50 count by four, Essendon kicked a match-winning 4.5 to Sydney’s 2.4 in the fourth quarter, with the Swans ruing several missed chances.
In one case of youthful excitement overcoming though, rookie forward Nick Blakey played on in the forward 50 when Sam Reid was illegally bumped in a marking contest, but was unable to kick on his right due to Bombers’ pressure and kicked a point.
Later, the Swans rebounded the ball from defence to attack in a beautiful piece of transitional play, but Heeney rushed his kick for goal and it was only a minor score.
So, Essendon retain their MCG winning streak against Sydney/South Melbourne and the history books stay on the shelf.
Of course, life moved at a much more leisurely pace in the 1920s when the old South Melbourne Swans last defeated the red and black at what was then just a big cricket ground.
And after the first half today, it appeared both teams had reverted to a similarly old-fashioned, slower type of defensive game to mirror a bygone era, with only seven goals kicked between them.
To be fair to the Swans, the forward line struggled to find its mojo all day with Lance Franklin out injured and Reid assisting in ruck duties.
There was frustration for Sydney forwards Tom Papley, who missed a couple of good shots on goal, Will Hayward who managed to spray one from 15 metres out and Aliir, who looked very much like a defender kicking for goal when he took a set shot inside 50, mistimed it and slid the ball completely across the sticks.
The Swans return to the SCG hosting the resurgent Carlton Blues, with Fremantle keeping their finals chance alive after copping a Western Derby belting.
SYDNEY 1.2 3.6 7.8 9.12 (66)
ESSENDON 2.3 4.5 7.5 11.10 (76)
SYDNEY Reid (2), Parker (2), Blakey, Jones, Papley, Rose, McCartin
ESSENDON Zaharakis (3), McKernan (2), Stringer (2), McDonald-Tipungwuti, Fantasia, Parish, Langford
SYDNEY Kennedy, Heeney, Jones, Mills, Rowbottom, Aliir
ESSENDON Zaharakis, Shiel, Parish, Saad, Hurley, McGrath
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