The Pies got the jump and looked like they were ready to blow the Bombers away, but this is ANZAC Day, and if ever there was a day to demonstrate courage, resiliency and a never say die attitude, it would be this day.

Essendon came back hard, and with the game in the balance, some… hmmm… strange umpiring decisions sent Bomber fans into a frenzy. And not a good one.

Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.


But wait… before we get into the game played by the players, there is something we need to address around the standard of umpiring in this game.

In the biggest home and away fixture of the year, and in front of over 92,000 people, the umpiring was so confusing and inconsistent that players, supporters and this humble reviewer were completely at a loss as to what was happening.

Now, I am going to miss a few here, as my notes are not as comprehensive as they should be. I am also not wearing the colours of any one particular team, so things didn’t jump out at me steeped in emotion, but sometimes the decisions are so baffling, or so obvious, that you cannot help but screw your face up.

FIRST QUARTER – 3.53 REMEAINING – Obvious free kick to Jake Stringer with Howe pushing him in the back

Stringer hit the half-volley at speed on the near half forward flank. As he gathered, Howe cannoned into his back, taking both men forward. There was no call, with the Pies then clearing with a chain of handballs. That’s 1-0 Collingwood.

SECOND QUARTER 17.06 REMAINING – Grundy tackles Matt Guelfi inside 50 and gives away an in the back free.

Grundy falls to the turf with Guelfi in the tackle and does everything to stay out of his back. Not enough for the umpire, who gifts Guelfi a shot at goal. The score is now 1-1

THIRD QUARTER 18.39 REMAINING – Pendlebury gets Tippa holding the ball

The second part of the tackle was fine, with Pendles taking Tippa to the ground, but the first contact is high, and play is allowed to continue until Pendles drags him down. So this is a missed free kick to Essendon, and a paid free kick to Collingwood. Double points! The Pies go up 3-1

THIRD QUARTER 14.29 REMAINING – Cale Hooker pinged for basically being too strong for Mason Cox

A marking contest at full forward, and Hooker uses his body to muscle Cox out of position and almost pulls in the mark (he claims he did, but he definitely didn’t). The whistle goes and the ump craps on about Hooker taking the body of Cox, which he did LEGALLY and almost marked the ball. Shocking decision. Pies now up 4-1 in the crap free kick stakes.

THIRD QUARTER – 1.57 REMAINING – No call on an obvious holding the ball decision.

Darcy Moore got the handball from Travis Varcoe, went to kick and was claimed by Zach Merrett. Great tackle and incorrect disposal… but no whistle. Pies 5-1

FOURTH QUARTER – 16.03 REMAINING – Massive no call. All players stop.

Mason Redman lays a great tackle on Will Hoskin-Elliott and he clearly throws the ball in an attempt to get rid of it. McKenna grabs the ball and stops, not wanting to take the advantage, but the umpire has called play on, deeming the disposal legal? Oh my…

Josh Thomas also stops, and looks a bit shocked as the ump again calls play on. Essendon clear.

That’s 6-1 in the crap free count.

FOURTH QUARTER – 12.42  REMAINING –  No call on a too high free to Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.

Holy crap… how was this missed? A terribly shallow throw in sees the ball hit the ground in front of both rucks. Tippa runs onto it and Grundy reaches out and basically hooks him round the neck.




FOURTH QUARTER – 11.41 REMAINING – Jack Crisp dragged down after avoiding another tackle. No call

This is getting a little ridiculous, huh? And if you’re a Collingwood supporter, you may think I am being selective. Not the case. I was taking notes without a dog in the fight.

Crisp runs to half forward and steps the attempted tackle from Mark Baguley. As he gets inside, Joe Daniher nails him with another tackle. Everyone stops. Not just one or two. EVERYONE STOPS. The free kick is so bloody obvious that everyone knows it’s there except three umpires. An absolute howler. 8-1

FOURTH QUARTER – 8.44 REMAINING – Mark Baguley awarded a holding decision

Oh look, one back the other way! Baguley and Tom Langdon are wrestling for position in the forward pocket as Merrett snaps toward them. They’re holding each other… might be time to pluck a free kick? Yep, give it to Baguley who kicks a goal. Ugh…


FOURTH QUARTER – 1.09 REMAINING – Stephenson caught holding the ball – no call.

A long ball inside 50 sees the ball spill to Jaidyn Stephenson. He’s dragged down by one arm in a tackle by Matt Guelfi, and throws the ball away. No call. Ridley then falls into the back of Callum Brown and a free kick is awarded in front of goal.

That kick to Brown is definitely there, but it should never have eventuated.

TOTAL – 9-2 in favour of the Pies.

Yay… the Magpies won! So yeah, this is obviously not an exhaustive list, but from what I saw, the Bombers got sceeeee-rooood.


Righto, now we can get onto the actual part of the column I usually write.





Remember about this time last season when Mike Sheahan went on morning radio and said that Pendlebury was no longer an A-Grader?

Pepperidge Farm remembers, and so do I. Mr. Sheahan may well trot into that radio station again over the next few days, and if he does, he should issue an apology to Pendlebury, who was far and away the most influential player in the biggest home and away fixture of the season.


Yes, again. This is the third time Pendles has taken home the ANZAC Medal for the best on ground, only equalled by the great James Hird. In a midfield oozing class, Pendlebury was head and should
ers above everyone else.

He had six tackles to go along with his game-high, and season-high 38 touches, and looked both in control and incredibly dangerous every time he touched the pill.

There are few men as good to watch with the ball in hand as Pendlebury. Whether he is feigning a handball one way, only to dart off in another, or lowering his eyes to find a teammate, he is as classy a player as we have had in the league for a long while.

At the start of this game, I received a message from a reader asking who my tip was for the ANZAC Medal. Not to blow my own horn, but I had no hesitation in stating it’d be Pendlebury. He is a big game player, and one of the champions of the game.



Okay, I may be getting ahead of myself here, but I am hoping like hell that we saw the start of something big today.

Darcy Moore v Joe Daniher has the potential to be a marquee matchup for the next 6-7 years. You will often hear old-timers talk about the magnificence of the Knights v Vander Haar match up in the eighties. Wanna know what the problem was with this rivalry?

It was a one-off. We never really got rounds two, three or four. Either one of them sat out, or Knights played forward… we only ever had that one shining day at Windy Hill where Knights and Vander went head to head.

But after 35 years, maybe we can see something to rival it?

The defensive structures mean we will rarely see a true one-on-one contest often these days, but today seemed like we were getting a taste of one. Darcy Moore got on top early in the duel and looked like a million bucks as he took intercept marks and foiled the Bombers’ attacks. He finished the game with 11 intercept possessions and seven spoils.

But Daniher fought his way into the contest. His booming goal after the half time siren shouted loudly that he was back in town, and four goals playing on one of the front-runners for an All-Australian defensive post was as good a way as any to inform people that his injury worries might just be behind him.

Joe had 16 touches and eight marks, including four big contested grabs as he helped bring Essendon back.

The two teams encounter one another again in Round 23, and the way the season is shaping up, there may be plenty riding on it. Let’s hope that as players move to their positions at the opening bounce, that the big number six from Essendon shakes the hand of the Collingwood number 30, and we get to see round two.



There were two marks taken out there this arvo that required amazing courage. The first was when Mitch Brown took a mark in the first quarter with Tom Phillips coming the other way. Now, the courage here was mostly from Phillips. He was running right into trouble and did not for a second even look like shirking the issue or taking his eyes off the footy.

This is ANZAC Day – you don’t pull out of contests on ANZAC Day. Phillips buckled up, ran full tilt at the contest and wore Mitch Brown’s knees in the gut as a result. He didn’t take the mark, but no one in attendance would ever question his courage.

The second was Cale Hooker, who had no idea what was coming the other way as he ran back with the flight of the ball into oncoming players in the last quarter. He mainly collected his teammate, Adam Saad, but his efforts took incredible guts.

Perhaps a few Melbourne players should watch those two players and wonder why they couldn’t do something similar last night?



This guy has become an amazing defender. I remember thinking Buckley was crazy when he sent this high-marking highlight machine into defence. What was he giving up in the forward line in order to gain another defender?

Well, as often happens, I learnt not to question Bucks in relation to his list. How has been brilliant for the Pies, and today was no exception.

He led all players with five contested marks, which should come as no surprise to anyone, but he had a wonderfully rounded game, laying some big tackles, one of which completely halted the Essendon momentum on the wing in the pulsating last quarter.

Howe has become the general of the Magpie backline, pointing, barking orders and becoming an athletic version of Luke Hodge… maybe with a little less mongrel in him.

Yes, Bucks… I was wrong.



So… the hair. We can’t really ignore it, can we? Is he having a “Worst hair-do” competition with Luke Ryan from Fremantle? Far out… which of his teammates said he’d look good with bright blonde hair… great stitch up!

But a crappy hairstyle obviously had a great impact on his game. He racked up 17 touches as he ventured out to the far wing to successfully combat the influence of Steele Sidebottom, and worked his way into the game nicely.

He snuck forward for a goal, laid six tackles and limited Sidebottom to just 14 touches after quarter time.

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Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.



There are two guys I really want to highlight here, who get little to no credit for their efforts.

Let’s start with the Pies- Jordan Roughead.

Roughead got the job on Mitch Brown, which may not sound too difficult, but when you look at the last couple of weeks for Brown, his importance to the Essendon forward structure becomes apparent.

In the two previous weeks, Brown averaged 22.5 touches, three goals and 8.5 marks. Today, he was restricted to just seven touches, three marks and a big fat goose egg in the goals column. That was due to the wonderful defensive work of Roughead, who finished with nine touches and three marks, but had eight big contest kills.

The other player is Patrick Ambrose.

I have been a big wrap for Brody Mihocek this season, and his ability to get off the chain has given the Pies a huge springboard into attack. There was no springing, and no boarding to be done today.

Ambrose completely blanketed Mihocek who finished with just six touches and two marks, most of which came in the first ten minutes. Ambrose, on the other hand, ten touches, five marks and nine contest killing spoils.

There’s two defenders who rarely get any love, but they’re getting it today here at The Mongrel.



You know what this bloke is? He’s a beast. A running, tackling, contested beast.

He also rides a scooter.

But don’t hold that against him. Grundy is now firmly entrenched as the best ruck in the league this season (as of right now). He had another outing of 20+ possessions, and added six tackles to his name as well, the defensive aspect of his game far and away better than most players in his position.

Grundy’s second and third efforts at stoppages caused spills for his teammates to capitalise on, and as the game went on, his running power really came to the fore. Though Tom Bellchambers battled on, Grundy’s relentless hunt for both the ball and opponent is a force most teams simply cannot compete with.

Circle Queens Birthday on your calendars, Pies fans. This could be the year Grundy officially takes the throne from Max Gawn.

If he hasn’t already.

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Oh man, he can get the ball, and he looks great when he runs with it, but it seems as though as soon as Shiel crossed the half forward line, he becomes Charles Barkley in Space Jam AFTER the Mon-Stars have taken all his talent.

His shots for goal today were appalling. Two didn’t score, and one; a very gettable goal indeed, went wide for a behind. He is yet to kick a goal this season, and has added seven behinds. I’d love to give you his scoring accuracy, as it factors in the complete misses as well, but you see, he actually has to kick a goal for us to provide that. Right now, he is at 0%, and you can’t get much lower unless he somehow manages to kick a goal for the other team.

Maybe he should try that?

This is not a recent problem for Shiel. He has struggled mightily in front of goals for a while now, yet he continues to have a ping. Is it time someone grabbed him aside and had a little word about it? He is basically handing the ball back to the opposition time and time again.

Overall, he ran at 59% efficiency this afternoon. For a guy who had it 34 times, he needs to do better. Jump onto the AFL website and compare the way he used the ball to the way Pendlebury used the ball. The difference is huge, and for all his bursts from pack situations and run through the middle, if Shiel can’t hit targets, he is a borderline liability with the ball in his hands out there.





Righto, this is going to get expansive.

I respect the hell out of Nathan Buckley. He is an intelligent, well-thought out, and driven man. He is articulate and he is not afraid to back himself in terms of doing things his way, or in the way he thinks. After Scott Pendlebury was booed when accepting the ANZAC Medal, Buckley walked to the microphone and uttered the words “Shame on anyone that booed a champion”.

And he was right.

When Scott Pendlebury accepted the award for the best on ground – thoroughly deserved – he was met by a chorus of boos. Pendlebury thanked the crowd, and was met by a louder cacophony of cheers mixed with catcalls. He is a professional – he didn’t bit.

But Buckley bit, and he bit back hard. He chastised the fans booing with the first line of his acceptance speech, and the Bomber fans were having none of it. They knew what they’d seen unfold, and knew how they felt. They wanted to vent, and vent they did. They picked the wrong target, though, as Pendlebury was obviously the best player on the park.

Still, they booed.

But hang on… aren’t we just a couple of weeks removed from the Collingwood faithful, themselves booing a champion on the same damn ground?

Doesn’t Bucks remember Andrew Gaff visiting the MCG, racking up some vast number of touches and being booed every time he touched the ball? Was it shameful of them too? Where were Buckley’s comments then, when it was his people who were the culprits? Why did he not chastise the Magpie Army for booing a champion? Why now?

We are in this strange period in footy fandom where the way we follow the game is changing. I watched as a security guard told two kids to get back into their seats during last weekend’s Swans v Tigers game. I couldn’t, for the life of me, work out why they had to, but they did anyway. They were having a crack at the opposition player over the fence. Is that no longer allowed? Are we simply so touchy feely that the right to boo someone, for whatever reason, is about to be removed from the game?

May as well remove the supporters then, and replace them with robots the way the clubs have replaced footballers with athletes.

If a supporter, a couple of supporters, or the whole damn crowd want to boo someone, it’s their right! Yes, shame on them for booing a champion… yeah, yeah, yeah. Shame on them for not being sportsmanlike. But shame on the current state of the game that continues to place restrictions on the way fans respond to issues the competition should be addressing – shit, game-affecting decisions.

Do you think the crowd were frustrated with Pendlebury? How could you possibly begrudge a player so magnificent doing what he does best? Do you think they were upset at the price of a beer and pie at the footy? Well…. Maybe. I certainly get a little grumpy about it.

No, they were livid that a series of unfortunate events, outlined toward the start of this article, took place and severely disadvantaged their team. They booed because it was the only recourse they had. They booed because they were pissed off and had every right to be. And they booed because that was the only real thing they could do to show their displeasure.

Should they have booed Pendlebury? No. Was it ideal to boo during the presentation? Probably not.

Was it shameful? Nope. Not if you don’t admonish your own supporters for doing the same thing a few weeks earlier. That’s called being hypocritical.

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Steele Sidebottom’s role is an interesting one. I was watching him intently today, and he seems content to sit on the fat side of the ground, and wait… and wait… and then go when the Pies get the ball across on a switch. He is the quintessential eighties wingman at the moment.

Liked the game of Jake Stringer. He looked very dangerous at points, and has this uncanny ability to twist as he is being tackled, and somehow it just falls off him, and he’s left standing there with the ball in his hands. A couple of his shots at goal tonight were simply magical.

Mongrel writer, Matt Oman mentioned that Jordan De Goey is everything Christian Petracca should be, but isn’t. I couldn’t agree more. De Goey is a monster up forward. A powerful, creative monster, and his tap back to Hoskin-Elliott for a  goal was the sort of thing only the best manufacture. His battle with Hurley was enthralling.

Wondering whether Hoskin-Elliott’s return has altered the running patterns of Mihocek. I gave Brown the credit above, but wonder if the structure may have also had something to do with Mihocek’s disappearing act.

Bit of a premature celebrator, the old Mason Cox, isn’t he? Tongue out after one goal and a mark. Yeah, he got a couple of goals, but that US-crap showboating… it should come out on days like prelim final day, when you’re carving the opposition to shreds; not when you’re having an average day.

As much as the Bombers would like to blame the umps, some of their delivery out of defensive 50 in the last quarter was horrible. Adam Saad ran into trouble. Dylan Shiel threw himself on the ground in a contest with Treloar hoping to… maybe get a free kick for nothing. McDonald Tipungwuti had a horrible turnover in the middle of the ground, and Shiel again kicked it straight to Pendlebury in the middle under no pressure.

Yes, the umps were a factor, but no more so than terrible decision making exiting your own defence.

Some nice physical hits in this one. Tippa on Sidebottom was good early, and I enjoyed de Goey putting Heppell on his backside as well.

The development of Callum Brown continues nicely. His ability to break a tackle and run out of defence in the last quarter was fantastic to watch.

Devon Smith – one tackle. Read into that whatever you like. I really liked Adam Saad’s tackling in this one, though.

I thought Heppell’s disposal let him down a bit today. He had 22 of his 28 touches come uncontested, yet used the ball at just 64%.

Tom Phillips wasn’t much better on the whole, but he did have a couple of really well-weighted kicks inside 50, allowing forwards to run onto them without breaking stride.

And I’m about done.

Next week, the Pies get the Power in what should be a belter. I’m really looking forward to seeing Grundy go up against Lycett in the ruck. Lycett has been fantastic thus far this season, and will test the Pies big man.

The Bombers get the Cats…. Wow. Another blockbuster. Looking forward to it already.




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