R6 – Essendon v Adelaide – A Shakespearean Tragedy or Comedy?

Adelaide Crows v Essendon Bombers

A Shakespearean Tragedy or a Shakespearean Comedy?


“Our doubts are Traitors and make us lose the Good we oft may win by fearing to attempt…” 

(William Shakespeare from the play, Measure for Measure)




“All the World’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in time plays many parts,,,,”

(William Shakespeare from the play, As You Like It)


The Amphitheatre which is Adelaide Oval plays host to two of the AFL’s most tragic and at times most comical teams of the new millennium – the Adelaide Crows and the Essendon Bombers. 

Like Shakespeare’s ‘The Globe’ theatre in London, the terraces tonight will be filled with supporters of both clubs who will be as much participants as they are spectators playing their own part as these two clubs fight out a contest where they can only be one winner. I hope not, but I fear the worst if the loser is the Crows that the Adelaide Oval may suffer the same fate as The Globe theatre in 1613.


“Some rise by sin, and by virtue fall..”

(William Shakespeare from the play, Measure for Measure)


In recent years both clubs have been made the ‘fool’ many times over in a series of comical tragedies dating back to 2001. Last year’s tragedy of the Crows’ error-riddled season was franked by a blind goal-umpire awarding a Ben Keays’ goal, a non-goal behind, potentially costing them a finals berth. In 2019 the Bombers were denied a win when a comically knave, Dane Rampe, illegally climbed up the goalpost.

Tragedy and despair seem to follow both clubs, and many is the time they have fallen on their virtuous swords, which from afar can seem very comical.


“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them….”

(William Shakespeare from the play, Twelfth Night)


Apart from a last ten-minute burst against the Blues last week, which saw the Crows snatch victory from the jaws of certain defeat, for reasons unbeknown to most, the Crows form line this year has been poor, very poor. The Crows are now in a situation whereby a win in this contest is a must if they are to remain in touch with the form teams. The Bombers, on the other hand, who have a habit of sitting in the AFL’s equivalent of purgatory, mid-table, also need to win this game to rise above the level of mediocrity – at least for another week.


Both clubs have very passionate and unforgiving supporters, who will flood the talkback radio and digital forums for the next week either gloating or whinging about this game. One club and their supporter base will be ecstatic, while the other will feel fierce indignation. 


“To be, or not to be: that is the question…”

(William Shakespeare from the play, Hamlet)


So, who will come out on top, the Crows, or the Bombers? Who will turn the screw on the other in this mouth-watering and intriguing encounter, as all the nuances, plots, and sub-plots play out over the course of four acts? The macabre side me would love a draw, but given the pathology of both clubs, the result may well come down to the final scene.


(Written Friday at 4:30pm)


The Final Stanza – the Tragedy of the Crows and the Comedy of Defeat


The talking point from this game will be the last stanza when Sam Draper fell on top of the ball with bugger all seconds left on the clock. On a night where some dodgy holding the ball decisions were paid, this seemed the least dodgy one.

As time stood still, the umpires watched as Draper scooped the ball under himself and hatched it like an egg underneath his ample frame while the Crows players were screaming for a free kick, And then the siren sounds, no free kick, and the Dons hold on.


Crows fans will be tearing the place down as I write this summary of one of the most intriguing games of football I have seen in a long while.


Let’s start.


The Ironic Twist of the Fable, Bad Kicking is Bad Football


At half-time I noted the Bombers may have kicked themselves out of the game by missing easy goals, a trend which continued all game for the Bombers. It should have cost them the game.


On the other hand, the Crows had been remarkably accurate and efficient in front of goal all night, but in an ironic twist it was bad kicking by the Crows which cost them the game as they squandered three (four) gettable opportunities in the dying minutes to snatch victory. 


The Comedy of Errors


Darcy Fogarty missed a very gettable shot at goal with a few minutes left, but it should not have been the end of the world, as time was still on the Crows’ side. I have seen Fogarty now on several occasions and he reminds of the ‘the almost man’, in that he almost took mark of the year last night, he almost held a couple of contested marks, and he almost won the game for the Crows. Almost.


Shortly after Fogarty’s miss, Alwyn Davey Jnr tackled Mitchell Hinge as he ran towards goal, forcing the kick to go out of bounds. It was a fifty/fifty play, but the effort of Davey is worth mentioning.


Enter Tex Walker who shrugged a couple of tackles from the 50-metre mark, but then half had a shot at goal and half tried to centre the ball. In the end it was nothing kick that was rushed through for a behind. Still not the end of the world.


Finally, it was Josh Rachele, who had an nightmare of a last quarter, who had the best chance to win the game for the Crows when his snap with thirty seconds left on the clock went through for a behind. It is a snap Rachele would normally kick and is expected to kick. 


Rachele’s nightmare wasn’t just the missed goal. I hate to say this about any player, but it looked like he didn’t put his body on the line in a couple of marking contests in the last quarter where he should have – it looked bad, real bad. (I know another writer who would have come at you a lot harder Josh.) 


Again, and with some validation the Crows can blame an umpiring decision, the Crows had four opportunities in the dying minutes to steal the match.


Captain/s Oh My Captain/s


Hats off to both Zach Merrett and Jordan Dawson in this match as they both lead from the front all night. Until the dying minutes of this game, I had Dawson ahead on points based mainly on his ability to kick a couple of vital goals to pull the Crows back into the match, but with about seven-minutes left on the clock Merrett kicked a clutch to make the scores level. It was a true Captain’s goal when a Captain’s goal was needed. 


Merrett leads the new culture of the Bombers ‘Edge’ by example. In many ways Merrett reminds me of Brett Kirk, who by example entrenched the ‘Bloods’ culture at Sydney, a legacy which has lasted now for well over a quarter of a century. If Merrett is half as successful as Kirk, then the future for the Bombers looks bright.


Sadly, for Jordan Dawson, it seems at times he carries the weight of the whole team on his shoulders without the supporting cast around him rising to the surface. I really rate Josh Rachele and Izak Rankine as players, but they both need to support Dawson more, even when they are having quiet nights. In the last quarter, the game called out for Rachele and /or Rankine to have their ten-minutes.

Both fluffed their lines in the dying minutes. 


Nic Martin, Jye Caldwell, Harrison Jones, Jake Soligo and Mitchell Hinge


All night, Nic Martin threatened to be the player who would separate these two teams and with a few minutes left on the clock he came from nowhere to kick the goal that put the Bombers in front and win the game for them.


To concentrate on this one moment of brilliance by Martin is to underestimate his class and polish for the entire match. Martin, along with Durham, Caldwell, Parish, Redman, McGrath and Gresham, were the senior players following the lead of their Captain on the night.


Jye Caldwell played the best game I have seen him play. He clearly had the better of the dynamic Izak Rankine in the second half, and he played a great shut down role as the Crows charged in the dying seconds.


Last year, I heard a few Bomber fans questioning the ability of Harrison Jones, but they failed to perceive the upside of such a player. Jones was the best forward on the ground in this game, and not just because he kicked a couple of goals. His second and third efforts were exemplary, and he now has the body strength and skill to stick tackles. He is all class and a player who will just get better with more games under his belt.


I reviewed the Crows first match this year when Jake Soligo was used as the sub and came on and tore the game apart. I couldn’t figure out why the Crows would have such a dynamo sitting on the pine all game. He is a player with potential, and one you would want in the trenches with you. Tonight, under the national glare of Friday night lights he displayed his wares.


Mitchell Hinge may not yet be the complete player, but he is well on his way to being one of the best defenders in the AFL. Hinge just looks good and assured when the ball is in his hands and along with Josh Worrell, Max Michalanney and Luke Nankervis, they start to form the nucleus of the Crows future backline. No matter how badly the Crows go from here on in 2024, it is vital the club pumps games into these kids as any short-term pain will be rewarded in the years to come.


The Baby Bombers Edge


There is a good crop of Baby Bombers coming through the ranks now and all who were on the field tonight played to the ‘Edge’ culture which the club is trying to cultivate. Harrison Jones, Ben Hobbs and Nik Cox were really impressive tonight and have shown stark improvement already this year, whilst Alwyn Davey Jnr displayed a toughness tonight which he lacked last year. The Kids are alright.


The New for Old Recruits


The Bombers got an ageing Todd Goldstein at a bargain basement price at the end of last season, so any return they get from that outlay is a bonus, but lo and behold, he has turned back time. Goldstein was the best big man on the ground tonight (not for the first time this year) and surprisingly, he has the stamina to run games out to the finish.


Ben McKay’s output since being recruited from the Kangas has been superb. Tonight, he looked at home in the Bombers defence and when intercept marking was needed in the last quarter, he was the man the Bombers relied upon.


Xavier Duursma is slowly finding his feet at the Hangar and he has the ability to be a good role-player for the Bombers in a variety of positions.




This game ebbed and flowed all night as both teams took control of the match for periods and in the end, all that can be said is, Essendon won the match basically because they were in front at that moment. To the winner goes the spoils.


It is worth mentioning Dyson Heppell role in deep defence tonight. Since being relinquished of the captaincy it seems he is relishing being an almost anonymous, but vital, entity in the Bombers defensive structure.


The Crows need to stick with Matthew Nicks for at least another season. I get the feeling that when this team clicks, success may follow very quickly. The improvement is there but it is just not paying dividends presently.


The Essendon ‘Edge’ may not work every week, as it is a work in progress, but it was on display tonight, especially in the efforts of youngsters Harrison Jones, Nik Cox and Alwyn Davey Jnr. I mention that as I think the Crows need a cultural change. Since 2017 the Crows have been the year on, year out, hard luck story of each season. It is easy to blame close losses on others, but responsibility and accountability has to be taken for those losses, and the blame mentality needs to disappear.


Final Daddy, Daddy Kool


In a million years I never thought I would hear a Boney M song at the footy, but Jordan Dawson has impressively chosen one as his theme song after kicking a goal. 


This game was both a Shakespearean Tragedy and Comedy as both teams tried as hard to lose the game as they did to win it. The Bombers should have been five goals up at half-time and game over, while the Crows had ample opportunity to steal the win at the end. 


Next week the Bombers will play to a full house MCG on Thursday against the Pies in the traditional ANZAC clash, while the Crows travel to Launceston to play the Roos before about 5,000 hearty souls, a game they must win.