Imagine my disappointment when I discovered over the weekend that this – not Tigers-Lions, as I’d previously thought – would be the final Friday night game of the home-and-away season.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti’s snapped goal with 17 seconds left has snatched a critical five-point AFL win for Essendon over North Melbourne.
In a pulsating Saturday twlight duel at Marvel Stadium, it was the only Essendon goal of the last quarter as they won 12.14 (86) to 12.9 (81).
Kangaroos key forward Ben Brown was best afield and his sixth goal at 17 minutes in the final term gave them the lead.
The resurgent Kangaroos stormed home with three goals in the final term, but Essendon managed to stop the rot from becoming a North goal flood.
Then McDonald-Tipungwuti, Essendon’s talismanic small forward, snapped from a tight angle to cap his great game.
He led the Essendon scoring with four goals as Essendon climbed two spots to seventh on the ladder.
The win came at a cost, with Michael Hurley forced out of the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
North Rising Star Nick Larkey came off in the final term after a hit to his throat, while Mason Wood was a late withdrawal because of a quad injury.
North opened up Essendon in the first quarter, capitalising on Brown and fellow forward Cam Zurhaar to take a 20-point lead.
Ten goals were scored in a fast-paced opening term, with the Bombers hitting back to lead by a point before North kicked the last two goals of the quarter.
Jake Stringer was also having a big impact, his second goal coming when he broke a tackle and sapped accurately in a superb piece of play.
That followed a silly 50m penalty from North’s Luke McDonald deep in their attack.
After the free-wheeling first quarter, only three goals were scored in the second as the game became a fierce grind.
McDonald-Tipungwuti became a major threat after a quiet start and kicked Essendon’s two goals of the term.
North’s Ben Cunnington, fined $5000 this week and on the tribunal razor’s edge, will come under scrutiny again for a high hit on fellow Cobden native Zach Merrett.
But the Bombers midfielder appeared to apply plenty of mayo and Cunnington will probably escape sanction.
The bigger problem for Cunnington was tagger Dylan Clarke, who laid a whopping 12 tackles and blunted his impact.
Essendon were taking control, but their wasteful 2.7 meant scores were level at the main break.
The third quarter belonged to them with five goals to two and they took an 18-point lead into the final quarter, but they had left the door open and North nearly made them pay.