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Opinion

Five reasons to watch Essendon in 2020

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Roar Guru
28th March, 2020
2

There’s no footy. Richo and Browny are calling Xbox simulations of AFL fixtures. And Brian Taylor’s commentating on traffic.

What better time to seek out some off-kilter and slightly unhinged reasons to watch each club in 2020?

Darcy Parish 
Parish debuted against the Gold Coast in 2016 and suffered a 61-point loss as part of a Frankensteined, top-up-heavy, post-ASADA-scandal Essendon line-up. That sort of thing will do strange things to a man.

Mind you, he’d had some experience of playing through pain in his junior days, having suffered a broken thumb while playing for the NAB AFL Academy on a day where he still racked up 25 touches and noted only that “his hand kept getting sorer”.

He brings a dogged approach to the footy field while still looking like the nicest person you’d ever meet. He is the sort that apologises for the inconvenience while gathering a hard ball in the clinches. He has flown under the radar slightly since being picked at number five in the 2015 draft but has recently teased supporters with tentative moves into the midfield.

Big things are expected. After all, his junior career was downright arrogant. He played for Victoria in the under-12s, under-15s, under-16s, and Vic Country under-18s. Zoo Magazine was still popular in 2010 so I’m blaming it for his drop-off in performance while 13. Luckily for Bombers fans, the (sadly) defunct glossy can’t distract him in 2020.

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Conor McKenna
Nathan Bock holds the record for most running bounces in a single AFL game with 20. It was in 2009 for Adelaide in a dour struggle against Melbourne. The moment impacted his life to the point that upon moving clubs, he hosted a segment on Suns TV called ‘Bocky’s Bounce’.

Conor McKenna would have a framed picture of Nathan Bock in his locker, a la every US ’90s sitcom girl. Since coming sixth for running bounces in the AFL in 2017 with 45, the County Tyrone lad has run, bounced, and more than occasionally panicked his way into second place in 2018 (with 46), and first in 2019 (with 80). Mind you, he can’t rest on his laurels just yet, as he’s chasing Heath Shaw’s staggering record of 167 running bounces in 2009.

Like the hyperactive class clown you endured in fifth grade, McKenna brings the fun. He travels internationally during games (as evidenced by his tendency to occasionally kick the ball to himself Gaelic-style), and occasionally through the off-season too. Nobody’s travelling internationally anytime soon, so Heath Shaw better watch his back.

Orazio Fantasia
First things first. Fantasia’s middle name is Maurice. This is an excellent thing, mostly because discovering this information unlocked memories of Marsupilami, a madcap cartoon from my childhood that at times I honestly thought I imagined. The show’s a genuine fever dream. For those without the time to investigate, the titular character Marsupilami’s best friend was Maurice the Gorilla. Ah, nostalgia.

Orazio Fantasia runs with the ball.

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

Speaking of names, Orazio’s moniker is one of the best – according to Brian Taylor. Even if no-one can agree on its pronunciation. Unfortunately for the fleet-footed flanker there was a distinct lack of nostalgic affection heading his way in late 2019 after his almost-trade-but-not-really back to South Australia that was apparently based on a request-but-not-a-request from Fantasia himself.

A stark drop-off in form in the second half of the season saw many forget his not-so-distant past of claiming two Rising Star nominations (a feat accomplished by only 11 others), or the 39 goals he snagged in 2017. Fantasia will be hoping his on-field exploits in 2020 make his animated (somewhat) namesake proud.

Joe Daniher 
Essendon fans around the country felt like stereotypical sitcom parents towards the end of 2019. They weren’t mad, they were just disappointed. And also slightly perplexed. Let’s be honest, the saga was a farce from start to finish. Apparently, Joe felt the same way. At least according to one of the league’s most stubborn negotiators.

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“Obviously he’s a little bit disappointed,” list manager Adrian Dodoro said after his phone conversation with Daniher following the breakdown in negotiations. “But Joey is a resilient young man and actually through this whole process we’ve grown to respect him a hell of a lot more for the person he is”.

Unfortunately for Mo, he is a potentially game-breaking player trapped in a body more injury prone than a chain-smoking, osteoporosis-riddled senior citizen. Due to ongoing groin problems, he probably won’t even be able to play in the inaugural Joe Daniher Cup against Sydney in Round 2.

However, for those wondering why the Bombers are bothering will all this drama, I’m just going to leave this – and this – here.

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Winning a final 
The last time Essendon won a final was in 2004, when they knocked off the Demons by five points in an elimination final.

All up, it’s been 5684 days since they have won one. You can keep track of it here. It’s a cathartic experience for an Essendon fan like myself.

The last time Essendon won a final without someone not named Kevin Sheedy was September 21, 1968 when Jack Clarke was in charge. Recent finals losses read as such: 96 points in 2009, 62 points in 2011, relegated to ninth in 2013, 12 points in 2014, 65 points in 2017, and 55 points in 2019. Crikey.