The Lions were hot, hadn’t lost a game since May 26 of that year, but the Bombers had the experience of the previous year, in comparison to Brisbane, who fielded 21 players who hadn’t played in the final match of the year before.
The Brisbane side – filled to the brim with electric talent and ferocious grunt with the likes of Akermanis, Simon Black, Luke Power, Nigel Lappin, Voss and then young forward Jonathan Brown combined with the aggressive Alastair Lynch were enough for Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy to lose sleep over.
But it turned out to be the little lefty with his shirt tucked in and a helmet on his head that proved the difference on the day; with Shaun Hart winning the Norm Smith Medal in the Lions’ 15.18 (108) to 12.10 (82) victory.
During the first term, Hart was finding space where there was none, with his first two disposals setting up shots on goal for his side.
With the Bombers camp so understandably concerned about the artillery down the Brisbane spine, the 30-year-old was left to roam free around the ground after the stoppages, which proved costly.
After kicking wastefully in the opening two terms, the Lions needed some class and composure to overcome the 14-point deficit and the experienced Bombers in the second half.
Hart obliged with a memorably clean second-half; Sandy Roberts summed up his afternoon in a single possession across halfback – the Channel Seven commentator called “Hart has hectares on the outer side” as he gained yet another disposal.
Many have argued that Nigel Lappin was unlucky not to be rewarded for his performance which included two crucial premiership quarter goals to go with his 20 disposals on the day, but Hart was a worthy winner as he never drifted from the contest.
Hart finished the match with 23 efficient disposals, four clearances, four pressure acts and a Norm Smith Medal.
Only three short years ago, the Brisbane Lions had copped their second wooden spoon since the merger, which they followed with a disappointing 15th-placed finish in 2018 punctuated by seven losses within three goals and a percentage of 89.1 per cent.