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Anzac Day clash

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Title: Anzac Day clash  
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Subject: James Hird, Essendon Football Club, Queen's Birthday clash, David Zaharakis, Culture of Melbourne
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Anzac Day clash

Anzac Day clash
First contested 25 April 1995
Number of meetings 20
Most recent meeting 25 April 2014 (Essendon 60, Collingwood 83 - Collingwood by 23 points)
Next meeting 25 April 2015
All-time series  (Australian Football League only) Collingwood – 11 wins
Essendon – 8 wins
1 draw
Largest victory

Collingwood – 73 points (25 April 2008)

Essendon – 66 points (25 April 2003)
Broadcasters Seven Network (1995-2001, 2010, 2012-present)
Nine Network (2002-2006)
Network Ten (2007-2009, 2011)

The Anzac Day clash is an annual Australian rules football match between Australian Football League (AFL) teams Collingwood and Essendon, held on Anzac Day (25 April) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).[1]

Early history of Australian rules on Anzac Day

During many wars, Australian rules football matches have been played overseas in places like northern Africa and Vietnam as a celebration of Australian culture and as a bonding exercise between soldiers.[2][3][4] Despite this, League football was not played on Anzac Day for many years; in 1959, for example, when all VFL games were played on Saturday afternoons, Anzac Day also fell on a Saturday, and the entire round was postponed to the following Saturday. The first VFL matches played on Anzac Day occurred in 1960 after an Act of Parliament which lifted the previous restrictions on this activity.[5]

The Anzac Day Act required a donation of a portion of the gate to the R.S.L., so the R.S.L. was active in encouraging the VFL to play on the day. The VFL was initially unenthusiastic, and on Anzac Day Tuesday in 1961 it scheduled smaller games at Windy Hill and Punt Road Oval for the day.[6] The Victorian Football Association attempted to capitalize on this, and with the R.S.L.'s support it moved a marquee match between rivals Sandringham and Moorabbin to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and put on a pre-match spectacle on a similar scale to that of the AFL's modern Anzac Day clash. The crowd of just under 14,000 was similar in size to the VFA's largest Sunday crowds at the time, but still fell well short of the VFA's pre-match expectations; nevertheless, the match was a pioneer in the treatment of football on Anzac Day as a special occasion.[7]

In 1962 and 1967, instead of playing premiership matches on Anzac Day, the VFL arranged a representative match for Anzac Day between the Victorian team from the previous year's Interstate Carnival and a team representing the rest of the league. Both matches drew small crowds between 15,000-20,000.[8][9]

Over the years, the VFL's Anzac Day games sometimes drew huge crowds. The 1975 Carlton versus Essendon game attracting 77,770 fans to VFL Park, a then record for Anzac Day; two years later in 1977, Richmond and Collingwood drew 92,436 to the MCG.[5][10]

In 1986 the league used Anzac Day to attempt its first ever doubleheader. Held at the MCG, Melbourne and Sydney played in the afternoon, followed after a 30 minute break by North Melbourne and Geelong in the evening under lights; due to a total crowd of only 40,117 and various logistical problems, the league has not staged another doubleheader.[5][10]

Through the years until the mid-1990s, it was common for at least two matches to be played on the Anzac Day public holiday.[11]

History of Collingwood–Essendon Anzac Day clash

The modern version of the Anzac Day clash was conceived by then Essendon coach Returned and Services League (RSL) President Bruce Ruxton, who was also a keen Collingwood supporter, and proposed his concept for the match day and game which would honour the Anzac spirit.[5] Despite their previous opposition to football on Anzac Day, Ruxton and the RSL agreed with Sheedy's proposal, as did the AFL.[5]

The first annual Anzac Day match between Collingwood and Essendon was played on Tuesday, 25 April 1995 at the MCG. The round-four match received limited publicity as there had previously been AFL matches played on 25 April. Essendon had won its first three games of the season, however, Collingwood were without a victory. Soon after the Anzac Day march in the city, patrons flocked to the ground. Crowds outside the ground were so substantial at 12.30 pm, that Collingwood coach Leigh Matthews thought the gates to the ground must have still been locked. When the gates were closed at 1.30 pm—still 40 minutes before the start of the match—20,000 additional people had to be dispersed by mounted police, while they attempted to gain admission into the stadium. Thousands of these people descended to the nearby Fitzroy Gardens, where they listened to the match on radio.

Played on a sunny autumn day, both teams kicked six goals in the first quarter. Before a three-goal-to-one second quarter helped Essendon lead by 16-points at half-time. However, the momentum swayed in the third-quarter, when Collingwood kicked seven-goals-to-two, giving them a 14-point lead at the break. Essendon started strongly in the final term, and when James Hird snapped a goal late in the quarter, he gave his team a six point advantage. Saverio "Sav" Rocca leapt and took "one of the marks of the year" in the forward-line soon after. At the 28-minute mark he capitalised by kicking the goal and levelling the scores. With just seconds left, Nathan Buckley had an opportunity to score; however, he elected to kick to Rocca, who was cut off. Seconds later, the siren sounded; both team's score on 111. Roars from the 94,825 crowd during the match could easily be heard from a kilometre away; and the crowd remains the second-highest home and away crowd in VFL/AFL history, surpassed only by the 99,346 who attended the Collingwood–Melbourne Queen's Birthday clash in 1958.

Huge crowds turn out to see the annual Anzac Day Collingwood–Essendon game (2010)

Today, this game is often considered the biggest match of the AFL season outside of the finals, sometimes drawing bigger crowds than all but the [14] However, Anzac Day matches have been a regular part of the rugby league season for over 80 years.

The Seven Network held broadcasting rights to the Collingwood-Essendon match from its inception in 1995 until 2001. Following this, the Nine Network (2002–06) and Network Ten (2007–09, and 2011) had the broadcasting rights, with the Seven Network broadcasting it in 2010. From the 2012 season onwards the Seven Network regained the broadcasting rights to the match.

In recent years, other clubs and some sections of the media have lobbied for the game to be shared amongst all clubs, not just Collingwood and Essendon.[15][16] Since 1996,[17] one year after the team's inception, Fremantle has held the Len Hall Tribute Game, named in honour of Western Australia's last Gallipoli veteran.[18] This game is regularly held on Anzac Day as a Western Australian featured game.[17] With Anzac Day falling on a Saturday in 2009, four games were scheduled for the day,[19] yet the largest fixture (the MCG) continued to host Collingwood and Essendon at the exclusion of other clubs. Critics have argued that this fixture should be shared.[20][21]

New Zealand clash

In 2013 St Kilda and Sydney initiated an Anzac Day match in New Zealand to honour the Anzac bond between the two countries. This was the first AFL game ever played for premiership points outside of Australia.[22] The game was played between St Kilda and Sydney as a night game at Westpac Stadium in New Zealand's capital Wellington, in front of a crowd of 22,546.[23] Sydney won the game by 16 points, scoring 11.13 (79) to St Kilda 9.9 (63),[24] while the first New Zealand awarded Anzac Medal went to Sydney's Daniel Hannebery.[23] Before the game St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt said "To play on Anzac Day in another country for the first time in the history of the sport is a momentous occasion and as a playing group we feel really privileged to be doing that ...".[22]

The game was attended by the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key, Australian Minister for Sport Kate Lundy, and AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou.[23] Key reflected on the significance of the Anzac relationship, commenting shortly before the game began on Australia's immediate assistance following the Christchurch earthquake, and saying "The Anzac spirit is as alive today as it was in 1915".[23] Key also used the occasion to raise the prospect of a New Zealand based AFL team, saying at the official pre-match function "Let's get real. We've got to get a New Zealand side in the AFL.". While Demetriou would not comment further on Key's statements, he said he planned to chat to Key about it at a later date, and stated that New Zealand was "unquestionably our fastest growth market outside Australia".[23]

The New Zealand fixture was retained for the 2014 season, with the Saints' opponents being the Brisbane Lions.[25] The Lions won the match by three points to win their first match for the season after five straight losses.[26]

Year-by-year results[10]
Year Winner St Kilda score Opponent score Margin Attendance Anzac Medallist Opposition Club
2013 Sydney 9.9 (63) 11.13 (79) 16 22,546 Dan Hannebery Sydney
2014 Brisbane Lions 11.13 (79) 12.10 (82) 3 13,409 Leigh Montagna Brisbane Lions
  • italics denotes the player won the medal from the losing side.

Meaning and significance

For many people the clash may be their closest involvement with Anzac Day remembrance services. Before the match, a special Anzac Day service is held at the MCG. This ceremony includes the recognition of Australian War Veterans as well as a Flag Ceremony, including the playing of the Last Post and Australian National Anthem.[1]

Sydney based journalist and former Australian rugby national representative player Peter FitzSimons commented in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 2008 game that he had:
...rarely seen something so impressive in the world of sport. As they played the Last Post and the national anthem, the 100,000-strong crowd [[27]

The Collingwood Football Club asserts:

The Anzac Day blockbuster between Collingwood and Essendon has become one of our biggest national sporting events ... The Anzac Day match pays tribute to the sacrifice of the servicemen and women of Australia and celebrates the Anzac spirit – courage, sacrifice, endurance and mateship.[28]

Collingwood's President Eddie McGuire has stated that "veterans will see the reason why they fought so hard for the Australian culture with two great tribes going at each other".[15][29]

Conversely, some commentators such as Liz Porter, Chris Fotinopoulos and Ruby Murray have criticised the Australian Football League for the way it promotes the event, arguing that it has exploited the sacredness and solemnity of the Anzac story for the purpose of financial profit.[30][31][32][33] According to Porter:

The commodification of "the Anzac spirit" as an AFL marketing device appears to have begun with the 1995 Essendon-Collingwood clash, after which a commemorative poster of the game was produced, bearing the words "Lest we forget". A solemn pledge was reborn as an advertising slogan.[30]

Also the subject of criticism have been the comments often made in relation to the game by the AFL, sports journalists, media personalities, club officials, coaches and some sections of the media which conflate the Anzac spirit at Gallipoli with the fighting spirit on the football ground.[32][33] In the opinion of Fotinopoulos, "the real meaning of Anzac Day has become distorted by slick marketing campaigns designed to pass footballers off as war heroes."[32] These criticisms were highlighted in 2009 when Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse stated that his team had "let the Anzacs down" in losing the game, and that "Essendon showed true Anzac spirit, the reason why we play here."[34] Journalist Patrick Smith responded in The Australian that this comparison between the game of football and the sadness and bravery of war "belittles and trivialises the suffering of the men and women which Anzac Day is set aside to remember and thank."[35] In a subsequent article, Smith argued:

The AFL itself is in danger of manipulating Anzac Day. The commission is looking to play more games than the traditional Essendon-Collingwood match which had previously been set aside as the code's mark of respect. To play more matches around the country is to move uneasily close to a ratings and money-making tool. Given that bravery and commitment in war is acknowledged with medals, the AFL seeks to capitalise on that with awarding the Anzac Medal to the best player on Anzac Day. On reflection, that is bordering on tacky.[36]

Anzac Medal

A best-on-ground player has been named for each of the Anzac Day clashes. Since 2000, the player in the match considered to best exemplify the Anzac spirit – skill, courage, self-sacrifice, teamwork and fair play – has been awarded the AFL Anzac Medal.[12] This medal has been won three times by retired Essendon star (and current Essendon coach) James Hird, the most of any player. In 2001, Collingwood's Chris Tarrant became the only player to have won the medal despite playing in the losing team.

Before the start of the 2011 Anzac Day match, the AFL presented retrospective Anzac Medals to their intended recipients for all of the matches prior to the introduction of the medal in 2000.

Match results

Year-by-year results[10]
Year Winner Collingwood score Essendon score Margin Attendance Anzac Medallist Football Club
1995 Draw 17.9 (111) 16.15 (111) 0 94,825 Sav Rocca (Collingwood)*
1996 Collingwood 17.15 (117) 16.9 (105) 12 87,549 Scott Russell (Collingwood)*
1997 Collingwood 14.15 (99) 10.10 (70) 29 83,271 Damian Monkhorst (Collingwood)*
1998 Collingwood 15.18 (108) 12.16 (88) 20 81,542 Sav Rocca (Collingwood)*
1999 Essendon 15.10 (100) 15.18 (108) 8 73,118 Mark Mercuri (Essendon)*
2000 Essendon 15.10 (100) 21.14 (140) 40 88,390 James Hird (Essendon)
2001 Essendon 14.11 (95) 15.13 (103) 8 83,905 Chris Tarrant (Collingwood)
2002 Collingwood 9.12 (66) 4.9 (33) 33 84,894 Mark McGough (Collingwood)
2003 Essendon 12.9 (81) 23.9 (147) 66 62,589^ James Hird (Essendon)
2004 Essendon 11.13 (79) 17.10 (112) 33 57,294^ James Hird (Essendon)
2005 Essendon 10.9 (69) 11.17 (83) 14 70,033^ Andrew Lovett (Essendon)
2006 Collingwood 15.16 (106) 12.17 (89) 17 91,234 Ben Johnson (Collingwood)
2007 Collingwood 12.23 (95) 11.13 (79) 16 90,508 Heath Shaw (Collingwood)
2008 Collingwood 23.16 (154) 12.9 (81) 73 88,999 Paul Medhurst (Collingwood)
2009 Essendon 12.16 (88) 13.15 (93) 5 84,829 Paddy Ryder (Essendon)
2010 Collingwood 18.12 (120) 8.7 (55) 65 90,070 Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)
2011 Collingwood 16.11 (107) 11.11 (77) 30 89,626 Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)
2012 Collingwood 11.14 (80) 11.13 (79) 1 86,932 Dane Swan (Collingwood)
2013 Essendon 10.15 (75) 18.13 (121) 46 93,373 David Zaharakis (Essendon)
2014 Collingwood 12.11 (83) 8.12 (60) 23 91,731 Dane Swan (Collingwood)

* Retrospective medals awarded in 2011, for games from 1995 to 1999, as the first official Anzac Medal was awarded in 2000.[12]

^ Capacity of ground reduced due to redevelopment for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Summary results[10]
Club Winning years* Total wins* Anzac Medals Total medals
Collingwood 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 11 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 13
Essendon 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2013 8 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2013 7

* One draw has been played, in 1995


Most games

Dustin Fletcher of Essendon has played in the most Anzac Day games, with 16 as of 2013. Four Collingwood players have played 10 games: Scott Burns, Ben Johnson, Josh Fraser, and Anthony Rocca.[37]

Most goals

Sav Rocca of Collingwood has kicked the most goals in one game, with nine in 1995. The most goals kicked by a player in one game for Essendon is six, shared by Matthew Lloyd in 1999 and 2003, and Scott Lucas in 2000.

Most Anzac Medals

James Hird of Essendon has won the most Anzac Medals with three, being awarded the medal in 2000, 2003, and 2004. For Collingwood the most Anzac Medals is two, shared by Sav Rocca in 1995 and 1998, Scott Pendlebury in 2010 and 2011 and Dane Swan in 2012 and 2014.

Represented both clubs

Four players have represented both clubs in an Anzac Day clash.


Several milestones have been reached during an Anzac Day match:


Ten players have made their AFL debut in an Anzac Day match:


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  2. ^ Australian War Memorial H13624
  3. ^ Australian War Memorial P00851.009
  4. ^ Australian War Memorial MEB0068
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  6. ^ "Footy TV on Anzac Day". The Sporting Globe (Melbourne, VIC). 5 April 1961. p. 1. 
  7. ^ Rex Pullen (26 April 1961). "VFL decision was costly". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, VIC). p. 53. 
  8. ^ Kevin Hogan (26 April 1962). "Another dent for side's pride". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, VIC). p. 46. 
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  17. ^ a b Mitchinson, Katie (2009-04-23). "14th annual Len Hall Game". Fremantle FC Official Site. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  18. ^ "Match Day Info". 24 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
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  20. ^ Musolino, Adrian (26 April 2009). "The AFL must reconsider the ANZAC day fixture". The Roar. Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  21. ^ Eva, Bruce (26 April 2007). "Anzac Day should be for all". Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  22. ^ a b Holmesby, Luke (24 April 2013). "Riewoldt proud to be part of historic occasion". Official website.  
  23. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Caroline (26 April 2013). "We want AFL team: Kiwis".  
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  25. ^ Brisbane Lions to share Anzac Day spoils with clash against St Kilda in Wellington, Herald Sun, 26 October 2013
  26. ^ Lions hold on for desperate win in NZ, official website, 25 April 2014
  27. ^ "Tah'd with a new brush – Footy at its purest".  
  28. ^ "Your complete Anzac Day guide". 23 April 2009. Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
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  30. ^ a b Liz Porter, Cry Anzac and let slip the metaphors of war, The Age 19 April 2009.
  31. ^ Ruby Murray, The false nationalism of Anzac Day and football, Eureka Street, 24 April 2009.
  32. ^ a b c Chris Fotinopoulos, Hallowed ground maybe, battleground . . . never, The Age, 24 April 2005
  33. ^ a b Chris Fotinopoulos, Lest We Exploit, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 24 April 2009.
  34. ^ Bombers seize Anzac spirit, The Herald Sun, 25 April 2005
  35. ^ Patrick Smith, For sale: one used coach – maintenance needed but great for kids, The Australian 27 April 2009.
  36. ^ Patrick Smith, Kokoda as a training drill is obscene, The Australian 27 October 2009.
  37. ^ "Anzac Day clash". AFL Tables. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 

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