Essendon vs Kangaroos match in the 2001 AFL season
|2001 AFL Round 16|
|Date||22 July 2001|
|Stadium||Melbourne Cricket Ground|
|Broadcast in Australia|
The Round 16, 2001 match played between Essendon and the KangaroosNote 1 was an Australian rules football home and away match played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 22 July 2001. The match saw the greatest successful comeback in the history of the Australian Football League, with Essendon winning by twelve points after trailing by 69 points midway through the second quarter.
Essendon went into the match placed first on the ladder with a record of 13–2, while the Kangaroos was placed ninth with a record of 8–7. The match was crucial to the Kangaroos' chances of reaching the finals in 2001.
Essendon and the Kangaroos had been two of the best teams of the era, winning three of the previous five premierships between them (the Kangaroos in 1996 and 1999, and Essendon in 2000), and both clubs had finished in the top four for the previous two seasons. The 2001 season was seeing a decline for the Kangaroos, whilst Essendon was on target to win a third consecutive minor premiership.
Essendon had comfortably won the previous two encounters between the clubs, by 125 points in the previous year's qualifying final, and by 85 points in Round 1. This form and their respective positions on the ladder meant that Essendon was a warm favourite to win.
The Kangaroos kicked twelve goals to two in the first quarter, to lead by 58 points at quarter time, 12.1 (73) to 2.3 (15). After kicking three of the first four goals of the second quarter, the Kangaroos extended the lead to 69 points, leading 15.1 (91) to Essendon's 3.4 (22).
Essendon would then kick nine of the next ten goals in the second quarter, to get the margin back to only 21 points at halftime, 12.4 (76) to the Kangaroos' 16.1 (97). An even third quarter saw Essendon kick seven goals to the Kangaroos' six. The Kangaroos led 22.4 (136) to Essendon 19.8 (122) by 14 points at three quarter time.
Essendon kicked eight goals to the Kangaroos' three in the final quarter to complete the greatest comeback in AFL history, winning the match by twelve points, 27.9 (171) to the Kangaroos' 25.9 (159). The win ensured Essendon remained on top of the ladder, and kept the Kangaroos outside of the top eight.
Essendon's win set a new record for the greatest comeback in AFL history, breaking the record of Hawthorn, who had come back from a 63-point deficit to beat St Kilda by 13 points in round 12, 1999. The match was also the highest aggregate scoring match since 1993, with the teams scoring 52.18 (330) between them; ironically, the Kangaroos had taken part on the previous occasion as well, defeating Sydney 35.19 (229) to 16.9 (105) in round 6, 1993. As of August 2013, it remains the highest scoring match since quarters were shortened to 20 minutes in length in 1994.
Both clubs would finish the season indifferently after this match. Of Essendon's last six matches in the regular season it won just three, enough to secure the minor premiership (1st place after the regular season). They would lose the Grand Final to the Brisbane Lions, the end of an era as they would drop out of the top four the next season. The Kangaroos, by contrast, won just one more match for the season and slid to 13th on the final ladder. They would rise again to 7th in 2002 before missing the finals in the next two seasons. Significantly, after this game, the Kangaroos won their next six matches against Essendon; it was not until Round 1, 2008 that Essendon would beat the Kangaroos again.
- 1.^ The club is most commonly known as the North Melbourne Football Club, using 'the Kangaroos' as its nickname; however, from 1999 until 2006, the club was officially known as the Kangaroos Football Club.