Anzac Day clash

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Anzac Day clash (AFL)
Anzac Day 2011 game 3.jpg
The ANZAC Day clash of 2011
First meeting 25 April 1995
Latest meeting 25 April 2016
Collingwood 22.10 (142) def. Essendon 11.7 (73)
Next meeting 25 April 2017
Broadcasters Seven Network (1995-2001, 2010, 2012-present)
Nine Network (2002-2006)
Network Ten (2007-2009, 2011)
Meetings total 22
All-time series (Australian Football League only) Collingwood – 13 wins
Essendon – 8 wins
1 draw
Largest victory Collingwood – 73 points (25 April 2008)

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

Early history of Australian rules on Anzac Day[edit]

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[edit]

The modern version of the Anzac Day clash was conceived by then Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy while pottering in his garden in the mid-90s.[5] Sheedy, who had done two years service in the army after being drafted to Richmond in 1969, thought back to the success of the Collingwood–Richmond game in 1977, and considered how the football on Anzac Day could pay suitable tribute to those who had served their country.[5] Sheedy organised a meeting with officials from Essendon and Collingwood, and the then Victorian 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 Grand Final, and often selling out in advance.[12][13] As a point of comparison, in the National Rugby League, the Sydney Roosters and St. George Illawarra Dragons have played on Anzac Day since 2002, but generally without the increase in crowd numbers compared to other games as seen in the AFL.[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]

Meaning and significance[edit]

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 [sic] uttered not a peep, whispered not a murmur. The atmosphere was electric and the general mood in the air one of reverence for the diggers and anticipation of the game to come...Somewhere, someone has done a superb job organising that landmark day in Australian sport.[22]

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.[23]

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][24]

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.[25][26][27][28] 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.[25]

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.[27][28] 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."[27] 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."[29] 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."[30] 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.[31]

Anzac Medal[edit]

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 former 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[edit]

Year-by-year results[10]
Year Winner Collingwood score Essendon score Margin Attendance Brownlow Votes Anzac Medallist Football Club
1995 Match Drawn 17.9 (111) 16.15 (111) 0 94,825

3 N. Buckley
2 S. Rocca
1 R. Olarenshaw

Sav Rocca* (Collingwood)
1996 Collingwood 17.15 (117) 16.9 (105) 12 87,549

3 S. Russell
2 T. Francis
1 M. Mercuri

Scott Russell* (Collingwood)
1997 Collingwood 14.15 (99) 10.10 (70) 29 83,271

3 D. Monkhorst
2 G. Brown
1 M. Lloyd

Damian Monkhorst* (Collingwood)
1998 Collingwood 15.18 (108) 12.16 (88) 20 81,542

3 N. Buckley
2 S.Patterson
1 A. McDonald

Sav Rocca* (Collingwood)
1999 Essendon 15.10 (100) 15.18 (108) 8 73,118

3 M. Mercuri
2 P. Williams
1 M. Lloyd

Mark Mercuri* (Essendon)
2000 Essendon 15.10 (100) 21.14 (140) 40 88,390

3 J. Hird
2 S. Lucas
1 S. Wellman

James Hird (Essendon)
2001 Essendon 14.11 (95) 15.13 (103) 8 83,905

3 S. O'Bree
2 C. Tarrant
1 P. Barnard

Chris Tarrant (Collingwood)
2002 Collingwood 9.12 (66) 4.9 (33) 33 84,894

3 M. McGough
2 S. Burns
1 C. Steinfort

Mark McGough (Collingwood)
2003 Essendon 12.9 (81) 23.9 (147) 66 62,589^

3 J. Hird
2 N. Buckley
1 D. Cupido

James Hird (Essendon)
2004 Essendon 11.13 (79) 17.10 (112) 33 57,294^ ^

3 J. Hird
2 M. McGough
1 S. Lucas

James Hird (Essendon)
2005 Essendon 10.9 (69) 11.17 (83) 14 70,033^ ^

3 J. Hird
2 A. Lovett
1 R. Shaw

Andrew Lovett (Essendon)
2006 Collingwood 15.16 (106) 12.17 (89) 17 91,234 ^

3 B. Johnson
2 A. Didak
1 N. Lovett-Murray

Ben Johnson (Collingwood)
2007 Collingwood 12.23 (95) 11.13 (79) 16 90,508

3 H. Shaw
2 D. Fletcher
1 T. Cloke

Heath Shaw (Collingwood)
2008 Collingwood 23.16 (154) 12.9 (81) 73 88,999

3 P. Medhurst
2 S. Pendlebury
1 T. Cloke

Paul Medhurst (Collingwood)
2009 Essendon 12.16 (88) 13.15 (93) 5 84,829

3 P. Ryder
2 A. Lovett
1 D. Swan

Paddy Ryder (Essendon)
2010 Collingwood 18.12 (120) 8.7 (55) 65 90,070

3 S. Pendlebury
2 B. Johnson
1 J. Fraser

Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)
2011 Collingwood 16.11 (107) 11.11 (77) 30 89,626

3 S. Pendlebury
2 S. Crameri
1 T. Cloke

Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)
2012 Collingwood 11.14 (80) 11.13 (79) 1 86,932

3 D. Swan
2 S. Pendlebury
1 D. Heppell

Dane Swan (Collingwood)
2013 Essendon 10.15 (75) 18.13 (121) 46 93,373

3 D. Zaharakis
2 J. Watson
1 S. Sidebottom

David Zaharakis (Essendon)
2014 Collingwood 12.11 (83) 8.12 (60) 23 91,731

3 D. Swan
2 S. Sidebottom
1 D. Heppell

Dane Swan (Collingwood)
2015 Collingwood 9.15 (69) 6.13 (49) 20 88,395

3 P. Seedsman
2 D. Heppell
1 J. Frost

Paul Seedsman (Collingwood)
2016 Collingwood 22.10 (142) 11.7 (73) 69 85,082

3 S. Sidebottom
2 S. Pendlebury
1 A. Treloar

Steele Sidebottom (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, 2015, 2016 13 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 15
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 the most Anzac Day matches, with 18. Throughout his career, he played in 18 of a possible 21 games. The most appearances for Collingwood players are Dane Swan and Travis Cloke, both with 11 games.[32]

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.

Most Brownlow Votes

Scott Pendlebury of Collingwood and James Hird of Essendon, both with 12 total votes, have the most Brownlow votes received in games played on Anzac Day. Nathan Buckley has the second most votes with 8.

Represented both clubs

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

In addition, one coach has represented both clubs in an Anzac Day clash.

  • Mark Neeld (2008-2011 as an assistant coach at Collingwood and 2015-16 as a development coach at Essendon)[33]

Several milestones have been reached during an Anzac Day match:


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

Other ANZAC Day fixtures[edit]

New Zealand clash[edit]

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.[34] 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.[35] Sydney won the game by 16 points, scoring 11.13 (79) to St Kilda 9.9 (63),[36] while the first New Zealand awarded Anzac Medal went to Sydney's Daniel Hannebery.[35] 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 ...".[34]

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.[35] 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".[35] 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".[35]

The New Zealand fixture was retained for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, with the Saints' opponents in those years being the Brisbane Lions[37][38] and Carlton respectively.[39] The future of this match now remains in doubt, with the AFL announcing that the match would not be held in 2016.[40]

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
2015 Carlton 12.9 (81) 18.13 (121) 40 12,125 Marc Murphy Carlton
  • italics denotes the player won the medal from the losing side.

ANZAC Day Eve[edit]

Melbourne Vs. Richmond
To Be Added Soon.

The Len Hall Tribute Game[edit]

Fremantle Vs. Various Clubs
To Be Added Soon


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  2. ^ Australian War Memorial H13624
  3. ^ Australian War Memorial P00851.009
  4. ^ Australian War Memorial MEB0068
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Connolly, Rohan (2009-04-23). "How the seed was planted". The Age (sport liftout). pp. 6–7. Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  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. 
  9. ^ Kevin Hogan (26 April 1967). ""Clash" was so friendly". The Sun News-Pictorial. Melbourne, VIC. p. 72. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "Anzac Day Clash–Collingwood vs Essendon". AFL Tables. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  11. ^ Rodgers, Stephen & Browne, Ashley (1996): Every Game Ever Played: VFL/AFL results 1897–1995. Penguin-Viking, Melbourne. ISBN 978-0-670-90794-6. p 441.
  12. ^ a b c "Celebrating the Anzac Day clash". Essendon FC. April 2004. Archived from the original on 28 April 2009. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  13. ^ "AFL's Anzac clash sold out". ABC News Online. 11 April 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-10. 
  14. ^ Smith, Warren; Dragons and Roosters should forfeit Anzac Day; 29 April 2008
  15. ^ a b Pascoe, Robert (May 2007). "The AFL's Anzac Day Match" (PDF). CCL Review. Melbourne, Victoria: Victoria University. 1 (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  16. ^ Lane, Tim (27 April 2008). "Anzac Day, an occasion to be shared". The Age. Archived from the original on 22 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  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. Archived from the original on 29 April 2009. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  19. ^ "AFL Unveils 2009 Draw". ABC News. 2008. Retrieved 26 December 2011. 
  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. ^ "Tah'd with a new brush – Footy at its purest". Sydney Morning Herald. 3 May 2008. Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
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  25. ^ a b Liz Porter, Cry Anzac and let slip the metaphors of war, The Age 19 April 2009.
  26. ^ Ruby Murray, The false nationalism of Anzac Day and football, Eureka Street, 24 April 2009.
  27. ^ a b c Chris Fotinopoulos, Hallowed ground maybe, battleground . . . never, The Age, 24 April 2005
  28. ^ a b Chris Fotinopoulos, Lest We Exploit, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 24 April 2009.
  29. ^ Bombers seize Anzac spirit, The Herald Sun, 25 April 2005
  30. ^ Patrick Smith, For sale: one used coach – maintenance needed but great for kids, The Australian 27 April 2009.
  31. ^ Patrick Smith, Kokoda as a training drill is obscene, The Australian 27 October 2009.
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  34. ^ a b Holmesby, Luke (24 April 2013). "Riewoldt proud to be part of historic occasion". Official website. St Kilda. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  35. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Caroline (26 April 2013). "We want AFL team: Kiwis". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  36. ^ Hanlon, Peter (26 April 2013). "Saints go down fighting against stubborn Swans in gritty clash". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  37. ^ Brisbane Lions to share Anzac Day spoils with clash against St Kilda in Wellington, Herald Sun, 26 October 2013
  38. ^ Lions hold on for desperate win in NZ, official website, 25 April 2014
  39. ^ Carlton headed to Wellington for Anzac Day clash with St Kilda, The Age, 24 October 2014
  40. ^ Schmook, Nathan (27 October 2015). "No New Zealand games in 2016 as Saints' Kiwi push teeters on the brink". BigPond. Australian Football League. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 

Coordinates: 37°49′12″S 144°59′00″E / 37.82000°S 144.98333°E / -37.82000; 144.98333