Anzac Day clash
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)
|All-time series (Australian Football League only)||Collingwood – 13 wins
Essendon – 8 wins
|Largest victory||Collingwood – 73 points (25 April 2008)|
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Through the years until the mid-1990s, it was common for at least two matches to be played on the Anzac Day public holiday.
History of Collingwood–Essendon Anzac Day clash
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. 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. 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. Despite their previous opposition to football on Anzac Day, Ruxton and the RSL agreed with Sheedy's proposal, as did the AFL.
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.
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. 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. 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. Since 1996, 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. This game is regularly held on Anzac Day as a Western Australian featured game. With Anzac Day falling on a Saturday in 2009, four games were scheduled for the day, 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.
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. 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. Sydney won the game by 16 points, scoring 11.13 (79) to St Kilda 9.9 (63), while the first New Zealand awarded Anzac Medal went to Sydney's Daniel Hannebery. 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 ...".
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. 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". 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".
The New Zealand fixture was retained for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, with the Saints' opponents in those years being the Brisbane Lions and Carlton respectively. The future of this match now remains in doubt, with the AFL announcing that the match would not be held in 2016.
|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.
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.
...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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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." 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." 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." 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.
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. 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.
|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||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)|
|2015||Collingwood||9.15 (69)||6.13 (49)||20||88,395||Paul Seedsman||(Collingwood)|
|2016||Collingwood||22.10 (142)||11.7 (73)||69||85,082||Steele Sidebottom||(Collingwood)|
* Retrospective medals awarded in 2011, for games from 1995 to 1999, as the first official Anzac Medal was awarded in 2000.
^ Capacity of ground reduced due to redevelopment for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.
|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.
- 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.
- Andrew Ukovic (1998 with Essendon and 2000 with Collingwood)
- Scott Cummings (1996 with Essendon and 2002 with Collingwood)
- Blake Caracella (1997–2002 with Essendon and 2005 with Collingwood)
- Mal Michael (1998 with Collingwood and 2007–2008 with Essendon)
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)
Several milestones have been reached during an Anzac Day match:
- Simon Prestigiacomo – 200th game (2009)
- Darren Bewick – 200th game (1999)
- Joe Misiti – 200th game (2003)
- Andrew Welsh – 150th game (2010)
- Adam McPhee – 150th game (2009)
- Scott Russell – 150th game (1997)
- Gavin Brown – 150th game (1995)
- Jake Melksham – 100th game (2015)
- Ryan Lonie – 100th game (2006)
- Michael Symons – 100th game (1999)
- Sean Denham – 100th game (1995)
- Gary Moorcroft – 50th game (2000)
- Andrew Schauble – 50th game (1998)
- Heath Hocking – 50th game (2011)
Twelve players have made their AFL debut in an Anzac Day match:
- Mason Cox (2016)
- Josh Smith (2016)
- Kirk Ugle (2012)
- Brent Macaffer (2009)
- Sharrod Wellingham (2008)
- Travis Cloke (2005)
- Cameron Cloke (2004)
- Craig Jacotine (1999)
- Dean Solomon (1998)
- Matthew Banks (1997)
- Scott Lucas (1996)
- Jason Wild (1995)
- "Anzac Day – paying respect". AFL. 25 April 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
- Australian War Memorial H13624
- Australian War Memorial P00851.009
- Australian War Memorial MEB0068
- Connolly, Rohan (2009-04-23). "How the seed was planted". The Age (sport liftout). pp. 6–7. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
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- Rex Pullen (26 April 1961). "VFL decision was costly". The Sun News-Pictorial. Melbourne, VIC. p. 53.
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