Essendon AFL Football Club
Essendon Football Club was born in 1872 at Ailsa, the home of Robert McCracken, local brewery and hotel owner. The club was formed as a junior club, meaning they could field more players in games against senior teams, or would play Seconds of senior clubs. In 1873 the first games is recorded as being played against Carlton Seconds, a win.
Initially, as was the case with most AFL clubs, Essendon players wore Navy Blue work jerseys with Blue pants and Red and Black striped (hooped) socks. In 1875 the sash was adopted to differentiate the players from those of other clubs, who also predominantly wore Blue. The official club colours of Black with Red sash were not worn as a jumper until around 1890. Since then it has been worn in every game the club has played, with only the width of the sash changing over time.
Essendon, being served by public transport was a growing community and the football club not only had a supply of players, but also supporters. The club had moved from McCracken’s Paddock, their first home ground to Flemington in 1874, and were then invited to play home games at East Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1882.
In 1892 Albert Thurgood joined the club as an eighteen year old. Almost immediately he took the game by storm kicking a then record 56 goals in his first season. He bettered it again in 1893. He joined a golden era of the club, with Essendon being almost unbeatable during the 1891-94 seasons, winning premierships in 1891, 92, 93 & 94, the first club to win four premierships in a row. In 1893 Essendon were Champions, not being defeated in any game of that season.
Thurgood left for Western Australia, and Essendon left the VFA for the newly formed VFL in 1897. Essendon then won the first VFL premiership in that season. In 1898 Essendon became the first team to score over 100 points in a game. Essendon remained a contender for the premiership during this era, but had to wait until 1901 to win again, and then another ten years for what became a curious coincidence, a series of winning back to back flags, that was repeated in 1911-12, 1923-24, 1949-50 and 1984-85. In between, 1907, Essendon collected the wooden spoon for the first time in its history.
The club went into recess during World War 1, as the VFL refused to put all gate receipts toward to war effort, as was requested by the club. In 1918 the club returned to play, however finished last again, having lost several players not only in the war but also to other clubs who continued during the war. In 1921 the club entered into arrangements with VFA club North Melbourne to merge, and use their ground at Arden St. North stopped play in the VFA and several of their best players joined Essendon. The merger did not eventuate as Essendon were able to use Essendon Recreation Reserve, replacing the Essendon A VFA team, who then merged with North Melbourne. With the influx of talent Essendon went on to win the 1923 and 24 premierships, however not without controversy. It was widely thought that certain players ‘played dead’ in the third playoff game in the 1924 finals, and then again the next week against VFA premier Footscray in a Champion of Victoria game. Essendon’s best player, Tom Fitzmaurice left the club and transferred to Geelong, and Essendon entered one of the darker eras of its history.
By 1933 the Dons were also rans most years, and finished last. However the dawn of a new era was approaching. Dick Reynolds played his first game in 1933, and while there were signs of promise, it was only in 1940 that the club made the finals again, for the first time since 1926. Finally in 1942 the club broke through for their first flag in 18 years, something that had been commonplace during the better part of the club’s history. Essendon then went on to make the Grand Final every season from 1946 to 1951. The 1946, 49 and 50 premierships were recorded, John Coleman had joined the club, and had topped the VFL goal kicking in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953.
Another period of transition came upon the club as Coleman retired through injury, Reynolds through age and Hutchison was soon to follow in 1957. By 1962 the club had fought back to the Grand Final and won again, and then again in 1965, becoming the first club to come from 4th to win the flag.
The late 1960s and early 70s were the second period of an absence of success, as the club had become accustomed to. A player strike in 1970, and a loss of a few key players meant the club finished no higher than 5th from 1968 to 1983. At one point local commentator Lou Richards accused Essendon of Eliminitis, having lost the 1972, 73, 75, 79, 81 & 82 Elimination Finals.
1982 saw the appointment of Kevin Sheedy, as coach, who would become the longest serving coach in the club’s history, remaining in the role until 2007.
In 1983 saw the club return to the AFL Grand Final, but lose by a record margin. They took revenge the next year and the year after, winning the 1984 and 85 premierships.
The club then ‘pinched’ the 1993 premiership with a team of youngsters, the second wave of baby Bombers, taking their nickname from the batch of recruits through the mid 1970s.
2000 was the Bombers last AFL premiership, making up for the heartbreak of missing the 99 Grand Final by a point to old rival Carlton.
Since 2000 the club tried unsuccessfully to recruit experience and maintain success, finishing second last in 2006.