Inside Sport - - IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING - – Dan Eddy

Essendon leg­end Mark Har­vey was a triple premier­ship player with the club, but one flag that eluded the Bombers – and in a man­ner not to be seen in the AFL again – stings to this day. Har­vey, who would later coach Fre­man­tle aer his playing days, was part of an Essendon side in 1990 that won the mi­nor premier­ship. They were en­joy­ing the bye while a par­tic­u­larly tight fi­nal played out, a match in which Har­vey wishes he could change one thing ...

The last drawn qual­i­fy­ing fi­nal oc­curred in 1990, be­tween Colling­wood and West Coast. With the win­ner sched­uled to play top-placed Essendon the fol­low­ing week in the sec­ond semi-fi­nal, Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy took his play­ers to Waver­ley Park on a re­con­nais­sance mis­sion to scout their op­po­nent. “We’d gone out there in a bus to­gether to watch the game,” re­calls de­fender Mark Har­vey. “And we le‡ 15 min­utes be­fore the fi­nal siren be­cause, at that stage, we thought we were prob­a­bly going to play West Coast.”

The Mag­pies led by five points at quar­ter-time, 12 at the half, and two at the fi­nal change. But, with the first two goals of the last quar­ter going the Ea­gles’ way, Sheedy had seen enough, con­fi­dent his men would be playing Mick Malt­house’s boys the fol­low­ing week. In their only meet­ing dur­ing the sea­son, the Bombers had beaten West Coast by 39 points; they had only just ac­counted for Colling­wood in their last game by six points.

“On the bus on the way home, we were on the free­way and lis­ten­ing to the game on ra­dio,” Har­vey tells Inside Sport. “Colling­wood started to get close to them, then they hit the front.” Chan­nel Seven caller Dennis Come”i re­marked dur­ing com­men­tary, “It re­ally is a game of cen­time­tres now; just a li”le luck re­quired and it could go ei­ther way.” With West Coast down by a point and 33 sec­onds le‡ in the game, the Ea­gles’ Karl Lang­don gath­ered at a throw-in and hoisted the Sher­rin high to­wards goal, the ball dri‡ing into the arms of spear­head Peter Su­mich.

“Then Su­mich lined up for goal and he had to kick the goal for them to win, but he missed, which meant it was a draw,” Har­vey says. “I re­mem­ber it was a big let­down for the group, and there were questions such as, ‘What are we ac­tu­ally do­ing now? Do they play an ex­tra five min­utes, or do they play the game again?’ Then we found out that we would miss another week for the re­play, so we lost a lot of mo­men­tum out of that.”

In the re­play Colling­wood eas­ily de­feated West Coast. Hav­ing not played for three weeks, Sheedy ar­ranged a practice match the same week­end. “We played a practice game against [VFA side] Williamstown to sub­sti­tute,” Har­vey says. “You’re not want­ing to get in­jured, but you’re try­ing to get your match fit­ness and your touch up to scratch, and also try­ing to repli­cate the in­ten­sity of what it would have been like if we were playing another fi­nal.”

His­tory shows that Colling­wood de­feated Essendon eas­ily in the sec­ond semi-fi­nal, the Bombers then ac­counted for a weary West Coast the next week, but a re­freshed and con­fi­dent Mag­pies side – although un­der­dogs – was too fast and too ef­fi­cient for an Essendon team which had lost mo­men­tum and failed to re­gain it. “I’ve got no doubt – and it’s not an ex­cuse, it’s a rea­son for some­times not be­ing at your best – that it didn’t help things,” Har­vey says of the draw and re­play.

“It’s not too dis­sim­i­lar to hav­ing a bye dur­ing the sea­son: your touch can be off, you start to make mis­takes you wouldn’t nor­mally make, and then the op­po­si­tion pounces. Sud­denly, you look at the score­board and you find your­self be­hind quite quickly. We were also deal­ing with the ex­pec­ta­tion of finishing on top and be­ing the favourite, and Colling­wood be­ing the ‘Col­li­wob­bles’ who were never going to win another grand fi­nal. I don’t know whether that was in the sub­con­scious of the play­ers, but a‡er that first quar­ter Colling­wood was all over us.”

A‡er lead­ing by three points at quar­ter-time, the Mag­pies ran away with the game in the sec­ond term, kick­ing six goals to one, even­tu­ally win­ning by 48 points. “It is my most dis­ap­point­ing day in footy,” Har­vey says, “be­cause we lost to Colling­wood, of all teams, and it had been so long since they’d won one [in 1958]. At the time I thought it may have been my last chance to win one, but it was only three years later that we got back there again, thank­fully.”

“We­found out­thatwe would­miss another week­forthe re­play,sowe lost a lot of mo­men­tum out of that.”

TonyShawwith thes­poil­son grand­fi­nal­day in1990.

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