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 aer 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 Comei remarked during commentary, “It really is a game of centimetres now; just a lile 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 driing 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 aer that first quarter Collingwood was all over us.”
Aer 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.