The red and black tsunami

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The moment is the 31st in a virtual series featuring the Bombers’ top 30 moments in 150 years, which fans can vote on for a chance to win prizes. Click here to view and vote, and see the schedule and prizes below.

The Essendon faithful endured it throughout the club’s first 150 years. From the early rise of paddock footballers to the most powerful team in the Victorian Football Association, to the Premier’s early success in the Victorian Football League, a break during the First World War, the move from East Melbourne to Essendon in the 1920s, the Depression years and the struggles of World War II, followed by dominant eras under legendary coaches Dick Reynolds and John Coleman, the Kevin Sheedy era which coincided with the transformation of the VFL into competition national AFL, another move, this time to the MCG, then to the Docklands, until today where the club is experiencing its longest premiership drought. Indeed, fans have been a constant throughout the shifting sands.

But what happened between 2013 and 2016, the so-called ‘Supplements Saga’, threatened Essendon’s existence and shook its foundations like never before. With daily headlines of doom and gloom, it was certainly a time Essendon supporters hope never to see again.

However, through it all, what ultimately emerged was a solidarity among the faithful – players, coaches, support staff, sponsors and supporters – who came together to demonstrate their passion and loyalty to Essendon Football Club. Jobe Watson was captain during this tumultuous time and was impressed with the support he and the club were receiving from the fans.

“The loyalty the fans have shown during such a difficult time shows how much the club means to them and how much their players mean to them,” Watson said.

“Any time you see that kind of loyalty from a fan base, it’s quite inspiring. I certainly reflect on how lucky we are in Essendon to have such loyal supporters.”

Unity and passion were on display on Saturday 25 March 2017 when thousands of Essendon supporters marched together from Federation Square to the MCG ahead of the opening game against Hawthorn. Leading the red and black tsunami was the most inspirational of leaders, Kevin Sheedy, once again guiding supporters to greener pastures. Sheedy was joined by former champions Paul Salmon, Terry Daniher and Dustin Fletcher. The mood was festive, the excitement evident on the faces of Bombers fans of all generations. For the first time in four years, it was about the future, not looking back.

Camille Heckley, a lifelong Essendon supporter, was among the crowd; her family’s relationship with Essendon dates back to the early 1900s. “There was a special vibe before and during the march,” she explained. “It felt like we were survivors of the dark days, ready to step back into the light. Ready to rally and march as one. To reclaim the MCG, to reclaim our place in the competition, to reclaim our name. Indeed, to support our boys. The roar as the boys ran across the floor was deafening. I doubt anything can stop the force that was behind this outpouring of support. When it was over, it was like the end of the saga. A victory that did not begin at 7:20 p.m. that night, but on February 5, 2013. It was a night like no other that I remember. And, I doubt there will be another like it again.

Encouraged by the unprecedented display of support, the Bombers upset the Hawks that night by 25 points, kicking off a fightback season that ended against Sydney in the playoff final.

There has always been a bond between the football club and its people. In the days of the VFL-era Suburban War, supporters would walk up Napier Street, having left a train, tram or bus to get to Windy Hill. Nowadays, they cross the walkway leading to Marvel Stadium and sit under a roof. The aesthetic may have changed in the AFL era, but the passion for red and black remains as strong as any era before.

While it’s impossible to predict with certainty what the future holds, Essendon’s ability to endure, to always strive for success, should ensure he’ll be great again. The club has throughout its history been fortunate to develop and attract strong administrative leadership, as well as benefit from substantial financial support from supporters. Its membership numbers are growing year on year, suggesting that the club will one day return to the heights of the early 2000s, when it was the strongest football club in the country.

CALENDAR OF MOMENTS

Tower 1 (launched May 6) – 1872-1939

Round 2 (launching May 10) – 1940-1959

Tower 3 (launched May 15) – 1960-1979

Round 4 (launched May 20) – 1980-1989

Round 5 (Launch May 25) – 1990-1999

Round 6 (Launch May 30) – 2000-2021

Round 7 (Launching June 4) – Final Round

PRICE

Round 1 – A 2022 Merchandise Pack, including Essendon New Era Black on Black 9FORTY Snapback Cap ($40) and Essendon Heritage Bar Scarf ($30)

Round 2 – An Essendon Football Fiber Scarf ($80)

Round 3 – One Essendon Football Club 150th Anniversary Memorial Mosaic ($295)

Round 4 – One Essendon Football Club 150th Anniversary Memorial Mosaic ($295)

Round 5 – Guernsey signed by the 2022 team ($500)

Round 6 – A copy of the Red & Black Special Collection 150e birthday book ($329)

Round 7 – A copy of the Red & Black Special Collection 150e Anniversary Book ($329) and a 2022 Team Signed Guernsey ($500)


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