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By Kim Densham in Melbourne, for AFANA

The game was positioned by Hawthorn supporters- as a 'percentage booster match'. The high flying, top of the Table, Hawks - still steaming from last weeks toweling by the Dogs - also dominated the media during week but for all the wrong reasons. Buddy was involved in a late night, nightclub fracas. An incident involving "booze and birds". In this match, however, Bombers fans would be happy with a 10 goal start,. It was also Scott Lucas' 250th game, his third for season '08 and his second back from the knee injury.

From the opening bounce it was clear that the Bombers started, as they had finished last week against the Adelaide Crows - adventurous, full of run and hard tackling. Lloyd had been told by his coach during the week that his role was not only goal scoring, but also to mentor the youngsters and build them up in the Essendon way!. When the umpire bounced the ball, up high and straight, Hille tapped out , straight to the Essendon ruck rover . The ball moved quickly out to the wing and on to Sam Lonergan, who opened the scoring. Essendon kicking to the Coventry and Bomber "cheer squad" end. The fans were briefly ecstatic. Hope is a wonderful emotion. The attacking continued and as the Bombers midfield ran, chased and tackled, the Hawks were caught flatfooted, within minutes Lloyd, had added a brace, Lucas a behind and the Bombers were 3.2-20, the Hawks 0.2-2. Roughhead and Franklin, not having any luck. In this match last season, Lance "Buddy" Franklin kicked 9 goals 2 against "Sheedy's Bombers".

The Hawks, missing stars, Crawford and Sewell, were happy to include Hodge , back from a hamstring and raring to go, taking charge of the Hawthorn engine room with Brown and captain Sam Mitchell. They soon worked their way forward and started the service to Buddy, who was being marked by young Paddy Ryder, while Fletcher was playing a central midfield role and Kyle Reimers wearing those controversial gold boots - was  on Chance Bateman. It took about 10 minutes before the Hawks scored their first.  Franklin, slotted one home at the Lockett end. Hodges chipped in with his first and by the end of the quarter, Buddy had two. This was a ferocious quarter of Football ,played by these bitter rivals from the Eighties and Nineties, the score  Ess 3.3-21 Hawks 4.3-27.

The second quarter started with a Luke Hodge cameo, taking a forward diving mark on the run, at full stretch,  into the goal mouth. Within 3 minutes of second quarter footy, Buddy added to the scoreline. The Bombers, still without a center clearance for the term started working their way into the game, stringing a few passes together with their attacking run and Lucas marked inside 50, adding his first major for game 250.

McPhee, who has played some good footy this season, stood tall, and with Lloyd causing minor indecision in the Hawks defense the Bombers regularly opened up their defensive 50. The Hawks normal zone tactics were being tested as Lloyds presence dragged defenders out with him, allowing a quick center break to end up in the hands of Lonergan, who drilled his second . An  umpiring decision for a Lovett 'hands in the back' denied Essendon a 6th goal. The replay drawing some boos from the parochial Bombers crowd.

In a matter of minutes, Hille was also 'pinged' for hand in the back. The Hawthorn free kick went straight to a Franklin lead - resulting in another Hawthorn Goal - Buddy 3 - Paddy Ryder starting to get a lesson. 18 minutes into the term, Lucas grabbed his second and the intensity was white hot.  By now Hodge had 12 disposals and 3 goals , the Bombers resolve was  being tested. However they just would not 'go away' and when Lucas took a mark deep in the goal square,  a solid grab under heavy defensive attention. He played on and kicked his third - Bombers in touch!. Again, Hawthorn  lifted, applied intense forward pressure forcing  turnovers. One went to Chance Bateman  who with a driving run on the wing, bounced, looked up, saw the imposing form of Franklin,  kicking the ball high to let Buddy do his work. Out muscling the experience of Fletcher, Buddy notched goal number 5.

McPhee, as the Bombers half forward conduit, took a strong mark seconds before the half time siren and when it sounded during his run up, he stopped, composed himself, taking his time, he drilled one through after the siren - a pressure kick for Essendons eighth. Halftime score Ess 8.4-53 Haw 9.5-59. The disposals for the half were even between the teams, Hawks by a goal but the Bombers led 73 - 32 in uncontested possessions and 30 - 27 in tackles, all very encouraging signs for the future. The twin towers of Lucas and Lloyd  up forward  testing the structure of the Hawthorn defense. Due to lack of midfield pressure  Paddy Ryder was being "toweled up" by Franklin and 'carrot boots' - Kyle Reimers, had his "pants pulled down" by Bateman. Essendon though, were still in touch - just!

The second half started with some resolute ruck work, the ball dropped for Lonergan, Lloyd in created a leading run, taking defenders with him. This allowed Stanton to run on and kick the opening goal for the half. However the fragile web was about to unravel. Reimers laid a late tackle on the wing , the free kick was hand passed to Hodge, who spun around to his left and without looking up, laid a silky pass to the lead of Franklin, now 'stomping' on Fletcher and imposing himself on the game, kicking No.6. Two minutes later, McPhee fumbled a mark, retaliated and gave away 50. The result? a long punt to Buddy. Paddy was left scratching his head, as Franklin booted number 7 and minutes later Fletcher gave away another 50 m penalty . Buddy with 8.

For the remainder of the 3rd quarter, the 'old firm', Brown, Mitchell, Hodge,  put their foot on the gas . Roughhead added to the scoreboard. A run from the Bomber backline, straight through the center, hand passes  perfectly timed , all came to naught, as the formidable Hawks defense stood firm. Some worrying signs for the "Dons".  Michael Osborne, chipped a grubber kick across the goal mouth, it bounced, turned left and went through for Hawthorns 14th. This was followed Rougheads' second. Knights temporarily shifted Fletcher from Roughhead to Franklin. As the battle intensified, Jay Nash took a solid hit and  headed to rooms for treatment, Stanton and Sam Mitchell collided - Stanton, left groggy, for the remaining seconds of the quarter. Ess 10.7-67 Haw 15.11-101. The Bombers had been zoned out by Hawthorn. 70% of the Essendon defensive kicking was ineffective.

As the fog rolled in from the bay and over the Docklands, Hawthorn opened the final quarter with another by Buddy Love!, Ryder  was having a tough day at the office. the final term was mostly one way traffic from the Hawks. Roughead and Franklin had 20 scoring shots between them. Fletcher was off with a hip injury following a marking clash . Knights moved Lloyd into defense but the Bombers were spent, final score was Ess 12.7.79 , Haw 19.16-130. Hodge had a slight limp towards the end of the match but had produced a superb effort with his three goals.

Hawks on top of the Ladder by percentage. 'Buddy' had kicked another 9 goal bag, this time against the Knights Bombers.

A 'happy team' at Hawthorn.

Footnote: Gold Boots: In the 1980's and 90's in an era of black boots, Hawthorn champion and Premiership player Dermott 'the kid" Brereton, was one of the first AFL Players to wear stand out footwear of a different color to black. He had talent, courage and skill but more importantly he had played a few seasons and had runs on the board. Kyle Reimers has his debut in round 19, 2007 has played 11 games and kicked 5 games and this season has chosen to wear standout luminescent gold boots, that glow an orange color under floodlights.  At the moment, his boots rather than his playing prowess are attracting attention.  The kids call them 'carrot boots'.

Article last changed on Thursday, June 12, 2008 - 1:26 AM EDT


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