There were times when footy wasn't played north of the Murray River and passing through towns with Mum and Dad on the occasional journey north, we would stare at strange looking goal posts on local grounds, sometimes rectangular in shape, sometimes in the middle of large cricket ovals.
But things have changed and, on Saturday at the unusual time of 2.10pm, the Dons were up against a side from many miles north of the Murray.
They call themselves the Brisbane Lions but the only two teams that I call Lions are Fitzroy in the VAFA and VFL Coburg. Nevertheless, this unbeaten team faced up to the Dons who were having a troubled (and troubling) start to the season. Last week we were too good for winless Melbourne, but I wasn't convinced we had turned the corner.
There was a fairly small crowd at the `G as I took up my favourite spot, second level half-forward flank and what a great day it was, no wind and plenty of sun.
The Dons came out firing on all cylinders, they were harder at the ball, their kicking to position and to teammates was great to watch, handpasses went were they we supposed to go and kicking for goal made this Don fanatic a very happy person indeed.
At quarter-time we were five goals up and by half-time we had increased that to 49 points, due to the strength and toughness of Dylan Shiel and Zac Merrett around the centre bounces, the run of Conor McKenna and David Zaharakis and an amazing display of skill by Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.
It's impossible for me to put in words just how magic he really is. He catches opponents, but can't be caught; he weaves and ducks and makes the opposition look silly; he kicks goals from impossible angles. One of the highlights of the second quarter was Luke Hodge gathering his fellow defenders after each goal and offering advice. He didn't appear a happy chap, but no matter what he said The Dons forwards in Mitch Brown, Orazio Fantasia, and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, were too good.
After the long break Brisbane came out a new team. They stopped the Dons from continuing their rampage and forced them onto the back foot. The added pressure was telling, as Essendon’s precision was lost and scrappy kicking and handballing left me more than a little concerned. A couple of times David Parish and David Zaharakis, both great at getting the Sherrin, passed brilliantly to opposition players as Essendon were storming forward. I now wasn't such a happy chap!
Brisbane actually out-scored us in the third term. Thank goodness for Cal Hooker, coming back into the side after a pre-season injury and Michael Hurley, who stood up when needed in the back half.
The last quarter showed Brisbane were still prepared to take on the Dons and scored a couple of goals but the McDonald-Tipungwuti show started again. In all he kicked seven, which was magnificent, but it was also the way kicked them; dazzlingly spectacular in a performance the crowd will never forget.
As for the result: well if it’s any indication, even I watched the last 10 minutes calmly, which was a very nice way to finish the day.
How will Essendon go this year? Despite all the pre-season hype - which I fell for - I need to see what we were able to do in the first half play out across all four quarters. I reckon we played two-and-a half against Brisbane.
Against powerhouse sides that will not be nearly enough.
Tragic Don Rod Oaten is descended from four generations of Essendon supporters. His great grandfather was always helping around the football and cricket club back in the late 1880s, cleaning, painting, nailing and doing anything that might be helpful to the `Same Old's' cause. Rod's own sporting career spanned tennis, badminton, squash and football. He still plods around running tracks and along beaches in an effort to stay fit.
ESSENDON 7.2 11.6 13.8 17.12 (112)
BRISBANE 2.2 3.5 7.8 9.11 (65)
Essendon McDonald-Tipungwuti 7 (magic goals) Brown 3. McGrath 2 Fantasia 2 Stringer, Baguley, Merrett.
Brisbane McStay 2 McCluggage 2 Hipwood,Berry, McCarthy, McInerney, Mathieson.
Essendon McDonald-Tipungwuti, Merrett, Shiel, Hooker, McGrath, Hurley, Brown, McKenna
Brisbane. Rich, Berry, Hodge, Neale, Witherden.