The tradition continues at the MCG - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

The tradition continues at the MCG

25/04/2009 05:23:25 PM Comments (0)

The makers of one tradition came to the MCG to uphold another.

Men with chests full of medals, their best years behind them and an afternoon's sport ahead, came to the ground as part of their Anzac Day ritual.

The Essendon-Collingwood match is one of the AFL's "blockbusters" and this one lived up to the tag in the stands and on the ground.

"It's the occasion," said WWII veteran Arthur Strong.

"You go to the march, you have a couple of drinks with your mates, and then you got to the footy.

"Life should always be so simple."

Essendon won a match that turned out to be worthy of the day, kicking 13.15 (93) to Collingwood's 12.16 (88).

The Anzac Day match has been a massive success for the AFL since its inception as a permanent Bombers-Magpies encounter in 1995.

A crowd of 94,825 filled the MCG that year, the second biggest home-and-away turnout ever.

On Saturday they pulled a respectable 84,829.

The special Anzac Day match is the brainchild of former Bombers coach and one-time national serviceman Kevin Sheedy.

Sheedy recognised that the biggest stumbling block to staging the permanent match on Australia's national day of remembrance would be the RSL.

With typical cunning, he decided the then-Victorian RSL president Bruce Ruxton, a rabid Collingwood fan, was the man he had to work on and duly convinced him it was a good idea for their two clubs to play for a special trophy.

Sheedy, naturally, was the concept's biggest supporter and remains so even in retirement.

In the week leading up to the match he invited his old team to visit the Shrine of Remembrance, the focal point of Melbourne's Anzac Day march and the site of the dawn service.

"We had a good look around, learned a lot about Anzac Day and the men who made it," said the Bombers' Sam Lonergan.

"It sort of put some of the spirit into you."

Lonergan had enough spirit to kick a goal that put Essendon into the match in the second quarter, only to leave the ground injured a few minutes later.

There is also some schmaltz attached to the game - but it's good schmaltz.

When the players ran onto the ground on Saturday they came out together and ran through the same banner.

Then they got stuck into each other.

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