Under-fire Essendon captain Dyson Heppell delivered "one of the scenes of the season" in a rousing pre-game speech as part of the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
However, it was Carlton celebrating after the final hooter on Friday night as the Blues spoiled the Bombers' party in a 26-point victory at the MCG.
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In front of 65,440 fans, Essendon put on a memorable pre-game show as Heppell gave a stirring address to his players in a circle full of Bombers legends of the past 50 years.
Not even the emotion of the historic occasion could help Essendon pull off a giant upset as the 16th-placed strugglers stumbled to a 2-10 record this season.
Before the first bounce, current Bombers players stood arm-in-arm with club legends such as Dustin Fletcher, Matthew Lloyd, and James Hird, as Heppell delivered an impassioned address that referenced the ‘foundations of the Essendon Football Club’.
— AFL (@AFL) June 10, 2022
Heppell clutched at the emblem on his jersey and spoke with a fierce energy as he stood encircled by proud group of Bombers hanging on his every word.
Matthew Lloyd listening to Heppell's address with passion 🙏 pic.twitter.com/QmHltN3BZn
— 7AFL (@7AFL) June 10, 2022
The sheer emotion of the spine-tingling moment was not enough to inspire Essendon to victory over Carlton, with the Blues running out 80-54 winners at the MCG.
Despite the disappointing result, and the Bombers slipping to a 2-10 record, Heppell was universally praised for his attempt fire-up his team after coming in for criticism from Bombers fans at times this season.
"You can't quite pick all of that up and I'm not sure if we're allowed to, to be perfectly honest, but that's a big moment,” Fox Footy pundit Garry Lyon said.
"That is a really big moment in the history of this club … It doesn’t get much more significant than that.
“It was impassioned, it was honest, it was real, it was in front of his teammates but also in front of the luminaries of the Essendon Football Club.
"This man's been under a lot of pressure. He joined us (on Fox Footy's On the Couch) only three or four weeks ago and you could tell how much this football club meant to him. It was heartfelt. And he's still addressing his team with Essendon royalty arm in arm, including that man back, James Hird.
“This takes something a little bit special from Dyson Heppell and they‘ve gone out and had a crack off the back of this.
“Irrespective of the result tonight, that‘s going to remain one of the scenes of the season and something those Essendon boys will remember for the rest of their footy lives.”
Wow what a moment. Heppell addressing a huddle surrounded by living legends. That’s one of the more powerful sights on a footy field you’d ever wish to see #AFLDonsBlues
— Ronny Lerner (@RonnyLerner) June 10, 2022
Dyson Heppell got me about ready to run through a wall 😹
That was so good 👏🏻
— Megan Hustwaite (@MeganHustwaite) June 10, 2022
I would’ve butchered that Heppell speech
— Max Gawn (@gawndog37) June 10, 2022
Bombers' woes worsen as Blues reign supreme
Essendon rallied after Carlton slammed through the first three goals of the game but the Blues powered ahead by kicking 5.3 to 2.2 in the second quarter.
In an uninspiring final quarter, both teams went goalless after the Blues led by 28 points at three-quarter-time.
Carlton had too much class in the midfield, and up forward with twin towers Harry McKay (three goals) and Charlie Curnow (two), and ran out winners 12.8 (80) to 7.12 (54).
Earlier, the Bombers had pulled out all stops to mark the 150th anniversary in style, with an elaborate pre-game ceremony capped-off by Heppell’s speech.
The lights at the MCG were dimmed as the club introduced its inaugural AFLW players, before parading a series of club legends to the crowd in theatrical fashion.
Among those honoured were Michael Long, Gavin Wanganeen, Scott Lucas, Adam Ramanauskas, Tim and Jobe Watson, Ken and Dustin Fletcher, Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris Daniher, Lloyd, Hird and former coach Kevin Sheedy.
The Essendon squad for the game then made their way onto the field through a special banner as pyrotechnics went off around them.
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