Skipper’s ‘symbolic’ speech, Hird’s ‘tantalizing’ entrance into epic Essendon pre-game celebration

Essendon has been hailed for a stunning pre-game ceremony that celebrated its 150th anniversary – and it culminated in skipper Dyson Heppell leading one of the most significant moments in the club’s history.

The Bombers celebrated their 150th anniversary on Friday night with a clash against one of their fiercest rivals at Carlton.

And the club set the tone perfectly leading up to the first bounce.

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Narrated by Senator Briggs of Windy Hill, the club’s spiritual home, the ceremony kicked off with a highlight video package celebrating the club’s history and all the key moments along the way.

Attention then turned to the MCG live where Briggs picked up the story in the dark, with the club’s 16 premiership trophies scattered across the pitch.

Essendon’s AFLW players were at the MCG.Source: FOX SPORTS

Some of Essendon’s inaugural AFLW players were introduced first, including Maddy Prespakis signing a marquee. Some stray boogers were heard around the MCG – presumably Blues fans disappointed that Prespakis, the best and fairest winner of 2020 AFLW, had left their club to join the Bombers – but the girls didn’t care and laughed as they looked to the crowd.

Club legends Michael Long and Gavin Wanganeen, who won the Norm Smith Medal and Brownlow Medal respectively in the club’s 1993 premiership year, were then presented to the fans, followed by 2,000 premiership heroes Scott Lucas and Adam Ramanauskas.

Michael Long kisses his Essendon scarf. Photo: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

Bomber, the best target frog of all time, Matthew Lloyd, was then introduced and, in the signature Lloyd style, picked up some MCG grass and threw it in the air to check which direction the wind was blowing – just as he did for every set shot attempt during his career.

Former Bombers player Matthew Lloyd. Photo: Robert CianfloneSource: Getty Images

The Watson’s (Tim and Jobe) and the Fletcher’s (Ken and Dustin) were next – after that all four Daniher brothers (Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris). As the crowd roared, there was a lovely gesture as the brothers helped Neale raise his arms to acknowledge fans. In a few days, Neale will be another proud spectator at the MCG for the annual Big Freeze slide.

Terry, Neale, Chris and Anthony Daniher. Photo: Michael WillsonSource: Getty Images

Then came the main event – and in the style of the real WWE main event, James Hird made his appearance.

In a rare appearance at an official Bombers event, Hird walked out onto the MCG turf with a footy under his arm after going through a wall of smoke. As he waved to the crowd and proudly held up his Bombers scarf, there was cheering, predictably, but the cheers seemed to outweigh the cheers.

“How good was the reception for James Hird when he walked away? Unbelievable,” three-time premiership Lion Jonathan Brown told Fox Footy.

“It was nerve-wracking.”

James Hird stole the show. Photo: Michael WillsonSource: Getty Images
James Hird won the Norm Smith Medal in 2000. Photo: Michael WillsonSource: Getty Images

Hird’s coach, Kevin Sheedy, prostrated himself through the aisles of the MCG grandstand.

And just as he did nearly 29 years ago after his Bombers defeated West Coast at the same venue, Sheedy waved a piece of clothing between the fans – although this time it was a scarf, not his jacket.

Former Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy. Photo: Robert CianfloneSource: Getty Images

At the final entrance, the 23 Essendon players selected to face the Blues were seen running onto the field, past pyros and through a special banner.

“How good is that? That was brilliant. Well done to everyone involved,” Melbourne champion Garry Lyon told Fox Footy.

“If that doesn’t get you going, I don’t know what will.”

A minute later, there was a heartwarming sight as the current players made their way to the Punt Road end of the MCG to greet and thank the club legends who had just been presented to the public.

Matt Guelfi pays tribute to Tim Watson. Photo: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

Then came a hair-raising moment as the modern players connected with not only some of the biggest names in Essendon history, but AFL history as well.

And with dozens of men arm in arm in a circle, Skipper Dyson Heppell stood and addressed the group from the center of the circle.

Dyson Heppell is targeting current and former Bombers players. Photo: Robert CianfloneSource: Getty Images
Incredible scenes. Photo: Robert CianfloneSource: Getty Images

Heppell picked up his jersey and spoke with great passion. He was heard referring to the “foundations of the Essendon Football Club”.

“That’s a very big moment in the history of this club… It doesn’t get much more important than that,” Lyon said.

“Regardless of tonight’s outcome, that remains one of the scenes of the season.

“It’s something those Essendon guys will remember for the rest of their football lives.”

St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt added: “That’s as symbolic as it gets.”

The Bombers’ pre-game ceremony was praised on social media.

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