Essendon (9th) vs Richmond (8th) at Optus Stadium, Saturday 5:40pm AWST
One of the great marquee games & cultural celebrations of the home & away season, after last year’s forced visit to Darwin for a once in a lifetime Dreamtime in the Top End, the 17th annual Dreamtime game between Essendon and Richmond comes to Perth Stadium on the lands of the Whadjuk Noongar people, and since the Dreamtime game began between Kevin Sheedy’s former clubs in 2005, the Tigers lead the head-to-head 10-6, winning the last 6 contests since 2015.
In all, Richmond have won 10 consecutive games against Essendon since the Dons’ last Dreamtime win (By 50 points) in Round 11 of 2014, and it should be noted the Tigers have 11 consecutive game against their sashed rivals once before, between 1914 and 1921, some 20 years before Essendon, who were called the Same Olds, adopted the Bombers nickname.
I’m putting the cart before the horse, but what a coincidence it would be if the Tigers win – Their only 11 game winning streaks against Essendon will have occurred exactly 100 years apart.
For Essendon, 4 players who played in their last win against Richmond in 2014 have been named to line up on Saturday; captain Dyson Heppell, Cale Hooker, Zach Merrett and David Zaharakis.
Staying on the subject of the teams, there will be 5 players from our First Nations playing on Saturday night; native Noongar men Marlion Pickett and Shai Bolton (Richmond), Tiwis Daniel Rioli (Richmond) and Anthony McDonald-Tipungtuwi (Essendon), and Shane Edwards (Richmond), whose ancestry comes from the Arrernte people in Central Australia/Northern Territory.
Assuming they play, Tigers captain Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt will make their 13th Dreamtime appearances, breaking a tie with ex-teammate Brett Deledio for the most appearances in the game – Brent Stanton has the most appearances for an Essendon player, with 11.
Unsurprisingly, Riewoldt has kicked the most goals in Dreamtime games with 24, 9 clear of Matthew Lloyd.
Moving on to the venues, in this the 205th meeting between Essendon and Richmond, Perth Stadium will become the 10th different venue to host a game between the teams; The MCG, Punt Road, Windy Hill, Waverley Park, Princes Park, TIO Stadium, the old East Melbourne Cricket Ground (Essendon’s home ground until 1921), the Lake Oval was the venue during the 1924 finals series, and the Junction Oval hosted the 1944 Grand Final.
For the record, the most different venues two teams have played at is North Melbourne vs South Melbourne/Sydney with 13.
This will also mark the first time since 1993-94 that Richmond and Essendon have played consecutive games against each other away from the MCG – They played twice in a row at Princes Park during the ’90s (Essendon was the home team both times), which, prior to last year’s Dreamtime in Darwin, was the last time the teams had played away from the MCG full stop.
WA becomes the fifth different state & territory in which Essendon have played a home game in VFL/AFL history – Victoria is the most obvious one, they played several in Queensland last year after the exodus out of Victoria, they were the home team for last year’s Dreamtime game in Darwin, and they were also the official home team for the first league game in New South Wales, played at the SCG in 1904 against Melbourne.
The Dreamtime game will also mark the first time Richmond have played at Optus Stadium since Round 8 of 2019, when they defeated Fremantle – In all, the Tigers have only played twice at Optus Stadium (Round 9 of 2018 against West Coast being the other), tied with the Brisbane Lions for the fewest appearances of any club.
And finally, Ben Rutten will have to defy the weight of history for Essendon coaches in their maiden Dreamtime game – Only Mark Thompson in 2014 achieved success first up, with Kevin Sheedy (2005), Matthew Knights (2008) James Hird (2011) and John Worsfold (2016) all suffering defeats at the first attempt, and it shouldn’t be surprising given Richmond’s recent success, but poor old Woosha remains the only coach in the history of the Dreamtime game to go winless altogether.