Sport How Anzac Day gives Bombers and Magpies an edge
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How Anzac Day gives Bombers and Magpies an edge

Essendnon and Collingwood players on the field before last year's ANZAC Day match at the MCG. Photo: AAP
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As all AFL eyes look to the MCG for Thursday’s annual Anzac Day fixture between Essendon and Collingwood, there has been a renewed call to end the two Victorian power clubs’ exclusive stranglehold on the event.

The Bombers and Magpies have played on April 25 every year since the blockbuster draw of 1995, with the clubs splitting the gate receipts averaged over their two home-and-away games every year.

But Essendon great Matthew Lloyd – who played in 13 Anzac Day games in a 15-year career – says apart from the financial benefits there’s also a strong on-field incentive for the two clubs.

Lloyd says the fixture has grown to such importance that it’s a huge lure when recruiting players.

“I know that [former Magpie coach] Leigh {Matthews] says, and I agree with him, that you can recruit players off the back of it,” Lloyd told The New Daily. 

“The team needs to be going well on top of it, but to be able to tell a player that you are going to be playing the big games … in particular the Anzac Day game, it is something that if you have got a choice between Essendon and Collingwood or a lower club that probably doesn’t have the big games is something that seriously gets players excited.

They are willing to probably take less money to play in big games at the MCG like this one and just personally … the minute’s silence, the Last Post – it just takes me back to how privileged I was to play 13 times on Anzac Day.”

And while Lloyd believes his former coach Kevin Sheedy struck on a winner when promoting the first Anzac Day match between the two sides in 1995, former Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse believes the time has come for the game to be shared around the other 16 clubs.

“To me it’s not about a game, it’s about an occasion,” Malthouse told the ABC. “I know some might not like this, but it’s such a magnificent day, you’d love to see more sample it.”

Lloyd believes the tradition built up by the Pies and Dons is unrivalled and has criticised the AFL’s move to mess with a proven formula by having rock band Birds of Tokyo perform before the match.

Bomber Matthew Lloyd caught between Magpies Jason Cloke and Shane Wakelin in the 2002 Anzac Day clash. Photo: Getty 

“Yeah I don’t like it,” he said. “How powerful it is without it and sometimes the silence says a thousand words … a band, I just don’t think this day needs it.

“I’m all for entertainment, but I just don’t think we need it for this day.”

On field, the 926-goal Bombers full-forward says fans should not expect too much from current Essendon spearhead Joe Daniher, who returned from injury last week for his first game of the season in the 58-point win against North Melbourne.

“I thought he got better as the game went on. His confidence grew as the game went on, but I reckon the second week back is the hardest,” Lloyd said.

“He will feel like he got hit by a truck in the days after your first game in nearly a year, so I’m not expecting massive things from him this game.

“If he can kick his two or three [goals] then he’s done a great job I think and made a good contribution, but I’m not expecting an Anzac Medal or a big game from him.”

Daniher’s surprise late inclusion last week cost the Bombers $20,000 on Wednesday, with the AFL fining the club for not having named him in its initial 26-man list.

The 25-year-old replaced Zac Clarke, who was ruled out with a corked calf.

Daniher, who has overcome groin and calf injuries, booted two goals and had 10 possessions in his first AFL appearance since Round 7 last season.

-with AAP