A year to the day since a lone bugler played the Last Post inside an empty stadium, the MCG was alive again on Sunday.
The traditional Anzac Day clash is the biggest AFL home-and-away game of the season and it once more lived up to that billing.
After COVID-19 put a line through the 2020 blockbuster, 78,113 fans – a world record since the pandemic began – turned out to watch Collingwood and Essendon play.
The crowd comfortably topped the 67,000 that attended a Twenty20 cricket match between India and England in Ahmedabad in March.
Today’s official crowd is 78,113.
— AFL (@AFL) April 25, 2021
But with the state government this week increasing capacity at the MCG to 85 per cent, no diehard fan was missing this.
Sitting 15th and 16th on the ladder, both teams are enduring difficult seasons but that did nothing to subdue the atmosphere.
Victorian fans have been more reluctant than normal to attend games this year as the world adapts to life post-COVID.
People arrived early to watch an army band perform an array of rocking covers, including The Darkness’ I Believe in a Thing Called Love.
If Meatloaf’s infamous 2011 grand final performance is the musical nadir on the Ponsford stage, the talented servicemen and women were at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
But the true spine-tingling moments were still to come.
On the same weekend banners have returned to AFL fields, Collingwood and Essendon ran through the same one – an entrance that has become an Anzac Day tradition.
Next was the minute’s silence and the performance of the Last Post.
While 2020’s recorded rendition was unforgettable in its own way, once again having a stadium full of people remembering the sacrifices of fallen soldiers was truly special.
The Last Post is played before all games during the Anzac Day round, but what stands out at the Collingwood-Essendon clash is the roar after the national anthem.
Not since the 2019 finals series has there been such a loud noise at a football game in Victoria.