The game of the week was definitely Carlton vs. Essendon, matching two of the strongest contenders for the 1996 premiership before an enthusiastic crowd of 62,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The Mighty Bombers jumped to an early lead in the first quarter, but the Blues came on strong, getting ahead by 16 points at the half. Offense was a problem for the boys from Windy Hill, with unorthodox coach Kevin Sheedy's jack-of-all-trades players able to manage only a scattering of goals on the match. The more specialized attackers of Carlton made a strong showing, however. Particularly notable was player of the match Brad Pearce, who kicked 4 goals in the last 10 minutes of the third quarter to propel the Blues to a 37-point lead at three-quarter time and completely defuse an Essendon rally. A moment of true football drama came 24 minutes into the last quarter, when Carlton forward Greg "The Diesel" Williams was clobbered by a solid hip-and-shoulder pole-axing from Bomber defender Mark Harvey. The Diesel lay absolutely still for a moment before rising up like an unkillable zombie. Only moments later, head still reeling from the blow he'd taken, the two-time Brownlow Medal winner Williams backed into Essendon defender Micheal Symons to take a strong mark and then, from 55 meters out in heavy rain, booted a dead-center goal to seal Carlton's 18th consecutive victory. The final score was Carlton 15.11(101) to Essendon's 10.12(72).
Your humble commentator witnessed what was undoubtedly the worst game of the week the previous day at the MCG, in which the troubled Footscray Bulldogs were humiliated by North Melbourne 168 to 37. Hapless Footscray managed only 5 goals in 120 minutes of play, allowing the Roos to build a margin of nearly 22 goals, propelling them to the top of the round 2 standings. In other matches, Sydney squandered an early lead and fell to Fremantle by a score of 13.22(100) to 9.17(71). Geelong defeated St. Kilda 26.8(164) to 20.14(134), while West Coast was upset by the Brisbane Bears 16.7(103) to 11.11(77). The Richmond Tigers beat Hawthorn 14.14(98) to 6.15(51) and Adelaide notched a win over Fitzroy 21.7(133) to 15.11(101).
Turning to the standings, North Melbourne heads the list with 2 wins and a goal percentage of 227, helped in no small part by their shellacking of Footscray. Adelaide, Brisbane and Geelong are closely packed behind North Melbourne, followed by 1995 premiers the Carlton Blues, all undefeated. Rounding out the top eight are Richmond, Fremantle and West Coast with 4 points, followed by Essendon and Hawthorn, also with 4. Coming next with no wins are St Kilda, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Sydney, while luckless Melbourne has been lifted out of the cellar by Footscray's pathetic performance against the Roos, leaving them alone in last.
Round 3 will feature several good games, including a matchup of arch-rivals Essendon and West Coast and the battle of the basement as Fitzroy faces Footscray. We'll bring you hightlights of round 3 next week if I can find a Melbourne newspaper, but in the meantime, with the Australian Rules Football Report, this is Doghouse Riley, Mr. Squishy Sports, saying, "I'd like to see that."