The annual Anzac Day clash at the MCG is set to thrill fans once again on Wednesday, as Essendon and Collingwood pay tribute to those that have served our country.
It’s been 23 years since the marquee game was first contested, and from that exhilarating first matchup in 1995 until now there have been plenty of memorable moments.
As the most storied game of the home and away season approaches, we look back at some of the biggest moments from the famous Anzac Day game.
1995 — Anzac Day footy starts with a bang
The first ever game on Anzac Day set the bar high on all fronts. With 94,825 people packed into the MCG it still holds the record for the highest attendance at an Anzac Day game, and none of those fans would have gone home disappointed.
With Essendon ahead by just six points, Saverio Rocca marked and goaled with less than two minutes left to level the game. That was the final score of the match, a thrilling draw the result as the final siren sounded.
Rocca’s nine-goal haul remains the most goals kicked on this special occasion, and the game was the first and only draw in the marquee match-up.
2002 — McGough makes a name for himself
Most 17-year-olds would be content with watching this showcase from the couch, but Mark McGough found himself thrown into the action in 2002.
In just his second AFL game McGough put on a match-winning performance in front of more than 84,000 fans, with 24 disposals and 11 contested possessions in very wet conditions.
He may have only played 49 games total in his career, but he’s in rare company as an Anzac Medal winner, and he earned a reputation as a specialist with a runner-up finish in 2004.
2004 — Triple treat for Hird
Less of a moment and more of a legacy, James Hird made history in 2004 by winning his third Anzac Medal.
Essendon led at every break in a comfortable 33-point win, and Hird was the catalyst with 26 disposals and three goals. That followed best-on-ground performances on Anzac Day in 2000 and 2003.
Across his career Hird played in 10 Anzac Day games, averaging 23.8 disposals and two goals in each. While his play was outstanding most weeks, the biggest stage certainly brought out the best in him.
2009 — Zaharakis leads a late Bomber comeback
The odds seemed to be stacked against the Bombers in 2009. Ruckman David Hille went down injured in the opening minutes, star forwards Matthew Lloyd and Scott Lucas didn’t kick a goal between them, and the Bombers trailed by 14 at the 25-minute mark of the last term.
But goals to Ricky Dyson and Leroy Jetta kept them within striking distance, before first-year Don David Zaharakis slammed home the winner with just seconds left on the clock.
The winning goal has become an iconic moment in the memories of footy fans, while Zaharakis has continued to shine on Anzac Day in the years since.
2012 — Blair (eventually) wins it for the Pies
It looked like Essendon had stolen another close game from Collingwood in 2012, when Brent Stanton goaled from a tight angle to put the Bombers ahead with two minutes remaining.
But just thirty seconds later the Pies scrambled a kick to the top of the goal square, where it bounced off the hands of the waiting pack and rolled goal-ward. Jarryd Blair was the first to react and managed to get a toe on the ball as it went through — or so it appeared.
The umpires needed a goal review to confirm it, but after a lengthy wait the goal was cleared and the Magpies were in front. They managed to hold on in the last minute and record a memorable win.