An action shot from the 1984 VFL Grand Final between Essendon and Hawthorn. Picture: AFL Photos

IN ONE of the greatest rivalries of the 1980s, Essendon was bidding to take down star-studded Hawthorn and end its own premiership drought in the 1984 Grand Final.

The Bombers would go on to secure their first flag since 1965, coming from 23 points down at three-quarter time to overrun the Hawks.

Hawthorn had thrashed Essendon the previous year in the first of three successive deciders between the rivals, with the Bombers going on to winning the premiership in 1984 and 1985.

The Bombers will hold a 40-year celebration of the '84 flag when the clubs meet in round one of the 2024 season at the MCG on Saturday.

Some of the key players on that day shared their thoughts in an AFL Media documentary in 2012, including Leigh Matthews, Terry Wallace, Rodney Eade, Peter Schwab and Russell Greene, plus Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy, captain Terry Daniher and Simon Madden, to re-live the decider.


The Hawks led at every change, only for Essendon to kick nine goals to two in the final term to charge to victory.


When Leon Baker swooped on to a loose ball in the forward line in the opening seconds of the final term and snapped truly, the players were struck by a "physical" wall of noise from the Essendon fans. 

"The loudest noise I ever heard in football was when Leon Baker kicked a goal at the start of the last quarter," Hawks midfielder Wallace said. "It was the sleeping giant awakening."

His teammate Greene said: "It was the catalyst for an absolute avalanche of goals."

"I quite honestly hold myself responsible," a rueful Greene continued, "because I was playing on him."

Leon Baker in action for Essendon during a match in 1988. Picture: AFL Photos

Current Bombers coach Brad Scott said he would discuss the rivalry with his players ahead of Saturday's clash.

"It's an unbelievable period in our club's history," he said on Thursday ahead of the Dons' season opener at the MCG against Hawthorn. 

"To play it against Hawthorn, a period of football through the '80s, there was no bigger rivalry than Essendon and Hawthorn. The rivalry is real.

"We'll certainly reference it, we'll certainly reflect on that part of the club's history – but (we'll) very quickly come back to the job."