Collingwood vs Essendon: Head to Head

Collingwood vs Essendon: Head to Head, Records & History

The ANZAC Day Match between Essendon and Collingwood is arguably the biggest match on the AFL’s home and away calendar, pitting two of the league’s biggest teams against one another on one of the nation’s most significant days. The match regularly draws in excess of 85,000 spectators to a game which is preceded by an ANZAC Day service at the ground and which is often played at a finals-like intensity. The game, like every other throughout the season, only provides the winner with four Premiership points, but the near-full MCG crowd ensures that it always feels as though much more than that is at stake.   

History of the Match

Though footy has been played on ANZAC Day intermittently since the public holiday came into existence, it wasn’t until 1995 that the first ever ANZAC Day match between Essendon and Collingwood was played. The idea came from legendary Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy – an idea which supposedly popped into his head while he was gardening – who had served in the army in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and who wanted to establish a match which would pay service to the ANZAC spirit. ANZAC Day football had previously been something of a point of contention, but when the Victorian RSL and the AFL both agreed with Sheedy’s suggestion, one of the biggest traditions in the modern-day AFL was born.

And from the outset, the interest this matchup would generate was clear. Though it hadn’t been publicised as a particularly significant event, a massive 94,825 people packed into the MCG, with plenty more turned away. Nearly three decades later, that remains the second highest attendance for any home and away game in VFL/AFL history, and the match well and truly justified the crowd. In a see-sawing game which the Bombers led by 16 points at half-time and the Magpies led by 14 points at the end of the third quarter, when the final siren sounded the two sides were locked together at 111 apiece. After that beginning, it was almost inevitable that the fixture would be a long-standing one.  

The next year saw another high-scoring, tight contest, with Collingwood running out victorious 117-105 and becoming the first ANZAC Day match winner in the process. Essendon wouldn’t win one until 1999, by which point the Pies had already racked up three of their own, but that win came as the Bombers were developing into one of the most formidable teams on all time, and they would go on to win three in a row and six of the next seven. Since then, however, the Magpies have been by far the superior team on the day, winning 11 compared to the Bombers’ four since. 

But though the Bombers haven’t enjoyed as much success as they would have liked over the past 15 years, one of those four wins was arguably the most memorable ANZAC Day match of all. The year was 2009, the crowd 84,829, and in the driving rain the Magpies appeared set to win a fourth consecutive edition of the clash for the first time ever. 25 minutes into the last quarter they had a seemingly unassailable 14-point lead, but the Bombers kicked the next two in quick succession to bring the margin under a goal. Enter David Zaharakis. In his first season, the 19-year-old etched his name into football folklore with a goal from just inside 50 with only seconds left on the clock, giving his Bombers side one of their most momentous victories in recent years.

Essendon wouldn’t win another ANZAC Day match for four years, though they went as close as possible in 2012. The Magpies led by a couple of goals for much of the game, but with little time left on the clock the Bombers snatched the lead and appeared destined to win. Unfortunately for them, Jarryd Blair had other plans, soccering a goal to lead Collingwood to a one-point win. Dane Swan won the first of his two ANZAC Day Medals on this day, with his 42 possessions and three goals making him the obvious choice for best on ground. 

That was the last ANZAC Day match decided by under three goals until 2019, which again saw one of the year’s best games take place in front of a massive crowd of over 90,000 supporters. Having lost the Grand Final in heartbreaking fashion the year prior, the Pies were expected to salute relatively comfortably in this one, and when they led by 33 points just before half-time it appeared that everything was going to script. The Bombers, however, had other ideas. They scrapped their way back thanks in no small part to four goals from Joe Daniher, ultimately falling just four points short. The famous win was made even more memorable when Scott Pendlebury was announced the winner of the ANZAC Day Medal, making him the second player in history to win the award on three occasions.

The Collingwood legend joined Essendon great James Hird as a three-time ANZAC Day Medallist, and the presence of two of these clubs’ favourite sons atop the list as the best ever ANZAC Day players only serves to heighten the esteem in which this game is held. They are two of just four players to win the medal on multiple occasions, and the other two were pretty handy as well. The first was Saverio Rocca, who, in 2011, was retrospectively awarded it in the famous 1995 draw and then again in 1998, years in which the medal hadn’t yet been introduced, while Dane Swan managed two in three years in 2012 and 2014.  

Though not every ANZAC Day match lives up to the high expectations which surround it, there have been plenty over the years which have delivered on the hype, but regardless of the result there is also a huge amount of interest in the game. In fact, just once since it began in 1995 has the crowd dipped beneath 80,000, with the exception of years in which attendance was limited by either the pandemic, or the redevelopment of the MCG prior to the 2006 Commonwealth Games. 

Despite these lofty crowd numbers, however, when the ANZAC ceremony is taking place before the game each year, the packed MCG falls eerily silent. The playing of the Last Post, in particular, is one of the most momentous occasions in football every year, and has been a key role in helping the match to become synonymous with the day itself. Every year, the ANZAC Day match is highly anticipated both for the game itself and the commemorations which surround it, and from Kevin Sheedy’s garden in the mid-1990s, it has developed into the biggest non-finals fixture in the league.

Top 10 Highest Scoring Games

There have been plenty of high-scoring affairs in the ANZAC Day match over the years; some of them in close games, others in complete blowouts. Below is a table including the ten highest scoring matches in the history of the match. 

Year Score
2000 Essendon 21.14 (140) d Collingwood 15.10 (100)
2008 Collingwood 23.16 (154) d Essendon 12.9 (81)
2003 Essendon 23.9 (147) d 12.9 (81)
1995 Essendon 16.15 (111) drew with Collingwood 17.9 (111)
1996 Collingwood 17.15 (117) d Essendon 16.9 (105)
2016 Collingwood 22.10 (142) d Essendon 11.7 (73)
1999 Essendon 15.18 (108) d Collingwood 15.10 (100)
2001 Essendon 15.13 (103) d Collingwood 14.11 (95)
1998 Collingwood 15.18 (108) d Essendon 12.16 (88)
2013 Essendon 18.13 (121) d Collingwood 10.15 (75)

Collingwood vs Essendon Records

Biggest win: 73 points (Collingwood in 2008)

Most consecutive wins: 3 (Collingwood four times: 1996-1998, 2006-2008, 2010-2012, 2014-2016)

Highest team score: 23.16 (154) (Collingwood in 2008)

Highest attendance: 94,825 (1995)

Most appearances (Essendon): 18 (Dustin Fletcher)

Most appearances (Collingwood): 15 (Scott Pendlebury)

Most goals (Essendon): 36 (Matthew Lloyd)

Most goals (Collingwood): 25 (Saveria Rocca)

Most ANZAC Day Medals (Essendon): 3 (James Hird)

Most ANZAC Day Medals (Collingwood): 3 (Scott Pendlebury) 

Collingwood vs Essendon Last 10 Games

Recent years haven’t been particularly kind to the Bombers, with their performance in the ANZAC Day match reflective of their broader lack of success. They’ve won just two of the past eight and three of the last ten, and the below table shows the scores in each of these matches. 

Year Score
2022 Collingwood 15.3 (93) d Essendon 12.10 (82)
2021 Essendon 16.13 (109) d Collingwood 13.7 (85)
2019 Collingwood 10.13 (73) d Essendon 10.9 (69)
2018 Collingwood 14.17 (101) d Essendon 7.10 (52)
2017 Essendon 15.10 (100) d Collingwood 11.16 (82)
2016 Collingwood 22.10 (142) d Essendon 11.7 (73)
2015 Collingwood 9.15 (69) d Essendon 6.13 (49)
2014 Collingwood 12.11 (83) d Essendon 8.12 (60)
2013  Essendon 18.13 (121) d Collingwood 10.15 (75)
2012 Collingwood 11.14 (80) d Essendon 11.13 (79)

Collingwood vs Essendon Head-to-Head Stats

Team Record (W-D-W) Team
Collingwood 16-1-10 Essendon