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The day Medhurst stunned the Bombers

Adam McNicol  April 24, 2018 6:00 PM

Medhurst's memories of his ANZAC Medal Hear from club favourite Paul Medhurst as he recalls his ANZAC Day Medal winning performance against Essendon in 2008. Medhurst kicked six goals in a 73-point win over the Bombers.

Paul Medhurst didn’t have the ideal lead-up to the 2008 ANZAC Day match.

He slept for only a few hours the night before the game because his mum, who had come over from Perth, was snoring so loudly while sleeping on his couch.

“I remember struggling to get to sleep and thinking, ‘C’mon mum, I need a good sleep,’” Medhurst told Collingwood Media with a chuckle.

But the interrupted preparation mattered little, as Medhurst, who was playing in his first ANZAC day match, ended up producing one of the best performances of his 168-game AFL career.

On a Friday afternoon, before a crowd of 88,999, he led the Essendon defenders a merry dance, ending the afternoon with six goals to his name and the ANZAC Medal around his neck.

“It was a special day,” Medhurst reflected, 10 years on. “Definitely one of the highlights of my career.”

A skilful small forward, Medhurst had arrived at Collingwood in late 2006 after being traded to the Magpies by Fremantle, where he played 99 games over five seasons.

He was immediately taken by the atmosphere at Collingwood.

“There were a lot of colourful characters,” he said. “It was a really fun place to be around.”

Medhurst managed 17 AFL appearances in 2007, his best efforts including a three-goal haul (from just four kicks) in the five-point preliminary final loss to Geelong.

After starting the 2008 season slowly, he entered the biggest game of the home and away season in top form, having booted five goals in a narrow loss to North Melbourne the previous weekend.

Paul Medhurst in action during the 2008 season (AFL Photos)

Then 26, Medhurst was one of seven Collingwood players (Marty Clarke, Sharrod Wellingham, Tyson Goldsack, Ryan Cook, Cameron Wood and Nathan Brown were the others) selected for their first ANZAC Day game.

He had previously watched the contest with a tinge of envy while at Fremantle, so he was rapt to be part of it.

“I think no matter how you’re going individually or as a team, the occasion always stands by itself as something to look forward to,” he said.

As is typical of ANZAC Day clashes, the game started at a furious pace, with Ben Johnson and Tarkyn Lockyer kicking early goals for the Pies.

Medhurst, who was being manned up by Bombers backman Jason Winderlich, then found his way into the action when he marked a lace-out pass from Marty Clarke about 40m out from goal.

He put his kick straight through the middle. Two minutes later, he marked and goaled again.

“I think at the start of the game I tended to sometimes feel a little dreamy, like a little disconnected from things, until you physically got involved in the game,” Medhurst recalled.

“Once that involvement happens you kind of feel like you’re more part of the experience, rather than watching it.

“As the day went on it just became more real to me. Once you start kicking a few goals you think you wouldn’t mind a few more.”

His team leading by a point at the first change, Medhurst started the second quarter by laying a brilliant tackle on Henry Slattery.

Just before half-time, when Collingwood, in its ninth season under Mick Malthouse, was starting to get on top, he received a clever handball from Scott Pendlebury and snapped a classic goal from deep in the left pocket.

Those watching at home heard Channel 10 commentator Tim Lane remark, “He is freakish. He’s a freak and he’s kicked his third goal.”

“Medders was always one of those characters who if he got a kick early, in the first five minutes, you knew he was in for a big one,” said former Pies defender Shane Wakelin, who was playing in his last ANZAC Day game that day.

“He was a real barometer for us with his energy and spark and x-factor.

“On his day he was unplayable from the point of view of a match-up because he had incredible pace, was very good overhead, great at ground-level and used to finish very, very well.”

Essendon, which was in its first season under the coaching of Matthew Knights, fell away in the second half.

In contrast, the Pies upped the ante, and Medhurst was in the thick of the action again.

He slotted another set shot from 45m out early in the third term, then, with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, he found himself in the box seat as a kick at goal from Pendlebury dropped short.

Medhurst started his run from behind the goal umpire, before soaring over Slattery and hauling in a classic ‘speccie’, cleaning up a tattoo-free Dane Swan in the process.

Placed on a tough angle by the controlling umpire, he calmly went back and slotted a banana kick, taking his tally to five goals.

The best-remembered moment of Medhurst’s performance came in the last quarter after he marked a kick from Lockyer right on the boundary line on the MCC members’ side of the ground, 45m out from goal.

He nailed the set shot, then turned to the crowd and raised both arms in triumph, and act captured by the numerous photographers covering the game.

“It’s probably one of those really iconic shots, up there with Bucks putting his arms up after kicking the winning goal in the wet in ’02,” Wakelin said.

“Even though it’s been 10 years since it happened, it’s one of those images that has really stuck in my mind.”

Paul Medhurst raises his arms to the crowd after kicking his sixth goal (AFL Photos)

Medhurst remembers his embrace of the crowd as being an instinctive reaction to a moment of personal and team triumph.

“Kicking that sixth goal … I thought it was going to hit the post the whole way,” he said. “I still don’t know how it didn’t.

“Knowing I’d had a good day, knowing we were going to win, you want to include the crowd with you.

“I didn’t plan to do it, but it just felt right. There was a real roar when it did sneak in and that’s where my attention went and it was nice to see their smiling faces.”

Collingwood ended up winning by 73 points.

There were other contenders for the ANZAC Medal, given Pendlebury finished with 33 disposals and seven tackles, and Travis Cloke ended the match with 18 disposals, 14 marks and 5.4 to his name.

But as the Pies celebrated their win, Medhurst was confident that his sixth goal had sealed the deal, and his hunch proved right.

He received eight of a maximum nine votes and beamed with pride as the medal was draped around his neck.

Funnily enough, Medhurst later gave the medal to his mum and hasn’t seen it since, although she assures him it’s in a safe place at her house.

But he’s not fazed by the whereabouts of the medal.

“I reflect on the occasion more than the actual medal,” he said. “It was a fantastic day.”

2008 ANZAC Day Match
Collingwood 5.3  11.7  15.12  23.16 (154)
Essendon     5.2   6.6     7.7     12.9 (81)

Goals: Medhurst 6, T.Cloke 5, Davis 3, Lockyer 3, Didak, Johnson, Goldsack, Swan, Thomas
Best: Medhurst, Pendlebury, T.Cloke, O'Bree, Didak, H.Shaw, Johnson, Swan

ANZAC Day Medallist: Paul Medhurst (Coll) - 17 disposals, 6 goals

Nick Maxwell ruffles Paul Medhurst's hair after the announcement of the 2008 ANZAC Day medallist (AFL Photos)