The All-Stars suffer their first defeat at the hands of the Bombers.
Despite starting the match as hot favourites, the Indigenous All-Stars suffered the first defeat in their four game history last month, losing to Essendon 93–43.
Thirteen thousand spectators crammed into Darwin’s TIO Stadium on Friday, February 9 to watch the return of the All-Stars, who were playing in their first match since their 2005 clash against Carlton.
While the All-Stars were comprehensive winners that night, the much-anticipated 2007 match against a well-drilled Kevin Sheedy outfit was a different story.
The Bombers started strongly, kicking the first three goals of the match, not letting the star-studded All-Stars team into the game.
In typically hot conditions, many expected the Bombers to wilt as the game wore on. But the All-Stars were unable to find a way to utilise their strengths while the Bombers continually exploited the All-Stars lack of height in attack.
As to be expected in the first competitive hit-out of the year, ball use from both sides was often scrappy. However, there were some exhilarating passages of play as both sides tried to outpace each other.
Aaron Davey gave Melbourne fans a scare when he limped off the field early in the third term, but the Demons star was back on the field by the end of the quarter.
Former Brisbane Lions star Darryl White, who retired from the AFL in 2005, made a one-off appearance in the match and was strong in defence. Other All-Stars who were particularly impressive included Cyril “Junior Boy” Rioli, the teenage nephew of Indigenous AFL legends Maurice Rioli and Michael Long, who is likely to feature in this November’s draft.
Essendon key defender Dustin Fletcher starred for the Bombers while Scott Lucas kicked four goals and Andrew Krakouer kicked two for the All-Stars.
Andrew McLeod, who also kicked two goals for the All-Stars, was voted Best on Ground.
Following the match, All-Stars coach Michael McLean made a plea for more money and more freedom to ensure the future success of the All-Stars.
Leading up to the match, controversy had brewed over the non-selection of champion players Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin, who were cleared by the Swans to take part in the match under the stipulation they would play no more then eight minutes per quarter.
Michael McLean pointed out that his side was not as prepared to play as it should have been, having come together later than usual, and were only able to run one training session before the match.
“No excuses, but you’ve got to get the preparation right,” he said after the devastating 50-point loss. “Our preparation was OK, but it could have been better.”
Michael pointed out that it is difficult to band a group of players together that hadn’t worked together as a team before. He also indicated that financial pressures took their toll.
“We saw them tighten up in different areas with the budget side of things this year,” he said. “Whereas two years ago, it was a lot more professional.
”The All-Stars is a great concept, but we need to do it right and be professional about it. The coaching staff are great people – they’ve been around the traps, know the game, know the caper – but we need the financial support to make sure it works properly.”