Home » Remember When: Leigh Matthews broke the point post at Windy Hill

Remember When: Leigh Matthews broke the point post at Windy Hill

Remember When: Leigh Matthews broke the point post at Windy Hill

It’s one of the most celebrated incidents in football history, and it happened 42 years ago, in this round back in 1982.

The venue is Essendon’s feared stamping ground of Windy Hill, the Bombers’ opponent is Hawthorn, and a tight game is up for grabs in the final quarter. A kick from the Hawks’ Rodney Eade sails towards the point post at the “school end”.

In a desperate bid to get to the ball, Hawthorn champion Leigh Matthews collides with the post, snapping it in two like a twig, the broken section almost falling into the crowd.

Channel 7 commentary doyen Lou Richards is impressed: “Oh, the post is broken, Matthews hit it and broke the point post! Oh, talk about a ‘He-Man’! How was that? He split it right down in half! A fantastic effort by Leigh Matthews!”

Such are legends born. And no subsequent discussion either of the playing career of an official Australian Football Hall of Lame Legend nor one of the most famous moments at Essendon’s old suburban home, is complete without that famous soundtrack and “Louie the Lip’s” “He-Man” reference.

And yet not only has the famous moment overshadowed the genuine significance of the result that day. But the magnitude of the “feat” has been played up a little beyond the actual reality. As Matthews himself is happy to concede. So much so that the man himself says he was unaware for some time after it happened what he’d done.

“It obviously happened, but I didn’t even know it happened at the time,” he recalled to Hawthorn media in 2022. “I remember being in the rooms after the game and I had just a little lump on my elbow and I said to the head trainer: ‘I don’t know where I did that’, and he said: ‘That must have been when you broke the point post’.

“I mean, in all honesty, I didn’t bump into it that hard, I bumped into the boundary umpire and stood on his foot. I remember the boundary umpire hopping up and down because I stood on his foot. But I didn’t even know I’d done it until I looked back and saw the vision. So it’s good image building stuff, but not quite as ‘He-Man’ as Lou Richards said at the time.”

What often doesn’t get told along with the point post incident, though, is just how pivotal Matthews was to a hugely important win, one which helped Hawthorn, which had spent the previous three seasons out of the finals, shore up a double chance.

The Hawks and Essendon had entered round 18 sitting third and fourth on the ladder respectively, both with 12-5 records. And in the days of the final five, the difference between those two positions was stark.

The Hawks started strongly, leading by 21 points at quarter-time, but the Bombers hit back, kicking 10 goals to three over the next two quarters, forward Stephen Copping booting four goals and Tim Watson starring, Essendon leading by 19 points at the final change.

Enter Matthews. After Michael Tuck initiated a Hawthorn resurgence by kicking the first goal of the final term, Matthews took control. Not only did he impose himself on the furniture, but two crucial goals and a goal assist regained the initiative for the Hawks, who with Russell Greene and Terry Wallace also prominent, slammed on seven goals to win going away by 18 points.

“Usually, it is unfair to say that one man wins a game for his team, but it wasn’t that way on Saturday,” wrote Geoff Slattery in The Age. “It was not that Matthews had dominated for four quarters, nor had he kicked a dozen goals, or mesmerized half-a-dozen opponents, it was just that, when the game needed purpose and leadership only Matthews was game enough, and capable enough, to provide it.

“You can have all the other greats of the past decade, none of them were (or are) as exciting as Matthews at full steam. The way he grits those teeth, sets that jaw, and runs full pace at the ball, is one of the great joys of sport. Even in the safety of the stands, it is enough to make you awake.”

While the Hawks would end up bowing out in the preliminary final that year to eventual premier Carlton, this was a victory that served notice they were again a genuine force, underlined with appearances in the next seven grand finals for four premierships.

Matthews would maintain his “big game” credentials right until the end, booting six goals in the Hawks’ then-record 83-point belting of Essendon in the 1983 grand final, and kicking another four in their loss to the same opponent the following year.

His final game, the 1985 grand final, would also be against the Bombers, who by then had taken a 2-1 edge in those three premiership deciders against a bitter foe, but were spent as a force while the Hawks continued to take all before them for another six or seven years.

And the remnants of that goal post? They were purchased by another official Legend of the game in Ron Barassi, who for some time had them on display at the pub he owned in Richmond. The split post remained one of Barassi’s prized possessions, until, in 2016, it was bought before auction by former Essendon president Paul Little.

Not your average piece of memorabilia, certainly. But there wouldn’t be a single football fan in Victoria who might glimpse it and not immediately realise exactly what it was, nor one who didn’t also have that memorable line from Lou Richards simultaneously ringing in their ears.

You can read more of Rohan Connolly’s work at FOOTYOLOGY.