After 30 years we still marvel at the Baby Bombers and the 1993 AFL season

Can the stuttering Blues halt the slide against the Dons? (2:48)

The Blues are struggling, but could a path to goal and a win against old enemies Melbourne breath life back into their season? (2:48)

AFL premiership reunions aren't necessarily big news; after all, every year at least one flag-winning team is celebrating an anniversary of some sort. But some attract a little more attention than others, and the 30-year milestone of Essendon's 1993 premiership being celebrated by the Bombers this weekend certainly fits that category.

All of Melbourne's major daily newspapers have run articles on the Essendon flag reunion taking place on Friday night, from "Where Are They Now?" nostalgia to a look at the political dynamics these days between various members of that celebrated team.

Indeed, the "Baby Bombers" triumph 30 years ago, beating Carlton in the grand final, remains, even among neutral fans (not known for their Bomber sympathies) one of the AFL era's most fondly remembered flags. Why?

On one level, I think it's an accident of timing. The 1993 AFL season was truly remarkable for a lot of reasons.

Compelling storylines were everywhere, not just the "Baby Bombers", but North Melbourne's sudden emergence under the coaching of Denis Pagan and the coming of age of its young skipper Wayne Carey. The emergence of a superstar in Tony Modra and the short-lived blazing comet that was Adrian McAdam.

It was a season of incredible scores and incredible spearheads. Modra, Gary Ablett and Jason Dunstall all kicked more than 120 goals. Peter Sumich, John Longmire and Saverio Rocca all managed more than 70. Restricted by injury, Tony Lockett only played 10 games for St Kilda, but averaged more than five goals each time he actually got on the park.

And the catalogue of incredible games, thrilling finishes and all manner of controversy and drama just kept coming, enough so that 1993 is a football year which continues not only to be talked about around the bar and on nostalgia evenings, but which was the subject of a very successful podcast a few years ago called "The Greatest Season That Was".

But Essendon's part in it all, given that context, was also entirely fitting. It was a flag which literally came out of nowhere, the Bombers having finished only eighth of 15 teams the previous season, and offering little hint as to what would unfold.

Indeed, even the first third or so of that shortened 20-game home-and-away season in 1993 offered few clues as to what was coming. Essendon won just one (and drew another) of its first five games, and after its round seven bye, sat 11th of 15 teams on the AFL ladder.

The turning point was what has become one of the AFL era's most celebrated games, the incredible Saturday afternoon at the MCG Geelong superstar Ablett kicked 14 goals yet still the Cats lost to Essendon (for whom Paul Salmon booted 10).

The Bombers would win 12 of their next 14 games, finishing the home and away season on top of the ladder, survive a spate of injuries, a qualifying final loss to Carlton, then a 42-point half-time deficit against Adelaide in the preliminary final, to somehow claw their way into a grand final rematch with a victory against the Blues.

Collingwood's 2010 premiership team was fractionally younger than the '93 Bombers' average age of 24 years and105 days as the youngest flag side in the AFL era. But the Pies in 2010 had only one player with 25 or fewer games under his belt. Essendon had no less than half-a-dozen - David Calthorpe, James Hird, Dustin Fletcher, Mark Mercuri, Joe Misiti and Ricky Olarenshaw.

That rawness made the anchoring roles played by the experience of captain Mark Thompson, Mark Harvey, Paul Salmon, Gary O'Donnell and the "unretired" Tim Watson even more crucial. And the blend came together, coach Kevin Sheedy capturing and bottling the prevailing zeitgeist superbly.

Time and again that season, Essendon mowed down opposition leads and nudged ahead at the finishing post with dash and dare. The Dons took on challenge after challenge and continued to surprise not only the rest of the football world, but themselves with their unlimited ceiling.

Another huge test - and milestone - came on a famous Sunday afternoon at the MCG against reigning premier West Coast, Salmon's wonky boot finally hitting the target to pip the Eagles at the post and spark Sheedy's outburst of sheer emotion that was the soon-to-be-iconic jacket wave.

If you want just one passage of play to sum it up, check out the YouTube highlights of the Bombers' incredible preliminary final comeback, and the third quarter end-to-end goal featuring Fletcher, 1993 Brownlow medallist Gavin Wanganeen, Olarenshaw, Calthorpe and Mercuri - the latter's goal producing arguably the most ear-splitting roar ever heard at the MCG.

In 1993, the Bombers kept taking on and bowling over the heavyweights so regularly that by the end of the season they had indeed become one themselves. And at a time when the game rewarded such enterprise and dare.

When you watch periods of games as soporific and as risk-averse as was the start to Thursday evening's Sydney-St Kilda clash at the SCG, you wonder if we're still rewarding the right priorities.

You also realise again why teams today like Collingwood under Craig McRae capture the imagination, and why Essendon did back in 1993. They were bold, they took risks in order to create something special, and the whole game was better for it. Let's hope that 30 years from now, there are other teams in their image left to celebrate.

You can read more of Rohan Connolly's work at FOOTYOLOGY