Having lost twice to Essendon during the regular season, and again in the finals, the Demons started long shot underdogs for the Grand Final and there's no doubt they should have lost if not for their opponents abysmal kicking for goal. When Don Cordner met Essendon captain Dick Reynolds for the coin toss in the middle of the MCG. "This is it" he said, to which Reynolds replied "unless it's a draw". The Bombers then went on to dominate the Demons but kick themselves out of contention like no other team in Grand Final history.
It took them 10 minutes to kick their first goal but Melbourne led at quarter time. Essendon didn't manage one until 50 minutes in, but they were wasteful and went into half time behind after kicking 2.9. Melbourne were the better side in the air at the start of the third quarter but couldn't find an avenue to goal. Conversely the Bombers booted 4.6 in the third quarter to get in front, but it wasn't the commanding lead they might have had with some straight kicking.
Norm Smith goalled in the last quarter with a drop kick from 50m out, and despite the Bombers dominance in scoring shots the scores their forwards became desperate in the last few minutes and two goals in the last two minutes to tie the scores.
The Demons could have even won it at the end. Smith had a set shot from 45 metres out but played on and kicked across the face of goal. From the boundary throw-in Don Cordner attempted to fist the ball through for a point but collided with Smith and gave the Bombers a second life. He was about to collect the ball again when he slipped and a defender cleared. Essendon had been given another life.
It would have been unfair, but nobody on the red and blue side was complaining. The fact that they managed to snatch a draw was remarkable enough.
Essendon won the marks 72-64, and the free kicks 20-17.
Best for the Demons were Alby Rodda, Smith and Collins. Rodda suffered a broken rib but it didn't keep him out of the replay.
It was the first ever tie in a Grand Final, the third in a finals match and the second between the two clubs. The two sides had to prepare to clash again the next week, but not before Essendon held a dinner where the guests ate cake prematurely inscribed as "Premiers 1948"
Governor General W.J McKell was present at the match.
B: Billy Deans, Shane McGrath, Stan Rule
HB: Col McLean, Denis Cordner, Geoff Collins
C: Max Spittle, George Bickford, Len Dockett
HF: Doug Heywood, Lance Arnold, Noel McMahen
F: Jack Mueller, Norm Smith, Eddie Craddock
Foll: Don Cordner (c), Adrian Dullard, Alby Rodda
Res: Gordon Bowman, Eddie Jackson
Coach: Frank "Checker" Hughes
It is often reported that Essendon full-forward Bill Brittingham kicked 2.11, however this is disputed in the league's official history and reports from the game that had him on 2.3. The Age gives the crowd as 85,658.
Herald - 01/10/1948
Football Record Grand Final 1948
Herald - 02/10/1948
Argus - 02/10/1948
Sporting Globe - 02/10/1948
Age - 04/10/1948
Age - 04/10/1948
Sporting Globe - 09/10/1948
Age - 05/10/1948
Argus - 04/10/1948