Hawthorn has too much firepower for Bombers
Hawthorn has won its past six matches against Essendon, who was thumped to the tune of 43 points by Brisbane at the Gabba last Saturday night, just a week after they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Collingwood in the Anzac Day clash.
The Bombers currently occupy 10th place on the AFL ladder with a 3-3 win-loss record. Hawthorn backed up its hard-fought 18-point win with a thrilling four-point victory over Carlton in a classic contest at the MCG last Saturday/ The reigning premiers have also won three of their first six matches but sit inside the eight due to their superior percentage.
MEDICAL ROOM: The Bombers have lost veteran defender Dustin Fletcher for a month with a leg injury. Leroy Jetta (knee) will miss the clash against the Hawks while ruckman David Hille (knee) is out for the remainder of the season. Jason Laycock (foot), Scott Gumbleton (back), Andrew Welsh (ankle), Kyle Reimers (quad), Hayden Skipworth (hamstring) and Mark McVeigh (ankle) are unavailable while former Geelong midfielder Brent Prismall will make his return from a knee injury in the VFL this weekend. The Hawks welcome back Grant Birchall from a hand injury but Brent Guerra (back) will miss. Stephen Gilham (knee), Clinton Young (hamstring), Xavier Ellis, (foot), key defender Trent Croad (foot), Max Bailey (knee) and Rick Ladson (knee) are unavailable.
Brad Sewell vs. Jobe Watson
Watson was among his side’s best in the loss to the Lions with a game-high 36 possessions – 24 of which were by hand.
The Hawks will be keen to prevent him from winning the football at the stoppages and using it cleanly by hand as it will help stop the Dons from getting their running game going.
Sewell is Hawthorn’s best stopper in the middle and looms as the obvious candidate to go head-to-head with Watson in what shapes as being a pivotal duel.
The 25-year-old is also highly effective in close and will give Watson no time or space in which to set up the likes of Jason Winderlich and Andrew Lovett.
Expect Sewell, who has averaged 27 possessions per game so far this season, to also try and hurt Watson going the other way.
Adam McPhee vs. Lance Franklin
The last time these two sides met in round 11 last year Franklin starred, booting nine goals to inspire his side to a 51-point win.
Franklin has struggled to have his usual impact in recent weeks. He was held to just two goals in the win over the Blues – both of which came in the final term.
But he is capable of turning it on at any moment and could well prove to be the match-winner once again on Friday night.
McPhee has the athleticism to match Franklin and looms as the obvious candidate to match-up on last year’s Coleman medallist.
If McPhee is going to be any hope of containing Franklin he will need his teammates to apply immense pressure all over the ground and deny the Hawks the use of the corridor otherwise the Hawthorn star will receive enough quality supply to kick a bag.
Thomas Murphy vs. Matthew Lloyd
With Lucas and Jetta out of the side and Alwyn Davey struggling to have much of an impact on the scoreboard, the onus will be on Lloyd to have a big game to get his side over the line.
Lloyd finally kicked his 900th career goal last weekend and should be able to play with greater freedom on Friday night now that the milestone is out of the way.
Hawthorn’s first-choice key defenders in Croad and Gilham are still on the sidelines so you would expect Murphy to be given first crack at the Bombers skipper in what shapes as being a crucial match-up in determining the outcome of this contest.
In last weekend’s loss to Brisbane the Dons had just three fewer scoring shots than the Lions yet went down by more than seven goals.
The likes of Lloyd will need to make the most of their chances in front of goal and apply scoreboard pressure early.
Henry Slattery vs. Sam Mitchell
Mitchell was instrumental in the win over the Blues with a game-high 35 possessions – 21 of which were by hand.
The Hawthorn skipper has been used across half-back in recent times but could well return to his customary position in the middle of the ground on Friday night.
Like Watson, Mitchell is damaging with his ability to win the football at close quarters.
The Dons will need to curtail the influence of Mitchell if they are going to be any hope of containing Hawthorn’s multi-pronged attack.
If Mitchell is left to his own devices he will continually find his teammates in space by hand who will then deliver the football cleanly inside 50 to Jarryd Roughead, Cyril Rioli, Franklin and co.
Slattery has quelled the influence of the likes of Daniel Kerr, Dane Swan and James Bartel during his 58-game career and looms as the likely candidate to tag Mitchell.
The Bombers will need Slattery to pay close attention to Mitchell and not give him any time or space – especially at the stoppages where he is at his most damaging.
VERDICT: Essendon is yet to lose two games in a row so far in 2009 but they will suffer their second straight loss on Friday night as Hawthorn has too much firepower in attack for an inexperienced Bombers backline to contain.
Hawks by 45 points.