Essendon Bombers: 2012 season Preview
The most well-known Watson was a famous detective’s sidekick. Essendon’s Watson is far from a sidekick – he is pretty much the Bomber’s ticket to September.
In the early rounds of the 2011 season Essendon fans were asking when was the earliest they could buy grand finals tickets. Those calls soon quietened down when the skipper injured his hamstring.
All the talk then moved to the new coaching setup. This continued throughout 2011 as the Bomber’s premiership – and final- hopes began to disappear. In 2012, such talk needs to go away completely; all the focus must move to on-field matters.
One of these matters is their midfield, which must improve. Watson is an elite player, while the remaining are either average or below average with the exception of Brent Stanton and Heath Hocking, who one might classified as above average.
A player who is sure to spend the majority of his time in the centre is 2011 club best and fairest David Zaharakis – the youngest winner of the award since Neale Daniher back in 1981. With more time around the ball, Zaharakis may well become a dual best and fairest winner.
The Bombers realised their lack of depth in the centre and went to the draft with one goal – recruit talent to assist Watson. Two players that have the potential to make it are Elliott Kavanagh – a midfield graduate from the Western Jets and Essendon’s first round selection – and Jackson Merrett, another midfielder from the Geelong Falcons. Merrett was runner-up in the Falcons’ best and fairest count.
Up forward, the 23-year old Stewart Crameri had a very good year in just his second season at the club; his improvement was well and truly the success story at Windy Hill in 2011. The 186cm youngster was Essendon’s leading goalkicker, finishing the year with 34 majors and 22 behinds – a 60.7 percent accuracy rate.
Essendon had three players with 30 or more goals – Crameri, Angus Monfries and Zaharakis. Compare that to other finals teams. Collingwood’s leading goalkickers slotted through 69, 35, 32; Carlton – 56, 50 and 48; Geelong – 52, 50 and 31; Hawthorn – 82 and 30; St Kilda – 56, 36 and 30; and West Coast – 59, 47 and 41.
The Bombers will need a fully-fit Crameri in 2012 to return get back to the finals. This might be a tough ask though, given that the third-year player underwent a shoulder reconstruction late in the 2011 season.
In 2012, a big “watch this space” tag will be attached to the highly talented Michael Hurley. With or without Watson on the field, the Bomber’s hopes also lie with this potential superstar. Can he take his game to the next level? Dons fans certainly hope so. Hurley finished third in best and fairest voting, pipping the captain.
Up the other end, the almost 100-year old Dustin Fletcher comes back for yet another season, his nineteenth to be exact. Although his numbers were down in 2011, Fletch’s consistency and durability remained.
In the backline with Fletch is the 2011 NAB Rising Star award winner Dyson Heppell. The 19-year old played every game last year. In 2012, he may need to go further up, into the midfield.
A player who I anticipate will see time in the senior team is Luke Davis – a defender that played in the Bomber’s VFL side last year. Davis is a sound decision maker and in 2011 recorded the highest kicking and disposal efficiency of the top 10-ball winners at Windy Hill.
Kyle Hardingham is another young prospect that could be a smokey for the Bombers this year. Watch this space.
In short, Hirdy’s boys might get back into the finals, however – much like 2011 – Essendon will merely be making up the numbers in September. With 17 of their players in the 1-50 games classification, the Bombers will need to continue to improve – success may yet be a few seasons away.
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