Gold Coast Suns and Essendon clash at Metricon Stadium with the home side looking to register their first win of the season, and the visitors to avoid their first loss. Join us for live scores and commentary from 7.40pm AEST.
The Suns will be approaching this fixture determined to win back some respect, after an effort last week against St Kilda that can only be described as pathetic.
This followed a lacklustre performance in round one against Adelaide, so they must be looking to atone.
Also motivating them should be the embarrassment that took place against the Bombers in round six last year, conceding fifteen goals in the first quarter before going on to lose by 139 points.
Almost all have been mesmerized by the feats of Gary Ablett in the first two weeks, and no less a figure than dual premiership teammate Cameron Mooney was unequivocally in the affirmative when asked if the Gold Coast skipper has raised his game to a whole new level.
Fans, media and opposition have lauded his feats in gathering over 40 possessions and kicking a couple of goals in each match, but the problem has been that his teammates have looked more like spectators themselves, rather than fellow professionals and competitors.
Only David Swallow could hold his head high alongside the 2009 Brownlow Medalist, fighting hard to win plenty of football and leading the Suns’ tackle count at the same time.
I blogged the Gold Coast game last week and put the acid on talented youngsters Aaron Hall and Harley Bennell to get more involved physically, but they didn’t respond.
To this group can be added ex-Bulldog Jarrod Harbrow – between the three of them, they have laid five tackles in the two matches so far.
And while all three would be considered ‘outside’ players, it is incumbent upon them to get their hands dirty, and apply more pressure than they are currently doing.
Coach Guy McKenna is going through a dark period, working under the question mark of whether he’ll receive a new contract before the year is out, and many want him judged on the greater defensive presence of his young charges.
So far it has been non-existent, but they get their chance to turn this around tonight.
Essendon fans, on the other hand, have appointed teen boy-band One Direction as their mascots, believing their name signifies the only way the Bombers are going. As the club theme song suggests, it’s up.
This is the last in a ‘soft’ opening treble for the Dons, starting the season playing three teams ranked below them and out of the finals last year.
Record a win here, as they surely will, and they’ll reside in the upper echelon of the ladder with a confidence boosting 3-0 next to their name.
The Bombers had to work hard and played well in round one against North, and were happy to get the result last week as injuries started to take their toll in the game against Port.
Rumours had Brent Stanton being treated for leather poisoning early this week, such have been his ball winning exploits so far in 2012, and he’s been ably supported as would be expected by captain Jobe Watson.
Leroy Jetta has provided spark and goals in the front half, while the rejuvenated Courtney Dempsey is showing no ill effects from his knee reconstruction from last year, and seems to have come back a more poised player in the backline.
Paddy Ryder looks to have taken the step closer to the elite bracket that many have been hoping for, while Michael Hurley has yet to taking games apart despite promising to do so. Essendon will only be better when he does, and it could be tonight.
Time for a prediction then. Gold Coast have only kicked 17 goals this year, and Campbell Brown has four of them, so he’ll be missed, although this may be offset by the return of Nathan Bock.
He looked a presence up forward in the NAB Cup, but there’s no telling whether he’ll play forward or back.
No club will say so publically, but the middle tier of 6-8 teams expected to push for finals will be looking at these games against the expansion clubs as percentage boosters, an element which may prove crucial when it comes to securing eighth spot at the end of the year, or even a home final.
Essendon won’t be taking a backward step, and I don’t see that the Suns have much in the way of arsenal to stop them. Bombers by 70 points.
Join me here on The Roar and offer up any questions or comments you may have during the live blog, which begins about half an hour before the first bounce, at 7.40pm AEST.