Essendon 2013 AFL preview

Andrew Slevison Roar Rookie

By Andrew Slevison, Andrew Slevison is a Roar Rookie

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    Can the Dons put aside both the off-field scrutiny and last season’s debacle to return to some sort of normality?

    Essendon were the big story of the first few months of last season before things quickly fell into a gaping black hole on the field.

    Essendon have again been the big story early in 2013 – this time for a much different reason – and all eyes will be on the team from Windy Hill to see how they react.

    Peptide and drug talk aside, James Hird’s sophomore season in charge had so much potential when the Dons were sitting on top of the ladder with an 8-1 record but they capitulated, winning just three of the next 13 fixtures, to end up 11th.

    It’s hard to say what exactly caused that enormous slide but one thing is for sure, skipper Jobe Watson was certainly not the cause, as he capped off a terrific individual campaign by snaring the Brownlow Medal.

    There will still be some question marks hanging over his head in relation to the drug probe but I’m sure in the end it will all come up positive for the Bombers, especially where Watson is concerned.

    His role as both an in-and-under ball-winner and a competent finisher will again be paramount in 2013 but he will require plenty of assistance in the form of Brent Stanton, who was on fire last year before being hampered by injuries.

    2011 Best and Fairest David Zaharakis (13 games last season) and young gun Dyson Heppell will also need to step up.

    A major worry at Essendon is wondering where the goals will come from if the likes of Stewart Crameri and Michael Hurley do not fully blossom as key forwards.

    However, reports are that Hurley is flying this pre-season. Angus Monfries is gone and you cannot rely too much on the consistency of Alwyn Davey and Leroy Jetta, although at least they are game-busters who are capable of winning matches on their own accord.

    Scott Gumbleton needs to step up and could force Hurley to defence if he can find form and fitness. Double that with the possible emergence of Joe Daniher as a key leading forward and there are a few things to get excited about in the forward 50.

    However, plenty needs to go right for this to occur.

    Daniher would likely have gone at pick one in the draft if it were not for the father/son rule, so there is plenty to like about the 201cm, 18-year-old.

    However, he will be under a lot of pressure to perform.

    Youngsters such as Jason Ashby, Nick Kommer, Dylan van Unen, Nick O’Brien and Elliott Kavanagh could add some extra depth as they will be pushing for senior footy in 2013 and the fact that the club was so dominant at times last season suggests there are plenty of wins around the corner.

    A major addition is former St Kilda star Brendon Goddard who can be used smartly across half-back, through the midfield and also as a pinch-hitting forward. However, I fear the Bombers, even with his presence, may struggle to put it all together after a mentally sapping 2012.

    Predicted finish: 12th

    Key players

    Jobe Watson – The heart and soul of Essendon. Everything revolves around the reigning Brownlow Medallist.

    Michael Hurley – Could be a star at AFL level if he can get his fitness tip-top and find consistency. Also needs to find his preferred position.

    Brent Stanton – Ball magnet with pace to burn who is so often the Dons’ barometer.

    Break out potential

    Michael Hibberd – The tight-checking defender missed part of last season with injury but with the more football he plays is expected to continue his rapid development.

    Jake Carlisle – Rising Star nomination last year in what was arguably his breakout season but can consolidate on that and take the next step.

    Jake Melksham – It’s now or never for the top 10 draft pick. He really needs to step up after 59 games experience.

    Promising youngsters

    Jason Ashby – Half-back developing very well. Could play a similar role to Dyson Heppell if he can break into the senior team.

    Nick O’Brien – Super fit and very disciplined and may emerge as a talented forward/midfielder.

    Joe Daniher – Giant of a forward with massive wraps and expected to see plenty of game time.

    Elliott Kavanagh – Essendon’s first draft pick in 2011 is a midfielder who needed a full pre-season and should be ready to push for senior selection in 2013.

    Key inclusions

    Brendon Goddard – The versatile, classy and consistent former Saint will bring plenty to the Bombers line-up.

    Notable departures

    Angus Monfries – Port Adelaide

    Mark McVeigh – retired

    Sam Lonergan – Richmond

    Worth a punt

    Jobe Watson – to win Brownlow Medal: $8

    Joe Daniher – to win Rising Star: $21

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • Columnist

      March 2nd 2013 @ 9:41am
      Cameron Rose said | March 2nd 2013 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      I reckon you’e selling Watson short as only a ‘competent finisher’, but it’s clear we agree on what a superstar he is.

      Zaharakis needs to lift on what was a poor 2012, even accounting for injury. He put the writing on the wall with his B&F win in 2011, and must get back to that form or greater as he is so important to the Dons.

      Still not sure on where Crameri fits into the scheme of things. Fancy that he’s the sort of player who could be the best third forward in the comp, but not quite big enough to be a FF or CHF. That is where two of Hurley/Gumbleton/Daniher becoming very good or elite will make Essendon strong.

      Hibberd can find the ball, but he can be a sloppy disposer. Needs to tidy up his foot skills for mine. Goddard is a great get, and will provide great polish.

      Good review.

      • March 4th 2013 @ 3:25pm
        Macca said | March 4th 2013 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

        Agree about Crameri Cameron, but the issue is finding 2 of the other 3. Given the bombers issues down back, a 38 year old being their best defender, Hurley really needs to be released to go back. Which means they really need both Daniher and Gumbleton need to stand up. Given the amount of ribbing I have copped for suggesting the blues can make progress this year with Waite and Casboult as the key position forwards surely a Gumbleton/Daniher combination is a step too far.

        • Columnist

          March 4th 2013 @ 3:47pm
          Cameron Rose said | March 4th 2013 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

          Macca,

          I’m certainly not talking about 2013 for that forward combo, more an ‘in the future’ type thing.

          It will be hard for Malthouse to decide who to play as key forward this year, considering some Carlton people think he has four or five “Wayne Carey’s” to choose from. Waite, Casboult, Kreuzer, Rowe etc…

          • March 4th 2013 @ 4:00pm
            Macca said | March 4th 2013 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

            Sorry Cameron I thought we were discussing the 2013 year.

            Not sure they will be Wayne Careys but Waite is clearly a quality forward when he get’s on the park and Casboult, Kreuzer and Rowe all have shown the capacity to take a contested mark but more importantly make a contest. Too often in the past opposition defenders were able to take a mark and set up a rebound, with crumbers like Betts & Garlett having a big bloke simply make a contest and bring the ball to ground is a big improvement.
            For meKreuzer will ruck, Waite & Casboult will be the key forwards (at least initially) and one of Warnock or Hampson might also play (but I can’t really get them in my best 22.) and Rowe and Mitchell will be the back up forwards.

    • Roar Guru

      March 2nd 2013 @ 10:32am
      TomC said | March 2nd 2013 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      Good stuff Andrew.

      Don’t know about Daniher for the rising star though. Very, very rare for first year KPPs to win it. Koschitzke is the only one I can think of.

      I’ve been bullish about Essendon’s chances since the recruitment of Goddard but I’m starting to waver. This investigation stuff can’t help preparations.

      Really hope Winderlich can get on the park this year. Has had a terrible run with injuries.

    • Roar Guru

      March 4th 2013 @ 3:32pm
      Redb said | March 4th 2013 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

      I’m surprised the article does not mention Paddy Ryder. He is easily in our top 6 and when going his combo with Watson is hard to beat.

      • March 4th 2013 @ 3:39pm
        Macca said | March 4th 2013 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

        Ryder is an interesting one Redb, when he is going well he is in your best 6 no worries but he does have a lot of games where he is a non entity.
        The issue for the bombers is where do they play him, he seems as though he needs to be the number one ruckman but Bellchambers and Hille play their best there as well.

        • Roar Guru

          March 4th 2013 @ 3:46pm
          Redb said | March 4th 2013 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

          I think Ryder had a breakout year in 2012 in terms of consistency before he got injured.

          Bellchambers will probably be the No.1 ruckman in 2013, Ryder to be the alternate playing up forward the rest of the time. Hille is in his last season i think and will remain a backup option depending on the form of the other two.

          • March 4th 2013 @ 3:55pm
            Macca said | March 4th 2013 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

            You might be right there Redb but his averages weren’t up by that much (except his marks) and about 1/4 of his games he had less than 10 possessions, plus one in which he had 11.

            • Roar Guru

              March 4th 2013 @ 4:10pm
              Redb said | March 4th 2013 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

              His play around the game was consistent and his tap work excellent.

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