An under-siege Essendon get the chance to temporarily forget their off-field turmoil when they meet Carlton at the MCG tonight. We’ll have live scores from 7.40pm AEST.
Since February, when ASADA’s investigation into the Essendon Football Club began, the club have repeatedly defied the pressure off the field to produce results on it.
But in the last month a season of intense scrutiny seems to have finally tolled on the Bombers. They’ve lost four on the spin – to Hawthorn, Collingwood, West Coast and North Melbourne – and have slid to seventh on the ladder.
Their win/loss ratio may yet become irrelevant if they are docked competition points, but with Richmond to follow in Round 23 the Bombers could be facing the prospect of going into the finals having lost their last six matches.
Essendon coach James Hird has made four changes to the side that lost to the Kangaroos, bringing in Paddy Ryder, David Myers, Michael Hurley and Jackson Merrett.
They lose Dyson Heppell to injury, and have left out Nick O’Brien, Tom Bellchambers and Leroy Jetta.
Carlton’s season looked finished when they lost to Western Bulldogs a fortnight ago, but the possible sanctions to Essendon mean that the ninth-placed Blues could yet finish in the eight.
Irrespective of that, a win tonight – and a Port Adelaide loss in Perth (also played tonight) – would mean Carlton head to AAMI Stadium next Saturday knowing that a win will mean they finish in eighth ahead of the Power.
Josh Bootsma is the only out for the Blues, with ruckman Matthew Kreuzer coming back from a calf injury.
In Round 11 Essendon squeezed past Carlton by five points, but the Blues have handed heavy losses to Essendon in three of their past five outings.
Games between these two often don’t go according to the form guide. Carlton will be confident given Essendon’s recent tailspin but an Bombers win certainly wouldn’t be a surprise.