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It is not all doom and gloom for Essendon

Expert
18th June, 2015
32
1565 Reads

According to the old adage, you are only as good as your last game. If that is the case then Essendon are doomed. Not only was their last game ordinary, their second last game was abysmal.

It was not the way the Bombers wanted to head into the bye rounds.

But are things really all doom and gloom out at the Hanger?

The supplements saga aside, I can certainly remember darker times – like in 2006 when they lost 14 games in a row under the tutelage of Kevin Sheedy; or the confused and lacklustre performances during Matthew Knights’ final year at the club in 2010.

No, things aren’t that bad – yet.

The problem with the Bombers is that they are like the little girl with the curl in that poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. You know, the one that ends with –

When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid
.”

Pretty much sums up the Bombers I reckon. Unfortunately they have been more horrid of late than good.

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What makes it more painful for fans is the way the club has fallen away after its promising start to the season. Remember they faced last year’s grand finalists in the first two rounds, almost upsetting Sydney and then knocking over reigning premier Hawthorn a week later.

According to Brendan Goddard it is the fault of the younger players that the pace and intensity from those early encounters has faded away. They can’t sustain the effort apparently. I beg to differ.

For mine, the younger players have been leading the way. Zach Merrett hasn’t put a foot wrong and knows how to win his own football, Travis Colyer is having a break out season providing much needed dash and daring and Elliot Kavanagh showed up his senior team mates when he was brought into the side for the Geelong debacle.

In fact all three were among Essendon’s best on that dismal night.

Even Joe Daniher, who had a nightmare in front of the sticks, was still running around providing a target and taking contested marks. His tally of 20 goals for the season may appear modest, but it is not easy being a key forward in this Essendon line up, and his contribution should not be underestimated.

Of the other youngsters, Martin Gleeson and Patrick Ambrose have both been good enough to hold their places in the team all season.

Ambrose is not a big possession winner, but he has a big engine and fantastic work ethic, while Gleeson is a smooth mover who is a good user of the ball when under pressure. Both will benefit from their extended period within the side.

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It is certainly not the fault of these boys that Essendon find themselves languishing in the lower reaches of the ladder.

That responsibility must rest with the senior players.

Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley aside, there is barely a member of the senior contingent who has managed to play solid, consistent football.

Tom Bellchambers and Courtney Dempsey were dumped last week for a series of below par performances, but the selectors axe could quite easily have beheaded a few more.

Jake Melksham’s lack of discipline needs to be checked. Paul Chapman has worn the substitute’s vest two weeks in a row. James Gwilt is panicky under pressure. Even Goddard has been gliding, quite happy to be fed the ball rather than get it himself.

His response to that criticism was hardly inspiring either, explaining it away as a ‘positional’ thing. Apparently playing on the wing excuses one from doing the hard stuff!

To be fair, the Essendon midfield is understrength. Take Jobe Watson and Dyson Heppell out of there and the depth doesn’t just fall away, it plummets.

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A player like Ben Howlett may be an honest performer, but he doesn’t have opponents looking over their shoulders like Heath Hocking does. Hocking should be back after the break, along with David Zaharakis, David Myers and Jason Winderlich, providing an instant influx of grit, class, experience and bigger bodies.

Shaun Edwards’ inclusion last week was also a boost, with the former GWS player instantly making an impression.

So all is not lost for the Essendon football club just yet.

The challenge for coach James Hird is to get his senior players back to their best. Confidence breeds success and it is amazing how quickly things can turn around, especially for a group that has undoubted talent across its lines.

The most obvious problems are in the ruck and across half forward. The Bellchambers and Jake Carlisle situations have been well documented.

Bellchambers is just a shadow of the confident, aggressive, goal kicking ruckman/forward that he was prior to the ankle injury that cut him down a couple of years ago, while Carlisle has been all at sea since interim coach Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson moved him forward last year.

Both players have been given time this year to settle into their roles, but neither have nailed down their positions. Hird’s gamble of dropping Bellchambers and using Carlisle in the ruck last week back fired, but was worth a try.

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He has no choice now but to try another GWS import, Jonathon Giles, in the ruck.

By all accounts Bellchambers had a good game back a VFL level last week, kicking four goals and being listed as one of his team’s best, but he needs to string a few more good games together before being promoted back to the senior line up.

Some competition with Giles for the number one ruck berth may be just what the big fella needs.

If the Bombers’ big men begin to fire and Carlisle starts contributing regularly as a key forward, things may start to turn for the besieged club. Add to that a bolstered midfield and a back half that is the equal of any in the competition, and their position doesn’t appear to be quite so bad.

Time will tell of course, and while a first up meeting against the Hawks after the break is not the ideal match up for rebooting their season, the wins will come again.

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