Best 22 analysis: Essendon

Conor Roar Guru

By Conor, Conor is a Roar Guru


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    All the AFL lists are finalised for 2018, and now is the time to start looking into what each club’s best team looks like.

    This analysis won’t factor in injuries or early season suspensions, as they are looking at the best team from the list they have. Here is my view on Essendon’s best 22 in 2018.

    Previous articles
    Adelaide’s Best 22
    Brisbane’s Best 22
    Carlton’s Best 22
    Collingwood’s Best 22

    Best 22
    B: Mark Baguley, Michael Hurley, Adam Saad
    HB: Brendon Goddard, Michael Hartley, Conor McKenna
    C: Andrew McGrath, Zach Merrett, David Zaharakis
    HF: Devon Smith, Cale Hooker, Jake Stringer
    F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Joe Daniher, Orazio Fantasia
    Foll: Tom Bellchambers, Darcy Parish, Dyson Heppell
    I/C: Kyle Langford, James Stewart, David Myers, Travis Colyer
    Depth: Martin Gleeson, Aaron Francis, Jordan Ridley, Josh Green, Josh Begley, Kobe Mutch, Jackson Merrett, Matthew Leuenberger, Jordan Houlahan, Mason Redman, Mitch Brown, Patrick Ambrose, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, Jayden Laverde, Jake Long, Matt Guelfi, Dylan Clarke, Matt Dea, Sam Draper, Trent Mynott, Luke Lavender, Ben McNiece, Shaun McKernan

    The Bombers have multiple quality defensive options, which made the hardest backline to select so far.

    2017 All-Australian Michael Hurley was a lock in my team, given what a great impact he makes when he’s in the team and the leadership that he provides. I decided that Michael Hartley then deserves to play his partner at centre half back over other defensive options such as Cale Hooker, Aaron Francis, Mitch Brown, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher, and Matt Dea.

    Hartley provides large strength to win the one-on-one contests, and had a career best year in 2017, which made him the preferred option. New recruit Adam Saad comes in immediately with a spot in the back pocket, and will provide plenty of speed and rebound from defensive 50 next year.

    Mark Baguley has been an incredibly consistent player form-wise throughout his career, and I predict he will continue to play his role and provide leadership for the team next year. Irish rebounding defender Conor McKenna continues to provide what he needs to the team, and gives them speed, and alongside Adam Saad, they will be a dangerous rebounding pair.

    I struggled to find a spot for Brendon Goddard given Andrew McGrath is likely to spend more time in the midfield next year, so I put Goddard on the half back flank to be able to provide leadership and experience to the backline.

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)Dyson Heppell Essendon Bombers AFL 2017

    The number one ruck role was again one of the hardest positions to choose of the five teams I have done so far. Matthew Leuenberger played only seven games last year due to a mix of form and injury problems.

    Tom Bellchambers had a better season than Leuenberger, however, both of their best form is similar, which made it hard. I decided to go with Bellchambers in the end, but the Bombers number one ruck is likely to change from week to week.

    Darcy Parish has been an incredible young player over his first two seasons, and it seems likely that he’ll take up a role as an onballer following the retirements of Jobe Watson and Brent Stanton.

    Essendon captain Dyson Heppell puts his body at every contest, and he will provide bucket loads of leadership and experience to the team. David Zaharakis is another experienced player who will bring x-factor, leadership, and strength to the Bombers team on the wing. 2016 number one pick Andrew McGrath played incredibly well in his first year as a defender going into the midfield when needed.

    It has been known that McGrath and Essendon are wanting to have more time in the midfield, so I have placed him on the wing, effectively switching Goddard and McGrath’s roles. 2017 All-Australian Zach Merrett has been brilliant, especially since 2016, and may well be a future Brownlow Medallist so he has been put in the centre as an onballer.

    The Bombers forward line is filled with plenty of x-factor, speed, and only two players with genuine height, which may be the key to a premiership tilt next year. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has shown brilliance since his first year, and there is no doubt he will be in attack based on the excellence and the ability to turn games that he can bring to table.

    Joe Daniher is able to play as a back-up ruck as well as a tall forward, plus the fact that he had a career-best year last year giving him the full forward spot. Defender turned forward Cale Hooker is another tall forward who can partner with Daniher and give fantastic support. Being a former defender also gives him a better ability to know what defenders are likely to do in each situation to be able to get ahead of the play.

    Orazio Fantasia and Jake Stringer both provide plenty of x-factor, with Stringer also able to play as an onballer. Both of them playing together is most definitely going to excite Channel Seven commentator Brian Taylor.

    Devon Smith provide plenty of ‘wow’ moments at the Giants, so expect him to continue to do that at the Bombers.

    Kyle Langford didn’t play many games last year, but if he can get a big pre-season under his belt and do some regular gym work to develop his body, he’ll get regular games next year to address the need for big-bodied midfielders.

    James Stewart played 16 games in his first year at the Bombers, and kicked 22 goals to add a tall forward to their mix, and will also be able to play as ruck depth depending on injuries.

    David Myers played all but two games after he came in after round 6 last year, and with the Bombers needing big-bodied mids in the side, Myers will almost definitely take a bench spot. Travis Colyer had a career best year last year, so gets the final bench spot.

    Aaron Francis Essendon tall

    Aaron Francis of the Bombers (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    The unlucky players
    Rebounding defender Martin Gleeson is unlucky not to be in the best 22, but I unfortunately struggled to find a spot for him given they already have Adam Saad and Conor McKenna in the team.

    Aaron Francis is a very promising medium defender, and if a spot opens up, Francis may be able to earn it next year. Josh Green is in a similar situation to Gleeson, having played most of last season, but not being a spot available to him given they already have McDonald-Tipungwuti, Fantasia, Smith, and Stringer in the team as small forwards.

    Josh Begley played the final three games of the year in 2017, however, despite having plenty of potential, does not get a spot in the best team week in week out. Depending on Bellchambers form next year, Matthew Leuenberger may find himself in and out of the best 22 constantly.

    What do you think, Roarers? Do you agree with Essendon’s best 22 for 2018?

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    The Crowd Says (144)

    • December 14th 2017 @ 8:11am
      Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      If that best 22 doesn’t give 17 other clubs tremors of fear than they are lying. That best 22 is a frightening combination of pace, grit, skill and run and carry with Joey about to emerge as the number one forward in the AFL. The Bombers are poised on greatness now, ready to accept the mantle of the greatest club in the land with their 17th premiership in 2018. Some commenters in here live in a fantasy world where they think they can decide when the competition started or pick their own era but bug Harry tells you it dont work that way folks. Checked in with the AFL blokes and the records are the records, it aint like playing your fantasy video games young fellas this is reality. The once great and now lowly house of wooden spoons Carlton are stuck on 16 flags it seems now for eternity and the Bombers are a lay down misere for the 2018 cup when they defeat Port Adelaide in the grannie. Go mighty bombers! we will pick up where we left off.

      • December 14th 2017 @ 9:21am
        Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        “we will pick up where we left off.” What getting belted in finals? Or are you picking up from 13 years ago?

        • December 14th 2017 @ 9:35am
          Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

          On picking up where you left off, the last 6 weeks of the bombers season looked like this;

          30 point loss to the 10th placed Bulldogs
          Hard fought 12 point victory against the 16th placed blues
          43 point loss to the Grand final bound Crows at Etihad
          33 point win against the 17th placed Suns
          5 point win against the 14th placed Dockers
          65 point loss to the 6th placed Swans

          So it looks like you are picking up from being non competitive against anyone above 11th, in tight battles against teams between 14th & 17th but getting a good win against anyone in the bottom 2 (although you did lose to the Lions in Melbourne in round 15 so not sure even that holds).

        • December 14th 2017 @ 9:53am
          Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          where we left off before the AFL witch hunt of course Macca. All those years Carlton had the chance to go above us with flags and guess what you did! Hired a burnt out Malthouse! Well done Sticks he should be given life Bombers membership for letting us go past your sorry lot!

          • December 14th 2017 @ 10:43am
            Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

            “where we left off before the AFL witch hunt of course Macca” The last game you played before the supposed witch hunt was a 62 point loss to the blues in the 2011 elimination final, doesn’t seem like a great place to pick up from.

            • December 14th 2017 @ 12:27pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

              Macca plucks out one off games from 2011 for all his theories! Good luck with that champ, hope youre not a betting man old fella!

              • December 14th 2017 @ 1:02pm
                Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

                I can’t help it if that is where you left off HTH – I am just going off what you said.

            • December 14th 2017 @ 1:03pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

              Honestly Macca I 100% will buy Sticks a Bombers membership for what he did in securing Malthouse for you lot. You think he’ll accept it? I guess to be fair never was the sharpest tool in the shed!

              • December 14th 2017 @ 1:24pm
                Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

                More on Carlton, why can’t you bring yourself to discuss your own side?

            • December 14th 2017 @ 1:45pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

              I have explained so many times even Sticks Kernahan might get it. We pick up after the AFL witch hunt and start winning flags while Bolton and SOS work on your next 20 year rebuild.

      • December 14th 2017 @ 9:45am
        Peter the Scribe said | December 14th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        I don’t know about winning the whole thing “Bug Harry” but I agree your best side looks competitive. Maybe 6-8 for the Bombers in 2018. Remember the Pies are only one flag behind you old fella!

        • December 14th 2017 @ 10:01am
          Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

          yeah Pete but the Pies have a handicap system installed called Mcguire-Buckley.

      • December 14th 2017 @ 9:03pm
        PeteB said | December 14th 2017 @ 9:03pm | ! Report

        The only premierships that matter are the ones you can remember. I experienced the joy of seeing my Blues win in 79,81,82,87 and 95. So that’s 5 for me, the others were before my time so they’re irrelevant to me.
        This concept of the AFL starting in 1990 is BS, that’s just a branding name change. Nothing changed in 1990. WA, NSW and QLD already had teams in the league prior to this year and SA didn’t join until 1991.
        The best players from interstate had already been coming across to join teams in the VFL for many decades before anyway.

        • December 14th 2017 @ 10:26pm
          Aransan said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:26pm | ! Report

          PeteB, if you go far enough back you will find a number of interstate players playing in the big V against their state of origin team.

    • December 14th 2017 @ 9:28am
      David C said | December 14th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      Impressive forward line but the midfield will get overrun. Should make the 8 and who knows after that.

    • Roar Guru

      December 14th 2017 @ 9:41am
      JamesH said | December 14th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      The additions of Stringer, Smith and Saad in the offseason were big but I’m really looking forward to seeing how the likes of Parish, Fantasia, Francis, Langford, Laverde, Begley, Mutch, Ridley and Draper develop in the next 12-24 months. A few of those guys have huge upside, Francis and Langford in particular. I feel like their progress will be just as crucial to Essendon’s push for a 17th flag as the performance of the bigger names.

      • December 14th 2017 @ 9:52am
        Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        James H – I will be very interesting to see how those 3 additions go – they could all be massive inclusions who take you to the next level but all of them have their issues.

        I am not convinced Saad is not all flash, he looks great dashing from defence but he averages just 16.4 possessions in 3 years and his first year was his best.

        Smith could be a cracker but has played just 30 games in the last 2 years and averages less than a goal game in his career

        And we all know Stringers problems.

        • December 14th 2017 @ 9:59am
          Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

          it’s funny Macca I reckon most would agree with me here that if the sorry Blues had recruited Stringer, Saad and Smith you would be talking them up as going one, two and three in the brownlow. Fact is the blues obsession with rising star noms while we build a premiership side.

          • Roar Guru

            December 14th 2017 @ 10:24am
            AdelaideDocker said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

            Says the guy who’s team literally won the Rising Star last year! 😉

            • December 14th 2017 @ 12:30pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

              not the point AD, Macca bases al his hopes for the Blues future on their number of rising star noms choosing to ignore they couldnt crack 100 points all last season, were the worst scoring side by over 100 points for the year and have a declining membership based on a scaled ratio of the bigger sides.

              • December 14th 2017 @ 1:06pm
                Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

                Why do you continually want to talk about Carlton on an Essendon thread?

              • December 15th 2017 @ 9:14am
                Macca said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

                Just wondering Harry when you personally have heard me talk about Carlton’s rising star nominations? From memory your arrival on here and me talking about them don’t intersect at all, in fact I would say there was a gap of at least a couple of months.

          • December 14th 2017 @ 10:41am
            Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

            Yeah HTH, that is why I don’t have Lang, Mullett or Garlett in my best 22 for the blues.

            It is interesting though that you choose not to argue the point but to play the man, speaks volumes.

            • December 14th 2017 @ 10:51am
              Stephen said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

              Macca, I think the Blues did show some interest during the trade period for – Smith, Saad and Stringer.

              • December 14th 2017 @ 11:01am
                Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

                Stephen – I can’t recall them showing any real interest in Stringer, they were linked to Smith early and I don’t think they had any real interest in Saad as they had bigger fish to fry but asked about him.

                But if you read what I said I have stated they all could be very good players and could be “massive inclusions” but all do come with question marks. As I said it will be interesting to see how they go.

              • December 14th 2017 @ 11:10am
                Stephen said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

                Fair enough. Apologise for being pedantic – I think you’ll find both Hibberd and Pears were lost to Essendon prior to 2017.

              • December 14th 2017 @ 11:14am
                Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

                Yeah, my mistake.

                But the point still stands, if this offseason Brisbane were able to go out and get Hooker, Hurley & Heppell alone plus land Rayner there would be reasonable expectations that they were around finals in 2018. The idea that Essendon did something completely amazing to go from last to finals is laughable.

              • December 14th 2017 @ 11:41am
                Stephen said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

                True Macca. Point taken re Brisbane analogy.

                Yet only around 10% of AFL commentators predicted Essendon would finish in the final 8 at the conclusion of the 2017 home/away season. And yet they all new those players were due to return.

                Perhaps there was some hesitation given the length of time out of the game for the banned players. But most would concede – EFC surprised on the upside – 2017.

                The challenge is backing it up. I know we all live it hope this time of year. And hope is a wonderful thing. But talk can be cheap.

                It’s been too long since the last Finals victory. And many would argue EFC began to accept mediocrity and become adept in searching for rationalizations, excuses and short-cuts.

                Worsfold’s demeanour can often disguise his fierce determination. He arrived at EFC at a time when his attributes were the tonic needed.

                Perhaps the days of mediocrity are drawing to an end. As always – only time will tell.

    • December 14th 2017 @ 10:07am
      Mattyb said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

      Essendons quick rise back into the finals was nothing short of remarkable given the events of the last couple of seasons so I’d expect them to show further improvment this season. Their backs and forwards are up there with the leagues best and they do play the most exciting game style in the league.
      I’ll be interested in how Francis goes this year,I’ve drawn a line through him as a prospect and would love to be proven wrong,but he has a big year in front of him if he wants to fulfill his high draft pick potential.
      If we are to see a hat trick of VFL fairytales,Essendon could very much be the team to look out for this season.

      • December 14th 2017 @ 10:40am
        Stephen said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Very balanced Mattyb. There is a bit of X-Factor on the list. Although that can cut both ways. Consistency hasn’t been a strength.

      • December 14th 2017 @ 10:49am
        Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        “Essendons quick rise back into the finals was nothing short of remarkable” Seriously, you think it is remarkable that if you put Hooker, Hurley, Heppell, Hibberd, Bellchambers & Watson back into a side along with number 1 pick McGrath (not to mentin Colyer, Hocking, Howeltt, Myers, Pears & Stanton) the would be able to rebound to mid table?

        • December 14th 2017 @ 12:06pm
          Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

          jealous Macca? Jealous the bombers fly straight past the blues again while you stagnate?

          • December 14th 2017 @ 1:06pm
            Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

            Jealous of what – you have to achieve something before I can be jealous, you haven’t won a final in 13 years.

      • December 14th 2017 @ 12:30pm
        Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

        and what a fairytale it would be Mattyb!

    • Roar Guru

      December 14th 2017 @ 10:07am
      AdelaideDocker said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

      Honestly, I can see Essendon making the eight, but I’m not sure how far they can go. They’re a real enigma for me in 2018.

      A lot of those guys in the depth section are just that: depth players. It seems for me like a team where the best 22 listed here are the ones people will be talking about, and will be getting results on-field, but none of those depth players really excite me. That may just be me not knowing too much about them, but there’s virtually no recognisable names that aren’t in the best 22.

      Of course, Aaron Francis has a lot of talent, and Leuenberger did some good stuff for them this season, but are there any other noticeable names in that group? I’m more than happy to be corrected on this one.

      • December 14th 2017 @ 10:16am
        Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        AD – that is about where I am at as well, if they can keep their best 22 on the park and their recruits all work out then they should make the 8 but when you consider they lost to the Lions in Melbourne, lost to Carlton once and very nearly did the second time and lost to the dockers once and only just won the second time they don’t exactly look like a team on the cusp of success.

        • Roar Guru

          December 14th 2017 @ 11:25am
          AdelaideDocker said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

          Fair enough.

          The thing to ponder, though, is whether these losses are just aberrations, or the start of a trend? If the former, I don’t think anybody will be too worried, but if it’s the latter that’s a worrying thing.

          Essendon should make the eight, but they won’t be top four I don’t believe. I’ll peg them in for a 6/7th position.

          This reminds me, I need to start my ladder predictions for next year. I had a lot of fun doing them earlier this year, so I need to begin that process again!

          • December 14th 2017 @ 11:28am
            Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

            5 games, 3 losses and 2 narrow victories is a lot of aberrations.

            • December 14th 2017 @ 11:42am
              Birdman said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

              2017 again typified Essendon’s usual form arc – fast starters who peter out in the home straight – been happening for years…..

              • December 14th 2017 @ 11:43am
                Macca said | December 14th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

                And get belted in finals 😉

          • December 14th 2017 @ 12:59pm
            Stephen said | December 14th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

            Why are people so unkind. LOL

          • December 14th 2017 @ 2:35pm
            Harsh Truth Harry said | December 14th 2017 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

            wheres your ladder AD? Im loading the boat mate better get in quick!

    • December 14th 2017 @ 10:11am
      Stephen said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:11am | ! Report

      Good job Conor. Not sure I can add much.

      Mark Harvey has great faith in Patrick Ambrose. The so-called power forwards have been a challenge for Essendon for many years. And Ambrose seems to manage those players well.

      Travis Colyer and David Myers simply don’t get their hands on the football often enough for midfielders. They average 16-18 disposals each. In past years of mediocrity – the club would tolerate this. I suspect under Worsfold – the bar has risen and more youth will be given games.

      So perhaps – Ambrose, Laverde and Gleeson – IN
      Hartley, Colyer and Myers – OUT

      We can expect to see a lot more of – Francis, Begley, Ridley, Clarke and Mutch in 2018. Ben McNiece is being groomed to replace the reliable yet aging Baguley. And only time will tell how much football is left in Goddard’s brilliant career.

      Plenty of excitement on the current list. Time to sign-up Bombers fans!