Same old Essendon, same old inconsistent form

Dylan Phillips Roar Rookie

By Dylan Phillips, Dylan Phillips is a Roar Rookie New author!


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    We’re four rounds into the 2018 AFL season and some teams are definitely showing improvement from last year.

    I’ll mention Hawthorn and West Coast who have definitely exceeded expectations early in the season. With teams recruiting in the offseason and tweaking their game plan it’s inevitable that some will improve.

    Even Brisbane and Carlton, who have been at the bottom of the ladder and are still expected to be there for a few years, look like they have improved their game plan which is great for the competition.

    However, there has been a sleeping giant in the competition who haven’t shown improvement for a long time and who continue to frustrate their supporters with their inconsistency, and you guessed it, it’s Essendon.

    Inconsistency has been the word to describe Essendon for years. They are a frustrating team to watch and I don’t even support them. One week they can beat a top side, but the next they lose a game they’re expected to win.

    I did some research to show just how inconsistent Essendon have been over the last ten years. I analysed Essendon’s results from 2007 until 2017, which excluded the 2016 season due to them having to field an uncompetitive team. What I found illustrates the inconsistency of Essendon to a tee.

    They have finished top eight four times during this period, with their highest finish being seventh.

    They have finished in the bottom eight five times, with most results being between twelfth and fourteenth. Finally, what stands out is that Essendon have not been in the top 8 in back to back seasons from 2007 to 2017.

    Let that sink in a bit, ten years and they haven’t featured in finals for back to back seasons. What does this mean? They’re inconsistent.

    Essendon have never gone into a full rebuild during this time, their team has been competitive but not enough to get into the top four, which they haven’t done since 2001. They’ve been middle of the pack, reflecting that they’re good enough to win half their games, nothing more, nothing less.

    So why have they been so up and down over the last ten years? Here’s my take.

    The coaching. Ultimately, I think the inconsistency stems from the lack of consistent coaching. Since Kevin Sheedy left in 2007, no Essendon coach has been in charge for longer than three years. This unsettled nature of the club since 2007 has been a factor in Essendon being unable to make finals consistently.

    For the sake of Essendon fans, I hope John Worsfold stays for a prolonged period, then maybe Essendon might see some success.

    Enter the 2018 season.

    At the start of the season, footy expert David King predicted Essendon to be the premiers for 2018. A big call, but it shows how highly the footy experts held Essendon at the start of the year. For me, I couldn’t see it happening because inconsistency is currently ingrained in their culture.

    I engaged in a tiny bit of analysis of Essendon’s list to come to my own conclusion about whether they’re good enough and they certainly have quality all over the park. I gave a big tick to nine of Essendon’s best twenty-two, who I believe are A grade players.

    Michael Hurley, Dyson Heppell, Zach Merrett, Brendon Goddard, Devon Smith, David Zaharakis, Darcy Parish, Joe Daniher and Andrew McGrath.

    You can also throw in Cale Hooker, Orazio Fantasia, Jake Stringer and Adam Saad who I think are B grade players. There’s thirteen of a possible twenty-two who I believe are A grade or just under.

    Essendon have the quality on their list so there’s no reason why they can’t make a push for top four. We could see why footy experts thought Essendon were a genuine contender coming into the season.

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

    So, has anything changed in the 2018 season for Essendon? No. They’re still inconsistent. Let’s look at their first four games.

    Round 1 versus Adelaide
    Twenty points down at the seven-minute mark of the final term but were able to rally and overcome last year’s grand finalists by twelve points. They were bold in their ball movement and sliced through Adelaide’s midfield.

    They recorded nineteen more tackles then Adelaide and were led beautifully by Dyson Heppell and David Zaharakis who had thirty-five disposals each.

    Furthermore, Cale Hooker, James Stewart and Joe Daniher worked well together and proved a tall forward line can still be potent in the modern game. Big tick.

    Round 2 versus Fremantle
    A sixteen-point loss for Essendon against a team that got pummelled by fifty points the week before. They were outworked and outperformed by a team who were hungrier around the contest. Structures around the ground were not working.

    Essendon’s three-pronged tall forward line was blunted by a stingy Fremantle defence who allows three goals between them. Scoreboard flattered the Dons, but the result definitely raised some early doubts about Essendon’s credibility. Cross.

    Round 3 versus Western Bulldogs
    This is where it gets frustrating. The Bulldogs came into Round 3 with eighty-two and fifty-one-point losses in their opening two rounds. Etihad Stadium against a side down on confidence should be a win, right? Wrong.

    A twenty-one-point win for the Bulldogs where Essendon just didn’t turn up. Safe to say that’s been a bit of a theme over the years.

    They were smashed all over the park with the only thing stopping a one hundred-point loss was an inaccurate dogs side who kicked fourteen goals, twenty behinds. This game was a bit of an eye-opener as the Bombers were not willing to defend well enough and cover for each other which was exposed by a hardened Western Bulldogs.

    They were not committed to their defensive structures but how can a team not commit to what they’ve been taught? Frustration galore. Big cross.

    Round 4 versus Port Adelaide
    What a difference a week can make in footy huh? Against the top of the ladder Port Adelaide side, who were the only undefeated team in the competition, Essendon won by twenty-two points.

    Essendon bullied the undefeated Port in all aspects of the game and didn’t even give them a chance to come back and win. Great performance from Essendon, not even giving them a look in, a massive difference from the week before. Big tick.

    Essendon starts the season two wins and two losses with a massive difference in performance week to week, what a surprise. They are a tipster’s nightmare. How does a team not turn up against the Bulldogs who were bottom of the ladder at the time but then turn in a great performance against an undefeated Port Adelaide side a week later?

    This is a question Essendon fans have been asking for years but I think I know why.

    We know Essendon have been inconsistent due to their instability in terms of coaches and in all honesty, their struggles in 2018 are due to the same reason. Nothing’s changed and here’s why.

    When a coach leaves a club and a new coach steps in, they have their own philosophies and game plan that is completely different to the coach before. John Worsfold has been in his position since October 2015, he has coached his team for one full year, 2017.

    Essendon didn’t field their full-strength team in 2016 due to their drugs scandal so it’s only one year that Essendon players have been able to put his game plan in place within the competition.

    It’s going to take a lot longer to become the new Sydney Swans, four to five years at least. Damien Hardwick won a premiership after a full seven years developing his game plan so it’s going to take some time for players to really understand their structures.

    Essendon need to leave Worsfold in change and let the team learn his game plan inside out.

    John Worsfold

    (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Ok, so does this mean Essendon aren’t going to have success for a long period? Maybe, but from what we’ve seen early this season there’s a short-term solution.

    Essendon have the team to be a top-four side. If they can win against an undefeated Port side, that’s telling you something. Here’s what I’ve seen.

    Essendon went in with three different structures in three games against the Western Bulldogs, Fremantle and Port Adelaide. The first two didn’t work, clearly. Against Port Adelaide, the Bombers started Cale Hooker in the backline alongside Michael Hurley who had twenty-three and twenty-nine disposals respectively.

    Hooker provides a presence in the back half which gives Hurley the space to operate as a loose defender. Hurley is one of the best defenders in the game, in my opinion, he’s on par with Alex Rance, so Essendon needs to exploit his ability. With Hooker in defence, Hurley took five marks in the first quarter and fifteen for the game.

    His precise use of the footy enables Essendon to use their quick ball movement and catch the opposition on the counter. So, it worked against the only undefeated team, right? Stick with it.

    Hurley and Hooker in defence, Daniher and Stewart forward. I think this will give teams a lot of problems especially if they move the ball quickly.

    So, Essendon fans, it’s going to be a roller coaster of a year and I wouldn’t be surprised if they finish twelve wins and eleven losses after Round 23. Worsfold is still working on his game plan and the players are still learning it so there’s going to be more inconsistent results coming your way.

    This week’s game against Collingwood will be an interesting one. If Worsfold sticks with the structure that destroyed Port Adelaide, then I see no reason why they can’t win the contest. If it they do then maybe I’ll be able to tip 9 this week.

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • April 22nd 2018 @ 9:34am
      1der said | April 22nd 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      Yes, they may just scrape into the finals with that extra game for them to get the twelve wins.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 22nd 2018 @ 9:44pm
        Dylan Phillips said | April 22nd 2018 @ 9:44pm | ! Report

        Thanks for comment 1der. I think you’re right, they may just scrape in i reckon.

    • April 22nd 2018 @ 10:05am
      Brian said | April 22nd 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

      If you were in the land of the living you might have noticed that ALL teams have been inconsistent. I think you’re status is CLUELESS rather than rookie.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 22nd 2018 @ 10:13pm
        Dylan Phillips said | April 22nd 2018 @ 10:13pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the comment Brian. The whole point of my article was to point out that over the last 10 years Essendon have been one of the most frustrating and inconsistent teams, and so far this season they have shown their inconsistency in their performance again. So in relation to your comment that all teams have been inconsistent, unfortunately i disagree, not all teams have been inconsistent in this period. I’ll use the Swans as an example. Since 2007 they have only missed finals once which was in 2009, they have definitely been consistent. Also Geelong have been extremely consistent, the last time they didn’t play finals was 2006. So i can’t agree that all teams have been inconsistent, not as much as Essendon anyway. We’ll see how the rest of the season pans out. 8th on the ladder for me.

      • Roar Guru

        April 22nd 2018 @ 10:19pm
        JamesH said | April 22nd 2018 @ 10:19pm | ! Report

        If you were inclined to read the article you might have noticed that Dylan was also talking about their inconsistency from year-to-year.

        I think you’re [sic] status is ‘keyboard warrior’.

    • April 22nd 2018 @ 10:40am
      Rob said | April 22nd 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

      Remember 2009? Finished 8th with 10 wins and a draw – 97.7%

      So one of the years they made finals out of the last 10 they were below average and got smacked by 16 goals… do you even count it?

      • Roar Rookie

        April 22nd 2018 @ 10:25pm
        Dylan Phillips said | April 22nd 2018 @ 10:25pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the comment Rob. Great point you make about their 2009 season, the smacking was against Adelaide i believe. To add to that, last year they finished 7th and got smacked by Sydney by 65 points so whenever they do finish in the 8, they’re getting beaten quite convincingly. Highlights that they’re just good enough to get into the 8, but can’t compete to the level required in finals footy.

    • Roar Guru

      April 22nd 2018 @ 10:57am
      Peter the Scribe said | April 22nd 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

      Interesting article thanks Dylan. As a Pies tragic I hope this week the bombers are on an off day. One thing I’d say is disregard anything David King says, the guy is mostly wrong with his grand predictions. With everything the Bombers went through I reckon they’re doing ok.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 22nd 2018 @ 10:39pm
        Dylan Phillips said | April 22nd 2018 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the comment Peter and i appreciate the feedback! I hope for your sake Essendon are off their game on Wednesday but if Collingwood can repeat their effort against Adelaide they’re going to trouble alot of sides. And I could not agree anymore with what you’re saying about David King. A couple of days ago he wrote that Tim Kelly is more important to Geelong than Gary Ablett! Very big call.
        I think Essendon has the right man to steer the ship in John Worsfold, he’ll have that team scratching at that top 4 in the near future.

    • April 22nd 2018 @ 11:34am
      Balls Up 🏉 said | April 22nd 2018 @ 11:34am | ! Report

      From a Saints fan Essendon are definitely very difficult team to pick in footy tipping this week against Collingwood is a prime example are they going to show up or not ? I hope so Essendon do have a ok side with as you said some very good A grade players and other players that definitely look like they can improve in time all that said after what the club has been through as well as all their fans I hope one day to see Essendon back to being a major force in the AFL Essendon coaching staff also need there time to develop as well .
      interesting read Dylan

      • Roar Rookie

        April 22nd 2018 @ 10:52pm
        Dylan Phillips said | April 22nd 2018 @ 10:52pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the feedback! Essendon have definitely been the thorn in my side when it comes to tipping, its a toss of the coin whether they’ll turn up or not. They have so much potential but we’ll have to just see whether they live up to it. As one of the most followed teams in the AFL, it’ll be great too see not just the club, but their supporters up and about again.

    • April 22nd 2018 @ 11:38am
      Chris said | April 22nd 2018 @ 11:38am | ! Report

      These two teams have pride,tradition and up-and-coming talent. I don’t think Collingwood can go into this game as favourites. This game is an eight-pointer. Whoever loses is damned in 2018. This is not any old game. My beloved Pies won’t be winning as much as I would love top see it. The stupidity of McGuire will cost us this game because there is a young man in the Red and Black who wanted to play for the Pies under the Father-Son, but he was turned down without cause. I fear that our backline is too short to deal with Stewart and Daniher.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 22nd 2018 @ 11:00pm
        Dylan Phillips said | April 22nd 2018 @ 11:00pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the comment Chris. I agree that Collingwood won’t go in as favourites but i really enjoyed their style of play against Adelaide. If they can replicate that performance i think they can trouble any side. I think it was a silly move by Eddie to turn down James Stewart as a father son. Looking at Collingwood’s forward line the one thing they’re lacking is a tall target and Stewart would definitely fill that need for them. The only thing i can see Collingwood doing to try and counter Essendon’s tall forward line is swinging Ben Reid in defence, hopefully that provides a bit of a chop out. Big game Wednesday, can’t wait.