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AFL Anzac Week preview

The ANZAC Day clash is always a spectacle. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
Roar Guru
22nd April, 2018
19

It will be another massive night and day of action when Melbourne and Richmond, and Collingwood and Essendon, contest the Anzac Eve and Day matches to finish round five of the 2018 AFL season.

2018 marks the fourth year of the Anzac Eve match between the Dees and Tigers, which, following the success of the inaugural match in 2015, has started to become a regular fixture on the AFL calendar.

We start by previewing the rare Tuesday night clash between the Dees and Tigers, which will be the first time in recent history that a match has been scheduled for this timeslot (notwithstanding the Essendon vs St Kilda clash in 1996 which had to be completed in this timeslot due to a lighting failure).

Despite Melbourne’s dismal loss to Hawthorn last Sunday, its biggest home crowd outside of Queen’s Birthday in a very long time is expected for their clash against the reigning premiers, who are again shaping as the team to beat following their 93-point thrashing of the Brisbane Lions last week.

Again it was Dustin Martin who was at the forefront of the Tigers’ victory as he attempts to become the first man since Robert Harvey in 1997-98 to win back-to-back Brownlow Medals.

This gives them a 3-1 record after four rounds, with the only loss coming against the Adelaide Crows at the Oval in round two, in which they faded badly in the final quarter to lose by 36 points.

Therefore, the signs are good for the defending premiers as they attempt to avoid the same fate as the Western Bulldogs last year, who after winning the flag in 2016 failed to even make the finals.

The Dees, on the other hand, started well against the Hawks, kicking five goals in the first quarter, but could only manage one more for the remainder of the match as they crashed to a 67-point defeat – its worst loss under second-year coach Simon Goodwin.

Their cause has not been helped by the continued absences of Jack Viney and Tom McDonald due to injuries, while Jordan Lewis has been ruled out for at least a fortnight after suffering a hand injury against his former club.

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And despite a recent good record against the Tigers, winning three of their last four matches against the yellow-and-black, the Dees could risk having their season record drop into the red.

We now preview the Collingwood vs Essendon match, which regularly attracts the largest crowd of the home-and-away season, regardless of how both teams are faring at this point in a season.

Essendon Bombers Collingwood Magpies Anzac Day AFL 2015

(AAP Image/Julian Smith)

After dropping their first two matches, albeit to quality opposition in Hawthorn and the GWS Giants, the Pies have picked up in the past fortnight, defeating Carlton and the Adelaide Crows to level their season record at 2-all.

Their win over the Crows on the road was the most impressive of the two, with the pressure already starting to be lifted off the shoulders of coach Nathan Buckley, who last September received a two-year contract extension despite his side missing the finals for four consecutive seasons.

They have also had Sam Murray and Jaidyn Stephenson nominated for the AFL Rising Star in the past two rounds, an indication that despite some rumblings within the club, that the future is actually bright.

Like the Pies, the Bombers are also even with a 2-2 record, with wins over both the South Australian clubs at home sandwiching disappointing losses to Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs.

John Worsfold’s men responded to their dismal loss to the Dogs by handing Port Adelaide their first defeat of the season, showing their fans that they are capable of taking the next step up in 2018.

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The former West Coast Eagles premiership coach was rewarded for his side’s improvement with a contract extension that will see him remain at Windy Hill until at least the end of the 2020 season.

After a first season that proved to be understandably difficult as, with half of his best side out due to doping suspensions, the club finished with the wooden spoon, the Bombers surged up the ladder in 2017, finishing seventh before losing to the Sydney Swans in an elimination final at the SCG.

Now, the club will be aiming to win consecutive Anzac Day clashes for the first time since 2004-5; prior to its win last year, they hadn’t saluted in the clash since 2013.

It’s set to be a massive 24 hours for four clubs, as Round 5 comes to a close.