Saturday May 25, 2019 could mark a watershed moment for this Essendon side.
It’s the moment when they have the opportunity to beat a team – Richmond – that is a contender for the 2019 flag.
And going off recent history against the Tigers and the fact the Dons currently sit 10th on the ladder, a loss here would see finals slip away.
So what to make of Essendon over the first nine rounds of the season?
You could break their season up into three segments.
The first was their games against Greater Western Sydney and St Kilda, where they were non-competitive and listless. People were calling for John Worsfold to be sacked and questioning the leaders of the team.
The next three weeks saw them bounce back with wins over strugglers Melbourne and North Melbourne and a strong performance against Brisbane.
Over this three-week period they kicked over 100 points and conceded 58 and 65 points in two of the games. They conceded 112 against Melbourne.
People were starting to see Essendon as a dark horse for finals and potentially go a bit further up the ladder as the season progressed.
But the last month of football has been a period of disappointment as well as introspection on how the team can learn from their mistakes.
Anzac Day could be seen as one of their best performances of the year, but they didn’t win. Umpiring decisions over the game could’ve gone either way and that exasperated fans.
They were dreadfully unlucky not to beat Sydney two weeks ago and probably would have if the umpire had the courage to make that call.
Against Geelong, they weren’t allowed to play their game, and even though their win last week against Fremantle was a solid victory, the team still weren’t at their best.
Essendon haven’t exactly set the world on fire against Richmond, with their last victory against them coming in Round 11 2014.
That was during a period in that season when the Tigers were struggling. They ended up making the finals but had to win their last nine matches to get there.
Since that game, the Tigers have won eight games in a row against their sash rivals with an average margin of 26 points. There have been a few blow-outs but five of the eight games were decided by 19 points or fewer.
So it’s not like Essendon have been that far away from Richmond. Last year’s game in Round 22 is a good example of this. All night the Bombers looked to be off the pace by around four to five goals but a late surge saw them get within eight points.
But this isn’t the same Richmond side. Last year they were flying with a healthy list and a stranglehold over the rest of the competition.
Already this campaign they have lost to the Pies once again in a demolition job and got taken apart by the quick ball movement of GWS and the Western Bulldogs, so the template is there for Essendon to cause a massive upset.
The Bombers must take the game on from the get go. They have been slow starters in games, winning just three of nine first quarters.
To have any chance of beating Richmond they need to be close to them at quarter-time. If they can do that, they may be able to control the midfield battle and the defensive areas of the ground.
Richmond are missing four key players for Saturday’s game. Alex Rance, Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt and Toby Nankervis are all massive losses.
If Zach Merrett, Dyson Heppell and Dylan Shiel can outshine the Tigers’ midfield, it gives the Bombers a fantastic chance of getting repeat entries into their forward line. And that will go a long way towards winning on Saturday night.