Essendon’s Round 1 performance was one of the hardest to read of any club, making them a tough team to get a read on ahead of the AFL’s June 11 restart.
Watching Essendon scrap and claw its way towards respectability in the last quarter of their game against Richmond was both bemusing yet heroic.
Here was a team that was outclassed for most of the game having a dash even when injuries crippled their chances.
It was bemusing because supporters would feel like that effort should’ve been there from the start of the game. It shouldn’t come into their game plan when the match is all but over. It shouldn’t occur when two key players are on the bench.
Supporting the Bombers this year would be a heart-stopping occupation for their fans. And I know because I’m one of them. They have teased and teased and teased some more. They are four wins from ten games and that’s a massive disappointment for a club that hasn’t won a final since 2004.
Expectations in the preseason were high after Dylan Shiel came over from the Giants and the Bombers were seen as a potential top-eight lock after their impressive finish to 2018. So it’s disheartening not just for their supporters but also the AFL as a whole because when this team plays their game, they are a joy to behold.
They seem to play high-risk attacking football only when it’s their last resort. And the sad thing is they probably play it the best out of all the sides in the competition when it all clicks. But they haven’t come close to implementing it over a whole game against decent opposition.
They have come close to beating two challengers in Collingwood and Richmond but in no stage of both clashes did they look like they could actually finish off their good work.
Against Collingwood, they came back from a 33-point deficit in the second term to get within a kick but never hit the front. And when they did have their chances they blew them by wasting numerous inside 50 efforts.
And against Richmond they only played one decent quarter. To score only two goals in three quarters against an injury-hit Tigers outfit is a massive cause for concern for the players’ mindset going into the game.
Once they realised the game was lost they decided to kick four late goals to bring the margin back to 15 points at one stage with ten minutes to go, but it was too late. Where is that desperation from the start of the game? Do Essendon fear setting the agenda against the better teams of the competition and instead prefer to be seen as the underdogs?
So what does Saturday night’s loss mean for their season? Round 10 is usually a solid guide to finding out which teams will play finals and which ones miss out. So I did a little digging to find out whether the Bombers historically can make the finals this year. And it’s not pretty reading.
Since 2012 when there have been 18 teams, only 11 sides from outside the eight (that means only 11 teams out of 70 in that time period have forced their way into the eight).
And only one of those teams managed to make a meaningful impact in September. North Melbourne in 2015 defeated Richmond and Sydney on their way to losing to the Eagles in the preliminary final. Fremantle in 2012, Port Adelaide in 2013 and Sydney in 2017 are the only other sides to win a finals game.
So for the Bombers to make September action and to break their finals drought they will need everything to go right and then some. Because if it doesn’t happen then John Worsfold could see himself out of a job.
The CEO of the Bombers himself stated on the 12th of March to SEN’s Gerald Whateley that he expects to be challenging for finals and the coaching staff and players know where the expectations lie at.
So if the Bombers don’t make the eight I fully expect there to be a coaching change. The Bombers are a proud and successful club and the supporters won’t be happy if they miss the eight again after being promised so much over the last six months.
So this makes their clash with Carlton vitally important. They must win and win well because if they slip up like they did last year to Carlton, then it wouldn’t be too long a bow to say that Worsfold will be shown the door.
If they slide to 4-7 they will be probably two games out of the eight with games against Hawthorn, West Coast and GWS to follow. They have already lost Joe Daniher and Devon Smith for the year and I just can’t see them mounting any serious charge towards the eight if they lose on Sunday.