Today my AFL list analysis and offseason preview series is back in action with the Essendon Bombers, a side who despite making a splash in two consecutive trade periods remain unsuccessful in finals.
These are the five duels that have my mouth watering ahead of this weekend’s AFL action.
Mark Blicavs vs Tom Lynch
Expectations were high when Tom Lynch joined Richmond over the off-season. Although he is not under-performing with 25 goals and an average of 2.4 marks inside 50 per game, his potential has not been met and in some matches he’s had minimal impact.
Lynch might find himself struggling yet again against arguably the best back six in the league in Geelong. This back line, led by Mark Blicavs and Tom Stewart, are two games clear of the competition and Blicavs is already putting his name in the mix for an All Australian nomination.
After limiting Lance Franklin last week, Blicavs will have a similar impact and limit the Tigers’ key forward.
Rhyce Shaw vs Stuart Dew
North Melbourne had a win last week against a much better team on paper in Richmond, and it was due to the instant impact Rhyce Shaw has had on the club.
Jack Ziebell has struggled with form this year but his introduction to the midfield added a distinct hardness that was missing from earlier in the season.
Similarly, Stuart Dew and the Gold Coast Suns have looked like a completely different team to the one that’s taken the field in previous years. Despite the wins not coming, Dew is developing a very young team in the hopes that they could compete in the future.
The two developing coaches have already shown an ability to impact the league and this match-up could come down to which coach adjusts better on the day. Rhyce Shaw will continue his impact on the team and North Melbourne will be too good on the day.
Taylor Walker vs Phil Davis
It’s been a tough few weeks for the Adelaide co-captain as he struggles to find confidence. At his best, Walker is one of the best leading key forwards in the league and has an exciting ability to kick goals from well outside the 50.
On the counter, Phil Davis is heading towards another All Australian nod with his elite capabilities at stopping opposition key forwards.
Walker’s struggles may go from bad to worse this week against one of the best key defenders in the league, but if Walker is able to break his slump and return to his trademark best, then Phil Davis may have a bigger task than expected.
Walker’s ability to compete will go a long way to Adelaide creating an upset. With the Crows sitting just inside the eight, a win on Saturday night could make a real statement to the rest of the league.
Ryan Clarke vs Andrew Gaff
Currently averaging just under 33 disposals in the 2019 season, Andrew Gaff has returned from the lengthy suspension that kept him out of the Eagles’ premiership team as an elite inside midfielder.
On the other hand, Ryan Clarke has migrated north to Sydney from the Kangaroos this year and after a few earlier rounds in the NEAFL, he has found himself a new vital tagging role in the Swans’ midfield.
Clarke’s effort keeping Collingwood’s Steele Sidebottom to four touches to half time and only 13 for the match in Round 10 exhibits that this new role may suit the young midfielder.
Despite the Eagles having more midfield depth with similar elite mids like Luke Shuey and Dom Sheed, stopping Gaff’s impact will ensure the Swans can at least break even against the West Coast.
Clarke’s run-with role will keep Gaff well under his disposal average this year.
Brodie Grundy vs Max Gawn
With the introduction of the 6-6-6 rule, an elite ruckman can provide a scoring advantage and these two big men have already shown this.
Grundy and Gawn lead the league in score launches due to their ruck efforts and their midfields look much better with them on the ground. On sheer hit-out numbers, these two are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition.
Both players dominated Sydney’s Callum Sinclair and were the difference for their sides in close encounters against the Swans.
With the game now revolving around the midfield battle, this contest of the two best ruckman in the league is vital to both teams’ chances of winning.
Although it’s difficult to separate the two, Grundy takes a slight edge into this match up as his Magpies team are sitting second on the ladder and look like a much better team overall team.