Wow. A Friday night without Collingwood.
This is unfamiliar territory for me of late, but I will certainly give it my best shot.
Unfortunately for me we turn our focus to Essendon this week. And I say unfortunately because I had to watch them completely pull my beloved North Melbourne apart last weekend in a game the Dons should’ve won by ten goals.
And that’s the thing about Essendon I am really struggling with on the back of last week’s game. Maybe even about their season on the whole.
They’re currently sitting 4-1 with a game in hand. The one game they lost was by a point to Carlton and, honestly, that game was a seesawing affair all night that really could’ve been won by either team.
It’s been a really good start to the season. However, for a side that is winning games, they just aren’t dominating the way they should be. And as we approach the halfway mark of the season they probably still need to take another step up in their game.
Going into Round 7 the Bombers have faced just two sides sitting in the top eight for one win and one loss.
They are also allowing their opponents to get plenty of the football, ranking 13th in fewest opponent kicks, handballs and disposals per game and 14th in fewest opponent clearances per game.
While there is work that needs to be done, it’s hardly doom and gloom for the Dons.
They are quick and their ability to transition the ball from one end of the ground to the other in a neat and timely fashion is beautiful to watch – well, when it doesn’t come against your own side.
On the weekend Adam Saad and Conor McKenna reunited for the first time in 2020 and set up a lot of the play from defence. They were well supported by Cale Hooker, Michael Hurley and Andy McGrath.
It’s looking good down back for the Bombers right now, and clearly that defence is doing an exceptional job of holding down the fort.
The forward line, however, has got plenty of people talking.
No Joe Daniher, and it appears that he has suffered yet another setback on his road to recovery.
No Jake Stringer, who at this point in the season is Essendon’s leading goal kicker.
Shaun McKernan, Jacob Townsend and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti are doing a reasonable job, and it’s great that the Bombers have a number of contributors, but they still lack that one key forward.
Joe Daniher can’t be the only answer. Because of his history his road back to senior footy isn’t a straight line but rather goes around and around in circles.
Away from Joe Daniher, Cale Hooker is Essendon’s most dynamic option up forward. He’s exciting and he’s reliable. He’s also a good defender who is often preoccupied with the opposition’s best forward, and clearly he’s been doing such a great job that Essendon are reluctant to bring him out of that role.
It’s an issue for the Bombers, but when you’re sitting 4-1 with a game in hand you’re hardly in the worst position.
The Dogs, on the other hand, have some issues.
Their best and worst footy is worlds apart and they just can’t seem to find that sweet spot to stay consistent and remain a threat.
Last weekend against Carlton they were absolutely diabolical. The Dogs had more disposals and inside 50s than the Blues but couldn’t translate it to a score on the board. They had just 16 scores from 53 inside 50s at an efficiency of 30 per cent.
They also had 11 more tackles than the Blues but again didn’t make the most of the pressure they created.
It’s incredible that despite the Dogs’ dominance around the ground they could barely make an impact on the scoreboard and went down by almost nine goals.
They are now at an even ledger of three wins and three losses but with a percentage of 89.1 and an average losing margin of eight goals.
It’s not great, is it? And Luke Beveridge knows it, swinging the axe at this week’s selection table and dropping four players.
So how does tonight play out?
Well it’s hard to know because it really depends on which Bulldogs team shows up really. They will most likely be the ones to dictate to outcome of this game, because you just about know what you’re going to get with the Bombers.
The Dogs really need to work on winning the ball in the middle of the ground.
As mentioned earlier, the Bombers are ranked 14th in fewest opponent clearances per game, so they’re really allowing their opponents to get on top of them in the middle. To add insult to that stat, Essendon will be without clearance king Dylan Shiel, who has been suspended for two weeks.
So there’s a chance for the Dogs. But I don’t think they’ve got what it takes. And, honestly, it’s just too hard to know if they’ll bring their best footy tonight. It’s also too hard to know if their best is up there with Essendon at all.
So I’m playing it safe and sticking with the Dons.
That’s my Friday night forecast. What’s yours?