Welcome to the first of the bye rounds.
It always sucks writing after a loss like that. The Bombers tried their heart out but just fell over at the last hurdle. It was the divide between a side that has perpetually challenged and a side that is on the rise.
So I guess what are the lessons that we can take out of that match? Where can the Bombers improve? And why did they fall over at the end?
Darcy Parish Dreamtime extraordinaire
Darcy Parish has become the first player ever to win both the Anzac Day medal and the Yiooken medal in the same year. While this is only something that can be done by an Essendon player, the form Darcy Parish is in puts him in the highest echelons of the league.
Some highlights of his performance were the 44 disposals going at 70 per cent efficiency. He gathered 16 contested possessions, 11 clearances, ten score involvements, five tackles and 737 metres gained for the game.
I know it’s a rarity for the losing side to earn the three votes in a match from a Brownlow perspective, but I don’t think Parish could’ve done much more to earn it. Knowing the AFL, the three votes will go to Dustin Martin (and deservedly so, as much as it pains me to admit that).
Finally, it was also the first time a player won the Yiooken award in a losing side since Brett Deledio in 2012, and the second player overall. It would take someone exceptionally bold or Jackson Merrett to bet against Parish in the Critchon medal at the end of the year.
Defence wins championships
I know the Bombers have had struggles with their defence this year. They have the fourth worst score against of the entire competition. Where they make up for it is with their exceptionally potent offence with the Bombers having eight players in the top 100 for goals, along with seven players in the top 100 for score involvements.
If the game is a shoot-out against an exceptionally poor defence, the Bombers will more than likely win, but against the seasoned bodies of the Richmond Tigers, they were able to pile on seven goals in nearly as many minutes to crush the faint hopes of the Bombers.
It goes to a wider performance issue for the Bombers where their defence is a little too blue collar, as Ben Rutten would say. Players like Matt Guelfi and Aaron Francis had a putrid night with each player being asked to play a more negating role on their direct opponent and failing.
Guelfi himself conceded about five goals by my count and has shown himself to be limited in his defensive capacity. Where it fell was the move of Nick Hind into a high half forward role to give Essendon some more creativity going into the forward line, but it was robbing Peter to pay Paul in an egregious fashion.
I’m not saying Rutten should become like Nathan Buckley where they defend at all costs, but they do need to place a greater emphasis on defence, and it starts with ensuring you have the right personnel down there.
Cox should get the Rising Star this week
He put together his most complete performance on a wing, getting the ball 23 times on top of a goal, two tackles and eight marks.
In future he will prove to be an extremely tough match-up with his aerobic capabilities, strength in the air and raw athleticism enabling him to do things not thought possible. He truly is the rare unicorn-style player, and may in future be a deadly threat in the guts if Essendon insiders are to be believed.
As to the other members of the Bombers’ youth brigade, they battled manfully but were unable to have a particularly large impact on the game.
Archie Perkins was not overawed by the game but he was forced to play more midfield minutes with Andy McGrath going down with a PCL in the first ten minutes of the game.
Harry Jones missed his first set shot in 11 games. It is getting to the point where the Bombers will need to rest their young ones because their bodies are not used to the arduous conditions of modern AFL.
The walking wounded
The big thing that stuck out to me in the infuriating patch to end the game was how slow Essendon were looking out there.
The Tigers found another gear and Essendon were unable to match the pressure of the Tigers at the coal face.
Part of that would have to do with the swap of Patrick Ambrose for Andy McGrath, while another part of it clearly was from the amount of first-year and second-year players the Bombers have taken into this game.
But when Andy McGrath went down in the first ten minutes, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti had a corkie and David Zaharakis went down with a hamstring injury, it left me wondering where the reinforcements were going to come in from.
I guess they could bring in Sam Durham for an extra early debut given how light the Bombers are in the midfield, but the Essendon injury situation is getting increasingly desperate, and may result in some thumping losses down the track.
But I’ve resolved myself to look on the positive sides of things and the Bombers do have a lot to be positive about, they’re much further along in their rebuild than I thought possible.
Andrew Phillips (two votes)
Dyson Heppell (nine votes)
Brayden Ham (three votes)
Cale Hooker (18 votes)
Nikolas Cox (11 votes)
Zach Merrett (38 votes)
Kyle Langford (16 votes)
Obviously, it was going to be Darcy Parish (40 votes)
Darcy Parish (40 votes)
Zach Merrett (38 votes)
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (19 votes)
Well, there you have it. I know the Tiger Army have been howling at the gates eager to see me get my just deserts, but I shan’t do that because I am still proud of my Bombers.
I am proud of the effort they put in against the much more hardened Tigers, proud of the youth who’ve been backing up week after week, and proud of the coaching staff who were willing to try everything to get the win.