Well, that was rather disheartening.
The Bombers have largely punched above their weight division in matches this year. But the war of attrition has set into the AFL in a big way, and with the youth of the Bombers, they were always going to feel the attrition of the AFL season far more acutely than their contemporaries.
Read on for my takeaways from the Round 16 loss by Essendon against Geelong.
Inside-50 dominance but poor ball movement
Essendon did have moments of dominance on Friday night, and their efforts showed in the inside-50 count for the Bombers.
They won this statistic 62-45 against a red-hot Geelong outfit yet Essendon still lost the game by 41 points. In fact, there was a stretch of play in the second quarter when Geelong was able to get 12 inside 50s and they were able to convert them into eight goals.
This is attributable to two factors. One is the ruthlessness with which the Cats dispatched the Bombers. The other factor was the decisions surrounding the match-ups around the three-pronged key forward attack for the Geelong Cats.
Typically, I have been glowing in my assessment of the Bombers’ back line this year, and despite the strength of Jordan Ridley in the air the Essendon back line failed to gel, enabling the Cats to have free run at the ball to convert their inside 50s into goals.
Finally the other aspect of the game that was prominent was the inconsistent defence of the ball in transition. The Bombers failed to lock the ball in their half of the ground resulting in a deluge of low-quality inside-50 entries making for difficult shots on goal.
It meant the Bombers had to rely on the individual exploits of players like Jake Stringer to get their goals rather than any method. The Bombers need to increase their poise around the ball, and ensure they lower their eyes and avoid kicking it high and on top of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti’s head.
Bombers young jets look tired
The Bombers had eight players on Friday who recorded fewer than ten disposals across the entirety of the game. It was a list of players dominated by the new faces of the baby Bombers: Brayden Ham, Nik Cox, Archie Perkins, and Harry Jones all chief among them.
Some players like Cox have had down periods across the last few weeks while Archie Perkins looked gassed in the middle of the fourth quarter. The only player who has any vague justification for their poor performance is Harry Jones as the conditions did not suit key forwards, nor did he allow the conditions to limit his efforts without the ball as he recorded five tackles and a goal.
I don’t want this to sound too negative as I have been ecstatic with the Bombers’ performance this year, and they’re still teenagers who will work these flaws out of their game. However, the Bombers need to think about resting some players particularly to avoid the risk of long-term injuries.
The prospect of swapping players out raises the question, do the Bombers have the depth in their VFL side to compensate for them?
The previous three VFL games would indicate that they do not as they’ve been hammered by Box Hill, Casey, and Geelong. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as the Bombers do have senior depth with players like Martin Gleeson, Dylan Clarke and David Zaharakis all featuring prominently at VFL level.
Whereas if they wish to bring in more youth, Sam Durham and Nick Bryan both have played some very good footy at the lower level.
Phenomenal Parish and scintillating Stringer
This column is not about the doom and gloom of the current trajectory of the Bombers’ 2021 season. It’s about my opinion about how the Bombers are developing and how they went that week.
My Bombers were predicted to be a bottom-four fixture, and they pushed a side that will be at the pointy end of the fixture come September. While the Bombers were unable to get the win, it was a valuable learning experience for the young Bombers.
Darcy Parish is putting in a record-breaking performance this year in the Bombers’ engine room and it’s almost like when you put a midfielder in the midfield they thrive. He had 43 disposals, 28 contested possessions (a record, the previous was 22), and 13 clearances (one shy of the previous record for the Bombers).
This was the third performance of 40 or more disposals by Darcy Parish and the 13th in Essendon history (four of those performances have been this year).
Jake Stringer is a mercurial one. With the prospect of a new contract hanging over his head, he has put in three consecutive master classes, providing a point of difference to the Bombers’ forward line and midfield. It was his third consecutive performance of 20 or more disposals, and he also kicked a goal in each of those matches.
After the Hawthorn game I said Stringer would soon justify the four-year deal. However, I am starting to think that a hungry Stringer is a good Stringer and I’m willing to sacrifice a larger chunk of the salary cap for Stringer to sign year-long extensions.
Best on ground
6. James Stewart (two votes)
5. Will Snelling (nine votes)
4. Dyson Heppell (16 votes) and Jordan Ridley (12 votes)
3. Zach Merrett (48 votes)
2. Jake Stringer (28 votes)
1. Darcy Parish (51 votes)
Darcy Parish (51)
Zach Merrett (48)
Jake Stringer (28)
Well, there you have it folks. I hope you enjoyed reading my extremely parochial take on the Round 16 clash between the Bombers and the Cats.