David King wasn't impressed with Jake Stringer's refusal to run both ways in Essendon's loss to West Coast.
After two years on the road, the annual Dreamtime match returns to the MCG this Saturday night, and there’s no better stage than for Essendon and Richmond to showcase their talent and skills as we approach the halfway mark of the season.
COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria in the past two years meant that it was not logistically possible to stage the match at the MCG, with the 2020 edition played in Darwin and the 2021 match in Perth.
The commercial success of last year’s match in the west led to the Western Australia government winning the right to host the grand final when it became obvious that the MCG would be unable to stage the summit match for a second straight year.
It also saved Essendon, who were the designated home team, from the potential loss of $1 million in gate takings had the match been played at an empty MCG.
The spotlight will be on the Bombers again this week after the club crashed to a ten-goal loss to the Sydney Swans at the SCG last Saturday night, following which club legend Matthew Lloyd was scathing of the team’s performance and response.
The Bombers appeared to turn a corner when they came from behind to beat Hawthorn by 27 points at Marvel Stadium in Round 8, but all their hard work came undone at the hands of a Swans side which were keen to atone for two poor defeats against the Queensland clubs.
Footage of Swans veteran Luke Parker taunting Dylan Shiel after kicking a goal in the second quarter infuriated Lloyd, who suggested that the players should’ve gone after Parker at the next centre clearance.
Speaking on Channel Nine’s Sunday Footy Show, he was also pressed on the incident whereby he knocked out Brad Sewell in a 2009 match against Hawthorn in which he knocked the tagger out cold, turning the match in the Bombers’ favour.
While Lloyd made a huge statement on the field, he ended up receiving a four-match suspension, of which he served only one before pulling stumps on his 270-game career weeks later.
Captain Dyson Heppell responded to Lloyd’s comments on On the Couch on Monday night, saying, “Does he want Dylan to plough through someone, give away a free kick, give away a 50-metre penalty and then another goal?”.
The loss to the Swans marked a disappointing 200th game for the 2011 Rising Star winner, whose 30th birthday was also one to forget.
Overall it has been a very disappointing season for the men from Windy Hill, who have won only two of their opening nine matches, sit 16th on the ladder and must face a side they haven’t beaten for nearly eight years this Saturday night.
In contrast to the Bombers’ struggles, Richmond have recovered from a 2-4 start to the season, winning their past three matches to sit in eighth place and a game clear of the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide.
After taking some time away from the club for personal reasons, Dustin Martin has returned with a bang, putting in consecutive best-on-ground performances in victories over Collingwood and Hawthorn.
It comes as speculation grows that he will finish his career in Sydney, with coach Damien Hardwick saying the club would not stand in the way of him moving north, even though he is contracted to Punt Road until the end of 2024, after which he would likely retire.
Additionally, Jack Riewoldt has now moved into second place for the most number of matches played for Richmond and in recent weeks also overtook his cousin Nick for the most career goals kicked in their careers.
Sadly, there will be one notable absentee from the Tigers’ line-up this Saturday night, with Marlion Pickett to miss after being suspended for one match for rough conduct on Hawk Dylan Moore last weekend.
In a cruel twist, it means he will not get the chance to wear the guernsey he designed for the club’s Dreamtime match, a fixture they have not lost since 2014.
As mentioned at the top of the article, this Saturday night’s match will be the first to be played at the MCG since 2019, after COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria forced the match on the road in the ensuing two seasons.
The 2020 match at TIO Stadium in Darwin saw the Tigers win by two goals, with Shai Bolton, who designed the club’s guernsey for the match, being awarded the Yiooken Medal as the best on ground.
Last year’s match, which was played at Optus Stadium in Perth, saw Darcy Parish record the most disposals ever by an Essendon player, with 44, but his heroics were not enough to prevent his club from losing by 39 points as the Tigers continued their dominance.
With the fixture returned to the MCG, there is the expectation of another large crowd despite the Bombers’ recent on-field struggles, while there will be interest surrounding the outcome of the federal election, with counting to take place during the match.
On that note, instead of being shown on Channel Seven in Melbourne, it will air on 7mate nationally – except in Adelaide, which will receive the Crows-Saints match – with the main channel being used for election coverage.
While the Tigers will start hot favourites to maintain their dominance against the Bombers, they will be aware of a side that will come out charging after the criticism they copped during the week for their meek performance against the Swans in Sydney.