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Footy Fix: Dons deliver another Dreamtime classic as 'big boy month' arrives - are they the real deal?

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Roar Guru
25th May, 2024
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The “Essendon Edge” is driving the Bombers to places they have craved.

It’s not dirty or overly physical. But it’s way more hardened in the way that they play.

It’s a game style now with gears to it and muscle to match the toughness.

They can burst forward out of the centre. They can transition the ball quickly from one end of the ground to the other. And, instead of previously going for the Hollywood shot on goal, constantly look for a teammate in a better position.

Without the footy in hand, their pressure is right up, to a level not seen by an Essendon team for some time.

It’s a new Essendon that has taken them to outright second spot on the ladder as we approach the halfway point of the season.

They’re led brilliantly by Zach Merrett, who for so long had to shoulder the load but now has a midfield unit around him well enough equipped to go with him.

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This allows him to pick his moments to assert himself as he did late tonight to separate themselves from the Tigers.

Jake Stringer celebrated his 200th AFL game in style with the first goal of the game. It was the first of four on the night and he is playing the type of football that has previously put him in the conversation among some of the most damaging players in the competition.

 Nate Caddy and Jake Stringer of the Bombers celebrate a goal during the round 11 AFL match between Richmond Tigers and Essendon Bombers at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on May 25, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Jake Stringer celebrates one of his goals. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

He’s been ably supported by Kyle Langford who has become a reliable, goal-kicking forward target who was the game-breaker with three second-half goals, keeping himself at the pointy end of the Coleman Medal calculations.

The recruitment of Ben McKay among their three mature recruits has been most impactful in filling a big hole down back. It would have been a welcome sight to see the duo of McKay and Jordan Ridley in tow for the first time this season – Who didn’t show any signs of a late start to the season in a dominant first-up display across half-back. Capped off with the awarding of the Yiooken Trophy for being the best player on the ground.

A first very promising look at key combination with substance to it finally.

The Bombers have certainly made the most of their favourable run of games while producing some impressive performances along the way.

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They should have taken all four points on ANZAC Day but emerged from the contest having given a better showing of themselves over the opposition.

The second-half dismantling of the Giants a fortnight ago rightly forced everyone to sit up and reassess where they had placed the Bombers.

Collectively, it looked as if the penny had dropped.

It had all the markings of a brand-new Essendon in the second season under Brad Scott.

Holding the Kangaroos at arm’s length and getting over the Dustin Martin-inspired, yet injury-ravaged Tigers will hardly be tough tasks for most teams this season, there was a way in which the Bombers got on with the job that would have their fans excited.

We’ve seen plenty of this from Essendon before. Start the season well, and get to the bye in reasonable condition before losing their way in the second half of the year.

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We’ve rightly lauded the way this season has looked different, and without putting the mother of all jinxes on them, or unless the rails completely fall off, they should be making finals this season.

Better yet, be as best placed as they have in the last while to break the two-decade-long drought without a solitary victory in September.

But just as it comes for every side during the season, the Dons are about to embark on their version of ‘Big Boy Month’.

It’s a stretch of matches that determines which bracket of contenders a club sits in, as they prepare to take on “like types” and sides they should, on already exposed form, be capable of besting.

It’s arrived now for the Bombers. While they’re comfortably sitting second on the ladder, we’re about to find out where the Bombers sit in the pecking order come the pointy end of the season.

Essendon’s next run of games presents a true litmus test to determine whether the mid-season hype is well and truly justified or, as coach Brad Scott alluded to in pre-season, still might be a little down the road.

First up are Gold Coast away, where the Suns are yet to be beaten this year at home next week, followed by a blockbuster King’s Birthday Eve clash against Carlton running into the bye.

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They come out of the bye with a return bout against the Eagles before consecutive MCG blockbusters against the Cats and the Pies to take them into the run home.

We want to believe that things have changed for Essendon. But any Bombers fan will tell you that they’ve seen this movie before. While riding high on the wave of momentum, are yet to be fully convinced it’s real.

As much as their game style and profile stack up to this point, the tests are coming.

Can Essendon’s “edge” continue to take scalps and prove themselves to be all that they have made themselves out to be in the first half of the season?

And push them towards breaking the drought that has made them the butt of all jokes in football?
Or will they fall back into the large chasing pack?

Currently, unlike several teams around them, they’re blessed with good health at the moment only missing a couple at most from their best
team.

Which makes the upcoming stretch even more pivotal for Essendon.

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Big Boy Month has arrived for the Bombers. It’s time to see if all they have shown can be sustained.

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