Written by AFL Online on 5th May 2011
I figured it would be wise timing to provide some thoughts about the Bombers seeing as we have completed 25% of the season. After 6 rounds, we have had quite a few surprises thrown from the Bomber camp. Ive accepted these little gifts with open arms and cant wait to see what else ill receive from the rest of the season.
It doesnt take a genius to work out that the main reason behind the resurgence of Essendon is simply down to the coach, Mr James Hird. He is a club legend full of passion and love for the club. It surely would’ve hurt him to watch the laughing stock that we had become in 2010. So good on him for taking the challenge of turning the club and it’s fortunes around for 2011. The AFL world didnt expect the transformation to occur so quickly. However, the players have taken the “playing for the coach” attitude seriously and the rewards are slowly taking shape. Off the field, Hird formed his own dream-team style coaching staff and with so much of knowledge and experience on offer, the youngsters at Essendon are thriving from it all. We wont win the flag this year but we are definitely mounting a serious challenge against the other clubs to show us the respect that once went hand-in-hand with the Essendon Football Club.
A very successful NAB Cup saw the Bombers lose to Collingwood in the Grand Final by only 22 points. The Bombers were highly competitive in all matches and unearthed some stellar players that would shape the Bombers for the year and the future. 3 of the core players are Dyson Heppell, Stewart Crameri and Kyle Hardingham. Michael Hibberd also made a strong case however injury delayed his injection into the team. For me, these 3 players have become vital cogs in the playing style of the Bombers. Heppell is in his first year and just recently turned 19 years of age. Yet he shows the determination and poise of a 100 game player when rebounding off the backline. His skills are sharp and his ability to use his left foot to hit targets is a real weapon. Stewart Crameri was a major finding and a revelation in the NAB Cup. He had a solid pre-season and worked hard in the NAB games. His stunning performances virtually warranted his selection in the senior side for round 1. And James Hird agreed. Crameri works hard up to the wing to win possession and then pump the ball into our 50 with his booming left kick. While roaming the attacking 50, he uses his strong dukes to rake in the marks and pepper the goals with accurate shots. Hardly a household name, Kyle Hardingham, is vital to the functioning of our back 6. With his tremendous vertical leap and strong marking ability, he has the courage to throw himself into every contest. But what is more important is his tenacity of “killing” the ball which is performed by spoiling or punching the footy over the boundary. Even if he is out of position, outnumbered or lending support, his ability to kill the ball is a big advantage. In my eyes, these 3 youthful players are very important to the structure that Essendon employs week in week out to win a game of football.
So what is this highly effective and season transforming game plan that Hirdy has employed?? It is simply the blueprint initiated by Matthew Knights but Hirdy has fine-tuned it to make our team competitive with the top 8 teams. And the results speak for themselves. So far. The main ingredient of the game plan is to run and attack with the ball. However there is a heavy focus on defensive pressure once the ball is lost. Clearly Collingwood revolutionised this defensive aspect. Hirdy simply brainwashed it onto the players. Our relentless forward press is so effective that it enables us more inside 50’s for the game and hence more shots on goal. The fact that we attempt to run our opponents ragged is a key indicator of the sucessful pre-season achieved at Windy Hill too.
So after 6 rounds, Essendon has achieved 3 wins, a draw and 2 losses. The 3 victories were all thumpings. 55 points against the Bulldogs, 52 points against the Saints and the monstrous record breaking 139 point demolition of the Gold Coast Suns. The 2 losses were valiant and competitive ones. 5 points to the Swans up there and 30 points to the Pies on the blockbuster arvo that is Anzac day. It isnt all doom and gloom with the Pies loss though. We matched their intensity for 3 and abit quarters. Unfortunately, the class and skill of the Pies shone through and they kicked away in the last. Also, we had to endure a pulsating draw against Carlton. Having lost both Winderlich and Dempsey to season ending knee injuries in the first quarter, we were up against it all afternoon. But the new found attitude of the Bombers stayed competitive the whole game and continually provided a contest. It’s fair to say that even though the points were shared, we gained 2 points and the Blues lost 2 points. Carlton shoulda ran away with the win.
Sitting pretty in the top 8 is a rarity for Essendon. It wont be taken for granted as I can assure you that the wise heads of Hird and his coaching panel will continually bring our boys back down from cloud 9. The season has been set up with a solid platform. The next 3 games against West Coast (H), Brisbane (A) and Richmond (H) are all winnable. So there is no reason that the mighty Bombers won’t be locked away with 6 wins after 9 round with the bye to follow in round 10. I eagerly look forward to the rest of the season and GO BOMBERS!!