There have been many changes and developments since ANZAC Day. There’s been the Carbon Tax and Julia Gillard’s popularity continuing to plummet, the birth of Miranda Kerr and Orlando Bloom’s baby and volcanic ash clouds disrupting flights and causing some chaos for sporting events.
But no change, or development has quite rivalled what the Essendon Football Club has been through since April 25th. In football terms anyway.
Off to a flying start to season 2011 with their new coach and new assistants in hand, the Dons of course won two of their first four matches, losing to Sydney in Sydney, and pulling off a miraculous draw against arch rival Carlton after losing two players in the first quarter to season-ending knee injuries. They then faced the reigning premier in round 5, and were in no way disgraced. The 30-point margin doing the Dons no justice in the end.
They then won their next three matches in quite emphatic fashion by bulldozing the Gold Coast, defeating the West Coast and Eagles, and accounting for the Lions by six goals.
Then disaster struck.
Beginning with a shock loss to the Tigers in the Dream Time game at the MCG, the Bombers went on to lose their next five matches in a row over six weeks, which included their bye.
Coming off a 65-point humiliation against Hawthorn, the Bombers faced the impossible task of beating Geelong.
But, with Mark Thompson and assistants in hand, the spirit, courage and, determination of Essendon returned as they shocked the football world by pulling off the upset of the season.
Some predicted a “let down” the next week against Richmond, but it wasn’t to be, as the pressure and attacking football we’d seen from Essendon had returned, as they defeated Richmond and then a stirring win against the Crows at AAMI.
It wasn’t good last week, though. After trailing by 7 points at half time against Carlton, the Bombers were blown away by a Judd-lead Carlton. Losing by 74 points.
It has been a rollercoaster season for the Bombers no doubt, even I feel as if I’ve taken a couple of spins on the Cyclone at Dream World after considering their season to date.
But, there is no better way to put a big loss behind you, than by defeating the reigning premiers who are looking more and more ominous as the weeks pass.
Since ANZAC Day, the Magpies and their coach have introduced several young players to the senior side and they have not disappointed. It all began with Alex Fasolo, who debuted on Queen’s Birthday and put in a solid performance, and kicking a goal from 50 with his first kick in the AFL.
Enter Luke Rounds, a highly touted youngster who has been on the list for a few years but has battled numerous injuries so far. His claim to fame, a shut down roll on Kangaroos superstar Boomer Harvey in Collingwood’s 117-point demolition.
Then, there’s a guy standing at 204cm. When you read that you think, oh he’s a ruckman for sure. But no, the Collingwood development group have turned this incredible athlete into a promising key position player, with incredible speed and agility for his size. He has played mostly in the backline for the Pies in the VFL, with short stints in the ruck and up forward but with the injury to Chris Dawes, Mick Malthouse has elected to use him as a forward in the AFL. His name, Lachie Keeffe.
The Pies have been forced to utilise and create more depth due to a mounting injury list that the club hopes to get under control in the next few weeks.
From the side that defeated Essendon on ANZAC Day, there are a number of omissions to vital players in the Magpies’ march to back to back flags.
Heath Shaw (suspension), Sharrod Wellingham (inj), Dawes (inj), Alan Toovey (inj), Alan Didak (inj), Brad Dick (inj) and, Dayne Beams (if he is not selected in the final 22).
Despite this, the Magpies have been able to continue their great form and extend their winning streak to nine, which will no doubt please Malthouse and his brains trust.
Initial changes as announced on Thursday:
IN: Dayne Beams, Luke Rounds, Darren Jolly, Ben Sinclair, Kirk Ugle
OUT: Cameron Wood, John McCarthy (both omitted)
Possible final line-up:
IN: Darren Jolly, Ben Sinclair
OUT: Cameron Wood, John McCarthy
B: Leon Davis, Ben Reid, Heritier O’Brien
HB: Brent Macaffer, Nick Maxwell, Tyson Goldsack
C: Dane Swan, Dale Thomas, Simon Buckley
HF: Jarryd Blair, Chris Tarrant, Andrew Krakouer
F: Steele Sidebottom, Travis Cloke, Leigh Brown
Foll: Darren Jolly, Scott Pendlebury, Luke Ball
I/C: Ben Johnson, Lachlan Keeffe, Ben Sinclair, Alex Fasolo
Initial changes as announced on Thursday:
IN: Jobe Watson, Andrew Welsh, Tom Bellchambers, Alex Browne, Michael Ross
OUT: Tayte Pears (Knee), Michael Hurley (Foot)
Possible final line-up:
IN: Jobe Watson, Andrew Welsh, Tom Bellchambers
OUT: Tayte Pears, Michael Hurley, Kyle Reimers
B: Ricky Dyson, David Myers, Dyson Heppell
HB: Brent Prismall, Jake Carlisle, Kyle Hardingham
C: Mark McVeigh, Ben Howlett, Angus Monfries
HF: Jobe Watson, Patrick Ryder, Leroy Jetta
F: Jake Melksham, Stewart Crameri, Travis Colyer
Foll: David Hille, David Zaharakis, Brent Stanton
I/C: Henry Slattery, Andrew Welsh, Alwyn Davey, Tom Bellchambers
With an undermanned backline, the Bombers will need to protect their Achilles heel. As the Blues do so well, they will need to make sure that their midfield, bolstered by the return of their skipper, Jobe Watson is on top. They will need to do this by getting an advantage in the ruck, with David Hille and Paddy Ryder, who can feed the ball to the likes of Watson, David Zaharakis, Ben Howlett.
Once the ball is in the hands of their midfield players, efficiency by foot will need to be at a premium going forward because of their lack of tall targets. The way to beat Collingwood is by quick ball movement through the corridor, exposing their backs to one on one contests. The best way to do this is for Crameri, Ryder and Monfries to time their leads to perfection and have the ball delivered on their chest.
The Bombers coaching staff will also need to devise a plan to get their midfielders back in numbers to clog up the space allowed to the Magpie forwards. Perhaps orchestrating a loose man in defence would be the best way to curtail Travis Cloke’s influence.
The Pies on the other hand will need to shut down the Bombers through the middle, and not allow them to use their pace. The much publicised press will need to be in full swing to ensure no easy avenues out of defence for the Bombers, and ensure that the game is played predominantly in the Magpies’ forward half. This will also ensure that there is no time or space for Essendon players to use their pace, and have time to spot up easy targets going forward.
Travis Cloke v Tom Bellchambers: The Bombers’ key defenders have all been struck down with injury, leaving Bellchambers as the most likely to get the job on Cloke. James Hird has said that David Hille will spend time in the backline as well. Ryder is the other option, but will probably be of more value at full forward.
Steele Sidebottom v Dyson Heppell: Sidebottom has, in recent weeks recaptured his form of 2010, becoming a huge factor around goals. The rising star favourite might get the match-up.
Leroy Jetta v Leon Davis: This match-up was one of the highlights on ANZAC Day. Both players provide spark for their respective teams and both had good games on ANZAC Day. A match-up to watch.
Stewart Crameri v Chris Tarrant: Crameri has been a revelation in season 2011. He has got under the radar of a number of teams this year, including Collingwood on ANZAC Day when he booted 4 on Harry O’Brien. He won’t be allowed the same luxury this time around.
Midfield match-ups: Dale Thomas-Mark McVeigh, Scott Pendlebury-Andrew Welsh, Dane Swan-Brent Stanton, Jobe Watson-Luke Ball.
The Bombers will be fired up, and ready to put last week’s disappointment behind them. With their key backs out though, they will be up against it. But, as they showed in round 4 against Carlton, there is a spirit, grit, and pride about these Bombers that will be out for a fight and to give the Pies a real run for their money.
The Pies will look to extinguish any Bomber flame in the first quarter. The Pies will be ready for a determined underdog, and show just how good they are when they are pressuring and attacking at their best.
By: Kate Salemme