Written by AFL Online on 22nd Feb 2007
To steal a line from TISM â€œHope may spring eternal, but you must not let itâ€. For some Essendon fans these words ring especially true. In the last few months I have been subjected, on far too many occasions, to illogical rants from Essendon supporters suggesting that the 2007 crop of Bombers are the real deal and genuine premiership contenders. How even the most deluded fan can think this is beyond me. Here is why those very Essendon pumpers should keep a lid on things and realise that while improvement is likely, genuine success is still a little way off.
Whilst my partner in crime Mark Franklin is a Bombers fan he is also a realist. He is one of the few not to have told just how good the 2007 Bombers will be. Here is some of the propaganda I have been fed in recent months and my response to it.
Hird and Lloyd will be back for a full season which will make a huge difference.
Whilst I agree that a full season for Lloyd is likely and will no doubt help straighten up the Bombers a full 22 games from James Hird is an unrealistic expectation. Itâ€™s been five seasons since Hird has played his full compliment in a season which is in no way a negative stat, more a reflection of the courage and hardness with which he plays. This season looks as if it will be no different with the great man edging into the prolonged twilight of his career.
Expect fifteen games from Hird of which two or three will make you wonder if he should play on. Hird will most likely be injured in two other games and play a couple more in which his courage and desire to win will see him take the field when he should probably not. On the whole the impact of these two players will help things but donâ€™t forget the Bombers still finished 13th in 2005 when Lloyd played twenty games and Hird seventeen.
Mal Michael and Dustin Fletcher will dominate in the backline.
And who exactly is going to play CHB? This has been the biggest weakness for the Bombers in recent seasons. Bradley has yet to prove himself, Bolton is not a CHBâ€™s backside, McPhee is far too valuable elsewhere and Gumbleton is a rookie who will be far too undersized to hold down that spot this season.
Both Fletcher and Michael are amongst the best full backs of the last decade but in saying that both have looked uncomfortable when playing away from goal. Michael will be of benefit against the bigger full forwards like Gehrig and Neitz who have at times troubled Fletcher but on the whole I just canâ€™t see how this move solves Essendonâ€™s CHB issues.
The Bombers rookie crop is sensational.
Indeed it is but one must remember they are rookies. In recent memory I can not recall a club getting sustained performance from more than 2 rookies in their initial season. This will be the same for the Bombers. Whilst the most recent draft may produce five or six two hundred game players for the club in the long term, the true impact of this draft will in no way be felt this season. In fact I will go so far as to say that no Essendon rookie will play all twenty two games this season.
Our forward line will be loaded with Lloyd, Hird, Lucas, Johns and any two of about 15 other players people have slotted in here.
The Bombers forward line is solid but unspectacular. A decline in performance from Lucas should be expected given the return of Lloyd and the continued hype of Courtney Johns is simply unjustified. His ten games last season produced just twelve goals and the three games the previous season delivered none. Make no mistake, the boy looks like heâ€™s carved from granite but I havenâ€™t seen this much unfulfilled hype since Peter Schwab was talking up the Hawks. People will now go on and tell me that he will have the 4th defender manning him up this season. This also means he will be the 4th option in the forward line and thatâ€™s assuming he plays regular senior footy, a fact Iâ€™m still not sold on.
The Bombers also lack that killer small to mid sized forward that has proved so valuable to other teams in recent seasons. Players like Davey, Davis, Farmer, Didak, Milne and Ablett Jr have the ability terrorise the opposition on a regular basis and kick goals in bunches. Whilst the second coming of Darren Bewick may not be far from being uncovered he is still yet to emerge from the pack and stamp his authority on an Essendon season. Perhaps the answer will be found in one of the young indigenous players Sheedy has been stockpiling in recent years. If one of Davey, Jetta, Lovett or Lovett Murray can become a forty plus goals a season player then Essendon may be a finals contender.
When itâ€™s all said and done the Bombers are definitely the Christina to Carltonâ€™s Britney. The recent quiet times at Windy Hill are set to end and the team is on the up but premiership dreams should be set aside for a few seasons yet. A healthy dose of realism is what some fans need when assessing the fortunes of there own teams and this season there seems to be far too many Bombers fans that failed to take their shot.
Article written by Luke Mather from oneweekatatime.com.au