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THE LUCK OF THE DRAW by Whispering Jack



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The long awaited clash between Melbourne and Essendon is almost upon us. Thirty-seven rounds of AFL football have passed by since the two clubs met on a balmy early April night last year in a game that produced a high scoring shootout at the MCG with the Bombers prevailing by 18 points. It was their only meeting for 2019 and happened at a time when the pandemic was something on the far distant horizon.

Several months later when the 2019 season ended, the AFL issued the first of its fixtures for the next year. We were still a way off Christmas and the bushfire season. The virus was still unknown and unnamed in this country. At that time, the Demons and the Bombers were drawn to play on 3rd May in Round 7 but well before that date came around, Covid19 put an end to the original draw after just one round, leaving the entire season in limbo.

When the competition returned in mid June, the redrawn fixture had Melbourne and Essendon facing off in Round 3 as an “away” game for the Demons at the MCG. But it never eventuated thanks to a “positive” test from now retired Bomber, Connor McKenna.

The abandoned game, later declared a “bye”, was eventually rescheduled to Round 18 and, as a consequence, the Demons and Bombers were the only clubs in the competition to miss out on the benefit of a brief respite during the latter part of the season when the draw was compacted in two “frenzy” periods with four and five day breaks between games, the new norm.

The anecdotal evidence is that the lack of a real break during that period from Rounds 9 to 17 had an effect on the performance of both sides. Now, only one of them has an outside chance of making the finals while the other limped out of contention with only one win in the last half of the season.

Melbourne should win and it should win well but we do need to factor in its recent performances. The last three wins have been against teams above it on the ladder and in the top eight while the last three defeats were against teams placed below it at the time they met. They are flaky and regarded as unreliable which makes this a danger game even against an Essendon that has many players injured or out of form and confidence.

The Demons will come into the game knowing where they stand vis a vis the Saints who play on Friday night but still have a second chance if overtaking them is out of the question. For the second option, they will have to wait until Sunday night. In the end, the permutations and combinations are meaningless if they don’t win and in that respect, they still hold most of the ace cards.

Melbourne’s position would be even stronger if its midfield could take advantage of the ruck advantage it holds thanks to the skipper. Against the Giants, it was 45 to 20 in hit outs but that only translated into a slightly superior 36 to 32 clearances. From there, the Giants managed to get the ball inside their forward 50 arc an overwhelming 52 times against the Demons’ 39. One day the midfield will learn to win the ball consistently from the ruck duels and move it quickly and accurately to the forwards. If that happens, they will cause havoc as they did in 2018 when they stormed into the finals. In the meantime, they will continue to rely heavily on the backlines led by Steven May who is in All Australian form and well supported by a tight defence. On Saturday, that should be enough.

Melbourne by 29 points.

THE GAME

Essendon v Melbourne at the Gabba Saturday, 19 September, 2020 at 2.10pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Essendon 130 wins Melbourne 83 wins 2 draws 
At the Gabba Essendon 0 wins Melbourne wins 
The last five meetings Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins 
The Coaches Worsfold 1 win Goodwin 2 wins

MEDIA

TV – Fox Footy Channel Live at 2.00pm

RADIO - TBA

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Essendon 20.10.130 defeated Melbourne 18.4.112 at the MCG, Round 3, 2019

The Bombers came out with all guns blazing but the accurate (for a change) Demons fired back in the second term to lead by seven points at the break. The high scoring shoot out continued but it was Essendon that took the initiative and ran out 18 point winners. The Demons’ best were Brayshaw, Gawn and Harmes (three goals). Hunt also booted three while Lockhart, Melksham and Weideman kicked two each.

THE TEAMS

ESSENDON

FB Jordan Ridley Brandon Zerk-Thatcher Martin Gleeson
HB Devon Smith Michael Hurley Adam Saad
C Tom Cutler Zach Merrett Brayden Ham
HF Will Snelling James Stewart Matt Guelfi
FF Jake Stringer Joe Daniher Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti
FOL Sam Draper Dylan Shiel Darcy Parish
I/C Dylan Clarke Kyle Langford Jayden Laverde Mason Redman,
EMG Josh Begley Cale Hooker Kobe Mutch Andrew Phillips

IN Michael Hurley Jayden Laverde
Mason Redman

OUT Mitchell Hibberd (omitted) Andrew Phillips (omitted) Jacob Townsend (omitted)

MELBOURNE

FB Joel Smith Steven May Michael Hibberd
HB Trent Rivers Jake Lever Christian Salem
C Ed Langdon Christian Petracca Aaron vandenBerg
HF Jayden Hunt Sam Weideman Alex Neal-Bullen
FF Kysaiah Pickett Mitch Brown Charlie Spargo
FOL Max Gawn Jack Viney Clayton Oliver
I/C Oskar Baker Bayley Fritsch Jake Melksham Adam Tomlinson
EMG Mitch Hannan Luke Jackson Neville Jetta Tom Sparrow

IN Michael Hibberd

OUT Neville Jetta (omitted)

Round 18: Injury List

James Harmes (hamstring) — test
Michael Hibberd (ankle) — test
Luke Jackson (hamstring) —  test
Nathan Jones (quad)  —  1 week
Angus Brayshaw (foot) — season
James Jordon (finger) — season
Aaron Nietschke (knee) — season
Harry Petty (groin) — season
Kade Kolodjashnij (head) — indefinite

PreviewRd182020.png

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