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ESSENDONE & DUSTED by George on the Outer


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Essendon was the latest casualty as the Melbourne juggernaut rolled over the Bombers on its way to a 12th win for the 2021 Season.  It was a display of the difference in quality, coaching and system that defines those who will compete in finals and those that lie outside the top eight.

Sadly, in these Covid times a mere 19,414 attended the game and the silence outside the ground before the match was eerie.  Normally, thronging crowds lining up at ticket gates and food carts were replaced by vacant footpaths and lonely merchandise sellers. 

Inside the famous stadium, things were not much different although the powers that be at least spread the crowd around in a concession to common sense.  Still common sense, or at least a sense of the rules of the game evaded the Essendon supporters, who booed incessantly at any decision that went against their team.

They had been given a sense of entitlement from five wins out of their last six games but this was a game against one of the big boys, and they didn’t like it.

Scoring was certainly a highlight as both sides failed to score ten goals with poor kicking in front of the big sticks causing the goal umpires to shuffle left and right time and time again - no more so than the Demons with their sub par set shot kicking highlighting the need for a full-time full forward who can consistently score from the 50m mark — is there one available?

From early in the first quarter it was obvious that Melbourne had a system in place which would win the match.  As has been seen in other matches this year, the opposition simply could not move the ball around the ground freely, because its defensive structures were so solid and quickly mobilised. Without this free movement, the scoring opportunities dried up for the Bombers and it was only the occasional turnover which enabled them to score. 

The Demons, on the other hand, were far more methodical and their consistent movement of ball was precise and accurate.  The ball would move from one end of the ground to the other, without a single Essendon player sighting it, but the Demons fell down badly once approaching the forward 50.  There simply wasn’t a target to aim for, and worse, Essendon’s defenders are by no means the gold standard in the competition. 

Resting a ruck might sound good in theory, but rucks are not forwards.  They don’t know the skills of leading and working with other forwards.  So poor Tom McDonald found himself a lone soldier in front of the big sticks. It was made even worse when he was then expected to take on forward half ruck duties, leaving a forward line that consisted of Alex Neal-Bullen, Charlie Spargo, Bayley Fritsch, Tom Sparrow, and Kossie Pickett at one point, and much the same for the rest of the game.

Have we got someone who could fill the role?

In the middle Max dominated the hitouts with 32, and while the Essendon mids dominated the possession count, they simply weren’t effective.  Often those same mids were simply left unattended, because they can have all the touches they like, they just don’t hurt the opposition. 

Meanwhile the Melbourne mids, Clayton Oliver (34), James Harmes (27), Christian Petracca (26) and remarkably James Jordon with 21 from only 60% game time, concentrated on quality and delivery. Jordon, Petracca and Luke Jackson contributed over half the side’s goals. You could probably can Tom Sparrow’s vital final quarter long range goal to the list showing the evolution of the midfield into a more threatening unit and also reaffirming the need for a more solid forward line.

The backs were magnificent again, as they frustrated multiple Essendon attacks.  The intercepting skills of Steven May 8, Jake Lever 10, Trent Rivers 5 and even Jayden Hunt with 6 repelled the Bombers forward moves. They certainly lapped up the delivery from Parish, Merrett and Stringer, who simply just kept kicking it high to them and never learnt the lesson.

Michael Hibberd covered any forward move by Stringer, and Christian Salem became the go-to man to clear the zone with 26 touches, and his favourite up-field target of Ed Langdon finished with 23 to further relieve the pressure. Tom Petty played goal-keeper for the match, but was rarely called upon, simply because the ball didn’t get past the Lever-May wall. 

What can be improved?  Well certainly the management of rotations left a lot to be desired, as we were twice caught out with the 6-6-6 rule.  Not knowing who is on or off after a goal should be a simple matter, and yet these weren’t the only times as we had Brayshaw forced into the middle because the designated mid didn’t get on in time as well. 

Then we had Max and Jackson stranded at the wrong end of the ground, and not able to impact at critical points in the game, or all too often we had Jackson trying to out-ruck Draper with his superior height and weight.  All this is about off-field management, and something was not working. 

Another win, another opponent consigned to the dust-bin and the Demons move on to the next one.  The fans would like to see big scoring wins as they did in 2020 but it is more important to get the wins first.  Winning ugly, or more to the point, winning without flair has produced the best Melbourne season in over 50 years. 

Best to get used to it … and ain’t it delightful!
 
MELBOURNE 1.5.11 4.8.32 8.12.60 9.14.68

ESSENDON 2.3.15 4.5.29 6.7.43 8.9.57

GOALS

Melbourne Jordon 2 Petracca 2 Harmes Jackson McDonald Spargo Sparrow

Essendon Jones Wright 2 Heppell Hooker Smith Stringer

BEST

Melbourne Petracca Oliver Salem Jordon Lever May

Essendon Merrett Parish HeppellRidley Stringer Langford Redman

INJURIES

Melbourne Nil

Essendon Nil

REPORTS

Melbourne Nil

Essendon Nil

SUBSTITUTES

Melbourne Nathan Jones (unused)

Essendon David Zaharakis (unused)

UMPIRES Andrew Stephens Hayden Gavine Robert Findlay

OFFICIAL CROWD 19,414 at the MCG

ReportRd152021.png

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