It seems for footy fans that on Saturday, we’re entering bold and uncharted territory. Only the brave would have had the Eagles undefeated at the top of the ladder after six rounds, with the Bombers closely in tow sitting in third. It seems the eyes of the football world will be boldly fixated upon this game, as the controversy surrounding the Eagles tackle avoidance “techniques”, will be closely scrutinized. R
egardless of this hot button topic, this game is set to be an absolute barnstormer. After six rounds of opaque and unclear results breaking the shackles of pre-season predictions; after the dust settles on Saturday Night, we’ll know a lot more about both sides and just where this season is heading.
WHY SHOULD YOU TUNE IN?
Essendon: As one of Essendon’s great doubters at the start of the season, I’m glad to be proven wrong at the expense of watching furious and fast paced football. Not only is it entertaining, it is a solid tactical force to reckon with.
With players such as Brent Stanton and Jobe Watson in near Brownlow form, Paddy Ryder finally playing up to his hype, David Zaharakis and Jake Melksham being consistent in both offensive and defensive midfield structures, the Bombers look set for a top four berth
For Essendon to win, it needs a continuation of what they’ve done flawlessly in the first month and a half of football. Win plenty of contested ball at the clearances, switch the ball quickly from half back and keep up the relentless tide of pressure for four quarters.
For the first time this season, they go without a changed side, Sam Lonergan won lots of hard, contested ball against the Lions which allowed Zaharakis, Dyson Heppell and Stanton to run in waves and to deliver the ball forward. This arrangement of having Lonergan and Watson playing as insiders suits the midfield structure, which allows Stanton and Zaharakis to use their running abilities and enormous stamina for offensive purposes.
West Coast: Good teams keep winning when the chips are down. A wasteful Eagles unit disposed of a pushy North Melbourne with a helping hand from their not-so high profile players, playing immense influential roles which has kept them atop the ladder, regardless of the injury concerns.
Shannon Hurn has become a dangerous colossus from half back, who is the key to defeating the Bombers. The only time Essendon have been troubled all season, is when the ball is moved fast from half back. When even Lions executed a kick that went over the Bombers pressure zone, they weren’t fast enough to drop back in numbers and were killed upon forward entry. If the Eagles use this, along with the pace and class of Luke Shuey, Daniel Kerr, Andrew Gaff and Josh Hill; they can pressure a Bombers defense which can be exploited when their players push up to form their ‘forward press’.
In the absence of Ashton Hams, an already depleted forward line will center more on Quentin Lynch and Jack Darling. Both will be critical in determining how well these counter attacks by the Eagles work. The Eagles have never needed to over possess the ball with the multitude of tall options up forward, so expect the ball to go in fast and to stay in with the deployment of their equally powerful ‘forward press’.
Regardless of how the Eagles have covered injuries this season, there’s a point where papering over cracks is pointless. They’ll give it a crack, but it sadly might not be enough.
Essendon by seven.
B: Dyson Heppell, Cale Hooker, Courtenay Dempsey
HB: Kyle Hardingham, Jake Carlisle, Dustin Fletcher
C: Brent Stanton, Jobe Watson, David Zaharakis
HF: Jake Melksham, Stewart Crameri, Angus Monfries
F: Alwyn Davey, Patrick Ryder, Leroy Jetta
Foll: Tom Bellchambers, Heath Hocking, Ben Howlett
I/C: Ricky Dyson, Sam Lonergan, Nathan Lovett-Murray, Travis Colyer
Emg: Mark McVeigh, Henry Slattery, Cory Dell’Olio
West Coast Eagles
B: Sam Butler, Darren Glass, Shannon Hurn
HB: Beau Waters, Eric Mackenzie, Jacob Brennan
C: Matthew Rosa, Matthew Priddis, Andrew Gaff
HF: Chris Masten, Quinten Lynch, Josh Hill
F: Luke Shuey, Jack Darling, Scott Lycett
Foll: Dean Cox, Scott Selwood, Daniel Kerr
I/C: Mitch Brown, Patrick McGinnity, Brad Sheppard, Ryan Neates
Emg: Thomas Swift, Koby Stevens, Murray Newman
In: Mitch Brown, Ryan Neates
Out: Adam Selwood (Hand), Ashton Hams (Suspension)
New: Ryan Neates (Claremont (WA))
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