Dreamtime to go down to the wire

Where and When: Saturday 19th of May, 7:50pm, MCG

Last Time They Played: Essendon 15.15 (105) defeated Richmond 9.12 (66), round 16, 2011

The Odds: Essendon $1.48, Richmond $2.65 (TAB Sportsbet)

Once again Richmond and Essendon will compete whilst he black, yellow and red of the indigenous flag is placed in the centre square as the centrepiece of Indigenous Round kicks off at the MCG.

It’s the Dreamtime at the G and we have a salivating contest. While Richmond have often been down on form when heading into these games, they’ve still managed to win four of the seven games that have been played on this now traditional fixture.

The Bombers are absolutely flying this year, losing only one game by the smallest of margins, and comfortably accounting for ‘premiership contenders’ West Coast and Carlton.  Essendon defeated the former last weekend by 61 points, smashing them from start to finish and dealing them their first loss of the season.

After being given what looked on paper to be a horror draw to begin the season for the Tigers, they’ve responded in resounding fashion. They came agonisingly close to defeating top four sides Collingwood and West Coast before smashing Port Adelaide and top eight side Sydney.

They are playing exciting, physical and classy football currently. Their only worry is that they went missing in a quarter for each of those wins; this will not be allowed if they are to take it up to Essendon this year.

Essendon will have to be on top of their game to win this one while Richmond will not be allowed to falter to win. It all looms as an enticing battle – one in which, whatever happens, will not be an easy victory for either team.

The Tigers go in unchanged after their strong win against Sydney, while Essendon have brought back burly key-forward Michael Hurley at the expense of Travis Colyer.

Key Matchups:

Trent Cotchin vs Jobe Watson

While the two sides’ number one midfielders may not directly go head-to-head, the impact each has will be integral to notching up a win. Cotchin was fantastic last year, winning the Yiooken Award for best afield, while Watson has gone from strength-to-strength this season and along with outside midfielder Brent Stanton has usually been the Bombers best player.

Sam Lonergan will most likely do his best to shut down Cotchin, while Watson doesn’t seem to struggle with a tag. If Cotchin can boot a few goals while racking it up and shaking Lonergan off, the Bombers are in for a world of hurt. The same can be said if Watson and Stanton pair up for an effective inside/outside combination.

 Ivan Maric vs Tom Bellchambers/Patrick Ryder

‘The mullet’ Maric has been in outstanding form the past two weeks and was best on ground against Port Adelaide. He seems to be relishing in the number one ruck role and has been racking up disposals around the ground along with big hitout numbers.

However, after facing two relatively weak ruck outfits, he comes up against one of the better ones in the league in Bellchambers and Ryder. He’ll have little support from around the ground – despite backup ruckmen having amazing games in the reserves (Andrew Brown had an astounding 97 hitouts in the Coburg reserves, while Angus Graham had 63 in the Coburg seniors) the match comittee have decided to let Maric go it alone.

It will be interesting to see if he can take it up to Essendon’s formidable combo. With Hurley back and with forward Stewart Crameri in such good form, there may be less need for Ryder up forward and he may spend more time in the ruck. This could spell danger for Maric.

 The Richmond backline vs the Essendon forward line

It is too hard to tell which match up in this part of the ground will be more important. Essendon small forwards Alwyn Davey and Leroy Jetta have ran rampant this year, kicking 25 goals between them and causing continual headaches for opposition defenders with their pressure. Players like Steven Morris and Chris Newman will have their work cut out for them.

Then there’s the battle of the young stars. Richmond key-defender Alex Rance has been very good this year, but Hurley’s strength and marking ability is a big job.

Richmond’s other key-defender is also young, but rising star nominee Dylan Grimes, only a very short way into his career, has shown a lot this season. He will most likely take Ryder, Crameri and Bellchambers at different points in time, but the Richmond coaching staff should have faith in his ability to stop them.

 The Verdict:

Much like the Western or South Australian derbies, the dreamtime game is exceptionally hard to call and has historically relied little on the teams form-lines heading into the game. In the 7 games so far, no team has ever won in consecutive years, but with Richmond’s captain Chris Newman playing his 200th and the Tigers desperate to show themselves against a big contender (Sydney was a good win, but they typically play poorly at the MCG), they should be able to do just enough to take home the Kevin Sheedy Cup.

Whatever the result, the predicted crowd of 80,000+ should witness a huge contest.

Richmond by 8 points.

Teams:

Essendon:

B: Dustin Fletcher, Cale Hooker, Dyson Heppell
HB: Kyle Hardingham, Jake Carlisle, Courtenay Dempsey
C: Ricky Dyson, Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton
HF: Stewart Crameri, Patrick Ryder, Alwyn Davey
F: Leroy Jetta, Michael Hurley, David Zaharakis
Foll: Tom Bellchambers, Sam Lonergan, Ben Howlett
I/C: Heath Hocking, Nathan Lovett-Murray, Angus Monfries, Jake Melksham

Emg: Mark McVeigh, Henry Slattery, Cory Dell’Olio

Richmond:

B: Steven Morris, Alex Rance, Chris Newman
HB: Bachar Houli, Dylan Grimes, Jake Batchelor
C: Shaun Grigg, Dustin Martin, Brandon Ellis
HF: Brett Deledio, Brad Miller, Nathan Foley
F: Reece Conca, Jack Riewoldt, Jake King
Foll: Ivan Maric, Trent Cotchin, Shane Tuck
I/C: Daniel Jackson, Shane Edwards, Robin Nahas, Matt Dea

Emg: Angus Graham, Jayden Post, Matthew Arnot

BigFooty Team Board Previews:

Essendon

Richmond

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