WHERE AND WHEN: MCG, Saturday, June 2, 7.40pm
LAST TIME: Melbourne 15.11 (101) d Essendon 10.8 (68), round 11, 2011 at the MCG
Saturday night at the MCG sees one of the big improvers of the year in Essendon take on a cellar dwellers Melbourne. The Demons were victorious the last two times these sides matched up, although they remain winless thus far in 2012.
Only a few years back, after the 2007 season, both Essendon and Melbourne were struggling and replacing their respective coaches. The popular view at the time was that the Demons had the more talented list and were on the way up – both clubs have replaced another coach each in the time since, however their fortunes could not further apart.
Melbourne showed in the first half last week that they can muster some spirit when they put their minds to it, however they struggled to stay with the out of form Carlton when the Blues pulled the trigger. Essendon on the other hand have gone from strength to strength, and did enough to put a brave Greater Western Sydney to the sword with an 11 goal win.
If Melbourne are any chance to provide an upset and make it a third victory in three seasons against the Bombers, they will be relying on their strong bodied midfielders to win their fair share of contested ball. Brent Moloney, James Magner and Nathan Jones will however have their hands full trying to contain the even spread of inside mids from Windy Hill, with Jobe Watson, Sam Lonergan, Ben Howlett and Heath Hocking all named.
Once the ball is clear of the contest however, the Demons face another challenge in matching the quality of ball use provided by Essendon runners such as David Zaharakis and the much improved Brent Stanton. Melbourne’s kicking efficiency has let them down all season thus far, particularly their delivery inside the 50 metre zone.
Overall the Bombers are a very even and well balanced side, with most of their key players in good form. Melbourne will have to play well above anything they’ve produced so far under new coach Mark Neeld if they are any chance to pull off a major upset.
Mitchell Clark vs Cale Hooker – With the new recruit’s best form having been in the ruck for Brisbane, doubts were cast over Clark’s ability to consistently perform as a key forward. So far in his first season as a Demon however, he has consistently provided the struggling Demons with an effective target in the forward line. Hooker has also shown impressive form this year, and has quelled many big name forwards along the way.
Jobe Watson vs James Magner – Watson has been a ball winning machine in the middle for Essendon, complimented by his vision and clever decision making. Mature age recruit Magner provides a hard body coupled with a high work rate and competitive spirit, and will need to go harder and lower to restrict Watson’s impact.
Mark Jamar vs Patrick Ryder – Ryder has always shown the footy world he has athletic ability and talent, yet this season under Hird he has lifted his workrate to discover a level of consistency that had eluded him thus far. Mark Jamar will be expected to use his strength and frame to block Ryder’s attempts to jump over the ruck contest, and this will go a long way to deciding the fate of each club’s fortunes on the night.
Essendon will have too many winners on the night and should provide their forwards with the opportunity to post a big score.
Essendon by 75 points.
B: Hooker, Fletcher, Dempsey
HB: Dyson, Hardingham, Carlisle
C: Zaharakis, Watson, Stanton
HF: Monfries, Crameri, Ryder
F: Jetta, Hurley, Davey
R: Bellchambers, Howlett, Hocking
IC: Lonergan, Lovett-Murray, Melksham, Colyer
E: Hille, Slattery, Pears
B: McDonald, Rivers, Frawley
HB: Garland, Watts, Trengove
C: Jones, Magner, Grimes
HF: Macdonald, Clark, Bail
F: Tapscott, Green, Howe
R: Jamar, Moloney, McKenzie
IC: Dunn, Sylvia, Blease, Nicholson
E: Bate, Bennell, Sellar