Essendon v North Melbourne
Etihad Stadium – 4:40PM – Sunday 12 August
Essendon will clash with North Melbourne this Sunday at Etihad Stadium in what has been dubbed a ‘Grand Final’ for both teams in their fight for the eight.
North and Essendon currently occupy 7th and 8th position respectively, only separated by less than one percent, meaning the winner of this game will have some much needed breathing space heading in to the final three weeks.
18 games have passed since the last encounter between these two teams, with Hamish McIntosh missing a set shot after sire to win North the round 1 encounter.
It looks like being every bit as close as that game, with desperation setting in as a spot in September dangles in front of both teams.
Essendon is set to be bolstered by the return of vital players Dustin Fletcher, Brent Stanton, Stewart Crameri and Angus Monfries. In another blow however, Jason Winderlich and Ben Howlett will both miss against North after being the latest victims of the soft tissue epidemic plaguing Windy Hill, with both players succumbing to hamstring injuries.
North Melbourne meanwhile will welcome back Leigh Adams in to the side. Aaron Mullett looks the man most likely to make way for Adams.
The key to securing a victory for the Bombers will be shutting down big man Drew Petrie up forward. Petrie has recently run in to some exhilarating form, booting 22 goals from his past four games.
Essendon may give the ominous match up to key forward Michael Hurley. Hurley, who was drafted as a backman, has claimed scalps already in his AFL career on the likes of Tredrea and the Riewoldt cousins. Should Essendon deem Hurley to be too valuable up forward, the task would like fall to Cale Hooker.
North Melbourne best chance of winning will be to work through Wells and Harvey at every opportunity. The elusive duo provide a match up headache for the Bomber coaching staff, with no ideal candidates to take both men. If both have stand out games, a North victory is the highly likely occurrence.
An indirect match up of interest will be the contrasting fortunes of Essendon’s Courtenay Dempsey and North’s Shaun Atley. Both players are crucial in provide their respective teams zip off half back, which given the likely intensity of match could prove vital.
Whatever happens in this game, it promises to be one of the most intriguing matches of the year, with the ramifications being huge no matter what the result.
Prediction: Match Drawn
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