Parochialism is great, but only when there is an alternate view you can use to balance things out. There is no way both sets of supporters ever walk away from a game feeling completely satisfied. There is always a winner and a loser… or two teams that played to a draw and no one is happy.

In order to capture the feelings and thoughts of both teams, irrespective of the outcome, Nicholas Sluggett and HB Meyers went into watching this game as fans with eyes only for one team. The Slugger was all about the Bombers whilst HB wore the red and blue of the mighty Dees.

Below is the dual review from two Mongrels with very different perspectives on the game. It’s the Bombers and Demons. Two Mongrels. Two points of view. One article. And one winner.

 

WHO WAS THE MATCH WINNER?

 

MELBOURNE – There were a couple, and for different reasons.

I’d like to say it was Petracca for his efforts in the first half. I’d like to say it was Gawn for his stellar ruckwork that led to the Dees getting clean hands on the footy. I’d like to say it was Steven May for his ridiculously good defence yet again through the first three quarters, but on all accounts, I can’t.

Because despite these blokes being so good for the most part, the Bombers came charging back in the last and the Dees needed someone to stand up.

Two blokes who did were Bayley Fritsch and Jake Lever.

Fritsch probably could have ended with five goals in this game, but had to settle for three goals and four behinds. Not only did he convert (somewhat) on the scoreboard, he also gave the Bombers’ best intercept player a fair bit to think about. As a result, Jordan Ridley ended the day with just one intercept for the game.

At the other end, Jake Lever really stood up in the last quarter to take some telling intercept grabs and make some desperate spoils as he stood tall in the face of the Bomber comeback. His statline for the game backs it up, with eight intercepts, eight one percenters and six rebound fifties as he was everything the Dees hoped for when they picked him up a couple of years ago.

 

ESSENDON – Steven May.

The guy was the human brick wall in Melbourne’s defence. You just have to watch his efforts in the last quarter to see the stability he brings to the guys around him. Today May stood tall in a game the Demons had to win in order to keep their finals hopes alive.

May’s second half of this year has been absolutely outstanding. He consistently gets a fist in or disrupts a play, where other Melbourne defenders couldn’t. His stat sheet says it all. 21 disposals. Seven intercept possessions, seven marks, and ten one-percenters. Combine him with Lever and there is the reason we lost today. They were just too good in defence.

 

WHERE DID WE WIN/LOSE THE GAME?

 

MELBOURNE – The game was won early, and it should have been put well and truly to bed by three quarter time. Alas, we left the door ajar with some poor conversion and it almost came back to bite us.

I think we are a good team when we are allowed to play on our own terms, but as soon as there is some moves made, we tend to struggle to adapt on the fly. Daniher into the middle even seemed to disrupt Gawn’s mojo as if gave the team a different look. Daniher’s mobility, which was completely missing through three quarters, seemed to worry Max, particularly when he played a kick behind play.

But I digress.

The free-wheeling through the middle is the type of attacking footy everyone has wanted to see from the Dees this season. And last season as well, if we’re being honest. Playing Jayden Hunt on the wing and half forward allowed him to use that speed and the hardness of Alex Neal-Bullen at the footy caused headaches for the Bombers as well.

 

ESSENDON – The short answer – The Midfield.

Gawn, Viney, Petracca and Oliver absolutely cut us to pieces. You only have to look at the Centre Clearance numbers, at one point it was 9-2. However, when we got a run-on in the last quarter this area became our strength. You just can’t get dominated in the middle like that for so much of the game and expect a good result. We had good pressure in the first and last quarters, but particularly in the second quarter, Melbourne just moved the ball through the middle at will.

The Other Short Answer – Running ourselves into trouble with the footy in the middle. Resulting in us consistently kicking long and high kicks in our forward line which were dispatched with by the Melbourne defence. Our defenders had a knack of being outworked by their Melbourne opponents and sometimes just letting them wander away on their own. You’d reckon Bayley Fritcsh was just having a kick with some mates on an average Sunday, with the way he found space.

 

IF YOU WERE COACH, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?

 

MELBOURNE – It’s always difficult to call for any changes in hindsight after you’ve won, but when a team comes storming back, it becomes apparent that “this” should have happened, or “that” should have happened.

I still think Adam Tomlinson is a man without a real position. I am not sure he truly fits anywhere, but he is a big, strong body and after rucking for three quarters straight, it was a bit of an ask for Max to run around with the fresh Daniher. I may have had Gawn dropping into the hole at half back after the centre bounces and shifted Tomlinson onto Daniher in a run-with role. Tomlinson is strong enough to match him body-to-body and may have prevented a couple of those re-entries in the last quarter after unopposed Daniher intercepts.

I would have also had Clayton Oliver drop in there at Gawn’s feet in defensive fifty. I don’t think anyone has cleaner hands in the game than Oliver and his presence back there could have provided some creativity with D50 exits.

 

ESSENDON – Good old Captain Hindsight.

Surely Daniher goes up the ground earlier. The game changed dramatically when Daniher started getting his hands on the footy in the last quarter. He is actually a great field kick and showed that skill numerous times. The Bombers also actually won some clearances in the middle. We went 10-0 in clearances when Daniher was in the ruck in the last quarter. After Shiel’s goal with three minutes left, Draper goes back into the middle and the Demons win the clearance (I will note that it was on the back of an absolutely atrocious missed holding the ball decision by the umpire).

 

MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE

 

MELBOURNE – The work of Christian Salem often goes unnoticed. Even in response to the first question, he didn’t get a mention, but he had some timely spoils and intercepts in this one. I particularly liked one of his efforts against Jake Stringer.

Clearly out-sized and out-positioned, Salem managed to get a despairing fist on the footy when it looked as though Stringer had his name all over it.

And while I am at it, how the hell did Stringer get away with jumping on the head of Michael Hibberd in the last quarter, getting nowhere near the footy and allowing Dev Smith to run into an open goal? Bloody shocking no-call.

 

ESSENDON – Zach Merrett.

Will not die wondering about his efforts in this game. He just kept working and didn’t give the Demons any space. Merrett laid a game-high nine tackles (including that one time where Petracca dropped the footy with three minutes left) and had an equal high 25 disposals at 84% efficiency. Seven marks, nine contested possessions and five clearances.

One moment that caught my eye was just 20-odd seconds after “that” non-decision. Merrett chased a loose ball on the wing and came up against Christian Petracca. Unfazed, Merrett put his head over the footy and won the ball in the crunch by getting there first and tapping the ball to a teammate. The play would eventually end with a Melbourne goal, but due to no fault of Merrett’s who had done everything right from the bounce of the ball, to when the goal was kicked. And then, sure enough, it was Merrett laying another big tackle at the very next centre bounce. The guy has no quit.

 

THE MOMENT THAT MATTERED MOST?

 

MELBOURNE – There were a couple early on, but the tackle of Trent Rivers on Matt Guelfi in the last quarter to set up a goal for Bayley Fritsch was a thing of beauty.

The Bombers were coming at this point. They were in the hunt and could smell the chance of a kill, but Rivers’ desperation led to a Fritsch getting out and waltzing into an open goal. Though the Bombers may have thought they were still in with a shot at that point, you could see they were playing all or nothing footy. When you do that and it comes undone, heads start dropping.

The other moment involved end-to-end goals by the Dees, streaming down the field as the Bombers played catch up. It went Oliver to Tomlinson to Petracca to Spargo to Weideman to Hunt to goal in a sequence that saw the Dees shift the ball from half back to the goal square with absolute precision.

That was champagne football.

 

ESSENDON – There was one that stood out for me early.

Marty f*$%ing Gleeson. Second quarter. Ball on the line at the top of the defensive 50. Gleeson comes through at pace and… just about jumps into the stands as he misses absolutely everything. The footy and the man (Neal-Bullen), who would then subsequently stroll in for an easy goal. It stretched the margin to 22pts and gave Melbourne their fourth consecutive goal.

The game was over. Yes, we came back in the last quarter, but it didn’t have to be that way. If only the team had played with the required urgency from the start. I can imagine well-respected actor Brendan Gleeson staring the young fella down and growling something at him about needing to change his name if he’s going to continue playing like that.

 

WHICH PLAYERS LET US DOWN THE MOST?

 

MELBOURNE – I’m usually a big fan, but Jake Melksham was incredibly quiet in this one. At one point he bobbed up on the half forward flank and kicked inboard and I was just relieved that he wasn’t injured.

The other is Kosi Pickett, who threatens to do a heap but flashes into the game, only to flash out of it for a long while straight after. He had five touches but needs to find a way to stay more involved in the play. I know he is a baby in AFL terms, but I am not sure you can carry blokes in the finals.

I’d say that a minimum of a tackle per quarter should be his target, and if they’re inside 50, all the better.

 

ESSENDON – Jordan Ridley.

Seriously looked like Ridley had checked out of this game after quarter time. There was no urgency or desperation in his chasing or defensive efforts. If Fritsch had kicked straight, it would’ve been even more of a bath than it was.

Of course, there are plenty of other names to mention. But at this point that would just be tedious. We all saw the second half of this season. We can only hope that Rutten rules with an iron fist in terms of the level of commitment required.

 

PLAYER FROM THE OPPOSITION I ADMIRED MOST IN THIS GAME?

 

MELBOURNE – Can I say Adam Saad in the hope he leaves and joins us?

Join us… join us…

Nah, I actually don’t love the way he throws it on the boot to kick as far as possible, often without looking.

I’d prefer someone like Zach Merrett and I’d whack him on the opposite wing to Langdon, giving us a perfect one-two outside running punch. He still had his pedal to the floor in the last quarter and, like Langdon, runs his backside off for his team. And he kicks a little better, too.

I’d also like to say Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti. He hurts when he gets it – he just doesn’t get it anywhere near enough. He has had ten or less disposals in 12 games this year. Would like to see him at 12-15 touches per game. he could tear it apart.

 

ESSENDON – Jack Viney.

He dominated us in the middle today. It seemed like every second centre clearance was going to him at one point. Viney has had a lot to get over this season. Being stripped of the captaincy was just the start. But today he led alongside Max Gawn in the complete schooling of our midfielders at the centre bounce. Good thing they learnt plenty in the first three quarters that they put it to good use in the last.

 

WRAP  UP

 

MELBOURNE – Well, as it stands we sit in the eight and await the results of the Dogs v Freo game. I think all Dees fans have a right to feel pretty annoyed with the way that played out – we should have put the Bombers well and truly away so that a comeback like that was not on the cards.

But as we tend to do, we left the door ajar and Essendon almost stormed right through it.
We showed plenty of signs that should imbue us with a bit of hope that should we make the finals, we can claim a scalp. May was a beast and his combination with Lever has been a genuine highlight this season. Oliver and Petracca have been connecting beautifully (or in ugly ways like Trac’s pulled kick at defensive fifty that was terrible), Gawn is still a dominant ruck, and although he didn’t get scoreboard return in this one, Weideman is attacking the ball in the air and is not being outmarked.

And so we wait, we watch and we get on the Fremantle bandwagon for a day. Anything can happen if we get into finals. Dare to dream…

 

ESSENDON –Well, what can you say? Another year, another almost season. This game was almost a perfect personification of that. Started well and showed something. Get completely dismantled for most of the game. Realise it’s all on the line and throw everything at your opposition to bring it back to a competitive game. Get run over as you have used all your tickets just to get back in it. Lose by a similar margin you were behind by earlier in the game anyway.

Fantasia is gone. Saad a likely departure as well. Joe is 50/50. We maybe get Ben Brown which could be good. Try and snake another recruit and get some more development into our youth which has shown plenty of promise. Not all hope is lost on this Bombers team.

 

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