We’ve heard the traditional ANZAC Day game between Essendon and Collingwood described in many ways, but anyone who has ever attended will tell you, none of the descriptions does it justice.
It is more than a game of footy. It is an experience.
As we honour those who paid the ultimate price, Jimmy Ayres casts his eye over the upcoming clash to provide a preview of what may be in store.
Collingwood vs Essendon
Anzac Day Form:
The form guide for this game is a simple one, especially if you’re a sucker for stats and patterns like myself. Ever since 2005, the Magpies have followed a pattern of losing one game, and then winning three. That’s right folks, the past 18 years of Anzac Day football have been decided by a LWWW pattern in favour of the Pies.
Now, for those following at home and eagerly calculating things in their minds, the last time the Bombers won on Anzac Day was in 2021. This means, going off the aforementioned historical pattern of certainty, the Magpies are a certainty to not just win this year, but to back that up next year as well. But fret not Bombers fans! 2025 is when you’re next due for what will be a mighty win on the biggest home and away game on the calendar.
Last Time They Met:
Round 19, 2022
12.8.80 – 11.10.76
If you’re a Bombers supporter, I strongly suggest that you skip this section. The last thing that I want to do is bring past trauma such as this to the forefront of your mind on the eve of such an important match.
If you’re a Magpies supporter, however, all I really need to say is: Jamie effing Elliot. For those familiar with the concept of a motor vehicle with a manual transmission, your typical setup incorporates three pedals; the right foot operates the accelerator and the brake pedals, whilst your left foot operates the Jamie Elliot pedal, aka the Clutch.
Collingwood burst out of the blocks and kicked 6.2 to Essendon’s meagre 0.1 in the first quarter, before the Bombers would go on to kick 11 of the next 13 goals, taking a four-goal lead early in the court quarter. Two goals to Josh Carmichael and a goal to Jamie Elliot would get the margin back to under a goal with less than a minute left on the clock.
Harrison Jones marks the ball for the Bombers, about 40 metres out, directly in front of goal, and sends a set shot on its way that hits the post. With the final seconds ticking away, a very aware Collingwood outfit, equalled only by the obliviousness of their Bombers counterparts, send a hasty chain of transition football from coast to coast, ending up with Jamie Elliot out-marking two Bombers players hard on the boundary line in Collingwood’s forward 50.
With the siren ringing and the Bombers holding a two-point lead, Elliot walks in and as cool as a body on ice, slots a drop punt from the tightest of angles to agonisingly rip the hearts out of their old enemy in one of the best finishes of the season.
Anzac Day History Together:
Matches – 27
Collingwood – 16
Essendon – 10
Draw – 1
Nick Daicos vs ???????
We (the Mongrel fraternity) had a deep discussion about this a week ago, with multiple opposition names thrown out there, each as justifiable as the next for one reason or another.
For a bit of a deeper assessment on this potential matchup, check out the Notes section below.
Brayden Maynard vs Jake Stringer
Death, taxes, Jake Stringer throwing his arms out at a teammate or umpire and Brayden Maynard remonstrating with someone about something. These are amongst the absolute certainties in life.
Last year on Anzac Day, Stringer and Alec Waterman combined for 7.3 and proved a more lively option inside the forward 50 that the talls, troubling the Collingwood defenders. Isaac Quaynor, Jack Madden and Brayden Maynard all spent time on the mercurial forward, as I suspect Collingwood’s rolling defence will again allow multiple players to run with Stringer again this year.
Sam Draper vs Anyone Over 6’1
One of the biggest storylines going into this game has been the current fortunes of both sides. Last week, the Bombers convincingly overran the Demons both in a match sense and tactically, by deploying Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips to relentlessly target a Gawn-less Melbourne, eventually running rings around both Brodie Grundy in the ruck and Stephen May in the forward line, with Brad Scott’s set play of rotating both talls between the midfield and the forward line paying dividends.
Likewise, Collingwood’s tall department have been absolutely decimated this season, with every recognised ruckman in the side, as well as a plethora of tall defenders and forwards all sitting cold on the pine – an angle that gives this game yet another little bit of spice: Can the Bombers take advantage of the undersized Magpies? Or will this just add a further string to Craig McRae’s winning bow, proving that this Collingwood has the skill, the drive and the ability to beat any given side, on any given day, regardless of circumstances?
Billy Frampton has been used in the ruck over the past fortnight as has Ash Johnson. It’s looking more and more certain that Nathan Kreuger will return to this Collingwood side for the first time this season, taking the mantle as number one ruck, and potentially freeing up both Frampton and Johnson to resume their usual roles at either end of the ground.
Josh Daicos/Steele Sidebottom vs Nic Martin/Sam Durham
Not necessarily the matchup you’ll see heralded in your average preview, but one that intrigues me nonetheless. Josh Daicos is currently one of the most effective genuine wingmen in the competition, paired with the mature experience of Steele Sidebottom on the opposite wing has aided the Magpies in taking their current midfield structure to the next level.
The Bombers have been experimenting a little in the early stages of this season, but the predominant duo to take duties out on the wings has largely fallen on the shoulders of Sam Durham and Nic Martin. The young, inexperienced pair have proven more than capable this season to date, but face a true test this week when taking on the trusty veteran and his up-and-coming protege.
Both of these sides rely heavily on transition football, and have shown this season that moving the ball out of defence is an area of importance in their game style. One of the biggest challenges in today’s game is the “next kick down the line” when kicking out of defence. The middle link in the chain, if you will, between the back line and the forward line. Nick Daicos has become a master at pinpointing this exact kick out of defence – often with his older brother on the receiving end.
Although in a different capacity, the Bombers rely on Nic Martin’s classy disposal and running ability to link play between each end of ground. Sam Durham on the other hand, has become more of a running utility that is often thrown in the forward half or the back half to serve a purpose, as opposed to sole use as an outside runner. His tackling and hard edge are somewhat of a stark contrast to that of Martin, but a pairing that complements one another.
One of the key battles of this game will be the ball movement, and perhaps four of the key ball movers will be those outside wingmen.
Jayden Laverde vs Brody Mihocek
I’ve often admired Mihocek’s ability to look like both a tall and a small forward, depending on his opponent and the way he approaches the ball. Often using his aerial leap to fly high like the best of the big men, but equally crafty below his knees and able to pounce on a loose ball and score opportunistically.
With an absence of big men on the ground this year, a layer of pressure will hover over the Collingwood forward line. The type of pressure that has only served to fuel the Magpies’ fire in the past couple of seasons.
Jayden Laverde has been through the rigours as an AFL player. The bulk of his career spent in the doldrums of uncertainty as to where his best-suited position on the ground is, it was eventually identified that the former #20 pick provided a strong, marking target in defence. One who makes up for his regular height disadvantage with genuine strength and intercept ability.
The two players have a few uncanny similarities in size and playing attributes, and are currently shaping as one of the more important battles of the match if the Bombers are to find a way to stop this Collingwood forward line from scoring.
Bobby Hill/Jamie Elliot/Jack Ginnivan vs Andrew McGrath/Mason Redman/Jake Kelly
This is a loose matchup so to speak, but one that will have my interest piqued. With Collingwood forced to play so short, I can easily envision the likes of Bobby Hill, Jack Ginnivan and/or Jamie Elliot getting of the chain and scoring at will, as the small forward brigade becomes an even bigger focus point for the Magpies.
Andrew McGrath has a number of quality small forwards on his resume that he’s taken to the cleaners since debuting in 2017. Jake Kelly has the strength and speed to play as both a tall and small defender, and the running prowess of Mason Redman may be forced into a more accountable role, depending on how the ball looks going into the Magpies’ forward line.
It would be remiss of me to not ponder a potential matchup for who is going to stop Nick Daicos, how will they stop Nick Daicos, what are the 11 secret herbs and spices of Nick Daicos, what brand of toothpaste does Nick Daicos use, and which company the 19-year-old uses for his car insurance.
You would be hard-pressed to find any article on Collingwood in the mainstream media this season that didn’t have a 12-step, bonafide foolproof plan on what teams should be doing to quell the influence of Collingwood’s prodigiously talented, young defender. Such is the influence that the son of Peter, brother of Josh is having in this Collingwood side.
What makes it arduous to even attempt putting the clamps on a player like Daicos isn’t the challenge in stopping the player himself, but it’s the position that he regularly puts his side in off his own boot. So many players running off half-back are prone to throwing the ball on the boot and shooting for territory, but not Daicos. Anyone who has watched the 19-year-old closely enough will have noticed his knack for not always picking a player out in space, but often targeting the teammate in best position to continue the chain of possession into Collingwood’s forward line.
Potential matchups within the Essendon lineup?
The most obvious choice would be Jye Caldwell. The former Giant has experience at the Bombers as a run-with player, having numerous high-end scalps (mostly last season) under his belt, however, it’s a role predominantly used in the midfield, not necessarily on a running defender.
Another option could be tasked to a small forward, but do the Bombers have anyone classy enough to go with Daicos, whilst still being effective themselves? Not so likely. Matt Guelfi would have been a terrific option if it weren’t for injury.
Nick Martin could be set the task as an extension of his flexibility in playing on the wing. Martin possesses plenty of run and a reliable kick, however, I don’t quite see the classy finisher prospering in such a role.
Will Setterfield’s name has also been bandied about. We’ve seen at Carlton and even in his five games thus far for the Bombers that the big-bodied mid can have an impact when applying a tag of sorts, as recently as last week when he was able to shut Clayton Oliver out of the game for the first half. However, given the absence of Zach Merrett inside Essendon’s midfield, the Bombers will almost certainly be hesitant to further change up their midfield lineup – but more on that below.
In summary, who can honestly say what Brad Scott will elect to do? If the Defensive Dojo in Ross the Boss didn’t opt to send a cooler to Daicos last week, then it’s nothing more than arbitrary speculation to say what will happen on Anzac Day.
This season we’ve seen Brad Scott develop the Essendon midfield as a repetitive, awesome foursome that continues to get the job done. Zach Merrett averages a centre bounce attendance rate of 76%, as does Darcy Parish. Will Setterfield narrowly trails the pair on 74% and Dylan Shiel rounds out the figures with 68%.
The next two midfielders on the list? Jye Caldwell with 4% attendance, thanks largely to having a solid game of on-ball action against the Saints, and Jake Stringer with 2% after being thrown in the middle for occasional bursts against the Giants.
What this tells us is that Brad Scott is backing his four main ball movers in as his key quadruplet in the midfield, and seldom ever throws a wildcard in the centre bounces for one reason or another (such as an Archie Perkins, Nic Martin, Kyle Langford or Andrew McGrath). What this doesn’t tell us, is who will step into the role as top dog in the absence of captain, Zach Merrett.
There are options aplenty, but with the uncertainty around Ben Hobbs coming into the side for the first time this season, Scott will be forced to make changes to his midfield structure this week.
One For The Ages
For the first time since the year 2000, and only the second time in history, both the Bombers and the Magpies come into an Anzac Day clash from inside the top four, and for only the sixth time ever, both sides come into the game with a positive win/lose record.
Collingwood come in as favourites, thanks largely to their current form, but also their historical record, having won 13 of their past 24 games at the MCG, and 9 of their past 22 Anzac Day clashes.
A crowd in surplus of 90k is expected to pile into the MCG, with the game being a sellout and the weather predicted to be perfect for football.
Where To From Here?
The Magpies travel to Adelaide Oval on Sunday, no, you read that right.. Collingwood do travel.. Where they’ll take on the in-form Crows, next up after that is a date with Sydney at the MCG the following Sunday.
The Bombers’ horror run of opponents continues with Geelong at the MCG next Sunday for the annual Country Game, followed by a trip to Adelaide to take on the Power the following Sunday afternoon.
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