Geelong v Essendon – The Doc’s Autopsy

By quarter time in this game, we’d received a pretty definite answer as to where Geelong sit this season – they are back.

With differing starts to the 2023 season, this was one of those games where we were going to see a bit more clearly where Essendon and Geelong sit in the pecking order when it comes to the AFL hierarchy.

The reigning premiers were on the ropes at 0-3, but with dominant performances against Hawthorn, West Coast and Sydney, some took notice, others scoffed at the fact they got wins against the worst two teams in the comp and a Swans outfit that had Nick Blakey, Robbie Fox and Callum Mills playing key defensive roles – as undermanned as it gets.

For the Bombers, they were strong for three quarters against a Collingwood side, dubbed by many as a premiership contender. But then allowed seven goals unanswered to let that slip away.

A steady mix of dominance and mismatches had the Cats off to a fast start, kicking six goals to two in the opening quarter and by halftime, added another eight goals to open up a commanding 44-point lead.

Credit to the Dons for sticking fat throughout the game, but every time they looked like they could mount the impossible, the Cats responded and made sure the game stayed out of reach to notch their fourth win on the bounce.



Say what you must about Jayden Laverde, but structurally speaking, he was a big out in this contest… and didn’t the Cats forwards know it!

With Charlie Curnow kicking a career-best nine goals in the west on Saturday night, the attention turned to Jeremy Cameron and how many he could kick on Sunday afternoon. Whilst he was serviceable in this game – kicked three goals, he was being deployed further afield and was still as impactful with his 20 touches.

No one made mention of Tom Hawkins, who kicked eight goals in a monster display. In the first quarter, he was matched up on Brandon Zerk-Thatcher and as much as I’ve been impressed with Zerk’s development this season, his size was no match for the big Tomahawk. In the opening term alone, he kicked 4.1 from six disposals and five marks.

On top of the 8.1 he finished off with, he also had two goal assists with his 13 score involvements. He finished with 12 marks, with five contested. Of those 12 marks, 10 of them were taken inside 50.

The thing I didn’t understand was why Brad Scott didn’t deploy a loose man in defence to at least interfere. I don’t think it happened until the last quarter when the game was well and truly decided.

Furthermore, there were some pretty ordinary efforts from some players that could’ve affected the contest. One that stood out was Jye Caldwell before halftime who opted to wait for the crumb as opposed to getting up and competing two-on-one. Poor Zerk had very little help for most of this game.

Ridley was moved on to Hawkins after halftime for a little while, but not even he could’ve managed to stop him. They were outmatched, but it’s also worth mentioning that three rounds in, Hawkins looked like he was cooked and could’ve barely run. Some mentioned that he should’ve called it quits with his good mate Joel Selwood last year.

But one look at this performance, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that the fella can still play.



A few weeks ago, I raised the question to my colleague and good mate Alex Miller on the A3 Footy Podcast about Patrick Dangerfield and his leadership – was it harsh to rate his first season as the title leader as underwhelming?

The opening weeks of the season felt as if there was a bit left to be desired. Some may call it harsh, but football has become a wins-and-losses industry. However, from the outset of this game, he showed exactly what kind of leader he can be.

Dangerfield had a blistering first term that saw him extract clearances at will. A lot of their opening quarter and how dominant they were was built on their ability to extract out of the source and how they were able to catch the Bombers out on turnover.

Between Patrick Dangerfield and Mark Blicavs, in the first quarter alone, they managed to record five centre clearances between them; Danger was responsible for three of them and it was with Will Setterfield sicced on him the early stages as a bit of a tagging job.

After his role on Clayton Oliver a couple of weeks ago, this could’ve been anything, but he was made second-rate through Danger’s grunt work and his ability to work onto the next contest… yeah that man still has it.

What made this performance even more awe-inspiring was that he made a significant impact on limited minutes; 64 percent of game time to be specific – which equates to about just in excess of 80 minutes. Most of the other midfielders rack up over 80 percent of game time.

In this amount of time, he had 28 disposals, half of which were contested possessions, along with five marks, nine score involvements including three goal assists 10 clearances, five of which were from centre bounces, 15 inside 50s and 681 metres gained.



Over the years, we are blessed with seeing either the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ variations of Jake Stringer. Even beyond his days as a Bulldog, his games still give me the shits.

And before anyone starts alleging that Stringer lives in my head rent free – I’d love to see him succeed, but when he only pops up for 10 minutes of football like he did last week, and then follow through with constant soft tissue injury issues it makes it a pretty hard task to cheer along.

In this game, we got a very good version of Jake Stringer. It could even be the best game I’ve seen him play in Bombers colours. There were very few winners in the opening half when the Cats scored with monotonous regularity, but Jake Stringer was one who was working hard in the middle and reaped the rewards when the Bombers found the game on their terms in the second half.

For a while, we’ve seen Stringer play as that hybrid forward who is too strong for the small defenders but the burst of speed causing headaches for the bigger defenders, but we have only seen him attend centre bounces here and there.

In this game he announced himself as a full-time midfielder, he led all Bombers for centre bounce attendances with 32 and was often seen going head-to-head with Mark Blicavs, who led all comers with 33. When I saw that match-up in the opening term, my initial thoughts were: ‘not a chance that lasts’.

But it lasted, and not only that, Stringer had a cracking game, putting out a game-high 11 clearances, with nine of them coming from centre bounces. I mentioned a little earlier that the Cats destroyed the Bombers out of clearances in the opening quarter, Stringer’s influence in the guts changed that and made things a little tougher as the game wore on. Essendon lost the clearance count by eight but won the centre bounces 19-15.

He also managed to come through with a bag of four – 4.1 and another out on the full if we’re being specific. There were a couple of times where he managed to get out the back, but he was made to earn his goals in this one. One featured a kick from the boundary, another a good snap, when most of his mates were just keen to handball it forward.

I just hope he doesn’t revert back to his old ways next week and go missing for 80 percent of the game. Some consistency would be nice for him.



Strange game this was, because this is another player that has frustrated me over the years that I’m giving praise for.

There’s no doubt that Sam Weideman would’ve frustrated the living daylights out of Melbourne supporters when he was there for the past number of years. There were glimpses of his talent, but never consistent and nine times out of 10, he’d let you down with his kicking.

I left the MCG this afternoon very impressed with just how far he’s come. I’ve publicly made mention of Essendon making shrewd trade deals over the past couple of years. Nick Hind and Peter Wright arrived at the club at the end of 2020 for peanuts; Hind has shown he’s best 22 over the past couple of years and Peter Wright has already won a damn club best and fairest.

This recent off-season we’re seeing Adrian Dodoro – for his flaws in being stingy for asking price – really come good when it comes to picking out talent for a bargain. Weideman was coughed up for practically Aaron Francis and a third-round pick, who played like he needed a change anyway.

Weideman had the match-up on Esava Ratugolea in this game, who has been serviceable in his new role as a key defender, and while he competed in the packs and had 12 spoils, I thought Weideman made him look second-rate in this one.

His mobility has always been one of his better strengths to his game and at times, ‘The Big Sav’ struggled to keep up with him, and his hands… he’d have struggled to catch a cold in this one, which is a shame, because I thought the past couple of weeks showed he was on the right path.

Weideman kicked 5.1 from 14 disposals, but only took four marks here. The thing that I took notice of was his work at ground level. We’ve seen over the past few years how clean the talls can be at ground level and Weideman had four ground ball gets and six contested possessions – that’s with no contested marks either.



After featuring in the ruck more prominently against the Swans last week, Sam De Koning started this game in the middle and was situated on ball for most of this game.

It’s odd, I certainly didn’t have it on my bingo card, but we must look at Geelong’s ruck stocks for a moment. Rhys Stanley as their number one option is out for approximately a month with an eye socket injury. Toby Conway has been missing with a foot injury. Jonathan Ceglar played his last AFL game a few weeks ago unless every ruck is not available, but even then, I’m not sure that’s a guarantee.

And Shannon Neale is fit and healthy – and might’ve signed a new multi-year deal as well – but I don’t think that he’s ready to tackle the big boys in the AFL division – but his time surely is on the way if they’re recommitting to him.

Which meant it was De Koning and Blicavs to shoulder the load against Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips. The pair combined for 89 ruck contests (Blicavs 45 and De Koning 44) to the Essendon pairs 100 (Draper 65 and Phillips 35).

Draper and Phillips won the hitout count 47-32, but their impact on the ground was inferior to that of their Geelong counterparts. Blicavs’ ability to play nearly any position on the ground is unparallel and the synergy between the two of them at times in the centre square (particularly in the opening half) was jaw-dropping at times.

We know Brad Scott loves the idea of playing Draper as an extra key forward, but what I’d love to know is why didn’t he play him as the spare? Knowing that both Zerk-Thatcher and Ridley were undersized, would they not have appreciated some help against a man that eventually went crazy in the Geelong forward line.

But anyway, his brother has been in the news this week about his form and his out-of-contract status. But Sam has been continuing to play fine football and in a position that even he wouldn’t have thought he’d be playing in, no less.

That’s a special talent.



Probably one of the worst games I’ve seen out of Mason Redman. Made a lot of really stupid decisions under pressure and it cost them a goal or two.

Zach Merrett was held to the 19 disposals on return from suspension. Looked to have had Tom Atkins around the contest at times and really made it hard on him.

Tanner Bruhn when he came on as the sub looked the goods, with a couple of goals, but also had three clearances, three tackles and 17 pressure acts.

Brad Close had a nice game up forward. Got started with a bloody nice set shot from the boundary, but then with slick hands and good positioning, he was a great link-up player in the forward half – had three goal assists and seven score involvements.

Another man who was great in the link-up work has been Gryan Miers. He’s rapidly showing improvement across the half-forward line. Still has the weird little ball drop but the effectiveness is great: 10 score involvements from 24 disposals and five marks.

On the eye, I thought Andrew McGrath had a really good game, when the whips were cracking early, he was the one who was trying to steady the ship in the defensive half, but he only had three effective kicks out of eight for the match.

Tom Stewart’s defensive abilities were in full force in this game, I thought he was back to his best. Four intercept marks was a team-high, but also had 12 marks and three spoils along with 26 disposals, 24 kicks at 79 percent efficiency.

I hope Ben Hobbs keeps his spot in the side next week. One of a few players that dipped in a bit more over the four quarters: 17 disposals and 15 pressure acts.

Sam Simpson had some really good moments in which he looked a dangerous threat up forward; kicked 2.1 and also was very clean at ground level, recording five ground ball gets.

Really liked Nic Martin’s hands in this one; he was smooth by foot and clever by hand at times and worked hard at the coalface – finished with 14 contested possessions and 22 disposals and 82 percent efficiency.

Zach Guthrie I saw was on Kyle Langford at numerous points, given his form the past month it was a good move on the Cats to try and get someone onto him. Langford had a really quiet game – kept goalless and very minimal impact he was eventually moved onto the wing.

Great to see Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti back playing footy again. Didn’t see a lot of the ball in this game with just the six disposals, but five of those were score involvements with 1.1 and three goal assists.

Sam Durham needs to learn how to be better in-game awareness. He takes a mark on the MCC members wing in the second term, two Essendon players are goal-side streaming inside 50, had to have pulled the trigger on that. Slow plays like that kill sides.

And on that, it’ll do me for this game. The Cats have won four in a row and are back at Kardinia Park next week for a chance at five in a row when they take on the Adelaide Crows in what should be a good game of football, but they get a good run over the next month, with games against Richmond, Fremantle and GWS all to come.

As for Essendon, they don’t have as easy of a run as the Cats do, with an away trip against Port Adelaide next week, followed by an away trip to Brisbane, but followed by games against Richmond and West Coast away too.

The Cats are back on track to defend their title, but as for the Dons, I’m still left wondering where they’re exactly at. Their best is good enough; evidenced with their win over Melbourne who remain a side to beat at the top end, and they’ve given top-four sides like Collingwood and St Kilda a real crack in the past month.

Will the real Essendon stand up?



You know who’s a great bloke? The Doc. You can buy him a coffee for the work he does by clicking the link below. I’m sure he’d greatly appreciate it.



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