Big games tend to capture the attention of our resident Austrology and Sliding Drawers author, Jimmy Ayres, and he gravitates to them like a moth to a flame.
Here is his preview of the Tigers and Bombers in the annual Dreamtime at the ‘G clash this Saturday.
Essendon vs Richmond
After a promising start to season, winning four of their first five games and showing ample signs of improvement in some losses, the Bombers have inevitably slumped to losing their past four games, as the pressure of mounting injuries and some quality opposition evened the ledger out.
With only one win registered from their first seven games, the Tigers have turned their fortunes around in the past fortnight, firstly with a strong win over the League’s resident Under-12’s side: West Coast, followed by a rousing victory at the MCG last week over Geelong, taking their season tally to three wins, a draw and six losses.
Last Time They Met:
Round 23, 2022.
One of the early snow shifts in what became an avalanche at the end of the Bombers season last year, this game began as an emotional farewell match to club stalwart Michael Hurley, but quickly turned into Ben Rutten’s final game as coach of the club.
A strong first half had Essendon within a kick of Richmond for the best part of the first half, dropping out to a 19-point deficit at halftime. Once the third quarter began, the floodgates were opened as Richmond piled on six straight goals and showed the clear gap in class, running out easy winners by 66 points.
Tom Lynch was subbed out of the game with a groin injury after kicking 5.2, Dion Prestia tore the opposition apart with sublime ball movement and forward half pressure, whilst Peter Wright battled a lone hand up forward kicking 3.2 for the Bombers, and Zach Merrett battling tirelessly in the midfield.
Recent History Together:
Bombers fans – do yourselves a favour and stop reading immediately. Please advance directly to the next segment, as this is harmful reading for anybody supporting the red and black.
To say that the Bombers have been bunnies for the Tigers in recent years would be a severe understatement. It’s more like Richmond are Drederick Tatum and Essendon are Homer Simpson, except nobody has ever flown into the MCG and rescued the Bombers from a mauling as of yet.
Where was Moe Szyslak when they needed him?
Since 2014 the Tigers have won every single match played against the Bombers, tallying 13 straight wins by an average margin of five goals across both Dreamtime and regular Home and Away fixtures. This losing streak is equal to Essendon’s worst-ever streak of losses against a single side, which came against Carlton between 1968-1974. If the Tigers get up this weekend and make it 14 straight, it will officially become the worst streak of losses to a single side that the Essendon Football Club has ever experienced in VFL/AFL history.
Round 11, 2014.
Now, I know you Richmond folk are usually quite the forgiving bunch. So you’ll extend me absolution when I add a little something to this article to keep the Bombers fans interested.
This week’s throwback game will be the last time the Bombers managed a win over the Tigers.
It was a cool Saturday night for Dreamtime at the ‘G. The Tigers came into the game in the hottest of form, riding the momentum of a 114-point victory over the Giants, whilst the Bombers had the Bye the week before, with a 50-point loss to the Swans coming the week prior.
The Bombers would kick the first four goals of the game, holding a 24-point lead at quarter time over the goalless Tigers. Richmond would wrestle the margin back by kicking the first two goals of the second quarter before the Bombers kicked eight of the next nine goals to blow Richmond away, with a goal-for-goal final quarter maintaining a 50-point margin at the final siren.
Ready for some obscure names and stats from the game?
-Ben Howlett led all comers and played the best game of his 124 game career with five goals, five tackles and three clearances from his 25 disposals for the game.
-Despite being rock-solid in defence, Dustin Fletcher also kicked the first goal of the game, sending a drop punt on the run through the big sticks from 55 metres out in the first 30 seconds of the game.
-Promising young forward Joe Daniher kicked three goals from seven marks in just his 15th game. What ever happened to that guy?
-The rotating Essendon midfield of Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton, Brendon Goddard, Dyson Heppell, David Zaharakis and Paul Chapman had a total day out, with a small cameo from seventh gamer Zach Merrett, bobbing up for two goals.
-Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin were the two most prominent players for the Tigers, whilst Bachar Houli gathered plenty of the ball and Jack Riewoldt kicked three goals.
-Shaun Hampson and Jason Winderlich were both subbed out of the game.
Brandon Zerk-Thatcher vs Jack Riewoldt
In the absence of Tom Lynch, Jack Riewoldt has become the Tigers’ number one avenue for goals, having kicked 16 majors this season at a round average of two goals per game.
With the Bombers missing Jayden Laverde and Jake Kelly through injury, it’s likely that either BZT or Kaine Baldwin will get the job starting on the Tigers veteran spearhead, allowing Jordan Ridley to play his usual role of covering numerous opponents and freeing up Mason Redman to play his attacking role from down back.
Jack has twice kicked a bag of six against Essendon, but hasn’t kicked more than two goals in a game against them since 2014 – the last time the Bombers beat the Tigers.
Zach Merrett vs Tim Taranto
This will likely be a head-to-head matchup at times, with both Taranto and Merrett playing differing roles within their sides depending on their opposition. Despite some civil unrest within the current media, Tim Taranto has provided some clearance stability at stoppages for the Tigers, largely alongside Dion Prestia and Jacob Hopper.
With the Bombers missing their number one clearance player in Darcy Parish, new addition in Will Setterfield also pulling out with injury, and a rumour floating around that Dylan Shiel didn’t train during the week, we are almost certain to see a shift in Essendon’s midfield, with a mix of players from Jake Stringer, Jye Caldwell, Ben Hobbs and Sam Durham likely to feature in and out of a rotating midfield line-up. Putting a strong onus back on first year skipper Zach Merrett to combat this new-look Richmond midfield and lead his side out of the centre.
Taranto’s last month has shown a dramatic increase in the former Giant’s output, slotting in seamlessly to an amended role under Damien Hardwick, one that shone through dominantly against the reigning premiers last week.
Mason Redman/Daniel Rioli
Not necessarily a head-to-head matchup, but one that will be an interesting watch, given the two players are occupying similar roles within their sides.
The move of Daniel Rioli to the back half was a revelation under coach Damien Hardwick, and one that is largely credited with helping rebuild the Richmond side that won three premierships from four seasons between 2017-2020. Despite his side’s slow start to the season, we have seen Rioli maintain his sturdy averages, and remain one of the premier running defenders in the game.
With Mason Redman’s name being one of the hottest ticket Free Agents in this year’s crop, the Bombers running defender has an ability to match up on a dangerous, attacking player as well as set up play from the back half off his own boot, also getting forward for the occasional booking goal over unsuspecting defences.
If either side employs a spare man behind the ball l, as we have seen a number of times in various games throughout the season, we could see an array of football coming out of the backline, and a prominence led by such an attacking player, with both Redman and Rioli featuring heavily in their side’s respective game styles.
Andrew McGrath vs Shai Bolton
This one will all depend on where Bolton spends his time, with the dangerous 24-year-old capable of holding down a spot in the midfield and equally as dangerously inside the forward half.
Last week, Andrew McGrath held one of the league’s most dangerous small forwards in Charlie Cameron completely goalless, and nullified the electric talent for the vast majority of the game. Will this be the case again this week? It will depend to what extent, if any, that Bolton is deployed in the midfield.
It’s unlikely that Andrew McGrath will be pushed too high up the field, with the Bombers requiring him to hold down some sort of a position in the back half given their plethora of injuries to defenders. But if Bolton is left to his devices in the forward line, I would expect McGrath to be sent straight to him. But after last week, can lightning strike twice?
Bolton has never lost to the Bombers, having won all six of his encounters over Essendon – this is the only team Bolton holds an undefeated record over.
-Jack Riewoldt made his debut in a loss to Essendon back in 2007 and has since won 18 of his 24 career games against the Bombers, his best winning average against any team second only to Brisbane. Despite his side’s recent dominance over the Bombers, Jack hasn’t kicked more than two goals on Essendon since 2014.
-Dyson Heppell has played the most games against Richmond out of all current Bombers, with a Win/Loss record of 4-12, the equal worst of any opposition the former captain has faced (equal with Sydney)
-The last time Essendon beat Richmond was only current captain Zach Merrett’s seventh career game, and his fourth win.
-The only side Damien Hardwick has a better winning percentage over is Brisbane, having coached 21 games against the Bombers for a 16-5 record (76.19%)
-If both players are named, it will be Nick Vlastuin’s 200th game and Shai Bolton’s 100th game.
Where To From Here?
The Bombers are fortunate enough to have a blessed fortnight ahead, travelling to Perth to take on West Coast next Saturday night, followed by a Sunday afternoon graveyard shift against the Kangaroos the following week.
The Tigers have a couple of Sunday afternoon games ahead. First up they’ll host Port Adelaide at the MCG next week, then they’ll travel to GIANTS Stadium to take on… you guessed it – GWS.
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