Of all the things the Essendon Football Club has lacked over the past few years, one thing stood out more than the rest in their Round 24 loss against Collingwood.
Despite being in finals contention just a week prior, the Bombers limped into the off-season with two devastating losses as their most recent footballing memories. Whilst some will say it is a necessary pain, and a step to make the club better in the long run, others are left wondering just how long this run of failure will continue.
And how long it will be tolerated.
The matter at hand – the one that leapt out at me during the game and over the last month of footy – was not skill. No, they have plenty of that. One just has to watch Zach Merrett as evidence. He ran around, busting a gut, hitting up targets like he was a footballing Robin Hood. No, they have that. It likely isn’t scoring power, either, as they have Jake “I swear I’ll get fit next season” Stringer and Peter Wright on the sidelines – both reliable avenues to goal when they’re on the park. Both players are highly capable of having big years. They have had them in the past.
And despite being undermanned in defence, the Bombers also have Brandon Zerk-Thatcher developing quickly as a key defender. He has taken some lumps in 2023 but has emerged a better defender for them. Yes, there is the matter of re-signing him, but in terms of his on-field performance, BZerk has made great strides and should be made a priority.
What the club is lacking is not anything defined by position or role – what is absent is a mindset that has to be embraced by more than just a couple of players. Right now, there are very few in red and black willing to do so.
The Bombers lack Mongrel. They lack that hunger to make an opposition player pay the price when he drops into the hole in front of them. They lack that aggressive streak that sees players punish any opponent when they don’t protect themselves. They’re not aggressive. They’re not combative.
To quote an Essendon-supporting friend of mine, they’re bloody soft!
Oh, what the hell? A Mongrel paywall? Yep, I believe my work is worth twenty cents per day. If you don’t, that’s fine. Want to join us and access the members’ game reviews, as well as columns like the Wingman of the Year, Recruit of the Year, and other nonsensical stuff HB comes up with each week?