Twenty points down at the last change, the Bombers needed something special to salvage the game. That’s exactly what they got, running over the top of the under-manned Adelaide Crows to win by 12 points.
So, as is the Mongrel Punt way, let’s take a look at the good, bad and ugly of the Round One clash between the Bombers and Crows
1 – The Comeback
I could’ve rattled off individual players from Essendon who shaped the last quarter resurgence and it would’ve taken up the entire ‘good’ section. Instead, they’ll all go in this section.
Cale Hooker – If there was any doubt as to what end of the ground he should play, it’s laid to rest now. He was powerful, straightened the team up, and worked, worked, worked. He was integral to the Bombers bridging the gap.
Brendan Goddard – Solid as a rock off half back, and when he ventured up the ground, had the ability to lower his eyes and find targets inside fifty.
Dyson Heppell – A captain’s game. Relentless running and did not take a backward step when the heat was on. Was five marks off the rare AFL Quadruple Double.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti – After only three touches in the first half, he needed to lift. Late in the game, he was the man who ignited the Bombers. His first few minutes of the last quarter, with several touches down the wing, and then some high quality physical pressure in the forward fifty, set the tone. He set up Josh Green’s opening goal of the quarter, and should’ve had one himself when he was held later in the quarter.
2 – Bryce Gibbs in Adelaide colours
35 touches on debut is nothing to sneeze at, but Gibbs added two goals at crucial moments in the third quarter. For a couple of minutes at the beginning of the third quarter, the game was about Gibbs, and he didn’t back away from it. After two goals, he was penalized for a dangerous tackle at a centre bounce, which was nowhere near being dangerous. We’ll get into that a bit later.
Gibbs was recruited to elevate the Crows’ midfield, and he did all he could tonight, complimenting the game-high 41 touches from ball-magnet, Matt Crouch, who picked up right where he left off last year.
3 – The Bomber recruits
Devon Smith was excellent through the middle. Adam Saad had the unenviable job of curtailing Eddie Betts, and Jake Stringer showed glimpses of what he’s capable of without really grabbing hold of the game.
Though he had a complete brain fart when he kicked the ball out on the full from a kick-in, which led to a gorgeous Douglas goal, Saad’s overall game on Betts was excellent. The Crow had 14 touches but had very little effect on the game, and was held goalless. Highlight for Saad was early in the third, when he took the ball, crashed into, and bounced off two Crows, kept his feet as they fell over and hit up Cale Hooker for his second goal.
1 – Zach Merrett ruled out.
Now, I loved the physical clash. Richard Douglas tucked up and crunched Merrett in the middle of the ground. Merrett crumpled into a heap on the ground, and despite wanting to return, did not.
Merrett also had some blood on his lip, which may indicate the hit got him in the head. It looked like a legitimate hip and shoulder to me, and if we went in percentages, I’d say it was 95% contact to the body and perhaps 5% to the head. As much as I loved Douglas’ attack, it was unfortunate that Merrett wasn’t able to return.
2 – The Second Quarter
The first quarter was good. The third was great, and if you’re a Bomber fan, you would’ve loved the fourth as well. What was going on in the second? One goal apiece and plenty of misses made it the worst quarter of footy this season. Yep, the worst out of eight quarters. I know – small sample size. I’m sure there’ll be worse. Bad kicking is bad football.
3 – Josh Jenkins' decision making
It’s feast of famine with good decisions where Jenkins is involved. As a short pass headed towards two Crows at half forward, the right play was for Jenkins to let his teammate grab it. Instead, he got into his mate’s area, the ball spilled and an opportunity was lost. One of the commentators asked “What was Jenkins doing?”
The answer is – I don’t know.
He also decided to miss a goal from thirty metres out after taking a great contested mark. Frustrating…
1 - Joe Daniher’s no-look handball
Now Joe is a skilful man, particularly for a big guy, but no-look handballs may not be his forte. He split the difference and handballed between two teammates, which led to a fast break for the Crows.
He was let off the hook when Richie Douglas missed a goal from 35 metres out, but you’d want to see Joe curb that aspect of his game, particularly if he’s executing it like that.
He’s also struggling to count to thirty, apparently.
2 – The focus on the Essendon E-Sports team
Yes, ugly is an appropriate word.
3 – The “Dangerous Tackle”
With drama about Katie Brennan’s suspension still swirling around, Bryce Gibbs was on the receiving end of one of these calls early in the third quarter. The issue is that the umpire closest to the action thought it was completely legitimate (which it was) but the umpire further away called it a dangerous tackle, and the Bombers took possession.
Now I may be showing my age here, but I can remember a time when the tackler’s duty of care was to ensure the guy with the ball either dropped it, or couldn’t dispose of it legally, whilst not landing in his back, or hitting him high.
It was the guy with the ball’s duty of care to protect yourself and try like hell not to be tackled!
It’s a bit of a stupid rule, and the ambiguity around it in Gibbs’ case highlights just how stupid it can be. Yes, protect the head – no one is disputing this is a necessity, but when the guy has been tackled, is completely fine, and doesn’t hit his head at all, there’s no need to punish the tackle.
The constant run of David Zaharakis was instrumental in the Bombers' win. He and Heppell were great, four-quarter contributors.
Rory Laird had it on a string early. Just got to where the ball was every time.
Loved the cameo from Darcy Fogarty. A couple of goals, a lovely contested mark and looked like the kind of player who seeks out physical contact. Wish he was a bit more involved as the game wore on, but we have many years to enjoy him yet.
Matt Crouch went over 40 touches. Did he hurt the Bombers?
Andrew McGrath’s one-on-one win against Paul Seedsman in the first quarter was brilliant. Not “breeyant” as Cam Ling would say.
Stringer may have missed a shot early in the second, but his clean gather out of the air demonstrated just what he can do. I think he’ll be just fine in red and black.
Eddie Betts looked like he took it a little easy on the lead at one stage. A little bit lackadaisical and Adam Saad closed in on him and made the spoil.
Goddard’s stab pass to Joe Daniher early in the third quarter would’ve made Darren Jarman played.
Michael Hurley got a heap of the ball as the first target from a kick in – if any of you have this stat, please pass it on.
Very nice debut for Tom Doedee. 21 touches and 7 marks.
Expected a bit more for Mitch McGovern. Nine touches for the game not good enough.