Melbourne v Essendon - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Demons moved back to the middle of the ladder and left the bombers languishing down toward the bottom. Well, not really but it felt that way. 3-3 feels a lot closer to the top eight than 2-4.

Melbourne raised their game in the second half and Essendon could not go with them.

Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

Max Gawn’s bananas

Hmmmm, he seems to like kicking for goal a lot more when there is a higher degree of difficulty attached to his shots.

Gawn kicked two big banana goals to stamp his authority on the game in the third quarter, and he let a passionate Bombers fan know all about one of them. That fan may be used as a poster boy for anti-social behaviour at the game, but he didn’t do much wrong, and it was obviously fine for Gawn to go back at him once he slotted the goal.

Let’s hope that that it doesn’t overshadow just how good those pair of goals from the boundary were from the big guy.

Bayley Fritsch

He had the best quarter of his young career in the third quarter, as his Demons put a bit of space between them and Essendon.

Aside from one unfortunate error at the conclusion of the second quarter, Fritsch was excellent in the air. His performance deserved the icing that was the late mark and goal to give him three for the day. He gave the nice assist to Melksham in the last quarter with a short pass that had to be perfect, and was.

Fritsch hasn’t pulled in any of the big speccies yet, but his sure hands remind me a little of a young Jeremy Howe when he was in Melbourne colours. Let’s hope Collingwood aren’t circling.

James Harmes

I’m a big fan of hard work, and a bigger fan of the unsung player. James Harmes is a hard worker who I don’t hear much about. That basically makes him my favourite Melbourne player.

He laid nine tackles this afternoon to lead the Demons and added 23 touches to the mix as well. At 22, he has a lot of room to develop, and will slot in nicely in the midfield permanently when Nathan Jones hangs them up. He’s a ready-made replacement.

Nathan Jones

Speaking of Jones, let’s hope he doesn’t hang them up any time soon.

There was one moment today I wanted to highlight, which said more about Jones than any of his 24 touches. Late in the second quarter, Jones bodylined Devon Smith on the boundary. The ball looked as though it would be taken away by the Bombers, with Smith getting his hands on it first, but Jones crashed into him, not so much to hurt him, but to dislodge the ball and prevent the Bombers from extracting it.

There was nothing malicious about his attack, nor anything illegal. What it was, was good, hard footy. The ball spilled, a boundary throw in ensued, and Jones had done his job.

Jayden Laverde

With Joe Daniher playing some other sort of game on the field at times, it would be somewhat heartening for Bomber fans to see a forward leading well, taking marks and looking like a legitimate forward.

Laverde has been waiting for his opportunity, and his 21 touches and 10 marks should see him get another crack at it at senior level next week.

Gawn v Leuenberger

We wrote about Gawn earlier, but Leuenberger was far from disgraced. He matched Gawn in the first half before big Max got on his bike and stretched the former #1 pick.

Gawn ran away with the chocolates in a performance that may end up earning him a few Brownlow votes, but for a while, Leuenberger went toe to toe with one of the top rucks in the game.

Mitch Hannan

He got an absolute gift from a Joe Daniher spoil, but Hannan earned his other two goals.

In a forward line packed with solid mid-sized players, Hannan bobbed up for 18 disposals and five marks. The Dees’ forward line, when given space, can really hurt, and Hannan put the hurt on the Bombers this afternoon.

THE BAD

Big Joe

If he kicks three goals, we aren’t writing this. But he didn’t, and we are.

I’m not sure what Daniher is doing wrong, other than missing, and missing often. The kid is a thoroughbred, but he is kicking like a mule.

One moment in the game concerned me. Whether he was infringed against or not, Joe hit the ground in the fourth quarter. He slowly got to his feet as the play went on around him. Did he get involved again? Did he hunt the guy who he thought dropped him?

No, he complained to the umpire. The ball was a few metres away, but Daniher did not break out of a walk.

At this point last year, Daniher was being criticised as well. He had 13 goals and 16 behinds after Round Six. This year, he has seven goals and nine behinds. Patience is wearing thin.

THE UGLY

The lack of first quarter intensity

Based on the first quarter, neither of these teams will be playing finals. Though there was a lot at stake, the feeling between the teams was rather sedate. I can understand not being focused on the man and not wanting to stray from a gameplan, but the loser of this was going 2-4. Show some passion!

All’s well that ends well, I suppose, and for the Demons, they’ll be celebrating a good win when the pressure was on them, but from the outside looking in, I saw two teams that were somewhat timid and weren’t ready to apply the sort of pressure necessary to make a statement.

It picked up in the second quarter, but in a game that purportedly meant so much, things were a little passive for my liking.

OTHER BITS

Watching Michael Hurley today, it’s obvious that he has all the tools to be the best centre half back in the game. A couple of times today, he had to go, and he did. What I didn’t like seeing was once he contested something, he’d retreat 25 metres behind the ball, looking for a cheapie. I fully understand that he is the go-to kicker in the Essendon back line, but he is also one of their strongest bodies, and the Bombers needed the strong bodies at the coal face today.

Just as I took note that Bayley Fritsch had a great pair of hands, he took his eyes off it at half back and spilled the ball. Had Jordan Lewis not arrived on the scene to help tidy things up, it may have been very costly for the Dees.

A bit may be said about Jake Stringer’s decision to square the ball to Joe Daniher in the second instead of going for goal. I think Stringer was in the right. He had the speedy Neville Jetta right on his tail and was in the situation where he either needed to take a bounce, and possibly slow down in the process, ping for goal, or find his out of form full forward. He did the team thing and gave it off. Daniher missed from 40 out directly in front, but it was the right football play to make.

Andy McGrath played the first half like a man who was stung into action by a poor performance last week. He had 19 touches to lead all players at half time. He finished with 26, so a pretty quiet second half.

This was Christian Salem’s second big first quarter in a row. Last week he was good early and then went completely missing. This week, he was able to maintain a good level of performance for the whole game, finishing with 27 touches to lead the Dees. His kicking out... well, that could use some work.

Neville Jetta against Jake Stringer was an intriguing match up early on. Jetta had a couple of good wins, but Stringer is so strong through the hips, and hard to move off his spot.

Quieter game for Jesse Hogan, despite a couple of goals. I know he has a huge tank, but what I don’t like seeing is the young power forward accepting dinky little 15 metre kicks at half back. He’s the guy that should be taking them on hard leads to get the Dees out of strife.

Nice to see Charlie Spargo read the ball well and snap his first goal in play. I remember watching his dad play… sigh.

Looked like great positioning from Max Gawn to get all by himself and mark inside 50 in the second. Let’s not mention he hadn’t moved for 30 seconds prior as he was totally cooked.

He may have missed the goal, but the dance to get time and space by Joe Daniher against the boundary is the sort of stuff that Bomber fans want to see more of. Of course, seeing a few goals wouldn’t hurt.

Bombers had +47 uncontested possessions at half time. They love getting out in the open. The Dees did a great job to bottle them up in the second half.

Hogan’s shot at goal early in the third was almost at the same spot Daniher missed from in the second. 34-40 out, right in front… Hogan converted.

Adam Saad was given no space to run today. He was chased hard, and pressured every time he went near it. He dropped an intercept mark in the third, then dived on it. The ensuing free kick from Melksham found Tom McDonald, who goaled.

Credit Neville Jetta’s tackle on James Stewart at half back with setting up Gawn’s first banana goal. It started a break that saw Fritsch kick long, and Gawn mark on the line.

Stringer was very unlucky to be called for interfering with Jetta in a marking contest. Stringer hit all ball. If they paid the mark, it was premature. If they paid the free, they were guessing.

Mitch Hannan had the tackle of the day, completely destroying Marcus Baguley.

Melksham got the better of McNiece in the second half, but hey… Rance could only hold Melksham to four. Today he got two.

The Bombers intense start to the last quarter lasted 6-7 minutes before the sting went out of it. Back to back tackles by Neal-Bullen on Heppell, and McDonald-Tipungwuti on Jones were both let go. They couldn’t let one go and then pay the other.

Interesting to see three Demons on top of the grounded Goddard. Didn’t see many Bombers running in to aid him…

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