Essendon v Geelong - The Good, Bad and Ugly

Where have these Bombers been for the last few weeks? After an embarrassing and listless performance against old rival, Carlton, Essendon returned to the scene of the crime and handed Geelong an absolute lesson in pressure footy.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of Essendon v Geelong.

 

THE GOOD

The accountable Bombers

What a difference it makes when a team comes into a contest and decides their opponents will have no easy possessions.

We’ve been critical on this site of the performances of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti this season, but he rebounded beautifully today. Thought there were plenty of players that applied the pressure, I can’t help but think seeing Walla chasing hard and making tackles (he had six) was the kind of inspiration the Bombers required.

This is now the benchmark for the Bombers. In two weeks’ time they play the Tigers in the Dreamtime game. If they come to play like they did today, it’ll be a cracker.

Cale Hooker

There’ll be people who point to Tom Hawkins’ stats and talk a bit about how well he rallied, and how he got some points late against Hooker.

Ladies and gentlemen, what Hawkins did was score in junk time. Hooker had the runs on the board when it mattered. 13 of his 21 disposals were contested, and 15 of them were intercept possessions. He built a wall across half back all by himself!

The Cats threw smaller opponents at him and he rag-dolled them to take marks. If Bomber fans are still wondering if he should play back or forward, I hope today puts that argument to rest. He was the best player on the ground when being the best on the ground mattered.

Give Hawkins his junk time goals – Hooker was the man today.

Mark Baguley

This bloke was the story of the game, for mine. There’ll be a lot said about the big names, and the way the entire team lifted, but just a few days ago, Baguley’s character was being questioned.

He didn’t issue an apology for his communication with Jed Lamb last week during the game. He issued at a statement, and today, he made a statement with the way he played.

Baguley brought a backman’s mentality to the forward line today, and applied the sort of pressure that has been so sorely lacking for the Bombers in recent weeks. The coaching of John Worsfold has been under fire, but moving Baguley forward was a huge win for Essendon.

Nice debut Jordan Ridley

It’s a huge thing in a young man’s life; playing your first AFL game. Well, I don’t know that, myself as I was never good enough, but I’d imagine it would be. You’d play it over in your head, and if you’re being realistic, you’re not gonna be a Dean Polo, racking up 30 touches and being best on ground. You’d hope to get through and make a positive contribution.

Well, Jordan Ridley didn’t quite scale Dean Polo-esque heights, but he did make a positive contribution, and then some. He returned a stat line of 25 touches, travelling at 80% efficiency. Not a bad debut.

I reckon he might even get a second game.

Joel Selwood

I’m an unabashed Selwood fan. I don’t care if he ducks, or drops at the knees – I love that he actually cares in games. He takes it personally, and I reckon a loss like today would hurt him.

He tried his guts out all day in a situation where his team was vastly outplayed. He finished with 30 touches and six tackles to be Geelong’s best player… yet again.

Shaun McKernan’s first quarter.

All the great work up the ground can be let down without a potent forward to finish off the work, and early in the game, McKernan gave the Bombers the avenue they needed to score. He finished the first with three goals.

He got them in different ways. The first from a mark, the second off the ground, and the third from a free kick. The Bombers really needed a forward to stand tall today, and though he’d add only one more after quarter time, McKernan was integral in giving Essendon the start that shook the Cats.

The midfield that’s too small

Yeah, I’ll put my hand up here. I thought, and still think the Bombers lack a fair bit of grunt in the middle of the ground. They can throw Stringer in there, but he is a pinch-hitter, and won’t be in there for long.

That said, they were excellent today. Zach Merrett, David Zaharakis and Dyson Heppell were more than a match for the vaunted “holy trinity” of Geelong. They matched them for desire and for productivity.

Merrett showed he meant business early when he brought down Dangerfield in the forward line, in a situation that looked to be a goal in the making for the Cats. The three Essendon mids combined for 93 touches between them. The trinity had 74.

I also loved the aggression of Merrett's attack on Ablett when the opportunity arose.

 

THE BAD

Five minutes of Blicavs

The big Cat had a start to the game he’d probably like to forget.

It began with a centring kick across half back that completely missed the mark, landing with the debutant Ridley. Moments later he threw the ball out of a ground ball contest, giving away a free kick.

Another free kick followed as he was caught holding the ball by Baguley inside fifty. But wait… there’s more! He then followed up with a dumb fifty metre penalty for bouncing the ball off someone else’s head instead of giving the ball back to Baguley. It was an inauspicious start by Blicavs, who’s had a great year so far this year.

A graphic then appeared stating that he was rated sixth in the AFL coming into this week in one-on-one contests. That number might take a hit after the first quarter.

Dangerfield in the ruck

So the Cats have both Zac Smith and Mark Blicavs in the side, right? Does someone want to explain to me why you have Patrick Dangerfield contesting the ruck contest in the middle of the ground after a goal has been scored? I’m happy to wait.

Seriously, if there’s ever been a way of putting your superstar in danger of having a knee planted in his chest, it’s throwing him onto the ruck with very little experience. Luckily, the worst that happened was that he gave away a free kick in the ruck at a boundary throw in to McKernan, who kicked the goal.

Hopefully this is the end of the Dangerfield in the ruck experiment. It does not seem like a very wise move.

The kids fell down today

It was bound to happen. The Geelong kids have been great this year, but they were brought undone today. They’ve been able to prop the Cats up with some exceptional performances – Kelly, Ratugolea (not playing), Gregson and Henry have all been excellent at points of the season. It appeared that one or more always stood up.

Today, none of them did. Henry fought valiantly, taking three intercept marks, but only when allowed to drift off his opponent. The Essendon kids stood up, and the Geelong kids wilted. It’s not their fault – it was inevitable that they’d have that sort of game eventually. It happened today.

 

THE UGLY

Cats unable to hit a target

I lost count of how many kicks from Geelong players dropped a full five metres short of their intended target today. When you combine that with a renewed desire to tackle from Essendon, you have a recipe for disaster.

The way you beat pressure is by matching it and hitting your targets. The Cats did neither. They were double grabbing at the ball, looking indecisive every time they got it, and were not chasing anywhere near as hard as they should’ve, but what hurt them most was their inability to find anyone by foot. It just creates more pressure every single time you miss someone.

The Bombers smelled the blood, too. It got to the point where it appeared as though they expected Cats players to miss targets.

 

OTHER BITS

The Bombers run was great in the first, and not just forward. The amount of time the Essendon mids got back to clog up the Geelong forward line was fantastic.

Dangerfield was probably unlucky not to be awarded a free kick from the desperate Merrett tackle ten metres out from goal. The tackle slipped straight down around his lower legs.

It was interesting to see no one go to Goddard after seeing how effective Jed Lamb was on him early last week. The result – 24 touches and 10 marks.

Stewart Crameri looks to be wanting to u-turn every time he gets the ball these days.

I know this was made a point of on commentary, but it was great to see Jake Stringer do some selfless stuff, contesting marks two-on-one and bringing the ball to ground where teammates were able to capitalise.

Danger’s free kick for the Cats’ second goal was probably due. I reckon there were two occasions prior to that where he was impeded but it wasn’t called.

Big goal assist to Dyson Heppell at half back for the Stewart goal to start the second. It touched quite a few pairs of hands en route to Stewart, but it began with Heppell and ended with Stringer giving Stewart a Joe the Goose.

Fantasia makes a big difference in the Essendon forward line. He’s clean and opportunistic. That’s a deadly combination up forward. They’ve really missed him when he’s been out this year.

No question about the Bombers getting around a first goal-kicker this week, was there? Guelfi got his first and they came from everywhere!

The Cats needed some grunt to push the ball forward in the second, but the more I watched, the more it appeared they were trying to finesse it. Little chip kicks and one or two handballs too many were always the problem. Even when they did hit a target, the next one seemed to miss, which would place them under increased pressure again.

Tom Stewart being pinged for deliberate in the third quarter was a shocking decision. He was being tackled over the boundary, actually handballed it to keep it in, and was still penalised for handballing it out! What else was he supposed to do?

Two big one-on-one marks in a row in the third. Firstly Mckernan just monstered Henry – he needs to have a run at it to compete. Henry can’t compete with the big blokes one-out just yet. The other was Hooker outmarking Hawkins, but Tuohy needs to take some responsibility for this – kicked it to the wrong side for Hawkins, and to the advantage of Hooker. Dumb kick.

There was a big roar of disapproval when McDonald-Tipungwuti was caught holding the ball despite it being high. Looked like he may have tried a Selwood and dropped at the knees. If so, I don’t mind that being called holding the ball.

As well as they were playing, Essendon missed a lot of opportunities in the third. They could’ve really destroyed the Cats.

How stiff was Devon Smith, having his tumbling ball bounce straight up into the air on the goal line, allowing the Cats to touch it. Great aerial contest by Stringer to give him that opportunity.

Another two contested marks to Hooker in the third – one after rag-dolling Selwood, and another monstering Kelly. Great stuff.

Tipungwuti stealing the Tom Stewart handball and feeding Fantasia was great. Good to see two of the small forwards combining like that. Fantasia had to kick it after deciding not to give it off, and he did.

The fourth was junk time at its finest. Hawkins really came into it here, but the game was over.

Here’s a question – how long can players hold onto the ball in a tackle and NOT be penalised? Zac Smith was caught red-handed by Adam Saad, turned more than 360 degrees, and there was still no call. THIS is why there are dangerous tackles – because when you stand up with the guy in a tackle, he is allowed an eternity to dispose of it. Zac Smith was so holding the ball that it made every other holding the ball decision that was paid look unfair. He’s not special needs – just tall. Ping him for holding the ball when he gets caught!

Good to see Stringer rewarded with a goal in the last. Mark Baguley should get plenty of credit for the opportunity. He also helped Conor Mckenna out with a direct assist as well.

 

And that’s that for the Mongrel’s review. Like what you’re getting from us? Give us a like on Facebook or a follow on Twitter and I swear we’ll give you a percentage of the profits we make in the month after publishing this! The percentage is zero and the amount we’re making is also zero. It’s a lose-lose situation!