Essendon has a tall task ahead when they face reigning premiers Hawthorn at the MCG on Saturday. While they upset the league envy in round two by two points, Hawthorn are now at full strength while the opposite can be said for Essendon. Essendon unable to get a break in the injury front with the good news of Zaharakis and Hocking being available to play in the VFL being offset by Bellchambers and the dynamic Colyer out for just about the rest of the season. However, this provided the opportunity to have some players step up from the VFL.
So let’s look at the sides for this week:
Essendon have made five changes this week with Colyer (foot), Fantasia (groin), Chapman (groin) out along with Ambrose and Howlett who have been sent to the reserves to find more form. In come Dempsey and J. Merrett after their spell in the VFL, Nick O’Brien for his first senior run this year, Winderlich back from long term injury and McKernan for game two after being elevated onto the senior list again. In contrast, Hawthorn has made just the one change with Birchall coming in for Shoenmakers (omitted). Hawthorn has clearly deciding to not tamper with the very effective side that comfortably beat Adelaide in Adelaide.
The inclusions of Winderlich, O’Brien and Merrett is a clear sign that Coach James Hird is chasing more speed into the side as well as freeing up half back and mid fielders to present as a forward option. McKernan a big in for Essendon too as they struggle for ruck stocks. McKernan has been very impressive in the VFL, outperforming the more experienced duo of Giles and Bellchambers.
History between these teams is heavily skewed in Hawthorns favour with Hawthorn having won four of the last five encounters. The two most recent games are very closely matched with Hawthorn winning by four points in Round 2 2014 and Essendon getting their own back with an energy charged two point win in Round 2 2015.
That said, Round 2 was eleven rounds ago and while Essendon can take confidence that they are capable of performing at a benchmark level, the sides injury decimation and recent form is going to make this one an uphill battle. Hawthorn is known for its physicality and this was discussed during Jordan Lewis’ and Brendon Goddard’s appearance on AFL 360 as well as during the pre-game James Hird press conference. Both teams are very evenly matched when it comes to average contested ball and tackling so this is shaping up to be a very physical contest – as a Hawthorn V Essendon game usually is!
Thoughts? Leave them in the comments below!