It is fair to say that this game didn't go to plan for Essendon. In a game that they needed to win for their own season, honour their inspirational captain in his 200th game, but also play to honour the memory of Phil Walsh after his tragic death on the Friday before, Essendon served up a very limp and uninspired performance. For this writers mind, you have to go back a fair way to try and remember such a performance. However, what do the raw numbers of this game tell us? Was the score-line for the game, and the general feel of the game reflected well in the stats? Unfortunately, Bomber fans might want to stop reading at this point.
Obviously, the scoring was very poor. Essendon recorded 8.4.52 while St. Kilda nailed 25.12.162. This is an ordinary result by any measure. While the scoring shots was 37 to 12 in the Saints favour, the accuracy was 66% for Essendon and 68% for St. Kilda, it is fair to suggest that Essendon's mere 12 scoring shots potentially makes this statistic not statistically significant in this case. The scoring pain gets even worse when you factor in scoring efficiency from forward 50 entries. Essendon managed 37 entries, St. Kilda 60. Not only did St. Kilda nearly double the entries, their scoring efficiency almost doubled again - 62% to 32%. This means that for Essendon, only 22% of forward entries resulted in a goal, while St. Kilda was at 42%. This clearly shows that while Essendon's usual inability to convert their opportunities was still evident, their game today had even larger issues.
Put simply, Essendon was beaten all around the ground. 445 disposals for 304 is very worrying, 142 contested to 119 not making the news any better and to rub salt into the wound, despite having more of the ball, St. Kilda found the time to tackle more, laying 61 tackles to 54. 15 of their tackles were inside their defensive 50 while Essendon's typically rock solid defence was able to manage only 3. Having Cale Hooker spend some time in the forward line as a marking and scoring option netted Essendon 3 goals, but how many more did it cost them?
St. Kilda's dominance of the ball movement led them to double Essendon's marking statistics, 142 to 71. Of these, 8 were contested for Essendon (11%) vs 15 for St. Kilda (10%). These low rations signal that pressure all around was down. They don't tell us why, but given the sheer possessions and tackles, it would suggest that Essendon were not applying enough pressure to limit St. Kilda's ball movement and make the contest, while St. Kilda pressured to the point where contests were nullified. This was certainly the perception watching the game.
The only shining light to take from this game was the hit outs with the highly inexperienced pair of McKernan and Daniher managing 37 hit outs to 40 which was converted a similarly close 34 to 39 clearances St. Kilda's way. McKernan earned the praise of Coach James Hird in the sombre post-match press conference. Hird highlighted the performance of McKernan and Heppell in particular. Heppell contributed 7 clearances with McKernan 6. McKernan was also responsible for 26 out of 37 hit outs which is a fantastic effort for the emerging ruckman.
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