In a game that Essendon needed to win to regain some dignity after their humiliation at the hands of St. Kilda, Essendon came out for this one firing. Winning the very wet and scrappy game by 9 points was impressive given just how young this side was. 12 of the 22 listed had less than 40 games experience, a statistic that had social media rife with the #babybombers hash tag. So how did this latest crop of Baby Bombers fare in terms of the numbers?
The scoreboard had both negatives and positives associated with it. The disappointing part for Essendon was the scoring shot count, where Melbourne's 7.18.60 was scored from 25 scoring shots to only 19 in Essendon's 10.9.69. On top of this, Essendon had 45 forward 50 entries in which to score with, netting an inside 50 efficiency of 42% while Melbourne had 13 more inside 50's for a similar 43%. The positive is obviously the scoring efficiency. Melbourne running at a paltry 28% to Essendon's 53% - which when the wet and slippery conditions are considered is not a bad result. Goal kicking all around was greatly improved with a notable performance from Joe Daniher who scored 5 straight from set shots.
With these numbers you can see that Essendon converted a goal from 22% of its forward entries which is no better than the forgettable St. Kilda performance. However Melbourne was only able to convert 12% which suggested that Essendon's defence had overcome its woes from last week. Michael Hurley, Mark Baguley and James Gwilt held their own against the fancied Garlett/Hogan combination despite having the all Australian full-back Cale Hooker spend most of the game in the forward line.
Wet weather football is all about gaining ground and holding ground. Possession counts can be less relevant, but for those interested, Essendon did have 355 disposals to 319. Of this, 151 or 43% of Essendon's disposals were handballs, while 131 or 41% of Melbourne disposals were by hand. These low ratios indicate that both teams were trying to move the ball quickly. Essendon also held a slightly better disposal efficiency of 70% compared with 66% which is vital for maintaining possession of the ball and more so in the wet conditions.
However the numbers show that Melbourne was harder at the ball with 156 contested possessions which is 49% of their total possessions. Essendon had 145 contested possessions which was 42%. This was made up for somewhat in the contested marks where Essendon notched 9 more than Melbourne and crucially, 84 tackles to 81. This may seem close but as always, the team that has more of the ball is less likely to tackle due to lack of opportunity, so this was a good win for Essendon as they try to regain that tough edge that was elusive against the saints.
Centre square work was again surprisingly solid with Melbourne having 45 clearances to 40 despite having a whopping 38 more hit outs against Essendon's inexperienced but very determined Shaun McKernan.
In summary, the pressure game from Essendon was a significant improvement over what was served against St. Kilda. Coach James Hird remarked in his post-match press conference that the player's eagerness to impress and take their opportunities was usually the upside to coaching such a young side. With the talent coming through at Tullamarine now, one can't help but wonder what this side could be given a few more season (and pre-seasons).
Thoughts? Leave them in the comments below