Essendon and ex-bomber Patrick Ryder are set to face off for the first time since Ryders emotional departure from Tullamarine at the end of the 2014 season. Ryder who has been struggling for form bounced back last week against Adelaide with 15 disposals, 17 hit outs and 3 goals. Conversely, Essendon ruck man of choice, Shaun McKernan had a day to forget against North Melbourne's Todd Goldstein, who was best on ground with a damaging 27 disposals, 56 hit outs and a goal. Despite this, Coach James Hird has backed his man, going with him as the only recognized ruck man again. The Essendon coaching panel stated that they felt the side would be too tall if back-up ruck man Jonathan Giles was also added, Hird keen to keep McKernan in the side stating: "I don't think that after one performance when you get beaten that you throw a player out". So what changes has Hird and his panel made? Lets look at the teams:
Only one change for the Bombers with Jason Ashby being omitted and Alex Browne coming back in after taking a week off for concussion. Port Adelaide have also made a further 3 changes with Brendon Ah Chee (omitted), Nathan Krakouer (hamstring) and Paul Stewart (omitted) making way for Matt White, Andrew Moore and Sam Colquhoun.
Emotions will be running high in this game with Ryder admitting he is a bit nervous playing his old side and his old friends. Hird also believes there will be a bit of banter and expects it all to be done in the right spirit. Adding emotion is Dyson Heppells 100th game, a good milestone for Heppell, who at only 23 years of age is captaining his side in the absence of injured skipper Jobe Watson.
As far as structures and line ups go, the midfield taggers will need to be on song to stop Port Adelaide's run and carry. Players like Hibberd and Baguley will need to be employed to shut down damaging opposition players such as Wingard and Wines.
Both teams are languishing low on the ladder and unlikely to make finals in 2015 and both teams evenly matched in average statistics, only area either side has a stronghold over the other is in the hit outs - going Port Adelaide's way. Expect this trend to continue as McKernan's baptism of fire continues with Essendon aiming to cut off the effectiveness of the hit outs - evident by choosing McKernan's mobility over Giles predisposition to winning tap outs at the selection table.
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