With inclusions like Ben Howlett, Heath Hocking, Courtenay Dempsey and Shaun Edwards to the Bombers side, dropping Jake Melksham, Alex Browne, Patrick Ambrose and Zach Merrett (forced with injury) it is clear that James Hird’s men are looking for a lot more speed and a lot more muscle in the contest.
This is a good move because last week’s disaster against the spritely Western Bulldogs, Essendon was missing exactly those two things. The Giants on the other hand were competitive against a powerful Fremantle in Perth. While they were generally outplayed by the more experienced outfit, GWS were able to apply a lot of pressure which all year has been instrumental to their relatively good season this year.
Despite this, GWS still made a whopping 6 changes to their side, omitting Adam Tomlinson, Tom Downie, Jack Steele, James Stewart and Jed Lamb with Matt Buntine rested as a precaution after his concussion. In come Nick Haynes, Rhys Palmer, Andrew Phillips, Devon Smith, Jonathon Patton and Cam McCarthy.
As a result, this is how the teams will line up as named.
The inclusion of Hocking in particular is a massive bonus for Essendon as his contested work and ability to tag an opposition player into submission is vital and will remove a lot of pressure off the often tagged himself Dyson Heppell. The stand in captain for Essendon has not been at his lofty best for a few weeks now, mostly due to the heavy tag he has had to work around week in and week out.
Like last week, this game will likely be won in the middle but it would be reasonable to expect Essendons more experienced defence to look back to their best against the young GWS outfit. Jeremy Cameron is undoubtedly a future star of the game and without Hurley in the side might present some issues for Essendon but with the experience of Baguley, Hooker/Carlisle (depending on who goes forwards) and James Gwilt, should GWS pepper the goals on, Essendon is in serious trouble.
Up forwards is a more even contest. A very young forward line against a young back line should make this an enthralling passage to goal. Joe Daniher is having a career best season, just shy of a breakout while Laverde has shown why he was such a highly touted draft pick. Adding the speed of indigenous pair Shaun Edwards and new to the forward line Dempsey (who has been spotted having a lot of goal kicking practice at training) could be the catalyst that breaks open the floodgates for Essendon to goal with.
At the end of the game, GWS are looking to have their first finals game in their short existence and Essendon is looking to salvage experience from a season that got away. Hird was on record for commending his players for their performance against Port Adelaide, Melbourne and North Melbourne despite winning only 1 of those. He also was on record with exceptional disappointment with the loss against the Bulldogs. Brendon Goddard described his coaches anger as an 8 out of 10 on Fox Footy’s AFL 360.
For Essendon, the name of the game is effort and intensity. Win, lose or draw, this is what the coaches are looking for. For GWS, anything less than the 4 points is a blow to their season and finals chances. This added pressure could be what helps Essendon over the line.
And lets not forget the link both these clubs have with each other, with the very large fingerprint Kevin Sheedy left with his work in both clubs.
Thoughts? Put them in the comments below.