Every Tom ■■■■ and Harry want to have a go at picking our best 22, including some who have NFI, but clearly read BB or BF. This one is from SEN
2018 AFL PREVIEW | ESSENDON’S BEST 22
BY LUKE SICARI
As we begin 2018, SEN will be dissecting each AFL club’s Best 22 leading into Round 1. We continue the series looking at how Essendon is shaping up.
Dubbed an offseason champion, John Worsfold will be coaching one of the league’s most hyped squads this year.
It comes after an aggressive approach in the player movement market indicated the Bombers are looking to launch themselves into premiership contention in 2018, but that hope depends on what version of their three marquee recruits they get.
Jake Stringer is the biggest fascination.
At his best, the 23-year-old is a game changer, who can do things on the football field that most wouldn’t even attempt.
We saw those innate qualities in his 2015 All-Australian campaign and if that Stringer appears for Essendon, then Worsfold will have a new weapon up forward.
However, Stringer’s mindset, commitment levels and off-field behaviour have all been questioned, elements that led to a horror 2017, something he cannot afford to happen again. There is still risk involved in his acquisition.
Devon Smith and Adam Saad are both safer bets than Stringer, but have their own associated queries.
Smith adds class to a Dons midfield that lacks it, but his constant knee issues limited his output with Greater Western Sydney. He needs to stay on the park.
Meanwhile, Saad will inject run and carry off the halfback line, creating a pacey partnership with Irish sensation Conor McKenna.
The former Gold Coast Sun has been prone to compromising some disposal efficiency when charging out of defence, often moving so quickly, it’s a detriment. Wind Saad back a tad, and you have an All-Australian talent.
That trio joins a side that is strong at both bookends, but is shallow in the middle.
In defence, Michael Hurley is the shutdown tall, Martin Gleeson and Mark Baguley are honest contributors that get the job done, while Stringer’s addition allows Cale Hooker to move back to his natural habitat.
Around goal, Joe Daniher is on the path to superstardom, and excitement machines Orzaio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti flank him.
The engine room is the Bombers’ weakness, though.
Dyson Heppell and Zach Merrett are both stars, but can they go to that extra gear where they’ll define contests and change the result of a game? David Zaharakis is steady, while Darcy Parish’s development will continue.
Rising Star winner Andrew McGrath is expected to play more midfield minutes which will help, and Stringer will also be utilised there on occasion, but his endurance is a question.
B: Martin Gleeson, Michael Hurley, Mark Baguley
HB: Adam Saad, Cale Hooker, Brendon Goddard
C: Andrew McGrath, Zach Merrett, David Zaharakis
HF: Devon Smith, Jake Stringer, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti
F: James Stewart, Joe Daniher, Orzaio Fantasia
FOLL: Tom Bellchambers, Dyson Heppell, Darcy Parish
INT: Josh Green, Conor McKenna, Michael Hartley, David Myers