Robbo’s article from todays HS
ESSENDON coach John Worsfold said his players were confused after losing to Richmond by 15 goals in Wangaratta.
On Sunday they beat Geelong at Colac by four points and, with only two weeks before Round 1, the Bombers remain confusing.
Essendon won on Sunday against a team without Gary Ablett, who did not play, and Patrick Dangerfield, who left the field early in the second quarter with a soft-tissue injury.
Two of the best six players in the competition missing and still the Bombers conceded 90 points in the first three quarters.
That they subdued the Cats and conceded just seven in the final term is testament to their inconsistency.
Worsfold would be pleased with the effort because the pre-season contest against the Tigers was embarrassing.
But, as the countdown starts to the Round 1 clash with Adelaide, and with a growing injury list — David Zaharakis and Marty Gleeson both sustained leg injuries on Sunday — the Bombers are a work in progress.
They are terribly inconsistent in many facets of the game.
At times, they play like the Tullamarine Globetrotters — both skilful and exhilarating. At other times, they are derelict in the fundamentals of the game.
When they apply pressure, like they did in the first quarter, they look like a contender.
When they created turnovers in their forward half, like they did in the final term, which allowed them to set up defensively down the ground and strangle the Cats, they certainly look a contender.
Today’s footy is a lot about forward-half pressure and scoring, which is not Essendon’s one wood, and, in this regard, the Bombers are still to establish their “brand’’ of footy.
Pressure isn’t everything, but it’s significant.
In the first quarter against a strong wind on Sunday, Essendon’s pressure was a phenomenal 217.
In the second quarter it was 179, the third was 144 and in the final quarter it was 147.
That final quarter saw the Bombers kick 5.8 to 1.1, mostly because they forced the Cats into errors and Geelong coughed the ball up.
It meant total domination for Essendon, an almost perfect quarter apart from inaccuracy in front of goal.
They won the ball in the middle, got it inside 50m, kept it inside 50m and every time the Cats were able to rebound, the Bombers, led by Brendon Goddard, had the necessary structure to win the ball back.
In the first three quarters, Essendon had 17 forward-half turnovers. They had 14 alone in the final term.
In the previous 30 minutes, however, Geelong kicked 7.1 to 2.1 — although the wind can’t be ignored.
They are an intriguing team, Essendon.
On paper the Bombers drip with talent. In reality, we don’t know how good they are and can be.
Darcy Parish has emerged as a key player in terms of contested ball and in a midfield which has been described as A) lacking depth and B) lacking contested ball- winners, the hard-edged Parish will be an important player.
So, too, will be Andy McGrath who played mainly on the wing and was a ball-winner in the final quarter.
Andrew McGrath has an important part to play for the Bombers this year. Picture: Michael Klein
Jake Stringer will never be anything more than pinch-hit midfielder and his best work remains in the forward 50m. He kicked 2.2 on Sunday.
But can they play Stringer, James Stewart, Joe Daniher and Cale Hooker all inside 50m? Probably not.
A lot will depend on how Patrick Ambrose holds up as the second-key defender.
He was beaten by Tom Hawkins and, for sure, the debate will continue about whether Hooker’s best value is as a forward or defender.
There’s plenty of buts and what-ifs and potential about the Bombers, and the fact is they need more football similar to what they produced the final quarter on Sunday if they are to be a serious contender.