2018 Rd 9 @ VU Whitten Oval: Footscray 10.12 (72) d Essendon 8.13 (61)
FORM COMING IN
Essendon (10th, 7-9) suffered a sixth straight defeat in losing to Geelong by 28 points last week. / Footscray (8th, 8-8) was unable to shore up its finals spot in Round 19, with a 20-point loss to North Melbourne its fourth defeat in five games.
Can the Bombers climb off the canvas at the last moment? Essendon was sitting in third spot after Round 12 but will now be out of finals contention if it loses this match. However, a win means the Bombers would likely just need to defeat the Northern Blues in Round 21 to snätch eighth spot from the Bulldogs due to their superior percentage.
These teams rank first and second in the VFL for clearances per game (Footscray first), but the Bulldogs managed to win their Round 9 encounter despite losing clearances 47-33 to Essendon. What might worry Footscray is that some of its leading stoppage players that night – such as Lukas Webb, Josh Dunkley and Mitch Wallis – likely won’t play this time around.
Footscray senior coach Steve Grace on the importance of this match:
“The players already know (it’s important); they were well aware last week as well. We’d set ourselves up to play three ‘elimination finals’ and obviously the first one didn’t go to plan (against the Kangaroos). We were on the back foot from the start and had to scramble to level the scores, only for mental lapses and some inexperience to affect us in the end. Our injury list has been long at AFL and VFL level all year, so we’ve been able to get experience into some young blokes that they wouldn’t otherwise have had and we hope that will hold us in good stead.”
On the keys to victory against Essendon:
“I think we need to take away their uncontested marks, stop their spread and be able to control the ball – that’s what we did well when we played them earlier this year. We were able to win the ball on the inside and control the outside game as well, and if you can’t control the Bombers on the spread then you’re chasing a bit of tail. They may have some more experienced guys around the ball with some AFL polish, so we’d like to take away some of their strengths by controlling play.”
On Footscray’s season so far:
“We’ve been in almost every game; we’ve either beaten or been in front of every top-eight team except for the Box Hill Hawks. We take heart out of that but there’s a been theme as to why we can’t beat some of those top sides, and it’s to do with the turnover game and our inability to defend as well as we’d like. (In terms of individual players,) Will Hayes has had an outstanding year and Reuben William is improving every week as a quick, pressure player. Cody Henness has impressed in the last few weeks, Andrew Panayi has come on as a small forward, Lachlan Sullivan has improved every week as a midfielder and we’ve also had good growth out of Lachlan Smith as a key defender.”