Based on the headline photo, are we perhaps maybe sacking Bullas? Or are the people in this section of Blitz slightly more sane?
The Bombers lost 5.2 (32) to 5.5 (35) despite largely leading the way for three quarters, with the umpire slotting a set shot with the last kick of the game to snåtch the victory.
It started as a slow, tightly-contested affair with the Bombers defensive pressure keeping Casey goalless in the first quarter.
Maddy Collier was first to the scoreboard, kicking a goal just minutes before quarter time to reward the efforts of the young side.
Shae Audley booted our second to keep the Bombers’ in the lead by 13 points. But it wasn’t long before Casey forwards Bianca Jakobsson and Maddy Guerin responded with back-to-back goals, helping the visitors to a one-point lead at the main break.
Essendon came out for a fiery third quarter, with higher pressure and intensity around the ball.
Relentless tackler Hayley Bullas picked up right where she left off last season, swarming Casey at every opportunity, while skipper Courtney Ugle’s defensive pressure and work rate was unmatched as she led the Bombers for the first time.
Hayley Bullas was vicious in the contest against the Demons. (Image: Ben Johnstone)
Monique DeMatteo kept the Bombers on the scoreboard with back-to-back goals, pushing the margin to 11 points in the third term.
Debutants Isabel Currenti and Ruby Svarc impressed with their toughness around the contest and ability to force the ball forward.
DeMatteo scored her third major in the final term, before goals to Guerin and Jakobsson narrowed the margin to just five points.
The Dons defended gamely under siege as the game came to a close, but Guerin scored her third in the final seconds of the game to give Casey the final lead.
The Bombers held their ground against a side with 11 AFLW players, while the inclusion of 11 debutants certainly brought a renewed focus on running and forward pressure.
Essendon coach Brendan Major admitted it wasn’t the result he’d hoped for, but he saw plenty of promising signs from the players.
“I think they’ve improved in a lot of areas. We move the ball a lot better, our work around the contest is pretty strong. We were strong over the ball, our rucks look good, they brushed it up pretty well,” Major said.
“We struggled to defend in some key areas, but apart from that I think we probably played three quarters of good footy and then we just let it go a little bit in the end.”
Major saw plenty of positives from the game but was especially impressed with the Bombers’ gameplay.
“From an individual level, I thought Simone Nalder rucked extremely well, I thought Alex Morcom played really well off the half-back flank,” he said.
“Sian Wilson’s pressure in the forward line was fantastic and Ruby Svarc off the wing was really exciting.
“Georgia Nanscawen and Shae Audley were bulls all day on the inside and Hayley Bullas just does what she needs to week in, week out, so you kind of know what you’re getting from them.”
Ruby Svarc was outstanding in her first game in the red and black. (Image: Ben Johnstone)
The Bombers take on Geelong at Central Reserve in Colac next Saturday.
Looking ahead, Major said he is focused on continuing to build with the team.
“We don’t really know the opposition…so we’re really just focused on what we’re doing…it’s about continuing to build every week.
“It’s really important for this group to gain some belief and understand what they can produce and continue to build throughout the season.”
Essendon 1.0 2.1 4.2 5.2 (32)
Casey Demons 0.0 2.2 2.3 5.5 (35)
Essendon – DeMatteo 3, Audley, Collier
Casey – Guerin 3, Jakobsson 2
Victoria Raptis is in the final year of her Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) degree at RMIT University. As part of their strategic partnership, Essendon Football Club and RMIT University are committed to providing opportunities for students, staff, players and the wider community.