The Most Intriguing Season Yet
Heading into Round 21, most AFL fans expected the focus to be on the bottom part of the top eight with 4 sides pushing for eighth spot. Yet, how Saturday night eventuated has resulted in a fierce battle for the top four. Collingwood were outplayed by an in-form and settled North Melbourne outfit. Adelaide were shocked by the 13th-placed Lions at the Gabba. Sydney now sits one game clear on top with Hawthorn in second and boasting a massive percentage. West Coast are just one game outside the top four and would love nothing more than the double chance come the first weekend of the finals. The premiership race is wide open!
Saad – One For The Highlights Reel
In the 2nd quarter of the Geelong v St.Kilda clash at Etihad Stadium on Friday night, Saints’ forward Ahmed Saad led for a mark within range of goal then dropped what he should have taken. Undeterred, he quickly regained his feet and despite the close attention from elite defender Matthew Scarlett, dribbled through a miraculous goal from a tight angle. The Saints were ultimately shattered to lose the game. However, Saad now has one for the highlights reel.
Time For Hird To Make Tough Calls
As player and captain of the Essendon Football Club, James Hird detested losing. Now as coach, James Hird faces arguably the greatest test of his football life – turning around a team which was insipid against Carlton at the MCG on Saturday. In a frank review of Essendon’s list on Radio 1116 SEN, experienced football journalist, Rohan Connolly, urged James Hird to make the tough calls on a number of players come the end of the season which, incidentally, cannot come soon enough for anyone associated with the red and black. Connolly suggested that Essendon’s recruitment over the past 10 years has been poor and, as this analysis shows, Connolly may well have a point.
* A+ Players: Jobe Watson – the heart and soul of Essendon and an elite AFL player.
* A: Dustin Fletcher – has tried his guts out in every one of his 365 games and remains one of the few AFL players who can consistently hit targets from 50 – 70 metres.
* B+: Ben Howlett – one player to show improvement this season; Jake Carlisle – reads the ball well and has a bright future.
* B: Courtenay Dempsey – provides dash off half back but gives away free kicks at crucial times; Stewart Crameri – the find of 2011 for the Bombers and would benefit from better delivery into the forward 50;
* Has potential: Dyson Heppell – should be an exceptional footballer in years to come; Mark Baguley – the tough back pocket player Henry Slattery never was; Scott Gumbleton – will be an important player for Essendon if he can stay on the park; Michael Hibberd – lacks pace but uses the ball well; Jason Winderlich – a career which has been cruelled by injury but showed against the Crows in Round 19 he has what it takes to perform at AFL level; David Zaharakis – he’s no Chris Judd but could be an important cog in the midfield for years to come.
* Needs to lift: Paddy Ryder – has shown he can be a match winner but rarely is; Jake Melksham – seems unsettled; Michael Hurley – has signed a 5-year contract but misses important goals when it matters; Heath Hocking – gets suspended too frequently, leaving the likes of Dyson Heppell to undertake the tagging duties; Brent Stanton – started the season in a blaze of glory but seems incapable of breaking a tag and needs to spend the summer in the classroom with past great Robert Harvey, who performed brilliantly even when closely tagged every week.
* Trade bait: Angus Monfries – has no role in the side and is a restricted free agent at season’s end; Tayte Pears – has played just 8 games this season and seems banished to the reserves; Nathan Lovett-Murray – the so-called tough man but was nowhere to be seen on Saturday when teammate Dyson Heppell was being dealt with by the Carlton players; David Myers – 44 games in 5 games and despite being favoured by James Hird won’t help Essendon win a premiership; Leroy Jetta – has played all 21 games this season but would probably feel more comfortable acting on a theatre stage than performing at the elite AFL level.
* Time to pack your bags?: Ricky Dyson, David Hille, Henry Slattery, Mark McVeigh, Kyle Reimers, and Brent Prismall.
Essendon needs pace. Essendon needs players who are capable of making consistently wise decisions with the ball. Essendon needs players who can hit targets with the handball and by foot. Essendon needs to realise that even the most expensive coaching panel won’t get the job done on the field. Essendon needs to make the tough call on certain players and be aggressive during this year’s trade period.