With Part One of our Mid-Season Reviews done, we move onto Part Two, analysing the seasons of Essendon, Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Sydney, West Coast and the Western Bulldogs so far. First stop, the Bombers.
Pre-Season Prediction: 18th
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Current Position: 18th
Least Season Wins Odds: $1.30 (via TopSport)
Forecast: Either second last or wooden spooners
What to make of Essendon’s 2016 so far. There’s been some positives, but there’s also been many negatives, most of which relate to their off-season recruiting of ‘top up players’.
There is no denying that Essendon have been forced to rebuild the club from the ground up and signing ageing players that will only hang around for this year is probably not one of the club’s best moves. James Kelly has been hit and miss, Stokes hasn’t been great, Matt Dea has been ok, Mark Jamar’s move hasn’t paid off, Mitch Brown, while not a top-up player, has shown glimpses and Ryan Crowley is currently out injured.
Instead of playing has-beens, Essendon should be getting AFL experience to many of their young players currently playing at VFL level, the club has nothing to lose and if anything become a stronger side next season with the banned players coming back. Add a handful of youngsters who have a season of experience playing at the highest level and the Bombers can contend again.
What’s Gone Right
Essendon are surprisingly ranked fifth disposals, averaging 393 a game along with 74 per cent efficiency, the fourth best in the league. The Bombers’ are getting the ball in their hands and are using it well whenever they have it, so why are they not higher up on the table? Not a lot of those disposals are contested and their clearance work is not that great either. That is definitely understandable considering the young group and these numbers will improve as they get their best players back in 2017.
The Bombers have also been able to re-sign most of their banned players with Dyson Heppell, Cale Hooker, David Myers, Travis Colyer and Heath Hocking all re-committing to the club. However, Michael Hurley and Jobe Watson are just two of a few players who are yet to commit to the Bombers in 2017.
The club’s only win of the season in Round 2 against Melbourne was quite a special day for everyone associated with the club. With the march to the ‘G’ taking place prior to the game as a sign of solidarity and support for the current Essendon players set up the win perfectly. Young gun Darcy Parish kicked the sealer to earn a Rising Star nomination, while Joe Daniher was instrumental in the victory, with 15 marks and two goals.
What’s Gone Wrong
Scoring has been Essendon’s biggest problem so far this year, failing to score more than 100 points in any match, ranking 18th in points per game. The Bombers have only scored more than 60 points on five occasions in 2016 and it makes it nearly impossible to win a game when you do not kick goals and Joe Daniher has been made out to be a scapegoat in terms of inaccuracy.
Not having the club’s best players out on the park also takes it toll and Daniher is definitely lacking from the type of service he needs, making his inaccuracy somewhat understandable.
The Round 12 loss to Hawthorn was low light in a season that has not had many highlights anyway. Losing by 108 points doesn’t make for any kind viewing and the Bombers looked tired in this game heading into the break. Could it be to Worsfold’s game style which is more about staying competitive than winning?
David Zaharakis has been in fine form this year and is averaging 27 disposals from 13 games, a career high for Zaharakis. He has chimed in with five goals and is also laying four tackles a game on average. He’s stepped up his leadership in the absence of senior players and it can only benefit him and the club. He will be hoping he can stay away from the treatment room in order to help Essendon finish strongly and possibly avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
Zach Merrett is another Bomber who has been in fine touch, averaging 28 disposals and kicking four goals throughout his 13 games so far this season. At just 20 years old, Merrett has a lot to learn and is gaining vital experience from playing in this current Essendon group. One to watch for the future for sure.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti was rookie listed by the club at the end of 2015 and quickly elevated to the senior list to help cover holes left by the 12 suspended players. He’s been one of the feel good stories, not just for Essendon but for the AFL as well. The electrifying defender is as fast as he is tough, his foot skills are sublime and his hunger is unquestionable.
Darcy Parish has shown why he was touted as one of the best midfielders of the 2015 draft, playing 12 of a possible 13 games where he has averaged 21.1 disposals and could be a smokey for the NAB Rising Star Award. No. 6 pick Aaron Francis is yet to feature but he is expected to feature prominently in the future.
Second Half Expectations
The Bombers may get the chance to win their second game of the season when they face the Lions at Etihad Stadium in Round 18, while the Round 21 clash with Gold Coast in Melbourne could go either way.
Other than that it looks grim and I can’t see them picking up more than two wins this season. They will finish at 2-20 and will battle with Brisbane to determine who finishes bottom.