MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 03: Jake Stringer of the Bombers celebrates a goal with Darcy Parish of the Bombers during the 2021 AFL Round 03 match between the Essendon Bombers and the St Kilda Saints at Marvel Stadium on April 03, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

6,188.

That is the number of days at the time of writing since Essendon have emerged victorious from a final.

Their elimination final win on the 4th of September, 2004 against Neale Daniher's Melbourne side was the most recent time that the Bombers faithful have tasted success at the business end of the year.

Fast forward 17-years and the Bombers now sit in eighth with a game to go and have both shocked the league and made their mark on the eight.

So can they do it? Of course they can.

Not many predicted that Essendon would take this big a stride back towards the top at the beginning of the year, with Ben Rutten's side touted as potential wooden spooners.

However, those who floated that forecast are now looking like the fool as Essendon's finals destiny will be cemented should the topple the lowly Magpies on the regular season's final day.

Round 21 against the Dogs was an encounter that succinctly encapsulates the huge steps they have taken so far.

Not many can say that they have outplayed the star-studded midfield of the Doggies in 2021, but Essendon's ball-winners are amongst rare air when it comes to this.

Darcy Parish, Zach Merrett, Sam Draper, Dylan Shiel and Jake Stringer amongst others outworked their opposite numbers, combining for 31-clearances to convincingly beat the Dogs around the footy.

The first name on that list is the one that fans and media alike have singled out as the competition's biggest mover this year, with Darcy Parish's rise being a meteoric one.

 

You would be hard-pressed to find a relevant stat for Parish in which he isn't averaging elite numbers.

Disposals, contested possessions, clearances, inside 50s - you name it, the former Falcon is probably ranked inside the top-10 across the league for it.

His newly re-signed partner-in-crime Zach Merrett is also meeting and exceeding expectations under Rutten, and has elevated the Bombers midfield brigade up to being one of the best the league has to offer.

Still, there hasn't been a bigger indicator that Essendon are ready to make a splash in September than the resurgence of the enigma that is Jake Stringer.

The premiership player whilst a Pup was slaughtered in the media last season for his presentation, with the bullish mid-forward appearing overweight and uncompetitive.

A year on, Stringer has once again solidified himself again as one of the most exciting players in the competition.

His magnum opus came against the Hawks on a cold June afternoon in Tassie when he picked his side up by the scruff of the neck and dragged them, kicking and screaming, over the line.

He finished that day with 29 disposals, seven tackles and three goals, however, most importantly, with the four points for his team.

Despite Stringer's history of inconsistent displays, his run of form in the second half of the year has been outstanding, with plaudits flowing for the 27-year-old - the most flattering of which being the comparisons to three-time Norm Smith medalist Dustin Martin.

It's Essendon's crop of youth which have provided even more legitimacy to Essendon's recent success.

Nik Cox, Sam Durham, Archie Perkins, Jordan Ridley, Dylan Clarke, Brayden Ham - all players under 23 who play roles of varying pertinence within the Bomber's system.

The fact that they are yet to hit their prime and are contributing this much to an Essendon side on the verge of making finals is remarkable on multiple scales.

Add in 2020 recruit Jye Caldwell to the mix and suddenly you can put this band of Bombers youngsters as one of the best the competition has to offer.

On a more macro level, it's the selflessness of this Bombers side which has many drawing comparisons between them and the Tigers of the last four years.

Playing for the jumper and not themselves, their intensity around the contest and ability to be ruthless when it matters are just some of the traits that have seen both fans and the media earmark Essendon as a danger side.

If the Doggies falter against Port Adelaide and Essendon stay in their current spot of eighth, then expect for Ben Rutten to be licking his lips at the possibility of playing the Whitten Oval side in an elimination final.

If they do not get the Bulldogs in the first week of finals, then it will likely be the Lions up at the Gabba - a nightmarish task for team's of any calibre.

Although they don't have the greatest record against Chris Fagan's side, you wouldn't put it past Essendon to cause a boil-over in Brisbane based off the vigour the side have been playing with for the past half a year.

And if a side can get a win in finals, as seen with the Giants of 2019 and Doggies of 2016 - anything can happen.