At the end of the 2010 football season, I jokingly said to a number of mates that Essendon would finish inside the Top-4 in 2011… Of course, this was wishful thinking and anyone in their right mind would have laughed in response. Eight rounds into the season though, my wish has come true and the mighty Bombers have returned to the upper echelon of the AFL and will sit in 3rd position at the end of the round.
There is no doubt that Essendon have improved and are arguably the most improved side in the AFL. Their attack, which has always been strong in recent years, is now combined with a defensive pressure and it’s producing some fantastic results.
Is James Hird the saviour that Essendon fans claim him to be? Or is it Mark Thompson’s influence? I think it’s more so a combination of the two, as Hird is getting the most out of his young players given the respect they hold for the club champion and Thompson is the tactical mastermind pulling the strings behind the scenes. Regardless of the reason(s), the end result is all that matters.
Despite the encouraging signs at Bomberland, it’s worth highlighting their run home, one of which is arguably the toughest in the league. Listed below are Essendon’s opponents for the remainder of the season, with my (realistic) expectations in brackets;
Round 9 – Richmond (win)
Round 10 – Bye
Round 11 – Melbourne (win)
Round 12 – Fremantle [Perth] (lose)
Round 13 – North Melbourne (win)
… Still sitting pretty with 8 wins and 1 draw.
Round 14 – Hawthorn (?)
Round 15 – Geelong (lose)
Round 16 – Richmond (win)
Round 17 – Adelaide [Adelaide] (?)
Round 18 – Carlton (?)
Round 19 – Collingwood (lose)
Round 20 – Sydney (?)
Round 21 – Western Bulldogs (?)
Round 22 – West Coast [Perth] (?)
Round 23 – Port Adelaide (win)
Round 24 – Bye
… 10 wins, 1 draw and 6 games which could go either way.
With this in mind, Essendon could finish the season either just outside the Top-8 with 10 wins and 1 draw or comfortably inside the Top-4 with 16 wins and 1 draw. The range is extreme.
The likely situation would be Essendon winning two or three of the six games which could go either way, comfortably seeing them qualify for finals in probably 6th or 7th position. However should they slip up, as a result of injuries or poor form, then things could change dramatically for the worse.
Make no mistake, as a passionate Essendon fan and a long-time member, I want the mighty Bombers to succeed more than anyone, however I’m also a realist and understand the danger that lurks ahead. Should the young ‘Dons pass the tests that await and reach September action, then they sure would have earned their place and will have a number of sides absolutely terrified.