18 Teams in 18 Days: Essendon Bombers

2017: 7th (12 wins – 10 losses; Elimination final loss to Sydney)

Key Acquisition:

Jake Stringer (from the Western Bulldogs), Adam Saad (from the Gold Coast), Devon Smith (from GWS)

Key Losses:

Jobe Watson (retirement), Brenton Stanton (retirement), James Kelly (retirement)

Million Dollar Question

Just how good are these Bombers? A fantastic season which resulted in an unlikely finals appearance was swiftly ended with a comprehensive pasting from the Swans in Sydney. However, this is still a team with high hopes going into season 2018, especially after having such a fruitful trade period. Essendon said farewell to some of its recent champions in Jobe Watson and Brenton Stanton, leaving quite a large hole to fill in their midfield. With the sour taste of the Sydney defeat festering in their mouths all summer, the Bombers will be keen to go even further this season.

Case For

This is a really balanced, exciting football side the Essendon list managers have put together. They have a great set-up down back in All-Australian Michael Hurley, some pace off halfback in Marty Gleeson, offseason recruit Adam Saad and exciting Irish youngster Connor McKenna. They also have quality outside midfielders in best & fairest winner Zach Merrett, young gun Darcy Parish, and a dangerous forward line built around star full forward Joe Daniher with quality smalls in Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipingwiti, among others. The one area of concern for the Bombers is there midfield depth, which got shown up badly in the elimination final loss to the Swans. Despite recording the 4th most disposals of any team last season with 9, 132 (behind only Geelong, GWS and Adelaide), the Bombers ranked equal last with Carlton  in clearances per game with 34.3, and ranked 13th in the league for contested possessions per game with 138.7. If they can get better numbers out of there midfield, the Dons seriously have the look of a top 4 outfit.

Case Against

Besides the worries in the midfield, these Bombers are a woefully inconsistent football side. The side that put Port Adelaide to the sword in round 12 last season was the same one that threw away a near 5 goal lead to cellar dwellers Brisbane in round 15. And anytime a team loses a game like these Bombers did on that Friday night in Sydney last season, you knows there’s issues, be it structurally, personal wise or mentally. Teams were able to get a run on against the Bombers last season, and this generally always comes down to the midfielders not being able to wrestle back the ascendancy. Outside of captain Dyson Heppell, Essendon didn’t have enough players who stood up when the going got tough last season, and that must change in order for the Bombers to be seen as a genuine flag contender. More must be expected of players such as Kyle Langford, Darcy Parish, David Zaharakis, Jayden Laverde and Travis Colyer. These guys will be the difference between the Bombers going forwards or backwards in season 2018.

One to Watch

Matt Guelfi was rather unlucky not to get drafted at the end of 2016, but the Bombers pounced on him in last years draft, using pick number 76 (the 3rd last selection) to take the competitive West Australian midfield. With question marks around the midfield dynamic, look for Guelfi to have an impact at senior level some time this season.

Bold Prediction

After giving up so much draft currency last season, the Bombers are all in for season 2018. If Saad and Smith can add some class and even more speed to an already slick Essendon lineup, and boom recruit Jake Stringer can relish his new role as the bollocking, big bodied midfielder the Dons so desperately need, the sky is the limit. They look near certainties to make the 8 again with a good run, but what becomes of them in September?

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