Can Essendon March On In ANZAC Day Clash?

Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/Michael Klein
Essendon and Collingwood have faced off on ANZAC Day every year since 1995. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/Michael Klein
Last Five Meetings

Round 23, 2012 – Collingwood Magpies 104 d Essendon Bombers 72
Round 5, 2012 – Collingwood Magpies 80 d Essendon Bombers 79
Round 19, 2011 – Collingwood Magpies 166 d Essendon Bombers 92
Round 5, 2011 – Collingwood Magpies 107 d Essendon Bombers 77
Round 20, 2010 – Collingwood Magpies 162 d Essendon Bombers 64


Form

     Rd 1       Rd 2       Rd 3       Rd 4   
Essendon   W  W  W  W
Collingwood   W  W  L  W

There are few bigger stages in Australian rules than the ANZAC Day encounter between great rivals Collingwood and Essendon . This clash rarely needs to be pumped up, but given the Bombers’ sizzling start to the season and Collingwood’s remarkable ability to continue winning, even when down on troops, means this will be one of the most keenly-awaited matches of the season. Collingwood has won the last seven encounters between the teams by an average of 48 points, but it took a last-minute goal from Jarryd Blair to pip the Bombers by one point in this match 12 months ago.

Back in 2005, a brute of a boy named Travis Cloke may his debut in this game. Eight years on he is still terrorising backmen, and he already has 16 goals to his name this season after kicking a bag of 7 in the 34-point victory over the Tigers last weekend. Young Bombers key defender Jake Carlisle has claimed the scalps of some pretty handy players this season (Taylor Walker, Mitch Clark and Matthew Pavlich), but this is probably his biggest test, yet. Last year’s ANZAC Medal winner, Dane Swan , was dominant in his 200th against Richmond. He’s likely to receive some pretty close checking from Heath Hocking this weekend.

The Bombers will be missing guns at each end of the field; Michael Hurley (ankle) in the forward 50 and Dustin Fletcher down back. They’ll need to get more out of Brent Stanton in this season’s clash after he was a non-factor April 25 last year when well held by Marty Clarke. Essendon is a harder unit to shut down this season, and one factor in that is the presence of Brendon Goddard . You only have to cast your mind back to the drawn grand final in 2010 to remember that Goddard has had some big games against the ‘Pies in recent years, although the Saints have also been on the wrong end of the scoreboard against Collingwood of late.


Key Men

(Bombers) Scott Gumbleton – Given his injury record, the Bombers may well want to wrap Scott Gumbleton in cotton wool until the first bounce on Thursday. A succession of back and hamstring injuries have limited the No. 2 pick in the 2006 draft to just 29 games since he joined the Bombers, but after just one start in 2013, he will become a vital part of Essendon’s forward make-up thanks to Michael Hurley’s untimely injury. Gumbleton dominated the Saints taking 12 marks and kicking four goals in the Dons’ 37-point win . The Bombers need performances like that from the big West Australian to start paying back the faith shown in him by the club.

(Magpies) Scott Pendlebury – There is little doubt Scott Pendlebury thrives on the big stage, and Essendon seems to be one of his favourite targets. ‘Pendles’ collected the ANZAC Medal for best-on-ground in this match in 2010 and 2011, then picked up 34 touches in last year’s thriller. He has started this season in consistent fashion, and as usual his defensive pressure has been exemplary. If Heath Hocking puts the clamps on Dane Swan, then expect Pendlebury to pick up the slack.


Prediction

In round 3 against Fremantle, the Bombers showed they can win in a scrap. They’ll need to channel what worked in the second half against the Dockers in to this contest, because a high-pressure clash is what they’re going to get against the ‘Pies. Collingwood’s defensive pressure is suffocating at times, and the Bombers probably won’t be able to run free like they have in three of their four wins so far this season. Little seems to separate these teams on paper with plenty of men out, but Nathan Buckley’s men have something James Hird’s group doesn’t – a bona fide A-grade forward in Travis Cloke. With no Michael Hurley and Patrick Ryder, the ‘Dons may just struggle to kick a winning score. Magpies by 9 points

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