Top Two Go Head To Head

Picture: Getty Images/theaustralian.com.au
Jordan Lewis is one of Hawthorn's toughest players. Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au/Getty Images
Last Five Matches

Round 18, 2012 – Hawthorn 180 d Essendon 86 at Etihad Stadium
Round 14, 2011 – Hawthorn 146 d Essendon 81 at MCG
Round 13, 2010 – Hawthorn 102 d Essendon 86 at MCG
Round 6, 2010 – Essendon 106 d Hawthorn 63 at MCG
Round 22, 2009 – Essendon 116 d Hawthorn 99 at MCG


Form

     Rd 13       Rd 14       Rd 15       Rd 16       Rd 17   
Essendon    B  W  W  W  W
Hawthorn    W  W  L  W  W

After toying with some average opposition the past month-and-a-half during a six-game winning streak, Essendon finally gets a chance to square off against a team from the AFL’s upper echelon. The streak features just win over a top eight side, and that was against eighth-placed Port Adelaide. The Bombers finally managed to shrug off GWS in the second half of last week’s match, eventually winning by 39 points , but it was the second consecutive week the ‘Dons had struggled against a lowly opponent after the Western Bulldogs went close to pulling off a massive upset.

Hawthorn , too, didn’t have it all its own way against the Bulldogs. They were up by 15 with a quarter to play in Launceston, got the margin out to 44, but then clocked off way too early as the ‘Dogs stormed home kicking the last four goals for a final margin of 19 points . The reality is, the Hawks’ only two losses this season have come against bogey team Geelong, so they’ll fancy their chances against a side they’ve dominated the past three meetings.

Lance Franklin returns after missing the Hawks’ past two matches with a knee problem, as does bullocking midfielder Sam Mitchell. Essendon has lost forward Stewart Crameri to an ankle injury and veteran Dustin Fletcher to a back problem, although Heath Hocking, Ben Howlett, David Zaharakis and Joe Daniher are all in the 22.


Key Men

(Bombers) Michael Hibberd – He has been a tad quiet during the Bombers’ winning streak compared to his performances at the start of the year, but last Saturday Michael Hibberd showed why he is so vital to Essendon’s hopes this season. His ability to read play off half-back is outstanding and with GWS getting the ball forward more often than expected, his seven marks and 28 possessions helped ensure the Giants were kept at arm’s length. With Hawthorn’s bevy of talls and creative forwards, Hibberd will need more than just his playmaking skills on show on Friday night.

(Hawks) Jordan Lewis – One area the Hawks probably have the edge is general toughness in the middle of the ground, and let’s face it, they don’t come too much tougher than Jordan Lewis . He’s not a prolific ball-winner in the mould of the Sam Mitchells of the AFL world, but he has the ability to play forward of the ball, as well as manning up on opposition guns. His six clearances against the Bulldogs were important and considering how the Hawks belted Essendon in the centre last time they met, he could be a pivotal figure once again.


Prediction

One year ago in round 18, Hawthorn completely destroyed Essendon by 94 points at Etihad Stadium, in a match that destroyed any sort of finals hopes the Bombers had. It was the third straight win for the Hawks over their rivals after a 65-point belting in 2011 and a 16-point win the year before. The Bombers sit second on the ladder, but this match marks the beginning of a really tough run home for James Hird’s side. Their record at Etihad is 5-2 this season, while Hawthorn recorded tight wins over West Coast and Carlton in its only two games under the roof in 2013. Lance Franklin’s return gives the Hawks another weapon up forward, and the out-of-contract star averages almost five goals per game against the Bombers. Hawthorn by 19 points .

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