David Zaharakis kicked the game-winner last week. Image courtesy of perthnow.com.au/Getty Images
Last Five Matches
Round 9, 2013 – Essendon 91 d Richmond 62 at MCG
Round 22, 2012 – Richmond 102 d Essendon 57 at MCG
Round 8, 2012 – Essendon 128 d Richmond 109 at MCG
Round 16, 2011 – Essendon 105 d Richmond 66 at MCG
Round 9, 2011 – Richmond 105 d Essendon 89 at MCG
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While the players aren’t completely in the clear yet, for the first time this season Essendon goes in to a match knowing its fate in terms of the 2013 season. The Bombers scored a morale-boosting six-point win over a wasteful Carlton last weekend, but their four-game slide before that in which they lost every game by more than 45 points shows just how far this team has slipped from its exciting start to the year.
Richmond has been up and down like a yo-yo the past month. A win over Hawthorn was followed by a disappointing fade out in the victory over Brisbane, then an ordinary effort in a ten-point loss to Carlton was put behind them with a rollicking 121-point flogging of GWS. At their best, the Tigers can challenge the top four in the finals.
Essendon will farewell David Hille and Nathan Lovett-Murray on Saturday night, while speed machines Leroy Jetta and Elliott Kavanagh also come in. Heath Hocking is suspended while David Myers is out with illness. Shane Tuck, who announced his impending retirement midweek, comes in for Richmond along with back-up ruckman Orren Stephenson. Jack Riewoldt will nurse his sore back on the sidelines this week while Shane Edwards has been rubbed out for a week.
(Bombers) Michael Hurley – As is the case with most very good key forwards, the Bombers look much better with Michael Hurley in the line-up. He has had his injury problems at times this season, and a return of 22 goals in 15 games probably isn’t what you want from him (despite his move to the backline, at times in 2013), but he was very good against the Blues in round 22. He kicked three goals and provided a target inside 50 taking nine marks for the match.
(Tigers) Ivan Maric – His numbers are down on last season but his team’s fortunes have gone up, so that will probably be of little concern to Ivan Maric. What would be worrying the mulleted one is a groin injury which coach Damien Hardwick says he’ll have to manage for the rest of his career. He has a big workload with only Ty Vickery to pinch hit on the odd occasion, and against double-teaming ruck duos he can struggle. He was quiet last time out against Essendon as Patrick Ryder and Tom Bellchambers got the better of him, but at least he has Orren Stephenson to give him a spell this week.
These two teams met in round nine earlier this season when Essendon was in red-hot form and Richmond was still yet to convince the AFL world that it was a legitimate finals team. The tables have turned significantly, but the teams have vastly different mindsets going in to this match. While the Bombers aren’t playing for points, you would have to imagine they’ll want to put in one big last effort to show everyone they would have been a player come finals time. Richmond will be hoping it gets through the match unscathed, but with a first finals appearance since 2001 coming up, the Tigers will want to be heading in to September in winning form. Essendon was genuinely fortunate to beat Carlton last week, and their form prior to that was just awful, so it would take a big turnaround to knock off a team in fifth place, but stranger things have happened. Richmond by 16 points
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