Unbeaten Duo Battle For Top Spot

Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au
Steve Johnson has come back from injury in brilliant form. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au
Last Five Meetings

Round 12, 2012 – Geelong Cats 134 d Essendon Bombers 67 (Etihad)
Round 15, 2011 – Essendon Bombers 115 d Geelong Cats 111 (Etihad)
Round 12, 2010 – Geelong Cats 154 d Essendon Bombers 83 (Etihad)
Round 1, 2010 – Geelong Cats 125 d Essendon Bombers 94 (MCG)
Round 10, 2009 – Geelong Cats 134 d Essendon Bombers 70 (Etihad)


Form

     Rd 2       Rd 3       Rd 4       Rd 5       Rd 6   
Geelong   W  W  W  W  W
Essendon   W  W  W  W  W

The AFL draw couldn’t have worked out any better with the two unbeaten teams meeting in a massive Friday night clash to decide early season supremacy. Geelong has had arguably the tougher draw so far, but Essendon has beaten Adelaide and West Coast on the road, as well as Collingwood in the ANZAC Day clash. James Hird and his group have done an outstanding job of putting the drugs investigation in to the background and they are playing some very good football, as has been the norm for this club in the early stages of the past few seasons.

Not for the first time this season, the Cats gave their opposition a head start on Saturday night, but it was no surprise to see them run down Richmond and eventually hand out a 44-point thumping. The fact they kicked 20 goals with Tom Hawkins barely being sighted all night shows the weaponry this side has. The win allowed Geelong to celebrate Corey Enright’s 250th and Steve Johnson’s 200th games in style, but again it was the young guns impressing, especially Allen Christensen and Mitch Duncan.

Essendon did what it had to do to beat GWS on Saturday, and the clash with the winless Giants allowed the Bombers to rest Dustin Fletcher, Michael Hurley, Dyson Heppell and Jake Carlisle, who are all battling niggling injuries but return this week. Brent Stanton was subbed off in the third term with a groin problem and won't play this week, while Courtenay Dempsey is also unavailable having picked up an ankle injury. 


Key Men

(Cats) Steve Johnson – There is a lot of chat about what a great, humble team the Cats are, but if there is one player who, as the saying goes, has ‘tickets’ on himself, it’s Steve Johnson. In fact, he has been known to ask opposition players if they’ve bought their tickets yet – to the Stevie J show, of course. Really, who could blame him? He is an amazing mix of skill and grunt, and since coming back from a knee injury in round 3, Johnson has spent the vast majority of his time in the midfield, and when things were tight against the Tigers, he was the one Geelong centreman who was able to spark his team in the second quarter. He has led the Cats’ possession count the past two games and if he can keep chipping in with a couple of goals, as he did against Richmond, he could well be the difference in what’s expected to be a close encounter.

(Bombers) Dyson Heppell – 2011 NAB AFL Rising Star Award winner Dyson Heppell signed a new two-year deal that will keep him at the Bombers till the end of 2015 during the week and looks set to be a real star for Essendon this year and beyond. Since being moved to the midfield this season, he has averaged 25 disposals per game and has been a driving force behind his side's unbeaten start to the campaign, even if he didn't feature against the Giants last week. His best games in 2012 came against the lesser clubs, but he showed that he can match it with the best players in the competition by grabbing 25 touches against Collingwood in front of 93,000 fans at the MCG on ANZAC Day and can step up for the Bombers again in the absence of other key players.


Prediction

Since 2006, Essendon has beaten Geelong just once. On that occasion in 2011, they held the Cats to 111 points at Etihad Stadium, the lowest score in those eight encounters. In the other seven clashes Geelong has averaged 137 points per game. As Sydney found out a couple of weeks back, you don’t want to get in to a shootout with the Cats when they’re in this sort of form. Their constant quick ball movement is giving each and every opponent problems, so the Bombers will need to make sure they are under the pump as much as possible. Cats by 13 points

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