It’s easy to say the 2017 season was a successful one for Essendon. The return from suspension of many of their stars saw the Bombers rise from the wooden spoon in 2016 to 7th place with a 12-10 record in 2017.
While Zac Merrett picked up where he left off the year before, Joe Daniher and Darcy Parish continued their development strongly, as did their two livewire forwards, Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti. The number one draft pick, Andrew McGrath, was unveiled and played 21 games including the Elimination Final. He went on to win the NAB Rising Star award.
FB: Michael Baguley, Michael Hurley, Martin Gleeson
HB: Adam Saad, Michael Hartley, Brendon Goddard
C: Andrew McGrath, Dyson Heppell, David Zaharakis
HF: Devon Smith, Joe Daniher, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti
FF: Orazio Fantasia, Cale Hooker, Jake Stringer
R: Tom Bellchambers, Zach Merrett, Darcy Parish
INT: Conor McKenna, James Stewart, Kyle Langford, Patrick Ambrose
EMG: David Myers, Josh Green, Jayden Laverde*, Travis Colyer*
Best 22 Analysis
Essendon has a reasonably healthy list at present; Travis Colyer (foot) and Jayden Laverde (hamstring) would certainly be pressing for selection if fit while the club would love to get some games under the belts of youngsters Aaron Francis (on indefinite leave) and Kobe Mutch (knee).
The retirements of Jobe Watson and Brent Stanton open the door for Andrew McGrath and Kyle Langford – who has worked tirelessly in the VFL on his role as a midfielder – to spend time in the middle this season.
Again, the Bombers have speed and power on their side with the additions of Jake Stringer, Adam Saad and Devon Smith who will all slot seamlessly into the starting lineup.
Rd 1 v Adelaide @ Etihad Stadium
Their round one matchup at home against minor premiers and Grand Finalists, Adelaide, will be a great test for Essendon who are expected to improve upon their 2017 season. This is a winnable game for the Bombers and a win first up in the season will give them great confidence going forward but it’s no gimme; Adelaide will be out to prove a point after last year’s Grand Final loss, however, they may be doing it without their skipper who is battling a foot injury.
Rd 5 v Collingwood @ MCG
Regardless of where each team sits on the ladder, the ANZAC Day clash is always fierce. It’s a good preview of September action for both clubs who would, no doubt, select this as their one must win home and away match for the year. Essendon should enter this game as favourites but will need to be switched on if they are to get the W.
Rd 14 v West Coast @ Optus Stadium
Coming off the bye is never easy. It’s even harder when you have to travel to Perth and face the Eagles on their brand new home deck. Though it won’t be the first time that Essendon will have played at Optus Stadium – they face Fremantle at the ground in Round 2, the Eagles are a different story. They’ll have expectations of winning this game, Essendon, but that’s a lot easier said than done when the crowd are closing in on you.
While most people expect Andrew McGrath to take his game to another level this year, particularly if spending a lot more time in the midfield it’s also important for fellow young gun, Darcy Parish to continue his improvement. Parish was strong in 2016 as a first-year player in a side lacking senior midfielders and he consolidated that last year but improvement is due. The retirement of Jobe Watson gives him the chance to do so, it also gives Kyle Langford – who now wears Watson’s number 4 – a chance to prove himself, he’ll see a lot more of the ball this year and with a big body, he’ll make an impact.
Fantasy Gold – Zach Merrett
It doesn’t matter what format of fantasy football you’re playing, Zach Merrett will be in the top dozen players. While he’s not undervalued in either salary cap or draft leagues, he is young and he isn’t slowing down. He’ll finish the season as Essendon’s top fantasy scorer in all formats.
Ladder Prediction – 5th
I’m tipping improvement from Essendon in 2018. On paper, they have a team that could comfortably finish top 4 but they have to put it all together and win the tough, low scoring games if that is to happen.