As always, it was an eventful ANZAC Day and the game itself reflected that. Considering Collingwood have the shooting accuracy of expendable henchmen in action movies and Essendon’s poor recent form in wet weather, I really didn’t know what to expect and couldn’t pick a favourite ahead of the game.
Essendon definitely started the better, winning a lot of the early ball and also delivering it well into the forward line. McDonald-Tippungwuti kicked to Daniher in the pocket for the first goal and Heppell found Francis soon after for their second before Collingwood had even looked dangerous.
During the week there was no shortage of criticism for Darcy Moore, which I thought was a bit rough for a forward that young, so I watched his game with some interest today. His confidence would not have been helped knowing he had Michael Hurley stalking him like Peta Credlin stalking Kelly O’Dwyer on maternity leave. Even so, Moore managed to make a positive start, leading up the ground and taking a mark before kicking the ball into the forward line where Elliott capitalised and kicked the goal.
Essendon dominated a large amount of the first quarter with their midfield well on top and their defence providing effective counterattack when needed. They extended their lead further with a goal to Hooker before a piece of quick thinking from McDonald-Tippungwuti created a goal for Fantasia (note to Brian Taylor, it is completely acceptable to not use his Christian and surname every time he gets the ball), with the Bombers going into quarter time with a three goal lead that could have been significantly more, especially with the siren sounding as McDonald-Tippungwuti was about to pick up the ball and run into an open goal.
The second quarter was better for the Pies, with Elliott opening the scoring early. The Bombers added their fifth when Watson gave a great assist to Fantasia, but the rest of the half was played heavily in Collingwood’s attacking half and this time it was Collingwood who didn’t do enough with their dominance, missing some easy shots and letting Essendon catch them on the break a few times.
But occasionally they got it right. After sustained pressure, a defensive clearance was knocked down, collected and snapped for a goal by Sidebottom from 40 metres out. Treloar had a big hand in his team’s resurgence in the second quarter, attacking the ball with the ferocity of a United Airlines employee. For all his efforts, he was caught holding the ball by Heppell and the Essendon captain nailed the set shot. At the other end, a piece of skill from Hoskin-Elliott sparked a chain of less precise play that ended with Fasolo soccering a goal in the goal square. Shortly after, Fasolo was involved again, making a desperate effort to keep the ball in play that resulted in a snapped goal to Treloar.
Having had the better of the quarter, Collingwood would have been disappointed to concede a late goal, after Daniher had missed a set shot, but Hooker marked the kick out on the 50 and converted his shot.
The third quarter was a more even contest with the Pies winning more of the clearances, but breaking down with their ball use and giving the ball up to the Bombers who were far more effective when in possession, shredding the Pies midfield on the counter like my friend Taryn shreds bottle labels. A terrible mistake in defence by Reid, gave Green his first goal, but Elliott stepped up soon after, kicking a brilliant goal himself, before marking and giving off to Wells to goal on the run.
Aside from his early score involvement, Moore was probably thinking (much like Jassmin Abdel-Magied) that he would like to start his ANZAC Day over again, but he got on the score sheet after Parish fumbled the ball trying to bounce it on the wing and his team mates were caught out by the turnover.
Moore’s goal might have given the Pies the lead for the first time in the game (I can’t quite remember- there was a lot going on), but it didn’t last long. The Bombers won the next centre clearance and got it to Daniher who kicked a long ball from the square that bounced through the open goals. Desperate pressuring and tackling on the half back line by McDonald-Tippungwuti created another turnover that ended in another Fantasia goal before Green took a contested mark which he converted to put some distance between the teams once more.
A piece of brilliance from Wells salvaged a goal for the Pies before three quarter time, when he ripped a ball out of a stoppage and snapped over his head from 30 metres out. This goal aside though, the Bombers went into the final break playing the better football with Collingwood really having to scrap for every goal.
The Bombers got on top in the final quarter. Collingwood continued to generate plenty of ball movement into their forward half, but the Bombers’ defenders seemed to be able to run it out of defence easily to set up opportunities at the other end. Green and Fantasia were combining as effectively as jeans and sneakers (say what you like about the aesthetics of ‘sneans,’ they are perfect in many different situations). Goals to each of them and one to Hooker put the game beyond Collingwood’s reach, although the Pies kept coming and managed a late goal to Darcy Moore after a strong mark. This was answered by a fourth goal to Daniher though, allowing the Bombers to ease to a three-goal win in the final minutes of the game and leaving Nathan Buckley’s career prospects with the life expectancy little better than the 457 visa program.
There were a lot of better players for the Bombers today. I won’t argue that Daniher was a perfectly worthy winner of the ANZAC medal for his game, performing very solidly in the ruck as well as in the forward line. But there were others who were unlucky. Merrett was excellent in the midfield, not just getting a lot of the ball, but also using it well. Fantasia was dangerous up forward, kicking four goals and getting a bit of the ball too while at the other end Hurley was important in defence. With his powerful marking and spoiling, he gave the Collingwood forwards the kind of hiding that he normally saves for taxi drivers (allegedly). A player that might not have got a huge amount of attention, but one that I really rated for the game was McDonald-Tippungwuti. I lost count of the number of turnovers he created with his speed and ferocity. His efforts were directly responsible for a significant number of goals. For the Pies, it was hard to find many players other than Treloar who you would say played really well. Elliot was important for the first three quarters, but seemed to lose impact in the last, while Howe had an impact rebounding from half back.
It is hard to say who needed a Snickers the most. Pendlebury wasn’t as sharp as we have come to expect and Wells’ delivery was inconsistent, but they were far from their team’s worst. A lot of attention will go to the Pies forward line, but watching the game they didn’t think they were let down too badly by forwards losing contests as much as they were killed by some terrible delivery. At the other end, Essendon did not go inside 50 that often, but when they did seemed to score easily, so perhaps some more questions should be asked of their defence. Perhaps more than anyone, poor old Buckley would have needed a snickers, especially by the end of a game that they really could have won.