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Dons on the rise

Peter Ryan afl.com.au  June 14, 2017 9:25 AM

BTV: Lucas' Mid-Year Review - Part 1 Scott Lucas takes a closer look at the first half of our season.

Essendon has become, in the blink of an eye, the buzz team of the competition.

Damaging forwards do that.

Geelong is the only other team with three players inside the top 20 goalkickers in 2017, with Joe Daniher (34 goals), Orazio Fantasia (25) and Cale Hooker (23) matching the Cats' Tom Hawkins (30), Daniel Menzel (25) and Patrick Dangerfield (22).

Throw in Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (19) and Essendon joins Adelaide as the only two teams to have yielded 100 goals from their top four goalkickers.

That is remarkable, given the Bombers have won the inside 50 count in just two games this season.

By comparison defending premiers the Western Bulldogs, albeit having played one game fewer, have only 47 goals from their top four goalkickers this season.

The Bombers forwards win 18 more ground ball gets inside 50 than their opposition defenders in the same part of the ground per game, a massive lead over the next best team in the competition, Greater Western Sydney, who break even.

Against Port Adelaide, the Bombers were smoking hot, kicking their highest score since round eight, 2015 to record their biggest winning margin since round three, 2014.

They scored 117 of their 131 points from turnovers and roared into finals calculations with as breathtaking football as any team has played this season.

Their fans were entitled to roar.

In the past two rounds the Bombers have been No.1 in the competition for kicking goals when inside 50, converting a huge 30 per cent of the time.

But the question remains as to whether the Bombers are so 'Hot 'n Cold' they remain the Katy Perry of the competition.

What is also being asked is whether they can defend well enough to be a real contender.

They still average 92.58 points against on average, putting them in the bottom six in the competition.

Like Adelaide, if the Bombers don't score 100 points, they don't win.

They have not won three games in a row since rounds 16-18, 2014.

It seems the boom or bust of fast ball movement that has recently defined the red and black, remains.

When they win, they average 56 more disposals than the opposition.

When they lose, they win nine fewer disposals than their opposition.

That's not to knock what they have achieved this season, given the club's travails over the past few years.

The gap seems to be closing as the talent they have recruited in recent seasons under extreme adversity expresses itself, and anyone you speak to at Essendon says they will play more consistent football in the second half of the season.

But the stats show why Essendon coach John Worsfold wasn't getting carried away after Saturday's win, commenting post-game on the challenge ahead.

"One thing coaches always think, to play better than that is to play the same intensity and same level consistently week after week," Worsfold said.

"So that's definitely our challenge. That's not just now a benchmark that we can show every now and then – that's the way we want to play."

He knows there is something there to work with but there is plenty of work still to do.

Bombers bouncing back

Essendon ran Port Adelaide off its legs on Saturday night, recording 27 running bounces for the game.

It's the highest single-game tally by any team this season and the highest one-game tally since 2015, when the Giants bounced their way around Metricon Stadium with 28 bounces against the Gold Coast in round 16.

The Bombers' best tally in a game is 31, against West Coast at Domain Stadium back in round 19, 2008, while Collingwood holds the record since the statistic was first gathered in 1999, recording a remarkable 73 bounces at the MCG against Carlton in round 17, 2009.

On that Friday night former Magpie turned Giant, Heath Shaw, bounced the ball 17 times.