Take a look at our comprehensive preview of Essendon's clash against Collingwood on Friday night.
COLLINGWOOD v ESSENDON
Friday, July 3
Live on Channel Seven
Games played - 248
Won – 103
Lost – 132
Drawn – 4
THREE QUICK FACTS
1. Walla sets new record
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti will break Essendon's consecutive games record in the AFL era when he lines up on Friday night. The 27-year-old will surpass 2000 premiership player Mark Johnson on 82 consecutive games, climbing to outright seventh on the Bombers' overall consecutive games tally behind former VFL stars Don McKenzie (94), Elton Plummer (98), Allan Hird (102), Geoff Gosper (114), Frank Maher (118) and Jack Jones (133).
2. History against Bombers
The Bombers haven't beaten the Magpies on a Friday since round 19, 2006 - a 13-point win that saw Courtney Johns kick a game-high three goals and Dustin Fletcher awarded three Brownlow votes. The five Friday games since have fallen Collingwood's way, with the Magpies having won the past four clashes and 15 of the past 20 overall against the Bombers.
3. Phillips' birthday treat
Andrew Phillips will make his Essendon debut on his 29th birthday, having crossed over from Carlton during last year's trade period. The ruckman was part of Greater Western Sydney's foundation squad, playing 14 games for the Giants before adding another 27 at the Blues. He joins fellow Tasmanian Mitch Hibberd as club debutants this week.
LAST TIME WE MET
Round 23, 2019: Essendon 10.5 (65) lost to Collingwood 10.16 (76)
Essendon entered its last game of the home and away season as a rank outsider, having lost Jake Stringer, Orazio Fantasia, Dyson Heppell and David Zaharakis to injury ahead of the match. Its task was made even harder when Michael Hurley suffered a shoulder injury in the early stages, failing to return to the field for the rest of the match.
The Bombers were undeterred, however, making a fast start to lead by 19 points at the first break. The Magpies chipped away at the deficit to level the scores at three-quarter time, putting some distance on the Bombers in the final term to run out 11-point winners.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti earned a Brownlow vote for his 18 disposals and two goals, while Conor McKenna set new career-highs for disposals (35), effective disposals (27) and metres gained (710).
Round one: Defeated Fremantle 9.9 (63) to 8.9 (57) at Marvel Stadium
Round two: Defeated Sydney 12.7 (79) to 11.7 (73) at the SCG
Round four: Lost to Carlton 8.3 (51) to 7.10 (52) at the MCG
The Bombers' unbeaten start was ended in yet another cliffhanger, with their first three games decided by a goal or less. While coach John Worsfold didn't blame the interrupted lead-in for the last-gasp loss, he said having players in lockdown for 48 hours "wasn't ideal".
Whatever the case, the Bombers looked flat and were well beaten in disposals (267-332), inside 50s (34-49), clearances (23-37) and uncontested possessions (140 to 201). They'll take some consolation from the fact they were in the contest until the dying seconds despite those numbers, but they'll need a considerable lift against one of the competition's best sides this week.
Round one: Defeated Western Bulldogs 13.8 (86) to 5.4 (34) at Marvel Stadium
Round two: Drew with Richmond 5.6 (36) to 5.6 (36) at the MCG
Round three: Defeated St Kilda 12.9 (81) to 5.7 (37) at the MCG
Round four: Lost to GWS 9.10 (64) to 10.6 (66) at GIANTS Stadium
Like Essendon, Collingwood had its undefeated start ended in a nail-biter in Sydney. The Giants looked set for an emphatic victory when they skipped out to a 19-point lead late in the third term, but the Magpies fought back to hit the lead early in the final quarter, despite losing star defender Jeremy Howe to a nasty knee injury.
After four rounds, the Magpies sit fifth on the ladder and lead the competition for effective disposals, uncontested possessions, marks and hitouts per game, conceding the second-least points behind Port Adelaide.
Backs: 8. Martin Gleeson, 26. Cale Hooker, 42. Adam Saad
Half-backs: 11. David Zaharakis, 18. Michael Hurley, 14. Jordan Ridley
Centre: 33. Brayden Ham, 1. Andrew McGrath, 4. Kyle Langford
Half-forwards: 13. Orazio Fantasia, 44. Shaun McKernan, 43. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti
Forwards: 40. Will Snelling, 25. Jake Stringer, 20. Jacob Townsend
Followers: 34. Andrew Phillips, 3. Darcy Parish, 9. Dylan Shiel
Interchange: 5. Devon Smith, 46. Mitch Hibberd, 27. Mason Redman, 15. Jayden Laverde
Emergencies: 28. Ned Cahill, 35. Matt Guelfi, 37. Dylan Clarke, 30. Brandon Zerk-Thatcher
In: Phillips, Hibberd, Laverde
Out: Merrett (suspended), Francis (injured), Bellchambers (managed)
New: Phillips (Carlton), Hibberd (Williamstown)
Backs: 25. Jack Crisp, 23. Jordan Roughead, 12. Matt Scharenberg
Half-backs: 37. Brayden Maynard, 30. Darcy Moore, 16. Chris Mayne
Centre: 26. Josh Daicos, 10. Scott Pendlebury, 32. Will Hoskin-Elliott
Half-forwards: 1. Jaidyn Stephenson, 41. Brody Mihocek, 17. Callum Brown
Forwards: 2. Jordan De Goey, 46. Mason Cox, 5. Jamie Elliott
Followers: 4. Brodie Grundy, 13. Taylor Adams, 7. Adam Treloar
Interchange: 18. Travis Varcoe, 33. Rupert Wills, 6. Tyler Brown, 21. Tom Phillips
Emergencies: 24. Josh Thomas, 36. Brayden Sier, 14. Darcy Cameron, 44. Jack Madgen
In: Treloar, Varcoe, Scharenberg
Out: Sidebottom (suspended), Howe (knee), Noble (omitted)
BOMBER TO WATCH
Born on Anzac Day, Jake Stringer missed out on the opportunity to strut his stuff on the biggest stage of the home and away season. He'll still have a huge role to play in the postponed edition, however, as the Bombers attempt to crack open a miserly Collingwood defence.
Boasting speed and pressure, Stringer will need to dial up the the heat and force turnovers from the Magpies' defenders, who love to control possession and be methodical in their ball use. The 26-year-old is also a bonafide game-breaker who can hurt opposition defences on the scoreboard in devastating bursts.
At the ripe old age of 32, there appears to be nothing stopping Scott Pendlebury. The Collingwood captain is in vintage form, ranked in the top five for disposals and uncontested possessions and placed fourth in the AFL Coaches' Association votes.
He loves playing against the Bombers, too, last year claiming his third Anzac Medal for his 38-disposal performance.
KEY TALKING POINTS
1. Replacing two premier midfielders
It's rare to see Zach Merrett absent in the line-up, with the suspended midfielder having played 51 consecutive games. He joins captain Dyson Heppell (ankle) on the sidelines, leaving the Bombers with the sizeable task of replacing the star duo against a midfield that's conceding the least centre clearances.
Expect to see more time in the middle for Darcy Parish and Kyle Langford, while club debutant and former Roo Mitch Hibberd is a ready-made inside midfielder who averaged 24 disposals and seven tackles for Williamstown in the VFL last season.
The Bombers will need to lift their game in the contested ball stakes, having lost the count 112 to 126 against Carlton last week. They're ranked 12th to Collingwood's fifth for contested possessions, with four of the top five sides on the ladder also ranked in the top five for average contested possessions.
The Magpies also have their midfield concerns with prolific wingman Steele Sidebottom suspended, but his absence is offset by the return of Adam Treloar for his first game of the season.
2. Stopping Grundy's influence
Going up against the League's premier ruckman is a daunting task for your club debut, but under Friday night lights, this is Andrew Phillips' chance to shine.
The former Giant and Blue has replaced Tom Bellchambers (managed) as he prepares to face up to Brodie Grundy, who after back-to-back club best and fairests has started 2020 in rampaging fashion.
A look at Phillips' numbers last year - albeit from a small sample size - suggests he could be up to the challenge.
During his five senior games, he ranked in the competition’s top 10 averages for centre clearances, hitouts and contested marks, with Nic Naitanui the only other ruckman to better Phillips in the latter.
He set new career-high averages for disposals (11.4), hitouts (29.8), tackles (3.4), inside 50s (2.6), marks (3.6), clearances (3.2), metres gained (185.2) and intercepts (3.2), ranked by Champion Data as ‘elite’ for contested marks and hitouts to advantage.
Phillips' ability to negate Grundy's influence will be crucial on Friday night, with the Magpies ranked first for hitouts and third for centre clearances.
3. Howe big a loss is Jeremy?
While the Bombers have key personnel missing, the Magpies have a significant hole to fill in defence without Jeremy Howe.
Arguably the competition's in-form defender through the first four rounds, Howe leads the Magpies for marks, intercepts and rebound 50s, using his positioning to cut off opponents' attacks and hurt them the other way with his skills and creativity.
He was enjoying another strong performance before succumbing to a brutal knee injury against the Giants, recording 23 disposals, six intercept possessions and almost 500m gained.
The Magpies have called on Matt Scharenberg to replace Howe, but already have Darcy Moore and Jack Crisp capable of playing that intercept role.