In 2019 we will be looking back on five key lessons to take away from every Bombers match, thanks to RMIT.
This time we look into Essendon's 58-point thrashing of North Melbourne in the Kick for the Kids game on Friday.
1. Shiel is worth his weight in gold
Watching Shiel enter a contest at lightning speed before cleanly claiming the Sherrin and cruising back in the other direction is a sight to behold.
Witnessing his ability to smoothly change direction at full pace, for any racing fans out there, is like watching Winx roll powerfully around the final bend – he is a remarkable athlete.
He put his speed and agility to great use against the Kangaroos in his best effort in the red and black, claiming 36 disposals, 10 inside 50s and four goal assists.
Shiel isn’t one to simply accumulate the ball without making it worth his while and his astonishing 886 metres gained on the weekend is a clear demonstration of his ability to break the lines and drive the ball forward.
He may not have been cheap to bring across from Greater Western Sydney, but he is already paying dividends.
2. McGrath has added a new string to his bow
It is extremely easy to forget that young gun Andrew McGrath is only in his third season, such is his class, composure and ability to turn the game.
After spending the majority of this first season across half-back with stints on the wing and the odd occasion on the ball, McGrath has thrived among greater opportunities in the midfield.
The former number one draft pick has had a terrific season and he was among the side’s best players again on Friday, gathering 20 disposals in another strong performance.
But it’s McGrath’s potency in front of goal that has particularly taken his game to the next level so far this year. He had booted just six goals in his first two years at The Hangar, but two goals against the Roos made it five from his past three games.
If the athletic 20-year-old can continue to have an impact on the scoreboard while developing his midfield craft, then he can be one of Essendon’s best weapons.
Andrew McGrath has become one of John Worsfold's most important players.
3. Essendon’s forward line is arguably the most dynamic in the AFL
Having the assistance of McGrath and his fellow on-ballers chipping in on the scoreboard is valuable for Essendon’s forwards, but that’s not to say that they can’t hold their own.
The Bombers have proven in the last three weeks that they have the most versatile and dangerous forward mix in the league. 20 goals against Melbourne, 17 against Brisbane and 17 again in the Kick for the Kids match – it’s comfortably the most of any side in that period.
Essendon’s depth has been tested with the absence of Joe Daniher before Friday and an unfortunate injury to fellow key forward Shaun McKernan against Melbourne, but the side continues to perform brilliantly in front of goal.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti last week showed why he is up there with the best small forwards in the competition, Orazio Fantasia’s sensational speed and skill is hard to stop, Mitch Brown has become a star of the side, Jake Stringer is a powerhouse and Mark Baguley’s defensive work is undersold.
With Jayden Laverde booting six goals in the VFL on Saturday, the positive signs roll on.
4. No-fuss Ambrose is in career-best form
Key defender Patrick Ambrose isn’t one to blow his own trumpet, but he has quietly put together a sensational patch of performances as the side has turned its season around.
He may not have the flare of fellow tall defenders Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker, but he is often the one tasked with taking on the opposition’s biggest and best goalkicker.
Ben Brown was Ambrose’s latest scalp on Friday, kicking just two late goals after plenty of close attention throughout the match.
It followed cracking efforts against Melbourne and Brisbane where Ambrose finished well on top of Dees pair Tom McDonald and Sam Weideman before dominating Lion Eric Hipwood.
He may never receive the attention that Hurley and Hooker do, but Ambrose is clearly an important part of the defensive unit.
Ambrose celebrates a rare goal after drifting forward against North Melbourne.
5. The anticipation for the 25th ANZAC Day game has reached fever pitch
As if the milestone edition of the annual clash wasn’t exciting enough, the two clubs’ dominant victories this round have set the scene beautifully for Thursday’s match.
Collingwood will enter the match off the back of a 62-point thrashing of Brisbane, while the Bombers’ blistering defeat of the Roos has them at the top of their game.
Both sides, as of early Sunday, currently sit within the top eight on three wins apiece, so there is plenty riding on the blockbuster.
While the Magpies average 35 more disposals than the Dons, Essendon leads Collingwood in average clearances, inside 50s, contested possessions and tackles.
It is a mouth-watering contest and there will no doubt be an astronomical crowd on hand to watch every minute.