Andrew McGrath is hoping Essendon’s big Friday night win over the Bulldogs can set the tone for their upcoming run of games.

In the wake of their defeat to Port Adelaide a week prior, a thorough review had the Bombers well-placed to bounce back and tidy up their production all over the ground, starting with the midfield brigade.

Stellar performances under increased responsibility from Jye Caldwell and Sam Durham ignited the Dons through the corridor, while stalwarts Zach Merrett and Darcy Parish also stood up when required in pressure moments.

Factored with the mix of ferocity and workrate from Sam Draper and Todd Goldstein’s ruck partnership, McGrath loved the Bombers’ ability to make their moments count in the engine room.


“The game was there to be won in the third quarter and even early in the fourth, and the boys really stood up,” McGrath said.

“The midfield was great when we really needed them, there were a few big moments from ‘Duzza’, ‘Junior’, ‘Darce’, Caldwell and I thought the presence of ‘Drapes’ and Goldstein in there at times was awesome as well.

“It’s super exciting.”

While McGrath is quick to heap praise on his teammates, his own form has been key to the Dons’ 3-2 start in 2024.

The defender is quietly piecing together one of his best campaigns to date after a 23-disposal effort with over 500 metres gained on Friday night, now averaging 25 disposals per game for the year (ranked elite for defenders).

For McGrath, a key focus during the week was the Bombers’ security in attack, allowing its defence time to reset and restructure on account of manic forward pressure.


“We struggled to move the ball last week, we had a focus on moving it slightly differently and really wanted to attack in a way that we could defend,” McGrath said.

“When you’ve got guys like Alwyn Davey Jnr, ‘Menz’ (Jye Menzie) and even Harry Jones at times putting pressure on like they did (with some awesome tackles), it makes our jobs as backs really easy to support each other.

“Big Ben ‘Buckets’ McKay was eating them up back there too, which was fantastic.

“To concede 67 points is a super improvement from us and we’re looking to do it again."

Although the Dons are thrilled with their output from a primetime fixture, the big games don’t stop coming from here, already looking ahead to crunch clashes with Adelaide on the road and a typically special encounter against the Pies on ANZAC Day.


“Last week was an aberration, but we were really excited to get back on Marvel tonight and put all we learnt during the week to show,” McGrath said.

“Although it was a good win tonight, we get back on the horse and head to Adelaide next week to try and do it again.”