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Five things we learned: Round nine

BTV: Rd 9 | Every Goal Enjoy every Essendon goal from our round nine win over Fremantle, with 200 meals per goal donated to Foodbank Victoria, thanks to our partner EnergyAustralia.

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 tough seven-point victory over Fremantle at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.

1. Redman is a star in the making

I wrote about Mason Redman in this column a few weeks ago and he certainly hasn’t let me down since then.

This young Bomber has it all; athleticism, composure, skill, football smarts and great class both in the air and on the ground.

Redman made every possession count once again on the weekend, putting his exceptional ability to read the play to great use with 20 disposals, seven marks and six intercept possessions.

Versatile enough to shut down opponents of all shapes and sizes before hurting them on the rebound, the future looks very bright for the 21-year-old.

Mason Redman is well and truly on the rise after another brilliant effort against the Dockers. (Image: AFL Photos)

2. Red and black defensive unit is up with the best

Essendon has clear claim to having one of the top defensive units in the league. The side’s key trio of Michael Hurley, Cale Hooker and Patrick Ambrose have been remarkable this year.

Ambrose is a severely underrated part of the line-up, more often than not taking on the opponent’s most dangerous forward and doing it brilliantly throughout the season. He was dominant again on the weekend and did so covering an equal game-high 14.7km.

His addition to the backline allows his All Australian teammates to flourish. Hurley (23 disposals, nine intercept possessions, seven rebound 50s and seven one percenters) was arguably best on ground against the Dockers, while Hooker (20 disposals, nine one percenters and seven marks) was clinical again.

Add to those big Bombers a terrific brigade of smaller defenders like Adam Saad, Conor McKenna, Redman and Ben McNiece, who are just as good in attack as in defence, and you’ve got one serious unit.

They were great keeping the Dockers to seven goals (including a few late ones due to free kicks) on Saturday after conceding only 11, 13, 10, seven and nine in the preceding five games.

3. Merrett is back to his best

It took star midfielder Zach Merrett a week or two to work into the year after receiving some close attention early in the season, but he has picked up some serious momentum.

He was at his damaging best again on the weekend, picking up 35 disposals, 13 contested possessions and six tackles as he ripped the ball out of the contest for his teammates.

Merrett is now averaging over 30 disposals, 12 contested possessions, six tackles, five inside 50s, five clearances, recapturing the form that saw him named as an All Australian in 2017.

The 23-year-old is a fierce leader you can depend on to give his all week after week and you can see why his teammates look up to him so dearly.

Zach Merrett's outstanding form continued at Marvel Stadium on Saturday. (Image: AFL Photos)

4. Walla is as potent as they get

Few players can completely turn a game on its head in the space of five minutes. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is one of them.

It has been well documented that the Bombers are at their best when ‘Walla’ is firing and the small forward had been quiet early in the game.

But 10 minutes into the second term, he simply made things happen. First clearing the ball out of the defensive 50 with a clever pass from the outside of his boot, he put his fitness to the test and bobbed up a minute later inside the forward 50, eventually slotting a classy snap goal to get the Bombers back on the board.

Five minutes later, he kicked another cracker, this time after taking an exceptional contested mark against taller opponent Luke Ryan.

He may have finished the game with just 10 disposals, but he booted three goals and had five score involvements, showing once again that he is one of the best players in the league when it comes to making each possession count.

5. Woosha can change it up

In a rarely-seen move, head coach John Worsfold took it upon himself to coach from the bench against the Dockers, leaving the box and joining the wave of team leaders doing the same this year.

With so many new rules including greater restrictions on the use of runners this year, many coaches have seen the tactic as a way to communicate with their players more effectively.

The league’s most experienced current coach surprised young gun Matt Guelfi on Saturday night when he emerged on the pine, but Guelfi said it was valuable to have Worsfold by his side.

Whether it had a significantly positive impact on the game and the team as a whole, I can’t answer, but it was interesting to see the coaching panel try something new on the weekend.