Essendon VFL’s four-game winning streak has come to an end with a 41-point loss to Casey at Windy Hill on Saturday.
The Bombers did their best in the trying conditions, but the Demons proved too strong in the 8.7 (55) to 15.6 (96) result.
Losing key personnel Edyn Sibbald (leg) and Nino Lazzaro (concussion) in the first half restrained Essendon’s chances of a comeback, as the margin started to become slightly out of reach.
Despite Casey getting off to a hot start, Essendon managed to ignore the scoreboard and bring it back to a two-goal deficit at the first break through a late goal from Ben Fennell (17 disposals).
The second term showed much better signs from the ladder-leaders, running hard on the wings and forcing turnovers to convert.
The Bombers’ second-term efforts meant they were still in the match at half-time, down by just 16 points.
They were composed and competitive early in the third, but inaccurate kicking, missed handballs and broken tackles meant Essendon was struggling to move the ball forward.
Key defender Michael Hartley (14 disposals, four marks) was forced to spend some time in the ruck, alternating with second-gamer Liam Read (17 hit-outs) who both did what was required of them against quality opposition.
Defenders Jake Long (13 disposals, six tackles), Matt Dea (20, 10 marks) and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (14, six marks) worked overtime under siege from the Casey midfield and forward line – the visitors kicking five unanswered goals in the third term.
Casey continued to kick away in the final quarter, controlling the majority of the play and disallowing Essendon to play on its terms.
The Bombers, now two interchanges down and fatigue settling in, couldn’t match the intensity the Demons were bringing late in the game.
Jordan Ridley finished with two goals, while Dylan Clarke (30 disposals, seven marks), Kyle Langford (25, six tackles, one goal) and Heath Hocking (21, one goal) were among the leading ball-getters.
Dylan Clarke racked up 30 touches against Casey. (Photo: Ben Johnstone)
Senior coach Dan Jordan thought it was a commendable effort considering the circumstances.
“Losing two key forwards early in the first half didn’t help - we were well and truly beaten but the boys fought the game out at the end,” Jordan said.
“We lost a lot of forward structure – Edyn and Nino were our tallest forwards and there wasn’t too many we could replace them with, so we just had to ask some of our guys to play above themselves and play their role for the side.
“For the most part we did that, but we were up against a really good backline who were putting some good pressure on the ball. It was always going to be a challenge, and our guys fought admirably but we were outplayed.”
Jordan also touched on the five-to-zero-goal third term, putting it down to Casey’s strong defence and some costly decision-making.
“We had the ball in our forward half for the first six or seven minutes but just weren’t efficient moving it inside 50.
“We seemed to be kicking from some poor areas and having shots from low percentage places, but that usually means the opposition is defending really well and forcing us out wide, or we aren’t making great decisions.”
He also praised Dea’s game across half-back, and thought Langford and Clarke tried really hard around the contest to create opportunities.
Essendon VFL now has an eight-day break before facing Sandringham at Wilson Storage Trevor Barker Beach Oval on Sunday, May 19 from 2:10pm.
Essendon 1.2 3.4 3.6 8.7 55
Casey 3.2 6.2 11.4 15.6 96
Goals: Ridley 2, Fennell, Gown, Hocking, Langford, Begley, Younan
Disposals: Clarke 30, Langford 25, Hocking, McNiece 21, Dea 20
Brooke Varney is in the final year of her Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) degree at RMIT University. As part of their strategic partnership, Essendon Football Club and RMIT University are committed to providing opportunities for students, staff, players and the wider community.