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 sensational defeat of Brisbane at the MCG on Saturday afternoon.
1. Walla is unstoppable at his best
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti’s seven-goal performance against the Lions was one of the best individual efforts from a Bomber in recent memory, and it was a game he had been threatening to put together for some time.
‘Walla’ refused to let his slow start to the year – in which he was goalless in the first two rounds – dent his confidence, and four goals against Melbourne provided him with an important boost entering the clash with Brisbane.
From the very start of the game it was clear he was on and at his best. He seemed to glide around the ground with ease, working tirelessly to provide an option for his teammates and ultimately reaping the rewards.
Arguably the league’s most entertaining player, McDonald-Tipungwuti was simply too fast, too strong, too balanced and too clever for his opponents, finishing with 20 disposals, 10 marks and five inside 50s to go with his big bag of goals.
3 votes - A.McDonald-Tipungwuti pic.twitter.com/rHf6REuHm4— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) April 14, 2019
2. Hooker is a crucial part of the side
Sure, the Bombers have shown they can win without Cale Hooker, but his inclusion on Saturday showed just how important he can be.
Whether playing forward or back, you know what you’re going to get from the experienced Don.
He returned to the senior side for the first time on Saturday and had an immediate impact playing in defence, gathering 23 disposals, 13 marks, seven one percenters and five rebound 50s.
But Hooker’s value to the side doesn’t end with his own performance. He also frees up Michael Hurley (21 disposals and nine rebound 50s against Brisbane) and allows Patrick Ambrose (10 one percenters) to play to his strengths shutting down some of the league’s most damaging forwards.
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3. Classy kids have a bright future
Each playing just their sixth AFL games, young Bombers Jordan Ridley and Mason Redman once again displayed outstanding skill against the Lions on Saturday.
The pair impressed playing similar roles across half-back, reading the play brilliantly and repeatedly making good decisions under pressure.
Ridley has been a shining light for Essendon this year and he finished the game with 17 disposals (at 94.1 per cent efficiency) and nine marks, while Redman returned in style with 17 disposals (at 82.4 per cent efficiency) and four crunching tackles in his first senior match since round 14 last year.
The emerging youngsters have helped fill the void left by retired former Bomber Brendon Goddard and the future looks extremely exciting.
4. The MCG can be a happy hunting ground
Two games so far this year have shown just how advantageous the ground’s open spaces can be for the Bombers.
It is surprising to think that Essendon failed to be effective at the home of footy last year, claiming just one win from eight clashes at the ground, but things appear to be coming together this time around.
The side has used the large ground brilliantly in the last fortnight, spreading with speed and purpose to break into space and put the opponent on the back foot.
They have booted 37 goals in the last two weeks, but it hasn’t just been about the Bombers’ attacking prowess.
They have also set up strongly in defence in the last two weeks and that was a key part of Saturday’s victory as the Lions struggled to break out of their defensive half.
5. It’s anyone’s season this year
We all know nothing is ever certain in football and the start to this season has proven that the competition is as even as it has ever been.
Brisbane was one of two undefeated teams entering the round, but Essendon’s convincing defeat of the emerging side – coupled with Greater Western Sydney’s narrow victory over the previously unbeaten Cats – has broken the top of the ladder open.
Every team has now been beaten at least once just four rounds into the season and surprise results continue to emerge left, right and centre.
While things are expected to settle in the next two months, it is impossible to know who will be fighting it out at the tail end of the year.