There are some that will believe the clash between traditional rivals in Richmond and Essendon on Saturday afternoon will be a bit of a snooze fest. Though what both teams showed in the previous round would instil hope in even the most staunch of supporters and therefore both teams should enter the game expecting a genuine contest in their first Saturday afternoon meeting at the MCG since 2008.
Part of the hope for Essendon at least lies in the fact that twice in the last three weeks, they have kicked 90 points or more with their highest score for the season coming in the previous round against St. Kilda – 14.14.98. Meanwhile, the upside for the Tigers is that they are ranked third for marks inside 50 this season averaging 13.9 a game. One advantage the Bombers may have however; is their disposal efficiency. They are currently ranked equal second in the AFL at 74.5%, ahead of the Tigers (ranked seventh at 74%) – the discrepancy seems small by the numbers, but could give Essendon the edge against Richmond during the game.
No doubt the major highlight of the clash will be the match-up of Richmond key defender Alex Rance and Essendon’s tall key forward Joe Daniher. Rance is arguably in All-Australian form once again, whilst Daniher has kicked 24 goals so far this season and generated plenty of excitement among the Bomber faithful with much improved marking ability. Richmond Assistant Coach Ben Rutten really rates Daniher, saying “he’s a really important player to them . . . one of the really good forwards in the competition. ‘Rancey’ obviously is a very good player, but he’s going to have his work cut out for him,” as part of this week’s edition of Roar Vision’s Opposition Analysis. He added “often, against guys like Daniher, the contest is won and lost before the mark’s taken. So I think that’s the best way to get Daniher.” Another tricky customer for the Tigers will be the lively gun midfielder Zach Merrett. A shining light for the Bombers, Rutten believes he is a quality player that can’t be underestimated. Richmond will also be looking to nullify the influence of David Zaharakis, who returns to the Bombers line-up for Saturday afternoon’s encounter following a one-match suspension. Rutten says of Zaharakis that “he’s really good around the contest and with his ability to win clearances, hopefully we can get some ruck dominance in there and our midfielders can compete really well against him”.
Furthermore, the Tigers will be looking to counter Essendon’s penchant for bringing the ball through the centre corridor, with the Bombers ranked first in the competition for this. Their speed off half-back according to Rutten “...is a real strength of theirs”. The Tigers will thus be looking to force the Bombers wide and slow them down in the process. The defensive aspect of Richmond’s game will need to be switched on from the outset – all about standing the mark and holding them up.
Saturday may not be the snooze fest or easy Tiger win some will be expecting. There is a lot of promise for both teams as they look to finish their respective seasons as strongly as possible. There is a case to say that Essendon might come away victors as much as there is a case to say that Richmond might. There is still a lot of excitement to be had for supporters of both clubs – finals out of calculation brings with it a sense of freedom and intensity that will no doubt be appreciated.
What do you think will happen on Saturday afternoon?