Essendon’s charge toward finals has continued, after the Bombers demolished the Gold Coast Suns at GMHBA Stadium by 68 points to install themselves in eighth spot, pending the West Coast Eagles’ clash with Fremantle.
Frankly, they deserve to stay there. The Bombers have been playing with far more daring and desire than the Eagles of late, and while they may be a way off the pace on points, they shape as a finals wildcard. Essendon face Collingwood next week. The Eagles play the reinvigorated Lions.
The obvious rejoinder is the Bombers are not ready for a genuine tilt. But there’s a genuine excitement about the way they attack the game, exemplified by the reborn Jake Stringer, who was again the most electrifying player on the ground.
Electrifying: Jake Stringer.Credit:Getty Images
Stringer’s best season since his sole All-Australian year of 2015 is still gathering momentum, deep in the season. He had a day out, using his explosive pace from the middle of the ground, then floating dangerously up forward, finishing with a lazy five goals.
The Suns can consider themselves unfortunate to have what should have been a home game at Metricon played at a neutral venue. But that’s just life in 2021. After knocking over Carlton last week, they were quickly overpowered here.
All the players who have drawn notice for the Bombers this year again showed they were ready to play their part in this new-look Essendon outfit, with Sam Draper, Nick Hind and Archie Perkins excelling again.
Draper, with his hulking size and metal mullet, barged through stoppages a little like the Brisbane Lions’ old triple-premiership ruckman Clark Keating. Keating was known as Mr September, and Draper doesn’t look the type to be fazed by a big occasion either.
At his feet, Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett continued their dominant seasons, with 35 and 32 possessions respectively. Andrew McGrath was quiet on his return from injury, but his mere presence will buoy the Bombers.
The Suns dug in well enough early, with Sam Collins repelling multiple Essendon attacks by himself in defence. Joel Jeffrey curled in a clever snap, and Josh Corbett again showed his elite hands overhead.
But it quickly fell away. Touk Miller, yet again, was his side’s hardest working player, alongside skipper David Swallow, but they didn’t have enough support as the Bombers launched raid after raid.
They also couldn’t score. With Ben King badly beaten up forward, the Suns managed only two marks inside 50 for the game. Peter Wright, who kicked a career-best seven goals last week, missed the chance to embarrass his former club. But he might have been handy.
After ending the first quarter with the scores tied, Essendon blew away the Suns in the second with six goals to one. Stringer was the clear match-winner during this period, and sunk the Suns completely with his fourth goal early in the third.
From there, the Suns could barely get their hands on the ball that was camped almost permanently in Essendon’s attack. Devon Smith rifled through a goal after the siren to extend the margin to a neat 10 goals at the last change.
They weren’t able to heap too much more soil on top of the Suns from there. The match petered out to its conclusion, and on that point, Suns coach Stuart Dew can be pleased his side didn’t completely turn it up, as they’ve done too often before.
The Bombers have firepower to come back, in the shape of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti – given a spell for this match – and the promising Nik Cox. They still need a little luck, but they’ve gone a long way to making some of their own.
Gold Coast Suns 2.2 3.4 3.6 4.6 (30)
Essendon 2.2 8.8 12.12 14.14 (98)
Gold Coast Suns: Jeffrey, Corbett, Fiorini, Townsend.
Essendon: Stringer 5, Guelfi 2, Waterman 2, Perkins, Durham, Hind, Smith, Clarke.
Gold Coast Suns: Miller, Collins.
Essendon: Stringer, Parish, Hind, Merrett, Draper, Redman.
Gold Coast Suns: Lemmens (corked thigh), substituted by Rory Atkins.
O’Gorman, Broadbent, Meredith.
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