Essendon has a final to win and they just can’t go into Saturday’s game against Sydney with the mindset that close enough is good enough.
It has been a torrid four years for everyone involved at Essendon and while it’s been a tremendous effort to make the finals, it should burn inside everyone at Essendon that the club has not won a final since 2004.
The Western Bulldogs should be their inspiration. They went to Perth in the first week of the finals on a mission last year and had shell-shocked the West Coast Eagles players and their crowd by quarter-time.
The Bulldogs’ ball movement by hand and foot was electric and they refused to wilt in any one-on-one contest. They went with a plan, executed it beautifully and the rest is history.
It is time Essendon created its own history.The Swans will look to take the Bombers’ legs out from under them in the first 15 minutes of the game.
In the last month alone, Sydney has led top-four sides Geelong and Adelaide on the road by 32 and 17 points respectively at the first break. Game over.
It all starts in the middle with Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker, Daniel Hannebery and Isaac Heeney, who as a collective go harder and longer than the opposition midfield and they make a physical statement early in games.
This allows Jarrad McVeigh to release himself behind the ball while defenders Heath Grundy, Dane Rampe and Nick Smith lock on to their forwards for dear life.
The Essendon midfield holds the key in this game.
Buddy Franklin has kicked more goals against Essendon than any other club — 64 from 14 games at an average of four and a half a match.
In Round 14 Franklin kicked six behinds in the Swans’ thrilling one-point win.
Essendon likes to release Michael Hurley to allow for his creativity so the Bombers have to win the clearances and contested ball to protect Patrick Ambrose, who is most likely to get the job on Franklin.
Ambrose has unbelievable speed off the mark and elite endurance but gives away size and reach, so pressure on the Swans ball carriers is critical.
In 1993, the assistant coach at Essendon was David Wheadon. The major sponsor at the time was the TAC and the message they were pushing through their campaigns was speed kills.
Wheadon grabbed that slogan and said to his Baby Bombers — that is our weapon and that is how we can win this year’s premiership.
It is exactly what happened when a bunch of kids such as Dustin Fletcher, Joe Misiti, Mark Mercuri, David Calthorpe, Rick Olarenshaw and James Hird ran Adelaide and Carlton off their feet in the preliminary final and Grand Final.
Only Hawthorn has beaten Sydney in the last 16 rounds. In those two games, the Hawks denied Sydney the contested and stoppage game that they like to play and turned the match into keepings off.
It frustrated the life out of John Longmire and the Swans.
Do the Bombers go in with a chaos game plan to run Sydney off its legs with high handball and speed or control the tempo of the game, which has proven to work in the games Sydney has lost?
Essendon would take great confidence out of the Round 14 encounter at the SCG as it matched Sydney’s intensity at the ball early to be just one point down at quarter-time.
As the game wore on, the Bombers opened Sydney up with their run, speed and link-up handball but their issue was that they tried to ice the game far too early and they blew it.
A combination of both chaos and control against Sydney makes Essendon a very dangerous proposition.
Forget the free hit, 22 Essendon players have to believe that they can land a knockout blow.