Round 20 saw the Saints disappointing season plumb new depths in their second-half capitulation against the Bulldogs, while the Bombers finals hopes went on life support after losing a nail-biter to the Hawks. Against the run and spread of the Bulldogs, the Saints got a preview of the kind of match they will face against Essendon and it does not bode well.
The Bombers ended a three game Saints run with their comfortable Round 17 victory last year. It saw the Saints fall further behind in clashes at Etihad Stadium, and the overall head to head, 10-13 and 68-141 respectively.
‘Dome’ sweet ‘Dome’
While officially Essendon’s home game on Friday night at Etihad Stadium, both teams are well acquainted with the Dockland venue. Despite the familiarity, it hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Saints with just two wins to show from their 10 games at the ground. The Bombers on the other hand have fared much better with a five and two record on the west side of Melbourne.
Young Ruck Talent Time
The Saints key talls and ruck stocks have been ravaged by injury throughout the 2018 season. Last weekend against the Western Bulldogs, Josh Battle and Tom Hickey joined the list of unavailable players. As the old saying goes though, crisis breeds opportunity and so it is for St Kilda this week as they bring Lewis Pierce and Rowan Marshall into the side.
Both players have played well at VFL level throughout the year and their opportunity to impress in the senior team against the Bombers, is just reward for their efforts at this level. With both Marshall and Pierce still in the early stages of their careers, just 22 and 23 respectively, it will be an exciting glimpse into what the future might hold.
A halfback threat looms again
After having watched Jason Johannisen tear them apart from the halfback flank last week, Adam Saad looms large to repeat the dose. The Bomber backman has been in fine form this year since making the move to Essendon from the Gold Coast. Given his penchant for a run and bounce, he would definitely welcome the same lack of attention the Saints afforded Johannisen last week.
Alan Richardson received a lot of heat from the media last week, most notably from David King, for his apparent lack of planning for the Bulldogs star. It would surprise if he left himself open for more of the same this week by allowing Saad the same liberties.
Is this the last time we see Brendon Goddard?
It’s not often that The Animal Enclosure gets sentimental about the possible pending retirements of former Essendon captains, but Brendon Goddard is unquestionably a special case. No matter how many games he plays for the Bombers, he will always be a Saint to us.
With speculation brewing that his career may come to an end this year but not of his own making, Friday night might be the last chance we get to see him in action. With memories strong in our minds of his 2010 Grand Final heroics and tears after his first game against St Kilda, we will be sad to see the curtain come down on his career. Not sad enough to hope he plays well this week mind you, but sad nonetheless.
Third quarter could be interesting
Both teams have struggled with third quarters this season, which could make for an interesting subplot on Friday night. After being outscored by 43-points in the third term last week, the Saints are the newly minted worst team in the third quarter this season while the Bombers are the fifth worst.
Seb Ross – 100 Games
The Reigning Best & Fairest Winner was one of the few winners for the Saints against the Bulldogs. One of the most hard working players on the list, his form over the last few seasons is testament to his efforts to leave no stone unturned.
The 25-year-old nephew of Bombers great, and former St Kilda Coach, Tim Watson will be looking for a milestone to remember after recording wins in milestone games one and fifty before. For this happy record to continue, much will rely upon his output in the middle and his ability to lead his team mates along with him.
Ben Paton – 1st Game
Paton will become the 1597th man to wear the red, black and white when he takes the field for the first time against the Bombers. The 19-year-old, taken with the number 46 pick in the 2017 draft has impressed with his performances for Sandringham this year. A player capable of winning his own ball, he will also bring elite disposal abilities to a team sadly lacking in this area.
Herald Sun: St Kilda 1, Essendon 29.
The Age: St Kilda 0, Essendon 12.
Betting: St Kilda $4.80, Essendon $1.20.
The run and spread of the Bulldogs really hurt the Saints last week which does not bode well for their chances against an Essendon team much better at it. With the Bombers requiring a big in to keep faint finals hopes alive, it also unlikely that they will offer any kind of leniency either. St Kilda might have a very long night.
What do you think? Can the Saints get the points or will the Bombers keep their faint finals hopes alive? Share your thoughts in the poll below.
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