World news – AU – AFL season 2020, round 18: Essendon v Melbourne – live!


“Maybe to breathe a little life back into it!” pleads Dwayne Russell as Stewart marks on the siren. The Bomber duly goes back and goals, reducing the deficit to 28 points at three-quarter-time.

That quarter was not a vintage slice of modern AFL footy. Melbourne are much the better team, but their inability to convert that dominance on the scoreboard may yet give them a nervous final stanza.

Q3: 1 mins remaining: Essendon 2.3 (15) v 7.7 (49) Melbourne – Question: Salem is a lovely-looking footballer (Pendlebury-esque / Pendlebury-lite to my eyes) but is he any good? He gets loads of footy, and he seems to use it well across half-back when the jeopardy is low, but further forward he seems unable to hit the right target or act decisively, commensurate to his obvious ability. Discuss.

Q3: 2 mins remaining: Essendon 2.3 (15) v 7.7 (49) Melbourne – Finally some lovely skill in broken play, from Pickett, collecting a bouncing ball on the run then finding Hunt inboard with some good vision. Hunt makes a mockery of some early kicking yips by crunching a huge long straight goal and the quarter finally has a six-pointer.

Q3: 3 mins remaining: Essendon 2.3 (15) v 6.7 (43) Melbourne – The handling errors and fumbled marks, missed targets and poor skill-execution this quarter has been embarrassing. The ball is locked in Essendon’s defensive half but Melbourne can’t pick a pass and the Bombers seem able to only hug the boundary in response. The only clutch of players doing anything like their job to a high standard is the Demon defensive line.

Q3: 5 mins remaining: Essendon 2.3 (15) v 6.7 (43) Melbourne – The state of this. You’d think it was raining sideways the way these sides are making such hard work of kicking a goal in perfect conditions.

Q3: 7 mins remaining: Essendon 2.3 (15) v 6.7 (43) Melbourne – The commentators are as bored as me, talking about the shape and firmness of the Sherrins while Melbourne attack and Brown marks in the right forward pocket. Nobody even bothers to narrate the dreadful set shot miss.

Q3: 9 mins remaining: Essendon 2.3 (15) v 6.6 (42) Melbourne – Yikes! Stringer has a set shot opportunity 50m out on an angle but he opts to chip inboard and concedes an awful turnover. Melbourne rebound at pace – then they cough up possession unopposed.

Then it’s Essendon’s time to attack from broken play and Daniher – from his first disposal of the game, I think – offers May a chest mark. Melbourne, equally as giving, do pretty much the same down the other end. This is not champagne footy.

Q3: 12 mins remaining: Essendon 2.3 (15) v 6.6 (42) Melbourne – Gawn has dominated in the ruck, and with Viney and Oliver busy at ground level Melbourne’s engine room looks potent, but the connection to the outside – and the composure outside when Petracca is not on the ball – remains a concern. After enjoying a couple of minutes of territorial advantage based on a series of stoppage wins the Dees have nothing to show for it. Essendon finally manage to rebound and McDonald-Tipungwuti and Stringer combine for what should be a goal but the latter can only manage a behind.

Q3: 14 mins remaining: Essendon 2.2 (14) v 6.6 (42) Melbourne – The half begins with a couple of minutes of turnover footy between the arcs. Hunt and Laverde should both do better with time and space but it’s pretty scrappy from both sides.

In other footy news, confirmation has just come through that Steele Sidebottom WON’T feature in this year’s finals after all. The Collingwood winger is in Victoria following the birth of his daughter, and the challenges of him returning to Queensland and going through the quarantine procedure have proved too much for the Pies.

Ben Rutten has just given a brief stand-up interview to Fox Sports, and it didn’t inspire much confidence. He was honest about his team’s failings at least, but it wasn’t the demeanour one might imagine from a young hungry coach looking to stamp his authority on his side – no wonder Woosha has hogged the mic all year.

Maybe I’m falling victim to pop-psychology and the cliche of the flinty schemer head coach, but Rutten’s body language and almost apologetic smile do not make me believe. Maybe he’s a training ground genius who will transform the Bombers subtly over a period of time? He might need to sharpen up his presentation skills if he’s to get the time he requires.

HT Stats. 🔢Goals 👉 Hunt (2), Neal-Bullen (2), Fritsch + PetraccaTop Disposals 👉 Oliver (15), Brown (13) + Petracca (12)#GoDees #AFLDonsDees

The Demons are doing their bit, the finals race will be alive at least another 24-hours. The Bombers are not very good, and they are flattered by the 28-point margin.

Q2: 3 mins remaining: Essendon 2.2 (14) v 6.6 (42) Melbourne – Fritsch misses another sitter, then messes up one-on-one on the goal-line against Saad. The Demons should be out of sight already. Enter Petracca. The game’s real star quality takes matters into his own hands, marking firmly on the lead on the arc, he goes back and absolutely roosts a set shot fully 60m. Bosh!

This could get ugly for the Dons. Melbourne went coast-to-coast there practically unopposed with no pressure on the ball-carrier and little tracking of the leading forward.

Q2: 6 mins remaining: Essendon 2.1 (13) v 5.6 (36) Melbourne – The Demons have stepped it up a gear this quarter and the Bombers are struggling to keep pace. Neal-Bullen is the latest to goal, belting home from 35m after backing himself to withstand a couple of hip-and-shoulders that were laid with all the conviction of a feather colliding with a snowflake. Before that Melbourne were allowed too much time and space to handball through the corridor. Essendon could unravel here.

Q2: 7 mins remaining: Essendon 2.1 (13) v 4.5 (29) Melbourne – The Demons are absolutely annihilating the Bombers at the centre bounce. Again Gawn wins the tap and the ball is inside 50 in the blink of an eye. Not for the first time today they leave points on the field though with Brown fluffing his lines from the simple set shot.

Q2: 8 mins remaining: Essendon 2.1 (13) v 4.4 (28) Melbourne -There is that fourth goal. Superb fast ball movement through the corridor and a decisive throughball from Petracca finds three unguarded Demons steaming through. After some unselfish handballs Hunt kicks the goal.

Q2: 10 mins remaining: Essendon 2.1 (13) v 3.4 (22) Melbourne – The Demons should be another goal to the good but Fritsch opts to pass from 25m out in the left forward pocket, and he misses his target Spargo in the goalsquare. Some of Melbourne’s decision making and execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Q2: 12 mins remaining: Essendon 2.0 (12) v 3.4 (22) Melbourne – Some rare clinical footy from the Demons. That centre clearance dominance this time converts immediately into a sharp attack. Fritsch escaped his marker Ridley with ease to present an open target for his onrushing midfield. The delivery is sound, as is the mark and the set shot, and Melbourne kick clear.

Q2: 13 mins remaining: Essendon 2.0 (12) v 2.4 (16) Melbourne – Melbourne clearly have the upper hand in tight with Viney scrapping like a snapper turtle and Gawn throwing his weight around. It’s outside that they’re struggling though. Another centre bounce victory comes to nought, then a second sortie, this time down the left wing, fails to find a target inside-50.

A third attack, again down the left flank, does finally find a free Dee, and Neal-Bullen kicks an excellent goal, snapping across his body from deep in the pocket 30m out.

Just before Melbourne launched that attack Daniher was stiff not to be awarded a mark after beating Smith 1-on-1 in a contest but he doesn’t bring the ball to ground and the Demons rebound coast to coast.

Let’s go boys. Let’s finish the year on a high for Worsfold’s final game as coach whose efforts I have greatly appreciated and wish him well back with his family in Perth.

I concur, 20CNS. I guess that’s the benefit of operating in a state that isn’t dominated by a rabid AFL media. Rarely can a side have ever stockpiled so much talent for so little reward – and the coach is escaping near enough without a scratch.

If he’s still desiring his ideal playing list, after… what, seven years in charge (and he was running the play for the year before that while Sheedy stood up and did the pressers)… then I think it’s fair to ask what’s he been doing all that time? Surely by now he’s had long enough to get his ducks in a row with players, captain, and assistants?

I was a vegetarian for many years, and then started eating fish again, which I’ve never regretted. However I’ve never seriously considered becoming vegan, because I would miss dairy too much – I just love my cheese.But after three and a half minutes of that abominable video you posted to mark this « final countdown », Jonathan, I’m reconsidering, as I’m about to say the words I’ve never said before: « Too much cheese! »

If you want to rot your brain, search for Final Countdown covers on YouTube, it is a poor reflection on how far we’ve come as a species.

Deary me, who’d be a Melbourne fan? The Demons were on top for most of the quarter, and with 20 seconds remaining had their best ball user Salem streaming out of his defensive 50 with a paddock to gallop into. Of course, one hospital handball and a turnover later, Essendon have pinged it onto Stringer’s chest 20m out in the left forward pocket. The Bombers lead at the first break.

Q1: 3 mins remaining: Essendon 1.0 (6) v 1.4 (10) Melbourne: This is not a classic. Melbourne seem like they have the upper hand, just, but they don’t have the fluid movement to convert their inside grunt into attacking threat. In the latest illustration, Viney bullies his way into possession then scrubs the ball forward messily. He’s fortunate on this occasion that Spargo is awarded a free for being tackled without the ball, but yet again Melbourne don’t take advantage, with the long range effort floating through for a behind.

Q1: 5 mins remaining: Essendon 1.0 (6) v 1.3 (9) Melbourne: Melbourne are trying to finesse the Sherrin around Metricon Stadium at a sedate pace – but do they have the skills to own the footy and create space? Essendon, by contrast, are playing more frantically – when they can – and favouring broken play.

The short answer to that rhetorical question about Melbourne’s slow play is yes, yes they can. They take an age to send it from coast to coast, through about 15 pairs of hands, at snail’s pace. Eventually there’s a delivery to the hot spot where Fritsch climbs highest to take a tidy pack mark. But for the second time this quarter he goes back and misses the kind of shot a professional footballer should be kicking.

Q1: 8 mins remaining: Essendon 1.0 (6) v 1.2 (8) Melbourne: Melbourne hit back immediately. Another centre bounce win, another scrubby kick forward, but this time the bounce of the ball favours the Dees and lands with Petracca who offloads to Hunt. The speedster then darts infield, scampers inside-50, straightens up, and kicks the goal on the run.

Q1: 8 mins remaining: Essendon 1.0 (6) v 0.2 (2) Melbourne: From broken play in midfield McDonald-Tipungwuti rides his luck in the initial tackle, then shows great skill to sashay into space, then pick the perfect pass deep to Laverde one-on-one. The No.15 then wins the marking contest Hawkins-like and drills the set shot from 30m out. Class from McDonald-Tipungwuti.

Q1: 10 mins remaining: Essendon 0.0 (0) v 0.2 (2) Melbourne: The early stages have been played on Melbourne’s terms with Oliver and Viney busy in tight and Salem classy across halfback. Behind them May has the defensive line set up firmly.

Essendon are building though, picking their way through midfield nicely through Saad, but delivery inside-50 has so far asked too much of Daniher under enormous pressure.

Q1: 13 mins remaining: Essendon 0.0 (0) v 0.2 (2) Melbourne: Gawn and Viney give Melbourne first use but it’s messy possession. It takes an Essendon boot forward to create some shape to the game with the Demons building methodically out of defence until Brown marks strongly just on 50 – excellent transition from Melbourne. Brown kicks truly but it’s spoiled through for a point.

Essendon don’t clear from the kick-in and some smart ball use from Salem then Petracca pounds the Dees back deep inside-50. The Bombers then concede a high tackle free on Fritsch, but from 30m on a slight angle the kick misses.

Warm and dry on the Gold Coast this afternoon with only a modest easterly breeze to report in the way of adverse conditions.

Essendon have taken to the ground in their familiar black uniform with the red sash, Melbourne are in their clash-ish guernsey with the azure blue base, rather than their more familiar navy, along with white shorts.

Richmond take on Adelaide at 5.10pm (I’ll have logged off by then I’m afraid – back tomorrow for Geelong v Sydney) when the Tigers will surely cement their top-four finish and flag favouritism. Can anyone stop them? For mine they are now very clear premiership favourites.

From the outside, his leadership and diplomacy in those early couple of seasons appeared enormously significant in rebuilding the club’s reputation. But the past couple of years he’s seemed an awkward fit for a club searching for some defining character to satisfy such a long period without success.

CTE has been in the news again this week with former Demon Shaun Smith awarded a considerable sum in an insurance payout.

MLC Life Insurance on Friday recognised Smith had suffered “total and permanent disablement” due to the head knocks he sustained during his 11-year career.

A class action featuring multiple former professionals seems increasingly likely. How the AFL, and administrators from other contact sports, respond to this landscape remains to be seen.

Just the one change for the Dees with Michael Hibberd returning from ankle soreness. Neville Jetta makes way.

B: J.Smith, S.May, M.HibberdHB: T.Rivers, J.Lever, C.SalemC: E.Langdon, C.Petracca, A.vandenBergHF: J.Hunt, S.Weideman, A.Neal-BullenF: K.Pickett, M.Brown, C.SpargoFOLL: M.Gawn, J.Viney, C.OliverI/C: J.Melksham, A.Tomlinson, B.Fritsch, O.Baker

Three changes for the Bombers with Michael Hurley, Mason Redman and Jayden Laverde coming in for Andrew Phillips, Mitch Hibberd and Jacob Townsend.

B: J.Ridley, B.Zerk-Thatcher, M.GleesonHB: D.Smith, M.Hurley, A.SaadC: T.Cutler, Z.Merrett, B.HamHF: W.Snelling, J.Stewart, M.GuelfiF: J.Stringer, J.Daniher, A.McDonald-TipungwutiFOLL: S.Draper, D.Shiel, D.ParishI/C: J.Laverde, M.Redman, D.Clarke, K.Langford

That’s right, hello, good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of what may well be the fixture that sets in stone the top-eight for season 2020. If the Demons fail to vanquish the Bombers then the Bulldogs are in the finals. Should Simon Goodwin’s side win, then it all comes down to the Dogs v the Dockers tomorrow night.

St Kilda were always likely to make the eight, but their handsome victory over the Giants meant they became the seventh confirmed finalist, joining Collingwood, Geelong, Richmond, West Coast, Brisbane, and Port Adelaide. Defeat for GWS ended their slim hopes of sneaking through the backdoor, reducing the battle for the last available spot to a shootout between the Demons and Dogs.

The Bullies are in pole position, and if they beat Fremantle tomorrow, then they make it through. However, if they don’t, Melbourne’s superior percentage means a win today would see the Dees somehow break even in a season that has contained more than its fair share of low points.

Will they do it? Who the heck knows!? No team’s form has been more volatile in 2020. And this is Melbourne we’re talking about, a club flakier than a suburban fish & chip shop. In round 12 they hammered Collingwood and seemed set not only for the finals but the tag of dark horses during October. A week later they were shown up by the Bulldogs. Despair quickly turned to jubilation with a memorable last-gasp win over the Saints, four points that preceded a pair of dismal performances against outsiders Sydney and Fremantle. Then with their season on the line they did enough to slip beyond the Giants last time out.

Perhaps the biggest thing in Melbourne’s favour is their opposition. If Goodwin was able to handpick one team to face in such a sudden death scenario, Essendon would be close to the top of the list. The Dons have just one win in nine outings and they’ve been soundly belted in their last couple, with negative stories dominating the media about their list management and coaching succession plan.

Speaking of that plan, today marks John Worsfold’s final day as Essendon’s nominal head coach. Ben Rutten has been charged with the majority of matchday coaching responsibilities this season, the notable omission being anything to do with the press – which, as you can imagine, has gone down swimmingly on this side of the fence. Worsfold’s tenure must be among the more challenging to appraise. He navigated the troubled club out of the damaging supplements scandal, then oversaw a strategic decision to open the club’s premiership window with the targeting of mature-age recruits in favour of draft picks. The jury is very much out on that approach.

That will do for now, but remember, if you want to get in touch at any point, you can reach me on Twitter or email, and we will be open below the line if you want to chat amongst yourselves.

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