‘Battered’ Heppell helps real Dons stand up
FOR the Past fortnight, the football world had sounded a bit like Eminem.
Would the real Essendon please stand up?
It couldn't have been that bad, could it?
There had been the debilitating loss to Greater Western Sydney, then the horror clips of damning vision that circulated on social media from the St Kilda defeat.
But finally the Bombers resembled what had become their summer reputation.
Fast, flashy and attacking, Essendon withstood a late charge from Melbourne to deliver an 18-point victory at the MCG on Friday night .
The first win of the season avoided what would have been the team's worst start since 1967.
It wasn't perfect - hardly - but there was evident relief.
Zach Merrett responded, while a "battered and bruised" Dyson Heppell led the charge. To say it was needed at Tullamarine is an understatement.
"You know as skipper you do wear it quite hard," Heppell said on Channel 7.
"The help I've had from this playing group standing up as leaders, it's super."
Essendon coach John Worsfold praised Heppell for standing up, but refuted the suggestion the win had resulted from a release of pressure on the game plan.
"It's not my job to answer questions of people not involved in our footy club," he said.
"I answer the questions to the players, the coaching staff, our club.
"We're all on the same page with what we're doing, so everyone's been very clear with what we're working on and what we want to get to.
"We've all been disappointed in the start to the season, but it didn't mean we didn't believe in what we're doing."
When the fixture boffins sat down last October to nut out this season, this clash would have seemed mouth-watering.
And despite the two teams' ladder positions and winless status leading them into the Friday night lights, that's exactly what it ended up becoming. Zinging passages of play, pile-ons of unanswered goals, swinging lead changes and flashes of brilliance from both sides in periods.
It's not over for the Demons by any stretch - there's still 20 weeks to go.
But on a day where all the talk was about losing, it was a missed opportunity that would be hurting them on Saturday.
There is a lot to fix.
ON THE DEE-FENCE
Early in the game, Melbourne's defensive set-up was all over the shop.
While they looked impressive up forward in patches, the Bombers burst through their defence like it was a banner, tearing it to shreds.
They seemed disorganised and allowed the Bombers goal-side far too easily on several occasions and paid the price.
Needs tightening up, or opposition teams will quickly work out how to capitalise.
Max Gawn truly a shining light after a difficult fortnight.
DEVIL IN THE DETAIL
The big-name Bomber recruit got plenty of it - there's no doubt about that.
He played on at seemingly every opportunity, but it was Dylan Shiel's ball use that raised more than a few eyebrows at the MCG.
While his ball-winning ability was key to the Bombers in the second term, his disposal efficiency sat below 50 per cent for the majority of the match - the lowest of any Bomber - and was slammed by premiership former Kangaroo David King.
"He's missed far too many easy opportunities," King said on Fox Footy.
The talk might have been all about prohibitive contact this time last week, but it was holding in marking contests that seemed the focus for the umpires on Friday night.
They were hot on it in the first half, with Bombers forward Jake Stringer the recipient of a free kick in the first quarter after a contest with Neville Jetta, with a goal from 55mthe result.
Demon Alex Neal-Bullen earned one soon after with Adam Saad deemed in the wrong.
"They have set the standard now," former North Melbourne forward Wayne Carey said on Channel 7.
"As long as they pay them all night, I'll be happy.
"It's got a bit of the rule of the week look about it."
MELBOURNE 18.4 (112)
ESSENDON 20.10 (130)
Melbourne: Hunt 3, Harmes 3, Lockhart 2, Weideman 2, Melksham 2, Neal-Bullen, C. Wagner, Petracca, Gawn, Kolodjashnij, Brayshaw
Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti 4, McKernan 4, Stringer 4, Smith 2, Fantasia 2, Baguley, Zaharakis, McGrath, Parish
LAUREN WOOD'S BEST
Melbourne: Gawn, Brayshaw, Oliver, Jones, Viney, Harmes
Essendon: Heppell, Zaharakis, Merrett, McKernan, Stringer, McDonald-Tipungwuti
LAUREN WOOD'S VOTES
3 - Dyson Heppell (Ess)
2 - David Zaharakis (Ess)
1 - Max Gawn (Melb)
Melbourne: McDonald (ankle)
Essendon: Mutch (hamstring), Francis (corked quad)
Umpires: Stevic, Harris, Haussen
Official crowd: 52,475 at the MCG