Dejected Bombers players leave Marvel Stadium after their massive loss to the Western Bulldogs. Pic: AAP
Dejected Bombers players leave Marvel Stadium after their massive loss to the Western Bulldogs. Pic: AAP

Tackle: ‘Pathetic’ Bombers make Woosha a target

Forget injuries, this was something else.

But what exactly was that, Essendon?

On a weekend when plenty of teams felt the pain, Herald Sun chief football writer Mark Robinsoin zeroed in on the Bombers after their stunning capitulation at the hands of the Western Bulldogs.


Bombers coach John Worsfold bites back at an angry fan after Saturday night’s horror loss. Pic: AAP
Bombers coach John Worsfold bites back at an angry fan after Saturday night’s horror loss. Pic: AAP




1. What was that, Essendon?

The texts came at quarter-time. Every Essendon person either sent them or received them. Disappointment and disbelief eventually gave way to texts dripping with anger and fury as the Bulldogs piled on goal after goal. The positive trajectory from the past five weeks has been enveloped by doom. Suddenly coach John Worsfold is a target because his insipid players made him a target. That's what happens when players surrender. It's also what happens when the coach's game plan doesn't stand up. It's too easy to say the coach must be sacked. It's far bigger than that. When a team kicks 106 points from turnovers there are queries about defending without the ball. Worsfold may well be gone if his players surrender over the next two weeks - they play Fremantle away and Collingwood at the MCG. As coach he is responsible for every aspect. but this was also a players' issue. This was pathetic. The team has kicked eight goals in six quarters of football. They didn't come to play in the second half against Port Adelaide and didn't come to play in the four quarters against the Bulldogs. If they don't come to play over the next two weeks then change will be demanded.


2. Injuries are not an excuse

There's no shame in losing - unless you lose like that. Six changes at selection hurts connectivity but doesn't break hearts, spirit and systems. There were words spoken after the game by players and there likely will be more during the week. "We can either listen to the outside noise and succumb to the pressure or we bury deep and stick together,'' skipper Dyson Heppell said after the match. "Fair enough, we're going to cop it from the outside. We'll own that, that's fine. They can say what they like, but we're going to stay strong internally as a whole club. The whole club needs to own this one.'' The club is already bunkered down. No Essendon player or official was available for radio interviews on Sunday which was the right decision. Enough has been said already.


3. Why so inconsistent?

Orazio Fantasia is sore according to the Bombers and that may explain why he had one handball in the first half on Saturday night. He is symbolic of Essendon. He can look a million dollars or he can look a footy pauper. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is the same. One week Jake Stringer is one of the most devastating players in the AFL, the next week he scratches for seven possessions. Shaun McKernan is the same. David Zaharakis was limp and Heppell is injured. Zac Clarke is beaten every week. Every player on the field on Saturday night has the finger pointed at them. This club has been inconsistent for 15 years, which is what hurts the fans most. Is that a Worsfold problem, a players' problem or a culture problem? Starting to think there's an acceptance of mediocrity.


Jack Ziebell’s Kangaroos recorded their lowest-ever score. Pic: AAP
Jack Ziebell’s Kangaroos recorded their lowest-ever score. Pic: AAP


4. North Melbourne

A week after the joy came the crash. Two weeks into his coaching career Rhyce Shaw is in charge of the Kangas' lowest score. They went inside-50 just 34 times. Ouch. Geelong strangled North Melbourne. The Cats forced the Kangas down the line, won the ball and pumped it back into their forward 50m. It happened time after time. The naysayers will preach they shouldn't have signed Shaw so early, but that's easy commentary. One team is looking at winning a flag the other is staring at the end of the season. Strangulation became mental disintegration and the scoreline reflected that.


5. Talking of mental disintegration

Hawthorn used its system to beat the GWS Giants in Round 8. It used mental and physical toughness on Friday night. That's two negatives for Giants' coach Leon Cameron. Why did the Giants try to play dry-weather football in a blizzard? They tried to be cute and too precise as the Hawks put bodies on the line and moved the ball forward anyway possible. For a top-four contender the Giants were extremely disappointing, They can't win the flag with that sort of effort.


6. Three minutes of pain for Fremantle

The Dockers led by nine points with 2min50sec to play and they coughed up two goals and the game. The first mistake was Brad Hill kicking out of bounds from the back pocket, which led to a brilliant Jack Stevens goal. The next was two Freo defenders competing against one Saint in the air which allowed Nick Hind to win the spillage and kick the ball to Josh Bruce who kicked the winner. There were mistakes galore, but those two mistakes cost goals. The Dockers season is done. Now they have to convince Aaron Sandilands he has another year in him.


Robbo wants to see Jarryd Roughead at AFL level one more time. Pic: Getty Images
Robbo wants to see Jarryd Roughead at AFL level one more time. Pic: Getty Images


7. The Roughy debate

I'm hoping - but not confident - Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is pulling our leg. That like stripping to his shorts to run a lap in Canberra's cold on Friday was a coaching ploy, he is playing mind games with the Hawthorn faithful. And that he will laugh and cheer and say he was always going to select Roughy for a farewell this weekend. Clarkson has a momentous decision to make. If he doesn't play Roughy he will be shown to be the ruthless coach he is and that it's always team first. If he does play Roughy he will show that football is still about people and romance. You have to wonder what Roughy is thinking. Does he want a game? Does he deserve a game after averaging 13 disposals, three marks and not having a kicked a goal in his past three VFL matches? He may not deserve a game on his past three weeks, but surely has for his past 282 senior ones.


8. Demons pain

There could more to come if you listen to chief executive Gary Pert. It might be a harsh assessment, but after a preliminary final finish in 2018 the realistic expectation was Melbourne was going to be a contender in 2019. It hasn't happened. The Dees are 17th and now Pert is telling fans of a five-year plan. "The thing which is going to make us great is on-field performance,'' he told ABC Grandstand. "It's going to be five, six, seven, eight years of performing, making finals and winning a premiership and actually holding our own and producing a product that has Melbourne people like last year, 90,000 of them rolling up, to go that's what I want to be part of.'' Five? Six? Seven? Eight years? More patience required Dees fans.


9 Gold Coast

The Suns were beaten again. This time by 91 points. The question will again be asked: How can the Suns be helped? They will go to the AFL cap in hand and we wait to see how that cap will be filled. What about looking at Brisbane's NEAFL team in a bid to quickly turn it around. The Suns should strongly consider using their second-round draft pick in a trade for a combination of Ben Keays, Ryan Bastinac, Lewis Taylor, Corey Lyons, Rhys Mathieson and Jacob Allison, who are among the best players in Brisbane's all conquering NEAFL team.



After a tough year, Jack Steven and Dan Hannebery paid the Saints back. Pic: Getty Images
After a tough year, Jack Steven and Dan Hannebery paid the Saints back. Pic: Getty Images



1. Jack Steven and Dan Hannebery

Alan Richardson would have been thinking "what if" as he watched St Kilda on Sunday. Jake Carlisle, playing his eighth game this season, was superb at fullback. Dan Hannebery, playing his third game this season, had 23 possessions and kicked two goals and Jack Steven in his fifth game had 22 touches and kicked three goals. Hannebery is there for the long haul, but Steven may not be. When you saw him raise his arms in triumph at the siren, it's difficult to believe he could play for another club. He is a club champion and on Sunday an unfit Steven inspired his teammates to victory. Steven wanted to go to Geelong last year and was denied. Will he ask again?


2. Brett Ratten

Three wins from four games for Brett Ratten since replacing Richardson which ensures he will have tremendous support within the Saints' coaching selection panel. It was a gutsy, never give-up win. St Kilda was beaten with three minutes to play and found a way to win. The Saints will talk to Brad Scott and a host other potential coaches, but they would have to wow the panel to kick Ratten out of the chair. People power is evident at Carlton under David Teague and it would appear the same is happening at St Kilda under Ratten.


3. Jack Graham

Nothing like inspiring a teammate in his milestone game with a best-on-ground performance. Shane Edwards was outstanding in his 250th game. Jack Graham was better - and it was welcomed on the eve of the finals. He kicked four goals to double his season's tally, but kicking goals is not his forte. In many ways Graham is the heartbeat of effort at Tigerland. His 14 tackles against the Blues follow his 6, 13, 6, 7, 9, 11 and 9 tackles in recent games. As for Edwards, CEO Brendon Gale said it best on twitter:



"It's hard to articulate a club's culture in just a few words. Sometimes it's best understood by simply observing its people. I've thought of @S_Edwards10 and his milestone plenty this week, and he's the embodiment of our culture. He's a great man and he's a @Richmond_FC''


4. Collingwood's forward 50m

Mason Cox's injury has created an opportunity and it remains to be seen if coach Nathan Buckley will persevere with Jordan Roughead as the second key forward. The Pies have Jaidyn Stephenson and Jordan de Goey to return. They might go with Brodie Mihocek as the sole tall and surround him with de Goey, Stephenson, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Jamie Elliott and Travis Varcoe and send Roughead back to defence. They used Roughead against the Demons on Saturday and it worked well. The Magpies targeted Elliott 10 times, Hoskin Elliott five times, Mihocek five times and Varcoe five times. The Collingwood system is to have multiple targets. If the lion-hearted Mihocek is the sole tall he arguably becomes the most important Pie entering September.


Brody Mihocek is looming as the Pies’ most important forward target. Pic: Getty Images
Brody Mihocek is looming as the Pies’ most important forward target. Pic: Getty Images


5. Mitch and Charlie

The Lions are the story of the season to date and Mitch Robinson and Charlie Cameron are two of the better stories at the Lions. Loved how coach Chris Fagan was smiling when he compared Cameron to Cyril Rioli. It was a smile of adoration and appreciation, acknowledging he has been lucky to be at two clubs and be entertained by two incredible footballers. Robinson has been sent to the wing this year which was initially curious as wingmen generally have to be good users of the ball. Mitch is a plunderer in the nicest sense of the word. He gets the ball and just propels it forward. It's worked. He is averaging a career-high 93 ranking points and is averaging career highs for uncontested possessions, metres gained and intercept possessions. Since the bye he has averaged 22 disposals and 523m gained - ranked third in the league. Who would ever have thought this crash-bang player would become an elite outside player.


6. This week the Dogs kick goals

The Bulldogs didn't muck around. It started in the midfield with the ball hogs - Josh Dunkley, Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter and Marcus Bontempelli - and ended in front of goals with 11 goalkickers and a score of 21.11. Hunter told 3AW it's a positive to have a settled forward squad of Aaron Naughton and Josh Schache as the talls with Bailey Dale, Toby McLean, Tory Dickson, Sam Lloyd and Patrick Lipinksi around them. Dale has been a revelation. He has kicked 13 goals and averaged eight score involvements from his past four matches. He had just seven goals from his previous 13 matches. If the Dogs make September they will scare which ever team they play.


7. Quinton Narkle

Kudos to Patrick Dangerfield who opened up in the Herald Sun on Saturday about his dreams of winning a flag. He followed it with a best afield performance against North Melbourne. The Cats won because they won the midfield and there was no discussion about their slow football this week. They might have found a player on the eve of the finals, too. Narkle was super as a forward-mid, as was Brandan Parfitt was as a mid-forward. It's giving coach Chris Scot selection posers. Competing for the mid-forward roles are Narkle, Lachie Fogarty, James Parsons, Tom Atkins, Parfitt and Sam Menegola. By the way, 35-year-old Gary Ablett laid a game-high 10 tackles on Saturday night, giving him 10, eight, four, seven, four and seven tackles in his past six games, which is a team high.


Isaac Smith has still got it. Pic: AAP
Isaac Smith has still got it. Pic: AAP


8. Isaac Smith

When he performs as he did against GWS Giants on Friday night it is crazy to even think he won't be at Hawthorn next year. He has a year to run on a contract but there are suggestions rival clubs will seek a trade for him. If the Bulldogs or Melbourne - and have been told both clubs are keen - offer him a three-year deal he will have to strongly consider their pitch. One year and uncertainty after that at Hawthorn or three years in the hand? It was his best rated game of the season against the Giants - he won 28 disposals, season-high 761m gained and five clearances. It was the type of game which raised his trade value.


9. Peter Ladhams

Peter who? Well, Scott Lycett knows him pretty well because it is Ladhams keeping Lycett in the SANFL. That's an estimated $600,000 playing in the reserves, which is not ideal for Port. The positive is Ladhams looks to be more gold find from the club's rookie list. Ladhams was one of the best performed ruckman in the 2016 SANFL under-18s. Three years later he's co-ruckman with Patrick Ryder. He earned his spot - he averaged 21 disposals, 23 hit outs and six clearances this year in the SANFL - and is earning his spot in the seniors.



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