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Mid-season review: Essendon

Essendon's mid-season report card Cal Twomey takes a look at the Bombers
Dyson Heppell has led from the front for the Dons this year - AFL,Essendon Bombers,Mid-season reviews
Dyson Heppell has led from the front for the Dons this year

The season so far

Essendon came into the season as one of the great unknowns, and as we enter the second half of the year, the Bombers are still something of a mystery. Their best is exceptional – strong wins over Geelong, West Coast and Port Adelaide have shown their devastating speed and dangerous forward line. Their new-found speed, thanks to the rapid development of Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, plus the addition of No.1 pick Andrew McGrath, has made Essendon very difficult to contain when in form. But John Worsfold's men still lapse too often, with losses to Carlton, Richmond and Fremantle highlighting some of their deficiencies. They could be a threat and have the weapons to go deep into the season, but that will be dependent on their consistency improving. 

Quarters won: 25

Players used: 33

Yet to play: Josh Begley, Craig Bird, Dylan Clarke, Sam Draper, Jayden Laverde, Jake Long, Jackson Merrett, Alex Morgan, Kobe Mutch, Mason Redman, Jordan Ridley

Stats leaders

Disposals: Zach Merrett (388)
Marks: Michael Hurley (88)
Goals: Joe Daniher (34)
Tackles: Zach Merrett (65)
Metres gained: Zach Merrett (average 577.2m)
Tackles in defensive 50: Travis Colyer (15)

Best win

Round 12 against Port Adelaide. Essendon's barnstorming first term, in which they kicked seven goals to one, saw the Bombers on the way to their biggest win since 2014. Cale Hooker was the hero with five first-half goals.

One that got away

Round three against Carlton. In torrential rain the Bombers were completely outplayed by the Blues, who restricted their rivals to just six goals and 12 scoring shots to claim a 15-point win.

Best and fairest leader: Zach Merrett

Surprise packet: Conor McKenna

Who's struggling: Brent Stanton, Heath Hocking

Missing in action 

Jayden Laverde
Laverde hasn't played since he seriously injured his ankle in the JLT Community Series. He is due to return in coming weeks but will take some time to be ready for AFL selection in his third season with the club.

The concern

Essendon's win over the Power last weekend was just the second time the Bombers have won the inside-50 count this year. It points to a very efficient forward line given some of their bigger scores, but also suggests something isn't clicking in the midfield. If they can get that right and pump the ball into attack more often, look out.

Zach Merrett's form has continued to trend upwards after an impressive 2016. Picture: AFL Photos

Pass mark

The Bombers have to be aiming to making the finals and actually winning one, a feat they haven't achieved since their elimination final victory over Melbourne in 2004.

The coach

Worsfold stuck to his guns on Hooker playing as a forward despite some quieter games, and that faith was rewarded last week. He also changed the forward structure five weeks ago to include another key target, James Stewart, and the Bombers have benefited from that. It has been a challenge to reintegrate the returning suspended players – they have all hit form at different times – but Worsfold has a reasonably fit list and should be confident about the direction of the group.

How the best 22 has changed

Conor McKenna's emergence as a dashing half-back has seen him overtake a couple of other backline options in Brent Stanton and Martin Gleeson. It's a tight call in the ruck, but Tom Bellchambers has had an impact around the ground in his return to the senior side which gets him the nod over Matthew Leuenberger. David Myers and Josh Green had injury-interrupted pre-seasons but are in Essendon's best side, although Myers is yet to reach his best form after missing the best part of the last two years with injury and suspension. 

B: Mark Baguley, Michael Hartley, Patrick Ambrose
HB: Andrew McGrath, Michael Hurley, James Kelly
C: Darcy Parish, Jobe Watson, Brendon Goddard
HF: David Zaharakis, Joe Daniher, James Stewart
F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Cale Hooker, Orazio Fantasia
R: Tom Bellchambers, Zach Merrett, Dyson Heppell
I/C: David Myers, Travis Colyer, Josh Green, Conor McKenna

In from pre-season best 22: Tom Bellchambers, David Myers, Josh Green, Conor McKenna, Michael Hartley

Out from pre-season best 22: Brent Stanton, Jayden Laverde, Kyle Langford, Martin Gleeson, Shaun McKernan

Who did we tip for your club's best 22 in round one? 

Bombers fans: what's your mid-season verdict?

Share your views via the form below and we'll publish the best responses on the morning of Essendon's next match.

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