Archie Perkins during the round one match between Essendon and Hawthorn at the MCG, March 16, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

ESSENDON'S round one victory was driven by midfield dominance, and without former All-Australian Darcy Parish in the mix, it was Archie Perkins who rose to the challenge.

It was a career-best performance from the 21-year-old, whose strength through the middle resulted in 24 disposals and eight clearances, while also sliding forward and kicking two crucial goals in the third quarter.

The Bombers recorded a damaging 18 centre clearances to Hawthorn's nine, with Perkins responsible for a third of those.

BOMBERS v HAWKS Full match coverage and stats

Post-match, Essendon coach Brad Scott tentatively likened Perkins to Sydney's Isaac Heeney, reflecting on the most damaging position for the youngster as the season evolves.

"I heard John Longmire talking about Isaac Heeney, it's like, he's an All-Australian forward but you know, he's clearly dominating through the midfield… Perk's got a fair way to go to replicate what Isaac's doing, but he's a similar type in terms of we really like him forward, but we really like him in the midfield too," Scott said.


For Perkins, earning those extra midfield minutes is something he views as an opportunity to grow as a footballer.

"I think I'm certainly ready for that extra responsibility that comes with playing in the midfield and I think it will help me as a player to be around the ball more, grow my game from the contest, and it just gets me up around the ball," Perkins said.

"With Darcy out, obviously he's a really good player, it's up to guys like me, Jye (Caldwell), Sam (Durham) to pick up the slack and get that inside ball, so I was very pleased today."

That competition for spots is another positive Scott, and the Bombers, have up their sleeve.

Archie Perkins and Brad Scott chat during Essendon's training session at the NEC Hangar, January 22, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"I think it's really helped me, playing in the midfield, helped me use my strengths, but I'm also aware there's a lot of guys who can go through there, so any given week I'm ready to play multiple positions," Perkins said.

"It definitely motivates you and pushes you, it's been like that throughout the whole preseason, we've had a lot of guys running around there. So, I think it's really raised the standards at training. It's only a good thing."

Something Perkins impressed with against the Hawks, however, was his pressure. Laying a career-best 12 tackles, he offered important defensive coverage for his teammates. His ability to find that balance between winning the footy and protecting his fellow Bombers, might just be the thing that has him ahead of others when it comes to that midfield time.

"I just wanted to start the season in a really fierce and competitive way, so whether that's winning the ball myself in the contest, or in tackling on the defensive side, that was my focus coming into today. I just wanted to be really fierce around the contest, and I think that came out," Perkins said.

But for now, the round one win has reinforced that Essendon is playing a strong brand of footy, and for Perkins it couldn't have been better.

"To be at the MCG, it's a big crowd, a nice day. It's good."