Jordan Ridley celebrates a goal during the round 11 match between Richmond and Essendon at the MCG, May 25, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

ESSENDON has solidified its top-two spot, outlasting a plucky Richmond by 12 points in the 20th Dreamtime at the 'G clash.

After a month of sub-50 scores, the Tigers were much improved, but the Bombers were far more clinical for most of the match, sewing up the 12.14 (86) to 10.14 (74) result.

TIGERS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

Richmond certainly had its chances, kicking four behinds to open the final term, but hard-running Essendon skipper Zach Merrett rose to the occasion, crumbing beautifully and kicking truly to score the opening goal of the quarter, a whopping 18 minutes into the period.

Shai Bolton was subbed off with concussion after copping some friendly fire from Mykelti Lefau early in the fourth term – the sole injury Richmond suffered – and the Tigers sorely missed the livewire in the last 20 minutes.


The word "thumping" doesn't quite cover Richmond's past two losses by a cumulative 210 points, so Tiger fans would have been thrilled with basic competitiveness, let alone still being in the game in the final few minutes.

Jake Stringer celebrated game 200 with four goals and was the clear difference in the match, while Dustin Martin thrilled fans with a sterling return to form.

Essendon looked to be the better team with a more even spread of talent across the park, particularly given Richmond's lengthy injury list, but you never want to write off a team with Bolton and Martin.


With Liam Baker returning after two weeks off with a corked leg and adding some much-needed grunt around the stoppages, the pair received more regular ball into attack, and had the Bomber defenders on their toes for most of the night.

A free kick and then a 50m penalty – both touchy decisions – resulted in consecutive Bombers goals in the second, defender Jordan Ridley celebrating his first game of the season after quad issues with a rare major.

Ridley was simply superb on return – taking home the Yiooken Trophy for best-afield – relishing the rushed forward 50 entries from the Tigers, as did teammates Jayden Laverde and Mason Redman, the trio controlling the uncontested play and comfortably winning the aerial battle.


Essendon capitalised by scoring on turnover – an area of concern Richmond coach Adem Yze had highlighted in his press conference the day prior – at one point late in the second term having scored 43 of its 49 points from the source.

The Bombers had been threatening during that period, moving the ball with fluidity down the ground as they skipped out to a three-goal lead, but Mykelti Lefau booted two goals in less than two minutes to return to touching distance.


Kyle Langford was uncharacteristically quiet in the first half, but sprang to life in the third term, kicking two crucial goals, the second with just three seconds remaining in the quarter. He also sealed the result with a steady set shot late in the game.

Richmond had played around with the personnel within its structure, bringing in Samson Ryan as forward-ruck to release Noah Balta to the backline, with Tylar Young not only dropped but suffering a suspected torn ACL in the VFL. Balta helped plug the dam somewhat, but the forward line remains an issue without Tom Lynch.

Injury-prone young Bomber Nik Cox was subbed off at quarter-time due to hamstring tightness.


Stringer stars at his own party
We've seen some special moments from Jake Stringer so far during his career, and he started his 200th game in style, booting three goals in the first term alone. They were all different – a curling set shot from the pocket, a deadly drop punt from the opposing side of the ground, and a long-distance bomb. His class was too much for the Richmond backline to handle.


Reports of the death of Dustin Martin's career have been greatly exaggerated
While not quite the Dusty of old, it was the type of night where you sat on the edge of your seat if Martin got near the footy inside 50. After a few weeks of speculation about his football future, the out-of-contract Martin didn't show any signs of being a little bit sick of this football thing, booting vintage, curling goals in both the first and second terms. A strong contested mark and traditional wheel-and-go set shot in the third brought the Tigers back into the game. He was hit up three times in the dying minutes, but couldn't quite get it done.


Full clubs celebrate Dreamtime
Both teams included their injured and unselected Indigenous players in the now-traditional pre-match war cry, with Rhyan Mansell, Maurice Rioli jnr, Matt Coulthard, Jayden Davey and Tex Wanganeen joining their teammates on the field. The Bombers players were draped in traditional cloaks and held spears while representatives danced, and the Indigenous men from both sides came together in the middle of the field. In the game itself, Marlion Pickett kicked a third-term goal, pulling aside his jumper at the arm and pointing to his chest, echoing Nicky Winmar's legendary action.


Yiooken Trophy voting

Jordan Ridley (Essendon) – 12 votes (3,3,3,3)
Zach Merrett (Essendon) – 9 votes (2,2,2,2,1)
Dustin Martin (Richmond) – 5 votes (2,1,1,1)
Jake Stringer (Essendon) – 3 votes (3)
Sam Durham (Essendon) – 1 vote (1)

Final votes from the panel were as follows:

Chris Johnson (Channel 7  – Chair) - J.Ridley (Essendon), Z.Merrett (Essendon), S.Durham (Essendon)

Lauren Bordin (ABC Sport) - J.Ridley (Essendon), Z.Merrett (Essendon), D.Martin (Richmond)

Jarred Cross (National Indigenous Times) - J.Ridley (Essendon), Z.Merrett (Essendon), D.Martin (Richmond)

Chris Egan (NIRS) - J.Stringer (Essendon), Z.Merrett (Essendon), D.Martin (Richmond)

Sam Landsberger (Herald Sun) - J.Ridley (Essendon), D.Martin (Richmond), Z.Merrett (Essendon)

Yiooken is a word from the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people which means 'dreaming'.


RICHMOND     3.3     6.7     9.10     10.14     (74)
      3.3     7.7     10.12     12.14     (86) 

Richmond: Martin 3, Lefau 2, Bolton 2, McIntosh, Pickett, Ralphsmith
Essendon: Stringer 4, Langford 3, Hind 2, A.Davey jnr, Ridley, Merrett 

Prestia, Martin, Baker, D. Rioli, Nankervis, Ralphsmith
Essendon: Ridley, Stringer, Merrett, Langford, Laverde 

Richmond: Bolton (concussion)
Essendon: Cox (hamstring) 

Richmond: Steely Green (replaced Bolton in the fourth term)
Elijah Tsatas (replaced Nik Cox at quarter-time) 

Crowd: 79,359 at the MCG