WHILE we wait for play to resume, and with the little bit of knowledge we've gleaned from round one, we're taking this opportunity to put the microscope on every club.
THE PRESSURE GAUGE Which coach is under the most heat?
This is Essendon's Shutdown Report Card. >> LISTEN IN THE PLAYER BELOW
The biggest lesson from round one was…
If the Bombers are going to be able to challenge the best sides in the competition they still have a long way to go with their consistency. Essendon's first half against Fremantle was impressive, but then it conceded six goals to two in the second half and if not for shortened quarters would have been overrun. Essendon has been the team you cannot trust for far too long, and under several different coaches.
What's their weapon in 2020?
Their pace and ball movement is their trick. When teams allow Essendon some space and ability to shift the ball through the corridor, there are few teams who play a brand of football more exciting. Their half-back line is stocked with speed and line-breakers, while Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti are two genuinely dangerous small forwards with zip.
What could be their downfall?
There remains two major concerns with Essendon's list. The Bombers don't have the big-bodied midfielder to support the smaller types around the ball. They haven't had one since Jobe Watson retired, and although Jake Stringer is effective in short periods, he is more damaging close to goal. How Essendon structures its forward half is also a question, with much to be left to Shaun McKernan and perhaps James Stewart as the key forward options.
Who missed out on round one and what does it mean for them?
Conor McKenna was left out of the side, and has travelled back to Ireland during the game's shutdown period. There are doubts on his future at Essendon beyond 2020, and he is keen to play as a forward while the Bombers prefer him across half-back. Martin Gleeson was left out after Jordan Ridley's emergence in the pre-season, while Andrew Phillips is ready as the next ruckman in.
Which players benefit from the break?
The Bombers couldn't put a timeline on Dyson Heppell's return from foot surgery, and he hadn't started running again before the season was paused due to COVID-19. He will be ready to play if and when games resume. Backman Paddy Ambrose will also benefit from the gap between games through his knee injury. The jury is still out on Joe Daniher's fitness, as the club and key forward take an ultra cautious approach to his recovery. The Bombers had hoped mid-season he would be ready to play again.
Who looked set for a breakout season?
All the pre-season excitement at Essendon has surrounded Andy McGrath and Darcy Parish, and their hoped step up in the midfield this year. But look a little further down the ground and there are also high expectations for defensive youngsters Ridley and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher. 'BZT' looks set to hold down a key defensive post.
Adam Saad, Daniher and McGrath are their highest priority re-signings this year. Talks were underway for a long-term deal for Saad, likely four years, before the coronavirus spread put that on hold. Discussions hadn't begun for McGrath, while Daniher will be focusing on his body before any contract talks open after last year's failed trade request. Kyle Langford, Jayden Laverde, McKernan, Ridley, Gleeson and Tom Bellchambers (free agency) are others out of contract this season. Fantasia's deal ties him to Essendon until the end of 2021, but he considered a move back to SA last year.