1. Who’s your Darling
West Coast’s stellar start to the year got another boost with Jack Darling and Xavier Ellis getting back from injury for their first games of the year. They started at either end of the ground with Darling having the first impact with a snapped behind after 11 minutes, and he slotted his first goal in the second term. Ellis settled across half-back and was unobtrusive but effective. It’s easy to forget how talented Darling is and what he gives to the forward line. He is a super runner, hard at it and a terrific set shot. It also meant Mark LeCras (four goals) got off the leash a bit more and Josh Kennedy didn’t have so much riding on his shoulders. And ex-Hawks premiership player Ellis is cool, calm and rarely takes the wrong option.
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2. Battle of the bookends
Eagles full-forward Josh Kennedy and Essendon’s full-back Cale Hooker are arguably the best in the competition at the moment in their respective positions, and their Domain Stadium duel was a beauty. Hooker was outstanding early and had six intercept marks in the first half and had kept Kennedy goalless until just before half-time. However, the signs were there in the shadows of the long break that weight of numbers was starting to tell. Kennedy handed off one goal then got his first at the 28-minute mark of the second term. He still had just the one at three-quarter time but a late flurry saw him end the match with three goals. However, Hooker was one of the best for Essendon.
3. No rucks, no worries? Think again
Essendon took the big gamble playing two forwards, Joe Daniher and Jake Carlisle, in the ruck against West Coast’s well-credentialed duo Nic Naitanui and Callum Sinclair. And it’s fair to say it was a total flop. It was the height of arrogance to think you could just throw a couple of forwards into such a tough, specialised position, and while the Bombers might argue they weren’t thrashed in clearances, it was a steep hill to climb at every ball-up. At one stage in the second term, the Eagles won four consecutive free kicks at ball-ups, three to Nic Nat and one to Sinclair. Daniher also got caught napping when Sinclair snapped a goal in that second term, and Carlisle was limping by half-time after a series of heavy centre bounce clashes with Nic Nat, who incidentally finished the game with five free kicks and 43 hit-outs. Sinclair had three frees and 30 hit-outs. And the Bombers didn’t get even one goal out of Carlisle and Daniher.
4. Morale at Bomberland
It’s been another tough few weeks for Essendon as the never-ending supplements saga story goes on and on and on. They looked shot mentally against the Cats in round 10 but one indicator that morale was OK at Domain Stadium was how hard they attacked the contest from the outset. They were leading the hard-ball gets stat 18-7 early in the second term and weren’t blown away early like many visiting teams in Perth this year. It’s fair to say they had a dip for most of the game. It might have helped that a number of the Bombers were heading directly from Perth to Bali after the match for a few days of R&R during their bye, although that may have also contributed to their final-term fadeout.
5. The mummy returns
Jeremy McGovern has been a lifesaver for the Eagles after stepping into the key defensive role after bad knee injuries to Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown. But he has been hampered by a number of injuries himself this year, and by the end of the opening term had used the Eagles entire inventory of strapping tape. His right knee, right thigh and left-hand thumb were heavily wrapped, and with Kennedy having a fair bit of tape on his troublesome right elbow, the edict went out from coach Adam Simpson that no other Eagles were allowed to get injured at all ... there’s no tape left.
The Bombers and James Hird will welcome a week off. Picture: AFL Media
1. Who’s your Darling