Second elimination final
North Melbourne v Essendon
Saturday, 7.15pm, MCG
Dyson Heppell's hand feels fine, Mark Baguley received a heavy hit to the head late in Saturday's draw with Carlton and will need to be watched this week and David Myers will return from illness. Jake Carlisle is the Bombers' big concern, thanks to what has been described as a very minor hamstring problem, but aside from that they look to have a settled side. The Roos will probably lose Lachie Hansen, again, to the hip injury he has been managing, while Nathan Grima required treatment for a corked quad during the club's Saturday night win over Melbourne and Nick Dal Santo got a bit of rest in by starting as the sub. The club will have some big selection decisions to make with Todd Goldstein, Lindsay Thomas, Levi Greenwood, Luke McDonald and Michael Firrito all keen to get their spots back sitting the final round out.
These clubs have met just once, in round one. After an ordinary pre-season the Bombers won easily, by 39 points, beating the Roos at what they back themselves to do best – get the ball. Led by Dyson Heppell, Jobe Watson and Brendon Goddard, the Bombers controlled the game from start to finish, dominating possessions (449-291), clearances (52-30) and stoppages (35-21) and moving the ball quickly and cleanly once they got their hands to it, with neither Cale Hooker nor Michael Hurley letting too many kicks get past them. North had at least one win, with Thomas kicking four goals, while Paul Chapman also kicked four, wearing his red and black jumper for the first time.
Who will win and why
Much will depend on whether Essendon can get Carlisle through a week of training and back into the side – given the two midfields are so well matched, the game could well be won by whichever club gets the most (or, the most effective) inside 50 entries. Ben Cunnington, Jack Ziebell, Andrew Swallow and Levi Greenwood will not want a repeat of what happened at the coalface in round one and North has put it together against some of the season's best teams, but Watson, Heppell and the Bombers will be doing their best to make sure that's exactly what happens. Neither side has proved very predictable at all this year, with inconsistently striking within games as often as it has week to week. Let's go with Essendon, given their best is more damaging, but check back about 6.15pm on Thursday night, then wait to see which version of either team turns up on Saturday night. One thing is for certain: both these clubs really, really want to win some finals again.