AFL: Anzac Day AFL preview
Michael Gleeson, Greg Baum and Martin Blake preview the Anzac Day blockbuster game between Essendon and Collingwood.PT0M0S 620 349
1. Is this the battle of the walking wounded?
Forgive the slightly gratuitious Anzac comparison, but both teams are going in with around one- quarter of their lists missing because of injuries. Essendon has more by numbers, but Collingwood's absentees are possibly more significant in terms of quality.
The Bombers are unbeaten, yet cannot call upon Michael Hurley, David Hille, Jason Winderlich, Mark McVeigh, Brent Prismall, David Myers, Nathan Lovett-Murray or Scott Gumbleton. Travis Colyer may not be available either although he is making a bid.
Fighting fit? Essendon coach James Hird talks to Courtenay Dempsey and Nathan Lovett-Murray. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Collingwood has three knee victims - Luke Ball, Andrew Krakouer and Brent Macaffer - plus Ben Reid, Heath Shaw, Chris Tarrant and Dale Thomas certainly not playing. Alan Didak and Nathan Brown may or may not play.
2. What selection surprises are in store?
Essendon blooded a first-gamer last weekend in Cory Dell'Olio, who probably will play again tomorrow. This week, watch out for Luke Davis, 19, who has been in form at VFL level. Davis, a quick defender, spent last year with Bendigo.
The Pies are thinking about bringing in Alan Didak (left) and Nathan Brown. Photo: Paul Rovere
Kyle Reimers and Jake Carlisle could return and Henry Slattery also must have a chance.
Collingwood most likely will pick Alan Didak after his protracted absence with injury. He showed signs of his old dynamism in the VFL last weekend. Whether Nathan Brown makes his return after a knee reconstruction is less clear. Brown has played parts of four games now and has been good. With Reid and Tarrant out of the back half, he would be handy.
3. What's the issue for Collingwood?
Collingwood is fading out. In its 2010 premiership, the Magpies flogged teams in the final stanza; in four games this season, they have not 'won' a single fourth quarter. In the past three weeks, their total of final-quarter goals is three.
Whether it's just a small sample or whether it means something is up for debate. Certainly against Port the Pies slowed the game down and were happy to get the four points, even if they were outscored in the last quarter.
Perhaps it is a result of the injuries and the fact Nathan Buckley has a few younger players running around who have not had the benefit of the years of hard training and altitude work.
Certainly James Hird will be mentioning this number to his players if the game is close at three-quarter time.
4. Is the short break an excuse?
As an old footyhead pointed out this week, players used to front up for matches on a Tuesday night when the pre-season competition was actually played in-season. But in the modern era it seems an impost on players to have just three clear days to prepare.
Some will still be sore from the weekend and some will not make it to the line.
Ultimately the players will push through it, and the best of them will make light of it.
The one thing that's clear is that it is the same for both teams.
5. What's the key for Essendon?
Unlocking the Collingwood press. The Bombers have serious pace and if they match it with daring, as they did against Carlton last weekend, they can bust a forward press and get easy goals.
The Magpies' press has been ineffective in 2012, although they ramped up the defensive pressure with 90-odd tackles against Port last weekend. A bold Essendon stands the best chance.