Date: May 08 2012
ESSENDON champion Matthew Lloyd said yesterday that the Bombers are one blue-chip midfielder short of truly competing for a premiership but believes their onballers loom as a match-winning weapon against West Coast on Saturday night.
Lloyd said the Bombers have depth through the midfield, as shown against Brisbane on Saturday when they booted their opening four goals without skipper Jobe Watson, the team's premier inside midfielder, having a disposal.
''I just think their midfield is as hard and honest as any in the competition,'' Lloyd said yesterday.
''The pressure is off Watson now to play a big game. They have Watson, (Heath) Hocking and (Sam) Lonergan and (Ben) Howlett.''
David Zaharakis and Dyson Heppell also offer plenty through the midfield.
Lloyd said the Bombers may have to find another gold-plated midfielder before they can lay claim to their first flag since 2000.
''I still think they are one elite midfielder off winning a premiership but they are so even. I see them as a top-four side this season,'' he said.
That assessment faces another challenge against the unbeaten Eagles at Etihad Stadium.
The Eagles have a horror injury list but have still been finding ways to win, not to mention upset rival clubs through their ability to controversially shrug tackles.
Lloyd said the fourth-placed Bombers, having tasted defeat just once this season, would be ready to physically test the Eagles.
''Their tackling is a huge factor in why they are playing so well,'' he said. ''I heard [Brisbane coach] Michael Voss say Essendon bashed [the Lions] up. I just think that aggressive tackling and they are not giving away too many high frees - they don't have to change too much.''
There is an evenness about both teams, which makes Saturday night even more enticing.
Each ranks in the top-five for inside 50s, goals and scores per inside 50.
Defensively, they also rank in the top-five for the least goals conceded once their opponent enters the forward 50.
The Bombers maintain forward Stewart Crameri could yet play after escaping a serious knee injury.
But Michael Hurley may have to wait another week as he recovers from a hamstring strain. Mark McVeigh and David Myers are in line for a senior recall.
''Mark played very well for Bendigo and David should be fine, so we're confident they should both be OK given they get through training this week," Bombers football manager Paul Hamilton said yesterday.
Eagles defender Adam Selwood is set to miss with split webbing in his hand, but the Eagles are hopeful ruckman Nic Naitanui, who was a late withdrawal against the Kangaroos with hamstring soreness, will return.
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