Quick as a flash Dons end contest
Two against one: Bomber Paddy Ryder is sandwiched between Brisbane Lions Ben Hudson and Jared Polec in a marking duel. Photo: Wayne Taylor
ESSENDON 8.3 12.9 16.12 19.15 (129) BRISBANE LIONS 4.1 7.4 8.4 9.8 (62)
GOALS Essendon: Crameri 4, Davey 3, Jetta 3, Monfries 2, Lonergan 2, Dempsey, Melksham, Watson, Lovett-Murray, Dyson. Brisbane Lions: Brown 2, Crisp 2, Polec 2, Cornelius, McGrath, Hudson.
BEST Essendon: Stanton, Watson, Lonergan, Bellchambers, Heppell, Fletcher, Zaharakis. Brisbane Lions: Rich, Redden, Brown, Hanley, Adcock.
INJURIES Essendon: Crameri (knee). Brisbane Lions: McGrath (groin).
UMPIRES Rosebury, Grun, Fila.
CROWD: 36,361, at Etihad Stadium.
TEN minutes effectively decided Essendon's win over the Brisbane Lions yesterday. Unfortunately for anyone remotely interested in a contest, they were the first 10 minutes. Eleven if you want to split hairs.
Whatever, it was a start to a game that not only indelibly stamped the Bombers' authority, but undermined whatever confidence the Lions had taken into a visit to a venue at which they'd won just two of their past dozen starts. Which, after three beltings in their past four games, couldn't have been a lot to begin with.
Essendon was red-hot yesterday, as slick as it's been for a long time, and tough to boot.
The Dons had a couple of behinds on the board within a minute, and a goal in less than two when Stewart Crameri snapped one from 20 metres. He had a second after five minutes, ominously for Brisbane after a dropped chest mark by Daniel Merrett in the goal square. The Bombers' third came after a silly free kick off the ball to Sam Lonergan, and the fourth only two minutes after that courtesy of Jake Melksham.
If the 26-point margin by then didn't say enough, the stats screamed it out. Just 11 minutes gone and Essendon had had seven inside 50s to the Lions' one, 16 contested possessions to five, five clearances to one. And so on.
Funnily enough, Brisbane, after falling more than five goals down, then had its best 10 minutes, kicking four of its nine goals for the entire game, one to talented draftee Jared Polec, another to third-gamer Jack Crisp, and a couple to the old-timers, skipper Jonathan Brown, then Ben Hudson, who grabbed the ball at a ruck contest, threw it on his boot, then watched, probably as amused as the rest of us, as it wobbled and bounced another 40 metres through the goals.
Even then, though, you could tell it was little more than a stalling of the inevitable, which seven goals to two after half-time confirmed officially as a 67-point win.
Essendon was hitting targets from even the unlikeliest of positions. The Lions at times couldn't hit the side of a barn. The Dons are perhaps still one or two midfielders shy of a group large enough to challenge the absolute best teams, but there's more balance evolving all the time between their engine room's grunt and their silk, as much because of the development in individuals as the addition of personnel.
Lonergan set the tone for the midfield with tremendous hardness at the contest, a dozen tackles and eight clearances; twice as many of his disposals contested than uncontested, but he finished off that work with sufficient polish too, as skipper Jobe Watson has learnt to do over a longer period. Brent Stanton just did what he always does, which is more than enough running and ball-winning. Dyson Heppell just continues to bowl along without the slightest hint of those alleged second-year blues.
Not that they needed it, but that whole group was brilliantly spoon-fed by ruckman Tom Bellchambers. His 21-disposal, nine-mark, 26-hitout game was demoralising for Hudson, who right now must be wondering why on earth he came out of retirement.
There was more cream on the cake for Essendon in the games of pocket dynamos Alwyn Davey and Leroy Jetta, who combined for six goals and the sort of tackling pressure and general heat that forced Brisbane's defence into hurried errors time after time. And what constructive attacks the Lions did manage to string together were, not for the first or even 100th time, repelled by Dustin Fletcher.
Brisbane will be hard-pressed to take much positive out of this performance. Maybe Crisp, who might sound like a Dickens character, but whose game was more contemporary.
There were a couple of goals from Polec, who oozes class, but who coach Michael Voss would probably prefer oozed possessions. And decent triers in Daniel Rich and Jack Redden.
Brown's load up forward doesn't seem likely to be lightened any time soon if players such as Aaron Cornelius continue to frustrate by showing enormous amounts of ability but precious little work ethic, and small forwards such as Todd Banfield do a disappearing act on the scale of his scarcely noticeable presence yesterday.
Voss and his coaching team would certainly have had plenty of the afternoon to ponder those issues. Because a game that started at 1.40 pm was shot to ribbons by 1.50.
DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE
The professionalism at club land continues apace, with the Bombers becoming one of the first teams to have full-time physiotherapists. The Bombers have two, and two others who are part-time. Club chief executive Ian Robson said the next step would be to have full-time doctors. ''We want them [on call] when we want them,'' he said. Robson said the Bombers were determined to shift into their new headquarters and training facility this time next year despite missing out on state government funding for the Tullamarine facility.
Stewart Crameri's nickname in the VFL was ''Handcuffs'' because, according to former teammate Matthew Lloyd, he ''never released the handball''. Crameri did not have a handball in the first term against the Lions yesterday, but the robust left-footer drilled four goals. However, Bomber delight was tempered in the final term when Crameri hurt his left knee and was helped from the field.
The Bombers took control early, booting the opening four goals before the Lions had even scored. Surprisingly, skipper Jobe Watson had not touched the football by the time Jake Melksham booted the Bombers' fourth with a clever snap. However, Watson would get busy from that point, finishing with an equal team high of 10 disposals by the first break and 36 for the match. - JON PIERIK