ANZAC Day once again provided a spectacular stage for football, and this time, the Bombers found something special in front of a huge crowd.
Red and black dominated the hallowed turf as Jobe Watson skippered an emotion-charged Essendon outfit to a romping 46 point victory over Collingwood on Thursday.
With a huge 93,373 packed tightly into the MCG, it took 15 minutes of game time before the goal drought was broken by Zaharakis. Calamity ensued for the majority of the first quarter, as no one properly cleared the ball away from the contests and stoppages, with plenty of kicks intercepted. Kicking “yips” plagued the Magpies throughout the game, with Jarryd Blair registering the black and white army’s first goal five minutes out from quarter time. Sitting high on the back of an Essendon pack, Blair reached with outstretched arms, before going back and calmly slotting the ball through the big sticks.
Keeping a tight leash on the Bombers in the second quarter, Brent Macaffer, Steele Sidebottom and Quinten Lynch set about finding the elusive goals for the Magpies. Their mission was soundly quashed, as Jason Winderlich, Michael Hibberd and Jake Carlisle worked in brilliant tandem to rush Collingwood into kicking to difficult contests.
Travis Cloke, a match winner for Collingwood against Richmond last Saturday, was superbly held, and despite two goals, his impact was curbed significantly enough that Essendon pounced on mistakes in Collingwood’s defensive 50 to kick six goals before half time. Collingwood lead the scoring shots (16 to 10) but couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard, where it mattered most, registering just four goals.
Alwyn Davey and Jackson Merrett were everywhere, crashing contests and sending the ball into the Essendon forward line with beautiful delivery, where Zaharakis and later Winderlich (three goals) left Collingwood defenders Harry O’Brien and Ben Reid stranded.
Heath Shaw (one of Collingwood’s best players) and Alan Toovey, however, made their mark on the game with trying to quell the Bombers run over the whole game. Unfortunately for Toovey, an awkward landing on his left leg in the dying stages of the game sent the stretcher out, with the defender under a suspected ACL injury cloud.
Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury was valiant in looking to send a ripple of resurgence through his men, but it was not to be, as Jobe Watson took charge of his brigade, the Bombers blowing the margin out to 24 points at three quarter time.
Hibberd worked tirelessly all day, gathering 21 disposals, while Captain Watson amassed 31 and medal winner Zaharakis 34. Sidebottom racked up 22 in the first half, having been left alone by many Bombers players, before finishing with 31. Pendlebury finished with 29, while Dane Swan felt limited in his impact, but still gathered 30 touches.
Having faced a barrel of criticism over the last few months, Essendon came out firing to play one thing: hard, attacking football. The deafening roar of a huge MCG crowd meant the atmosphere was electric, and after half time, the floodgates opened. Two early goals in the fourth quarter to Jamie Elliott and Tyson Goldsack brought the game back to within striking distance for the Magpies, but fatigue seemed to set in, and gaping holes opened up in defence.
Leigh Matthews on Channel 7, prior to the game said, “the occasion outweighs the result.” Essendon were playing for the win, but the intensity of the match was a huge spectacle for everyone watching.
The Bombers, now 5-0, and with plenty of momentum, will face Greater Western Sydney at home next week, while Collingwood seek redemption against St. Kilda.