Essendon will regain Jobe Watson next week as the Bombers’ run to September opens up following their important win over fellow contenders St Kilda on Friday night.
The Dons put St Kilda to the sword at Etihad Stadium, keeping the Saints goalless in the first quarter, then kicking seven goals to two in the third term and running out 61-point victors.
The vital victory squares Essendon’s season at eight wins and eight losses after 17 rounds, and with have a favourable run home as the club attempts to return to the finals for the first time since 2014.
Watson was rested for the Bombers’ win with soreness but will return against the 17th-placed North Melbourne next week, before the Dons meet the Western Bulldogs, Carlton, Adelaide (at Etihad Stadium), Gold Coast (at Metricon Stadium) and Fremantle in their final six games.
Only the Crows are in the top-eight, with coach John Worsfold agreeing his side’s fate is in its own hands.
“It always is. There’s a massive amount of work to do and there’s a bottleneck of clubs fighting for wins and we’re going to play a lot of those clubs over the next few weeks which is great,” Worsfold said after his team’s demolition of St Kilda.
“Absolutely the team that wins next week gets a chance to be closer to the eight, and our job is to show that consistency and let the rest take care of itself.”
Essendon had winners all across the ground. Michael Hurley’s (27 disposals, nine marks, one goal) sterling form continued and he blanketed Saints star Nick Riewoldt. David Zaharakis (32 disposals, two goals) and Zach Merrett (37 disposals, 10 tackles) led the midfield, while Joe Daniher’s accuracy early in the game steered Essendon to their strong half-time advantage.
Daniher’s four-goal haul took him to 45 majors for the season – seeing him overtake his previous career best in a season (43 last year) and also jump ahead in this year’s Coleman Medal race.
Tom Bellchambers, Martin Gleeson, James Kelly and Dyson Heppell were other Bombers to impress in the win, which Worsfold said showed the team’s development since the start of the season.
“I’ve seen this group improving across the year. There’s no doubt our footy over the last three or four weeks has been better than what it was in the first four weeks of the year,” he said.
“We’re a better team now than we were in round one, so we have improved throughout the year. The aim is to maintain some improvement and not just sit back and say ‘This is where we’re at’.
“That will come from consistency. It might not mean we play better footy, but consistency of effort and performance will tell us how good we are.”
Aside from their horrendous loss to the Brisbane Lions in round 15, when they led by 27 points in the last term, and the final few minutes against Sydney the week before, the Bombers have been in strong form the past five weeks.
Worsfold said those losses were driving the Dons, who were still “dirty” about missing the opportunities to make the most of their dominance.
Watson will provide a boost against the Roos in next Saturday’s contest after the club took a cautious approach with the 32-year-old in his comeback season.
“He’s carried a little bit of soreness for a couple of weeks, and this was an opportunity where it was back-to-back six-day breaks,” Worsfold said.
“He actually felt pretty good early in the week, and was thinking maybe [he was] right, but after his training session yesterday he admitted he was pretty sore. It was the right decision in the end.”
Source: Essendon FC’s website