Sport AFL AFL: Bombers on track for finals after a month to remember

AFL: Bombers on track for finals after a month to remember

Essendon players celebrate their stirring win on the road against the Crows. Photo: Getty
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Essendon captain Dyson Heppell says his team’s thrilling month of football has come about because of his teammates belief in each other and putting aside individual statistics.

Four weeks of momentum and thrilling wins against the odds has put Essendon on track for an unlikely finals berth, after another stirring fightback, this time on the road for a 21 point win against Adelaide.

It is the first time Essendon has won four in a row since 2013.

“We built a nice bit of momentum over the last month and a bit,” Heppell told Channel Seven after the match. “I think it’s sheer belief no matter what situation it is in the game.

We have real belief in the system. [It was a] good fight back …  think the boys just focused on playing a role tonight. It’s not about getting stats or kicking snags.

“I think guys were focusing on buying into the team and we’re building a selfless group. No doubt.”

The Crows had got out to a 30 point lead just before half time, but the Bombers piled on ten goals in the last half to run and handball their way to sixth spot ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.

Essendon’s Mitch Brown was instrumental in the revival, booting four second-half majors, as teammates Zach Merrett (31 disposals), David Zaharakis (25 touches) and Dylan Shiel (23 possessions) took midfield control.

Coach John Worsfold said after the game that the Bombers had admittedly been scratchy in the first half, but fought back well.

“At halftime the boys felt as though we had better footy in us,” he said. “That was our focus. Just go out and play the style of footy we know we can play. ‘We’re just off. If we play our best footy we will match it with them or get on top’.”

Adelaide’s Jenkins was his side’s dominant forward while Brodie Smith was a standout with three goals among his 31 disposals.

Essendon’s midseason draftee Will Snelling kicked a goal in the second quarter in his second AFL game – his debut was for Port Adelaide in 2016.

Snelling’s 1056-day gap between games is the longest span in the AFL era between a player’s first and second match.

His goal reduced Essendon’s deficit to two points but the Crows rapidly rallied with four goals within 10 minutes to create a 30-point break.

Adelaide’s Josh Jenkins booted three majors in the quarter, and four in the half, but Essendon scored two late goals to be 19 points down at halftime.

Bomber Jake Stringer after kicking a snap goal that he said was his best ever. Photo: Getty

The Bombers had 18 inside 50s in the third quarter to Adelaide’s five, booting  four goals to one.

Twice in the last term the Crows took the lead before Essendon finally secured it’s 10th win of the season with a Zac Merrett bouncing goal from a midfield burst. The final score was Essendon 15.6 (96) to Adelaide.

“We weren’t playing our best footy tinkering along 50 per cent,” said Heppell. “Our heat around the ball picked up enormously coming into the third. That held us in good stead.

“[It] showed some composure from the boys. We didn’t blaze away late in the game. Managed to find the target. I think it comes down to work rate and you know just being clear with what your doing.”

Essendon’s good form has come on the back of some key injury concerns, with Tom Bellchambers, Joe Daniher, Orazio Fantasia, Michael Hurley and Devon Smith all out.

The club has played in only four elimination finals since 2004, all losses.

-with AAP