Sport AFL AFL: Bombers finish pre-season campaign undefeated

AFL: Bombers finish pre-season campaign undefeated

Essendon's Orazio Fantasia splits the Cats defence in the Marsh series match. Photo: AAP
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Darcy Parish has booted three third-quarter goals to help Essendon hold off Geelong by four points and end its AFL pre-season campaign undefeated.

The Bombers blew the game open with a blistering burst to begin the second half, after a scrappy second term, to eventually prevail 9.11 (65) to 9.7 (61) at Colac on Monday.

Parish caught fire after halftime, with the midfielder capitalising on the Bombers’ 20 inside-50 entries during the third quarter as the lead blew out to 25 points.

The lacklustre Cats came to life in the final term, but left their run too late as the Bombers added to their other pre-season victory against West Coast.

Parish wasn’t the only Essendon player to boot three majors, with former Greater Western Sydney and Richmond goal sneak Jacob Townsend hitting the scoreboard for the first time at his new club.

Michael Hurley was a rock in defence, while midfielders Andrew McGrath, Zach Merrett and Parish were among the Bombers’ best.

Dynamic forward Jake Stringer (personal reasons) was a late withdrawal for Essendon, while Irishman Conor McKenna lined up in the curtain-raiser VFL game.

The Cats have some work to do before their Round 1 clash with GWS after being smashed by wooden spooners Gold Coast two weeks ago.

But a bright spot for the Cats was the appearance of former St Kilda star Jack Steven.

The four-time Saints best-and-fairest impressed in his first outing for Geelong, starting the game in the middle and finishing with 25 possessions.

In Hobart, North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw said Jack Ziebell will be primed for Round 1 after the skipper got through his side’s final pre-season match unscathed.

The Kangaroos came from behind to beat Sydney by 11 points on Monday afternoon in an often feisty clash.

On his return from a lingering calf injury, Ziebell picked up just seven touches in the first half before being put on ice.

But it was enough to impress Shaw, who hailed a confidence-boosting 14.6 (90) to 12.7 (79) win at Kingston Twin Ovals.

“I didn’t want to overburden him with a full game,” Shaw said.

He looked good, he felt good. He’s done really well to get to this point and it looks like he’ll be cherry-ripe for Round 1.’’

In his first pre-season appearance for North Melbourne, big gun Shaun Higgins had 31 touches and two goals in a leading performance.

Young forward Nick Larkey copped a flying knee to his stomach but recovered to kick three majors.

The Swans were in better form this week, but coach John Longmire says there is more work to do.

“That second quarter was pretty good, but we didn’t do it for long enough,” Longmire said.

“We just wanted to compete for a bit harder and longer, but we’ve got to do a bit longer again.”