Saturday, April 29
2pm at North Melbourne Recreation Reserve
The story so far
Werribee will be looking to get on the board after first-up losses to Geelong and Footscray by 25 and 51 points respectively. The Tigers have played some good footy, which included a winning third-quarter effort against the Dogs last week, but they haven’t been able to string together the four quarters required to earn the corresponding points.
Essendon will enter the weekend full of confidence after an 80-point drubbing of Collingwood in their pre-Anzac Day clash. It leaves the Bombers at 1-1 after Sandringham edged them by seven points in a thriller at Trevor Barker Oval in Round 1.
Last time they met
Werribee will be keen to eradicate the memory of last year’s Round 11 home fixture against Essendon, a game that ultimately proved pivotal to its season. The Tigers had been looking to regain their place in the eight after a string of losses and led by 33 points at the main change, but the Bombers charged home with 11 to goals to four in the second half to run out 13-point winners.
Ones to watch out for
The addition of North Melbourne veterans Andrew Swallow and Lindsay Thomas will add some grunt to the midfield and forward line respectively, as both will be looking to put their best foot forward to earn a recall from the Kangaroos.
Making his debut, Wangaratta recruit Jade Cleeland will provide another tall target up forward in the absence of Majak Daw and offer some relief for ruckman Braydon Preuss, who also returns to the side. Also adding to the forward stocks – not to mention the feel-good factor of the day – is Jason Robinson, who will play his first senior game since breaking his leg early last season.
At the other end, captain Michael Sodomaco continues to lead by example and should again provide vital run out of defence. Riley Barrack was also impressive down back in his return to the senior ranks last week, as was midfielder Jordan Jones, who is coming back from an injury-interrupted pre-season and should only continue to improve. Werribee will be looking for him to do just that in the absence of Jed Anderson, whose impressive performances in the middle have earned him a recall to the North Melbourne side.
With 35 disposals, seven tackles, and a goal against Collingwood, David Myers looks close to an AFL return and looms as one of Essendon’s biggest dangers, and hard man Heath Hocking also brings plenty of experience to the midfield. Greater Western Sydney recruit James Stewart poses a tall threat up forward for the Bombers, while Michael Hartley provides a big body in defence. Out on the wing, young recruit Kobe Mutch looks to be taking to the VFL level well, offering plenty of run and using the ball well.
The bottom line
A new season and vastly different playing lists for both sides will mean recent results count for little. The return of banned AFL-listed players to Essendon this year has had a flow-on effect at VFL level and increased competition for AFL spots, meaning the strong-bodied and experienced Bombers present a formidable challenge. They play tight contested football and bring a hard edge, and the threat of wet weather could turn Saturday’s game into a good old-fashioned slog that will require Werribee's players to put their bodies on the line when the ball is there to be won.
Home-ground advantage is a luxury the Travelling Tigers will largely be without this season, but this weekend will provide a rare exception. Through their training at the venue with the North Melbourne squad, the Werribee boys have something of a home away from home at Arden Street and will look to capitalise on their familiarity with the ground's surface and dimensions.