What was supposed to be a great celebration for Dustin Fletcher’s 400th game did not eventuate as the Bombers stumbled their way to another loss to Richmond at the MCG.
It was quite frankly an abysmal performance against average opposition, not the first time this has happened in 2015 and past years. While the loss was only by thirteen points at the end, Richmond never looked like losing all night.
One wonders what the atmosphere in the rooms was like post-game on Saturday night. Quite simply they let Fletcher down. A club legend who deserves better.
The Age’s Rohan Connoly summed it up perfectly. And it doesnt paint a good picture for coach James Hird.
— Rohan Connolly (@rohan_connolly) May 31, 2015
A flawed game plan which has handball as the first option (often backwards to a player under immense pressure) and a playing list that does not have the skill to carry out that game plan are the two biggest problems confronting Hird and his staff.
The senior players are clearly frustrated. You only needed to look at the reactions of Brendon Goddard after each goal on Saturday night. Trying to get the backline up and running he was quite vocal, raising questions for me as the harmony within the team.
Jobe Watson is injured, perhaps a sign of the load he has carried in the past three years, on and off the field. As Connolly says the best wins in that period have all come at highly emotional times. That emotion looks to be taking its toll.
The result on Saturday night has been coming for a while. Poor performances against Collingwood, North Melbourne, St Kilda and Brisbane all followed the win over Hawthorn, which now seems like it was a million years ago.
The list itself is in need of a review, possibly even rebuild. Grouping it into these categories brings that sharply into focus.
A-graders: Jobe Watson, Brendon Goddard, Dyson Heppell. Watson is looking tired and Goddard very frustrated. A lot is riding on Heppell.
Next wave: Michael Hurley, Cale Hooker, David Zaharakis (injured), David Myers (injured). Hurley and Hooker are having great years down back, however the ball is coming down there too often and so quickly as a result of the haphazard play across half-back and the midfield that they often can’t do anything about it.
Up and coming: Joe Daniher, Zach Merrett, Jackson Merrett, Travis Colyer, Martin Gleeson. These guys are about the only ones who could look Fletcher in the eyes on Saturday night.
Playing in wrong position: Jake Carlisle. Clearly not a forward. Took a number of great marks on the weekend but misses far too many easy goals. Highlights that there are too many key defenders on the list and no key forwards outside of Daniher.
Question marks on: Michael Hibberd, Jake Melksham, Patrick Ambrose, Mark Baguley, Ben Howlett. Just don’t give enough. Can’t fault the effort they put in every week though.
Not getting a chance: Jonathon Giles, Nick O’Brien, Tayte Pears, Shaun Edwards, Alex Browne, Elliott Kavanagh, Jason Ashby, Shaun Edwards, Alex Browne, Lauchlan Dalgleish, Nick Kommer (injured), Will Hams, Orazio Fantasia, Shaun McKernan. We need to see what these guys can do, in particular Kavanagh, Giles, Edwards, Dalgleish and McKernan.
Rookies: Kyle Langford, Jayden Laverde. Last year’s top two picks have shown some promise but should be in the VFL last year.
Getting far too many chances: Tom Bellchambers, Courtney Dempsey. How these two keep getting picked week after week in unfathomable. Bellchambers gives nothing and Dempsey costs multiple goals every week due to skill and decision making errors.
Veterans: Paul Chapman, Adam Cooney, Brent Stanton, Jason Winderlich, Dustin Fletcher, Heath Hocking (injured), James Gwilt. Most of these should battle to be on the list next year.
It’s clear that Essendon is a club at the crossroads, as is James Hird as a coach.
What he does about this in the next year will determine his fate.
If WADA doesn’t first!!