Where and when: Marvel Stadium, Saturday March 30, 4.35pm AEDT
Last time they met: Docklands Stadium (now Marvel Stadium), round 21, 2018. Essendon 18.14 (122) defeated St Kilda 11.13 (79)
An injury-hit Essendon continued their late rally for a top-eight spot with a comfortable win over the Saints. Devon Smith was crucial in his side’s Friday night victory.
What it means for Essendon: Despite it only being round two, there is a lot riding on this game for the Bombers after last week’s disastrous season-opening loss to Greater Western Sydney. A defeat would really put the heat on the club early in the year.
What it means for St Kilda: The Saints weren’t convincing in their one-point win over Gold Coast last week, but to back it up against Essendon would provide some breathing space for a club few expect to perform strongly this year.
How Essendon wins: The Bombers need their midfield to lift after last week’s ineffectual performance. Essendon was smashed out of the middle last week, losing centre clearances 12-6, and were behind the eightball from there.
How St Kilda wins: Their best footy against Gold Coast came in the first half when their forward-half pressure was up, so maintain that for longer against Essendon and they’ll be in the fight.
The stat: The Bombers won’t want to go into round three winless. The last time Essendon lost its first two games of the season but still made the finals was in 2004 (also the year the Bombers last won a final).
The match-up: Michael Hurley v Josh Bruce
The AFL Player Ratings ranks Hurley as Essendon’s best defender and Bruce as St Kilda’s best forward, so it’s likely to be an important contest in the context of the clash. Particularly with Cale Hooker out with injury, it will likely be Hurley’s responsibility to hold Bruce.
It’s a big week for: Zach Merrett
The star Bombers midfielder, who has an All Australian jumper and best and fairest already on his CV, was among the key players to really struggle last week against the Giants. He managed only 16 disposals in the defeat and had little influence, and Essendon needs more from him to fire.
Big call: Michael Hurley to give away a free kick as the siren blows to end the game with the Dons ahead by 1. Jack Billings to calmly slot through the clincher from 40m out on a 45 degree angle.
Mottsy’s Tip: St Kilda by 5
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