Where and when: Sydney Showground Stadium, Sunday March 24, 3.20pm AEDT
Last time they met: Sydney Showground Stadium, round 10, 2018: GWS 8.12 (60) lost to Essendon 14.11 (95)
The Bombers handed GWS its fourth straight defeat after booting six goals to one in a dominant final term. Jake Stringer and Mark Baguley kicked three goals while David Zaharakis claimed the three Brownlow medal votes for his 33 possessions, six clearances, six inside 50s and a goal.
What it means for GWS: A successful start is a must for GWS with games against West Coast (away), Richmond (home) and Geelong (away) in the first month of the season.
What it means for Essendon: The Bombers have plenty of expectations on them after another big off-season of recruiting, and a win will show they’re ready to handle the hype.
How GWS wins: The Giants’ backline isn’t full strength but is brilliantly led by Phil Davis, and without Joe Daniher and Cale Hooker, it’s hard to see how the visitors kick a winning score.
How Essendon wins: The addition of Dylan Shiel is massive for the Bombers and he adds some speed to their already quality midfield, which will gain the ascendancy.
The stat: The Bombers trounced the Giants 16-8 in the centre clearances and 55-42 overall in round 10 last season, a statistic that helped them pile on 6.3 to 1.3 in a one-sided final quarter. Dyson Heppell (12), Zach Merrett (nine) and David Zaharakis (six) led the way.
The match-up: Zac Williams v Orazio Fantasia
This will be a battle of two speedsters and looms as crucial to both sides. Williams provides plenty of run from defence and sets up a lot of attacks, but Fantasia is one of the most dangerous small forwards in the game and can cut sides to pieces if given too much space.
It’s a big week for: Dylan Shiel (Essendon)
The original Giant gets a match-up with his former team to start the new phase of his career, and he could be the game-breaker. Shiel’s speed and explosiveness is well known by the GWS players but stopping him won’t be easy.
Father Dougals’s Tip: GWS by 20. I just don’t think the Bombers have improved enough to beat GWS at Sydney. I have medium confidence in this pick.
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