Willem van Denderen 15 April 2016

Geelong will travel to Melbourne for the second time in 2016 this Saturday to meet a still largely unknown Essendon side. Currently in fifth position with two wins and a loss, the Cats will be hoping to bank another four points against the unfancied Bombers and potentially enter the top four by the conclusion of the round. Even at this early phase of the season the Bombers have found themselves where many had predicted, at the foot of the ladder. Languishing in fifteenth, the Dons have struggled for any consistency so far in 2016, something expected given the exceptional circumstances of their season. Nevertheless John Worsfold's conglomerate side of rookies, old hands and top-ups will only benefit from more time together, and may cause the Cats a few issues come Saturday afternoon.

THIS WEEK IN FOCUS: The inaugural 'Country Game' will see two sides struggling for conviction and consistency clash in what should be a lopsided affair. Although Geelong ran out 69 point winners over the hapless Lions last week Chris Scott lamented the fact that the margin should have been greater, given the multitude of opportunities wasted in front of goal. The Cats get a chance to work further on their forward line play against a weaker opponent straight away, something that has had a different look in 2016. The opening rounds of the season saw a slightly clumsy, unbalanced forward line; early last week the forwards pushed right up the ground, before leading back towards goal, with 'high half-forwards' Steven Motlop and Daniel Menzel delivering into a spacious fifty. The system came unstuck on occasions, and limited the influence of the sides small forwards in Lincoln McCarthy and Darcy Lang, but Geelong have the opportunity to work further on their entries on the larger, wider MCG.
Essendon will simply be looking to produce a 'four quarter effort' on Saturday, similar to that which earned them a win at the same venue a fortnight ago. Essendon showed tremendous spirit in that round two clash, spurred by the youthful exuberance of Darcy Parish and the polished performance of Zach Merrett. However that enthusiasm and hunger went missing against the Power last week. Ex-Cats James Kelly, Mathew Stokes and Mitch Brown should be able to provide their younger teammates with information about how best to beat their direct matchup. Twelve of Essendon's twenty-two this week have played less than 50 games, with many less than a month into their first season, so this insider support may prove vital for those individuals. So far this year, this Essendon side has shown susceptibility to dropping its head if things go wrong early; they have also demonstrated their confidence can swell if they can stay in the contest. The key for Worsfold will be to start well and remain in the contest for as long as possible, and hope pride and commitment can combine with skill to pull off a result.

TEAM NEWS: The Cats have recalled the three players excluded last week, with Jordan Murdoch, Tom Lonergan and Cory Gregson all returning after a week off. Murdoch has been declared fit after missing with soreness, whilst Lonergan has overcome the calf complaint which saw him withdraw on match day last week. They could be considered like-for-like replacements for those going out of the side, with Corey Enright, Jake Kolodjashnij and Lincoln McCarthy all making way. Enright has been listed as 'managed', whilst the other two have been omitted.
The Dons have also swung a trio of changes, with Sydney premiership midfielder Craig Bird earning a recall, along with youngsters Connor McKenna and Jayden Laverde. Going out of the side are tough, inside duo Ryan Crowley and Nick Kommer, as well as Jackson Merrett. Crowley's omission as an expert tagger is interesting given Patrick Dangerfield has run rampant in two of his three games this year, while Joel Selwood also worked his way into some form last week.
Geelong faced off against old friend Steve Johnson two weeks ago, and this week meet premiership heroes Kelly and Stokes. Both are playing excellent footy for the Bombers, with Kelly touted as 2016's potential Best & Fairest. However both camps are adamant neither have anything to prove to each other, last years difficult separation widely accepted as football having little room for sentiment in such a high-stakes business.

PREDICTION: The Cats should comfortably account for the spirited Bombers on Saturday given they are a far more settled side, both on and off the ground. The gulf in class and experience is also undeniable, however notions that clubs may view meetings with Essendon as 'percentage boosters' seem off the mark. The Bombers may be able to challenge the Cats for periods of this clash, but are unlikely to be able to do so for the entire four quarters.

RESULT: Geelong by 70





IN: Tom Lonergan, Cory Gregson, Jordan Murdoch
: Lincoln McCarthy (Omitted), Jake Kolodjashnij (Omitted), Corey Enright (Managed)

IN: Conor McKenna, Craig Bird, Jayden Laverde
OUT: Nick Kommer (Omitted), Ryan Crowley (Omitted), Jackson Merrett (Omitted)

B: Andrew Mackie, Harry Taylor, Lachie Henderson
HB: Jimmy Bartel, Tom Lonergan, Cameron Guthrie
C: Steven Motlop, Patrick Dangerfield, Mitch Duncan
HF: Josh Caddy, Rhys Stanley, Shane Kersten
F: Cory Gregson, Tom Hawkins, Daniel Menzel
FOLL: Zac Smith, Nakia Cockatoo, Joel Selwood
INT: Mark Blicavs, Darcy Lang, Jordan Murdoch, Tom Ruggles
EMER: Jed Bews, Jake Kolodjashnij, Lincoln McCarthy

B: Matt Dea, Patrick Ambrose, Mark Baguley
HB: James Gwilt, Michael Hartley, Brendon Goddard
C: James Kelly, David Zaharakis, Darcy Parish
HF: Conor McKenna, Mitch Brown, Adam Cooney
F: Mathew Stokes, Joe Daniher, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti
FOLL: Matthew Leuenberger, Kyle Langford, Craig Bird
INT: Martin Gleeson, Orazio Fantasia, Jayden Laverde, Zach Merrett
EMER: Nick Kommer, Jonathan Simpkin, Sam Grimley


AFL 2016 ROUND 4











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