The first Friday night lights match of the 2018 season features Essendon and Adelaide at the Docklands Stadium, and it’s a battle between last year’s runners-up, and a team that is, according to all the experts, a team on the rise.
After several seasons affected by the saga of the drugs scandal, Essendon has reached a level of stability under coach John Worsfold, ironic, considering the last drugs scandal occurred under his watch during his time at the West Coast Eagles in the mid-2000s. But, those sagas are over, and Essendon has a team that not only offers stability, but a higher level of skill.
They’ve got some mid-to-high level quality about them: Michael Hurley, David Zaharakis, Zach Merrett, Jake Stringer, Joe Daniher, Dyson Heppell, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, supported by recruits Adam Saad and Devon Smith. We’re expecting their fast ball movement to go up a notch this year. The experience of playing an immature team during the 2016 drug bans should bear some more fruit in 2018, and good things should happen for this team.
Adelaide lost the game that most people expected them to win: the 2017 Grand Final. About 95 per cent of top-line AFL is played above the shoulders and between the ears and it will be interesting to see how they will psychologically recover from their Grand Final mauling.
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There is a rumour circulating that Adelaide booked an empty seat next to captain Tex Walker – a seat that would house the premiership cup – but this has not been confirmed and we suspect that it will be like the urban myth from the 1970 Grand Final, where Collingwood supposedly celebrated their half-time lead of 44 points as a victory and put champagne on ice, only to lose to Carlton by 10 points. Is hubris to be the greatest enemy of Adelaide?
They lost two players from their Grand Final team – Jake Lever returned to Melbourne, and Charlie Cameron went off to Brisbane – and acquired Bryce Gibbs from Carlton. The team is still filled with tall-timbers – Tom Lynch, Taylor Walker, Josh Jenkins, Mitch McGovern, Sam Jacobs, and supported by the smaller class acts of Eddie Betts, Gibbs, Richard Douglas, Rory Sloane and the Crouch brothers.
Their team looks very similar to 2017 – because it largely remains intact, but every season is different and the key to Adelaide’s success in 2018 is how it responds to its defeat in the final game of 2017.
We think Essendon might be able to spoil Adelaide’s quest to seek redemption in 2018, and although they’ve heavily lost their last four games against Adelaide, might be able to pull off a minor upset.
- Round 21, 2017. Adelaide 18.15 defeated Essendon 12.8.
- Eddy Jay: Adelaide, 12 points
- Lintang Enam: Essendon, 31 points
- Computer says: Adelaide, 20 points