AFL 1st Elimination Final - West Coast v Essendon
AFL 1st Elimination Final - West Coast v Essendon

Bombers suffer finals stage fright again

The irony shouldn't be lost on Essendon players when they touch down at Tullamarine on Friday.

Boy, how they would love to fast forward time right now.

A sixth-straight September defeat will sting for some time, particularly given this was yet another final effectively iced long before they'd listened to a halftime spray.

And boy, how they would've loved to slow down time.

Under the bright Thursday night lights and in front of 59,216 screaming Eagles fans, these Bombers got stage fright.

They were reckless and rushed. It was as if they were spooked by September.

When they had a second to think they only used half. They opted for hurried handballs and skied balls when they wanted slow and skilled balls.

No.1 draft pick Andy McGrath was the exception. When the contest was hot this kid stayed cool, the 21-year-old playing with the composure that was predominantly only seen in blue and gold.

 

Nic Naitanui breaks clear of Tom Bellchambers. Picture: Getty Images
Nic Naitanui breaks clear of Tom Bellchambers. Picture: Getty Images

 

 

These dimensions wouldn't have worried Essendon, but the surrounds did.

The Eagles and Dockers now play at an MCG-sized ground, and that will fill West Coast with confidence as it prepares to fly east for the rest of September.

There might be some sleepless nights ahead for Darcy Parish. It's been a promising season for the little onballer, but it was a painful end in Perth.

Parish's casual sidekick late in the first quarter was chopped off by devastating small forward Willie Rioli, who assisted Josh Kennedy in kicking West Coast's sixth goal after the siren.

If coach John Worsfold was ever going to pull at his hair, that was the moment.

Then, in the second quarter, Parish parachuted the ball out of bounds, a turnover which ruckman Tom Hickey failed to capitalise on directly in front of goal.

But Parish wasn't alone.

Midway through the first term, Mitch Brown bizarrely stayed with Shannon Hurn instead of chasing a loose ball at halfback, and the Eagles pounced and whizzed the ball through the corridor, delivering a crowd-lifting Willie Rioli goal.

 

 

Aaron Francis flies for a mark over Dom Sheed. Picture: AAP
Aaron Francis flies for a mark over Dom Sheed. Picture: AAP

 

That made it four majors on the bounce and it was obvious the Bombers would be bouncing out. The Eagles' small forwards were buzzing and the midfield was brutal. They won every quarter and have now won four-straight finals, and their first against Essendon.

There were seven goals from 13 entries across the first and second quarters, a blitz that brought down the Bombers.

A bruised Cale Hooker was battered by sharpshooter Josh Kennedy. Kennedy equalled his best finals return of four goals just minutes into the second half.

The Eagles blazed forward with such force it was if the Bombers were literally blown away.

The amount of open goals suggested they were.

 

 

Jamie Cripps drove home with his first bag of four in a final, the last coming when three Eagles strolled into an open goal together as if it was a street parade.

Midfielder Luke Shuey's status as a September star continues to shine.

The Norm Smith medallist's 13 disposals and four clearances in the third quarter helped extinguish a brief Bomber fightback.

"I thought the resilience of the group to hold off every time they came was good," Shuey said last night.

"They're a really dangerous backline … and our little blokes (small forwards) got to work."

Shuey was celebrating his 200th match and Kennedy thanked him for winning him "a couple of Colemans" in that time.

 

THE FOUR S'S

Essendon secured four stars it hoped would see the club soar through September - Jake Stringer, Adam Saad and Devon Smith in 2017 and then Dylan Shiel in 2018.

Smith (knee) was absent and the other suffered subdued starts. Stringer was unsighted in the first quarter, Saad was sat on by Eagles glove Mark Hutchings and Shiel, yet again, shanked several kicks.

The 'S' quartet was brought in to power up all parts of the ground, but last night the Bombers were panicky and powerless against a slick September side that dished out a smacking in the first half.

 

 

Dylan Shiel on the attack. Picture: Getty Images
Dylan Shiel on the attack. Picture: Getty Images

 

 

SNELLING SHINES

Will Snelling won the selection nod over run-with youngster Dylan Clarke and the former Port Adelaide tackle machine took little time repaying John Worsfold's faith. In just his fifth AFL game Snelling put the Bombers a goal in front early in the first term and then slotted a tough set-shot in the second quarter as his new team's season was slipping away.

It's not hard to see why coaches like the South Australian - Snelling stuck 18 tackles in his first four games.

Bizarre to think Snelling was playing SANFL months ago before his mid-season draft lifeline.

With Collingwood's John Noble - son of Brisbane footy boss David Noble - set to line up at the MCG on Friday night and Richmond's Marlion Pickett, who spent two and a half years behind bars, an emergency for Saturday night it's hard not to give the May draft a big first-up tick.

 

SCOREBOARD

WEST COAST 6.4 10.8 13.11 17.14 (116)

ESSENDON 3.1 6.2 8.5 9.7 (61)

GOALS

West Coast: Kennedy 4, Cripps 4, Ryan 3, Waterman 2, Darling 2, Rioli, Sheed

Essendon: Snelling 2, Saad 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, McGrath, Laverde, Fantasia

BEST

West Coast: Cripps, Shuey, Rioli, Kennedy, Gaff, Ryan, Redden, Naitanui, Sheed

Essendon: Heppell, McGrath, Shiel, Saad, Ambrose

INJURIES

West Coast: Nelson (head knock)

Essendon: Brown (calf)

Reports: Zach Merrett reported for misconduct on Nic Naitanui, Nic Naitanui reported for rough conduct on Zach Merrett

Umpires: Fisher, Stevic, Stephens

Official crowd: 59,216 at Perth Stadium

 

 

 

 

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is tackled by Jack Redden. Picture: AFL Photos
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is tackled by Jack Redden. Picture: AFL Photos