AFL Round 4 – West Coast v Essendon: Nic has the knack, Dons have a downer

by Rod Oaten

The night started off ominously – the team from Perth have a ruckman, Nic Naitanui by name, resembling a preying mantis on steroids, who within a few seconds of the game starting,  grabbed the ball from the first bounce, sprinted through a mass of bewildered Essendon players, kicked the ball forward  to a team mate who kicked a goal. All done in less than thirty seconds!

More genius from Nic and early in the first quarter I thought an early Friday night would be good for my health, especially as it looked like Hille and Ryder were completely perplexed as to how to cope with this super talented youngster.  Things improved for the Dons with some inspired tackling and  the Essendon lads bounced back with two goals to Paddy Ryder and singles to Hurley, Zaharakis and Reimers.  By quarter time there were only a few points in it. The huge problem was coping with Naitanui.
I reckon the Essendon brains trust came up with a” brilliant idea” for the second and third quarters of this game: they sneaked the Puckle Street under 13  football club on to the ground  when no one was watching to play the Eagles. The Dons looked  smaller, slower and completely outclassed, we missed tackles, dropped marks, slewed kicks off ankles and knees and lost their opponents all over the ground.

At three quarter time the Don’s had added one goal two points to their quarter time score ,while the Eagles had kicked  eight goals five points. I don’t know why I wasn’t in bed; watching this game was not doing anything for my well being, we were 45 points down and I reckon it should have been more. Naitanui, Cox, Priddis and Le Cras were far too good, the more they dominated, the more fumbling and indecisive the Dons became.

One last quarter to go,  can it get worse?  The Eagles kick the the first goal, but it seems the Under 13 kids have been replaced by the selected Essendon side for the last half hour and they seem to be  actually hitting targets a little better, and  holding a few marks and surprise, surprise – they combined as a team for a few goals, a total of 5 goals 5 points for the last quarter  to 2 goals 1, but It was far too little and far too late. I was surprised when the final siren sounded that we had lost by only 23 points  and  that we only had three scoring shots less than than Nic Naitanui’s team.

Best for an insipid Essendon side, Hille and Ryder who didn’t stop trying to work out how to deal with Naitanui. Houli,Watson and Fletcher all tried their hearts out, but a lot of their team mates looked outclassed. I am worried about Gumbleton, there is no doubt he tries his heart out, but he seems to be out of position on occasions  and he has trouble with contested marks. Hopefully he has a good game in the near future but at the moment he would appear to be a “work in progress”

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