NAB Challenge 2015 – Essendon v St Kilda: The Fine Art of Prestidigitation

So I’m sitting at my keyboard and screen, trying to come up with an angle to inject some interest into the Essendon v St Kilda NAB Challenge game from Saturday night.

The pre-season contest no longer even has a grand final. If the AFL doesn’t care about it, why should I?

With a 50-point win over Essendon Centrals, I’m not sure there’s much to get excited about if you’re a St Kilda fan. That’s not sour grapes, more an observation that the street-gang in the Essendon jumpers were in this contest up to their necks until time-on in the third quarter. With only Nick Riewoldt to come into this line up anytime soon (Siposs, Savage, Fisher and Gilbert are likely to remain on the injured list after round one of the home-and-away season), it was only Jack Steven, Leigh Montagna and fitness that ensured St Kilda prevailed.

Having said that though, Minchington and Membrey look likely types, and the young brigade that struggled through a dispiriting 2014 under Alan Richardson looked a class above Centrals at times, which indicates Seaford are on track to getting back on track. The skill level and decision making was ordinary at times, but such is life for a less-than-50-games AFL footballer.

So, what to make of Essendon Centrals? Of the AFL players that did show up – Paul Chapman, Jackson Merrett, Shaun Edwards and Nick O’Brien were standouts. Nothing needs to be said about Chappy, Merrett won his own footy in contested situations with aplomb, Edwards looked pacy and displayed some good one-grab marking ability on occasion and Elliott Kavanagh was blue-collar.

Jason Ashby was serviceable, Martin Gleeson and Lauchlan Dalgleish showed little to suggest they would challenge for senior selection. I was fairly nonplussed about Jonathan Giles’ game. Three goals against a small defence (only one mark inside 50) is the minimum you’d expect and considering this was his fourth pre-season, he should have dominated Billy Longer and Tom Hickey. Kyle Langford on debut gets a pass, and appeared a likely type after he gets a few pre-seasons under his belt.

From what we saw today, the Saints might sneak a few early wins based on their fitness levels (GWS, Gold Coast, Carlton and Collingwood to open the season). The spate of hamstring injuries at Seaford suggests a young list being made to run like they stole something through the pre-season.

Their opponents on the other hand, have much more serious an issue on their hands beyond what happens to the ‘mystery’ 25 at the kangaroo court that is the AFL/ASADA tribunal; the Bombers are miles off the pace for fitness at the moment. The Dons were a spent force by three quarter time; Chapman, Merrett and O’Brien had clocked up the bulk of their stats and their only goal of the final stanza was an opportunistic cash-in on a Cam Shenton error from Shaun Edwards.

But if we know anything about Essendon, it’s that we’re among the elite-level when it comes to sleight of hand: ensure the focus is on the top-up players and the post-match is all about how they performed, and if the ‘footy community’ plays true to form, the real story should get lost in the noise.

Let’s just hope that Williamstown ran Jobe, BJ, Zacky-boy, Lady Melksham, Ring-a-Ding Bellchambers and Buckets off their feet on Friday.


Essendon Centrals 0.2.2 0.3.2 0.7.2   0.8.3. 51

St Kilda 0.2.3 0.6.5 0.9.7   0.15.11. 101



Essendon: Edwards, Giles 3, Ashby, Kavanagh.

St Kilda: Minchington, Bruce 2, Steven, Ross, Saunders, Shenton, Lonie, Membrey, Saad, Acres, Sinclair, Holmes, McCartin.



Essendon: Merrett, Edwards, Chapman, Jones, Brown

St Kilda: Steven, Montagna, Newnes, Weller, Minchington,

About Steve Baker

"Colourful central Victorian racing identity". Recovering Essendon supporter, and sometime weekend night racing presenter on RSN Racing and Sport.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Doesn’t look like you made the journey down there Bakes.

    Thought it was a nice touch for the Dons to number their guernseys in honour of their new sponsor Tatts Keno

  2. Numbers 58-80 should only be called out in Pub bistros.

    “Number 71??? Who’s got the Lamb’s Fry and Bacon…”

    Correct Swish, I decided against the trip east down the M1. Probably a good call in the end; not a lot to get enthused about other than a mini road-trip on a Saturday.

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