Round 8 – GWS v Essendon: Besotted with Baby Bombers

Midway through the final quarter of Essendon’s Round 8 clash with GWS, Dermott Brereton was asked point blank by one of his fellow commentators if he was – as seemed to be the case – actively barracking for the Bombers to win. For those with slightly long memories, the slight sense of confusion in the question was in no way misplaced.


Remember, Dermott is the man who famously ran through the Essendon huddle at three-quarter time of a clash at Waverley Park in 1988. And – if you believe the rumours – the man who in his role as club director instructed Hawthorn players at half-time in 2004 to ‘draw a line in the sand’ and take a stand against the Bombers, triggering an all-time melee that resulted in 18 players facing 26 charges and $70,700 paid fines.


His apparent newfound love for the Bombers extended so far as to cast aspersions on the integrity of the umpires in the dying stages of the match, noting: “I reckon he did [mark it]. I’ve seen less grabs rewarded; less purchase rewarded” as Cale Hooker’s valiant attempts went decidedly unrewarded. Mind you, who can blame Dermott for being besotted with Essendon’s cavalcade of talented youngsters?


19-year-old Nik Cox – dubbed ‘an AFL unicorn’ by 7AFL on their official Twitter feed – has shown frequent glimpses of his versatility, agility, and athleticism.


Harrison Jones has overcome a slow start to become a focal point of note inside attacking 50 and is successfully working alongside veteran Cale Hooker as the tall targets for the Bombers.


Archie Perkins is demonstrating poise and footballing talents to match his glorious hair. (And surely making several clubs jealous that he slipped to Pick 9 in last year’s draft.)


And the likes of Brayden Ham (23 games), Aaron Francis (42), Nick Hind (29), Will Snelling (30), Mason Redman (45) and Matt Guelfi (49) are providing sparks – although somewhat intermittently – that have kept Essendon well and truly in the hunt in most games so far in 2021.


(We’ll just pretend that Rounds 2 & 5 never happened).


Speaking of which, Guelfi’s ability to impact the contest was on full display in his limited game time on the weekend, with the youngster proving to be the catalyst for the Bomber’s gallant comeback. Following Jake Stringer’s dismal attempts to play through injury – which resulted in a return of just 5 touches and 2 behinds – Guelfi returned 8 touches, four Inside-50’s, 6 tackles and a goal in just 28% of game time.


His efforts helped Essendon reduce a 25-point three-quarter time deficit to just two points with under two minutes to play, but unfortunately – following the non-call for Hooker – the Sherrin was swiftly transferred to the other end of the ground where Jacob Hopper put the final dagger in Essendon’s second gallant comeback attempt. (They’d previously trailed by 31 points in the 1st quarter before reducing the margin to just 3 points early in the 3rd, only to again trail by 30 late that same quarter).


It was the third loss for the Bombers under a goal – and the second with umpiring ‘controversy’ following the non-call for holding the ball on Tom Hickey in their narrow Round 4 loss to Sydney – which leaves the side with an underwhelming 2-6 record. As Titus O’Reilly gleefully noted in his ‘Knee-Jerk Reaction’ column: “Every team needs a ‘brand’ apparently, and Essendon’s is narrowly losing matches in a fashion that causes their fans the most anguish.”


Whilst Ben Rutten’s game plan has been adopted with enthusiasm on the attacking end – sitting 2nd for points scored after eight rounds – it’s a different story defensively, with only North Melbourne conceding more. Saturday’s game was the second consecutive loss for the Bombers where they’d scored over 100 points and still not walked away with the victory, which is a worrying sign for any side hoping to compete with the defensive juggernauts at the top of the table. However, for a side that entered 2021 without any lofty aspirations, it’s been endlessly encouraging to see a new brigade of Baby Bombers leading the charge.


And if we’ve managed to get Dermott on our side, anything’s possible. Right?


(On a side note, whilst talking about talented youngsters it would be remiss of me to not mention how astoundingly good Tim Taranto has been for the Giants this season – and especially on Saturday. He won the Giant’s B & F in 2019 when the club appeared in their first Grand Final, and after overcoming a shoddy 2020 that was interrupted by shoulder surgery has rediscovered his best form in 2021, averaging more than 29 touches, 9 contested possessions, 5 tackles, 4 inside-50’s a game. GWS are onto a winner with the 2nd pick of the 2016 draft.)



GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY                  6.2       7.4       14.8      16.11 (107)
ESSENDON                                                      2.2       5.7       10.7      16.9 (105)


Greater Western Sydney: Finlayson 3, Sproule 2, Bruhn 2, Greene 2, Kelly 2, Himmelberg, Lloyd, Taranto, Hopper, Hill
Essendon: Langford 3, Wright 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Jones 2, Snelling 2, Hooker, Perkins, Cox, Redman, Guelfi


Greater Western Sydney:  Taranto, Kelly, Greene, Green
Essendon: Merrett, Parish, Hind, Langford


Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Essendon: Stringer (hamstring)


Greater Western Sydney: Stone (unused)
Essendon: Guelfi (replaced Stringer)


Crowd: 8.526 at Giants Stadium


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About Sam Laffy

Thirty-something year-old Essendon supporter. Winning the flag in 2000 when I was 12 was supposed to kick off a dynasty I could boast about for years. Still waiting for that 17th flag.....


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    There’s a lot to like about the ‘Baby Bombers’ coming through, Nik Cox is a beauty and Perkins gets better every week. We should reap the rewards in a year or so. Must keep Merrett!

  2. Rod Oaten says

    I reckon those young Don’s, like the team are improving every week. As opposed to previous seasons I enjoy watching them play. I feel optimistic about the future.

  3. Sam Laffy says

    Colin, 100% agreed – whatever Merrett wants we have to find a way to give it to him!

    Rod, I still go into most games expecting us to lose (your club not winning a finals game for 16 years does funny things to a man) but I’ve enjoyed seeing the side develop so far.

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