Thrilling matches, tense finals, huge marks and a series of unforgettable storylines made the 2019 AFL season one to remember.
The evenness of the AFL’s top bracket of sides was shown by the fact just one win separated Geelong, who finished first, and the fifth-placed West Coast, while Greater Western Sydney went from sixth to reach the grand final after a stunning September run.
It was Richmond who would ultimately win the premiership, their second in three years, Damien Hardwick’s side finishing the season full of momentum.
A new campaign brings fresh hope for all 18 clubs, though, and our 2019 season reviews take a look at what went right, what went wrong, each side’s best players and how every club can improve.
The next team in the spotlight is Essendon.
- Ladder position: Eighth
- Eventual finish: Elimination finalists
- Home and away win-loss ratio: 12-10
- Home and away percentage: 95.4
Essendon Football Club AFL 2019 Season Performance Review
A 72-point thrashing at the hands of Greater Western Sydney in Round 1 set the tone for a tough start to the season and the pressure mounted on coach John Worsfold after Essendon won just four of their first 10 matches. The Bombers came good, though, a strong run from Round 11 to Round 19, where they lost just once, helping them push towards a finals spot. Essendon’s best was very good but inconsistency cost them a home final, with a trip to Perth to face the reigning premiers West Coast in a knock-out clash a tough draw in every sense of the word. The Eagles were far too good, winning by 55 points as Essendon’s finals victory drought continued – a run that dates back to 2004.
After being thrashed in successive weeks by Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs, a trip to Perth to face Fremantle in Round 22 presented a tricky challenge. Essendon would secure a finals berth with victory and knew they had to face Collingwood in the final round – a difficult game that they would ultimately lose. Fremantle did not make the finals in 2019 but were more than capable at home and were boosted by Cale Hooker pulling out just before the bounce. Essendon dug deep to secure a return to the finals, though, Dylan Shiel, Adam Saad and Zach Merrett leading the way in what was a 32-point victory. Bombers fans also enjoyed a 19-point win over arch-rivals Hawthorn in Round 13.
Hard to overlook a finals defeat in this section but the nature of Essendon’s Round 21 loss to the Western Bulldogs will live long in the memory. The Bombers kicked the first goal of the match through Dylan Shiel but were hapless from that point on as the Bulldogs booted 21 majors in a row. In a hopelessly one-sided contest, Luke Beveridge’s side led by 123 points at one point in the last quarter before Essendon kicked the final three goals of the match. The final margin was still 104 points, with Merrett lacking helpers in midfield as the Bulldogs ran riot.
The best and fairest
Merrett won the Crichton Medal for the second time in his career, the midfielder enjoying an excellent 2019 in which he averaged 28.3 disposals per match. Currently the club’s vice-captain, Merrett is destined for further responsibility and led the way for the Bombers last season. Dylan Shiel finished second, the new recruit putting together an impressive campaign after moving from the Giants. Running defender Saad finished third, ahead of Irishman Conor McKenna.
Merrett finished equal 16th at the Brownlow Medal with 16 votes and Shiel (14) was not far behind him. The gulf in class between that pair and the rest of Essendon’s midfield was shown in the voting, with small forward Anthony McDonald-Tipungwiti (eight votes) the only other Essendon player to poll more than three votes during the count.
There were no Essendon players named in either the 40-man squad or the 22-man team, but Merrett and Shiel are sure to have at least come into calculations at some stage.
The goal kickers
Jake Stringer enjoyed his best season since crossing from the Bulldogs to Essendon, kicking 33.27 and impressing with his pressure acts and goal smarts. McDonald-Tipungwiti became a genuine cult figure among Essendon fans, too, his 32.13 helping the Bombers to a series of victories. Mitch Brown was next best for Essendon, with 21 goals, but was delisted.
The reason to be hopeful
The room for improvement in Essendon’s forward line is huge and if Joe Daniher – who did not get to Sydney in the trade period – can stay fit, the Bombers should improve significantly in that regard. Devon Smith was another Bomber who missed plenty of football in 2019 and his return will boost Worsfold’s side. If Andrew McGrath and Mason Redman continue to get better, Essendon should be in the finals mix again.