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AFL North Melbourne vs. Essendon preview & first goal scorer tips

Friday, July 17, 2015, 7.50pm AEST, Etihad Stadium, watch on Seven Network, Fox Footy

Ladder position

North Melbourne Kangaroos: 10th

Essendon Bombers: 14th

Season record

North Melbourne Kangaroos: 7-7-0

Essendon Bombers: 5-9-0

Last five

North Melbourne Kangaroos: WLWLW

Essendon Bombers: LLLLW

AFTER fortnight of superb Friday night footy action, with thrillers between Sydney and Richmond and then Hawthorn and Collingwood, we’ve had a Friday night footy let down.

Richmond and Carlton was a snore fest last week and we have some concerns that this one won’t be much better.

Touted as a top four hope, mentally fragile North Melbourne has done what is so often does and underachieved after reaching the preliminary final.

We don’t even have to mention what a basket case Essendon are.

At least both teams are coming off wins.

Ripped apart by a supplements scandal that has almost destroyed the club, their captain Jobe Watson out for the season and left reeling from a 100 point loss to the immortal (not) St Kilda a week earlier, the Bombers actually showed some ticker to take out a fighting nine point win over Melbourne, 10.9 (69) to 7.18 (60).

Missing a host of their best players, the Baby Bombers featured 12 players with less than 40 games experience and got five goals from young gun centre half forward Joe Daniher, snapping a five game losing streak.

With newly named captain Dyson Heppell tempered by Demons’ stopper Jack Viney, the consistent Brent Stanton led the way with 30 disposals.

Brendon Goddard also stepped up with 29 disposals and Michael Hurley bounced back with 24.

But it was Daniher who provided the biggest highlight for the Bombers, winning praise from embattled coach James Hird.

“Joey was terrific with his marking and his positioning and just his hard work off the contest,” Hird said.

“He didn’t start great. We had to re-align him a little bit and get him back on.

“Joe will have weeks where he’ll kick poorly and weeks where he kicks well probably over the next 18 months.

“But he’s working so hard on his goalkicking.

“I’m confident within 18 months he’ll be the best set shot in the competition because of the way he works on his game.

“We know he can mark the ball, we know he can compete, we know he’s going to get enough opportunities.”

But it was only Melbourne.

“Let’s not get carried away with the game, it was a nine-point win, Melbourne aren’t travelling great, we’re not travelling great,” Hird said.

“We didn’t beat the best team in the competition, we’re not shooting for premiership glory this year.

The Kangaroos should pose a far stiffer task, especially after absolutely belting the now far from invincible Geelong, 18.12 (120) to 11.13 (79).

Coming off a disgusting 55 point loss to the lowly Gold Coast, North bounced back in serious style, throttling the Cats with a seven goal to one second term that was the catalyst for the 41 point win.

Shaun Higgins was awesome for the Roos, booting three goals and nabbing 19 disposals with eight marks, while key forward Drew Petrie matched his goal output with three.

Ryan Bastinac led the way in the midfield with 27 disposals, while Nick Dal Santo, Ben Cunnington and Andrew Swallow had 24 each. The latter was a monster with 12 tackles, leading the way as North’s pressure suffocated the Cats all over the park.

It was a win that didn’t come without controversy, Roos’ legend Brent Harvey starting as the sub as a “warning” to listen to his fiery coach Brad Scott’s instructions.

With just two games left for 400, Harvey copped the green vest after a “pretty honest and frank conversation”.

“Boomer probably by his own admission hasn’t performed the role we’ve asked him to play on a few occasions this year,” Scott said.

“We had a pretty honest and frank conversation.

“We’ve got a great relationship and we talk all the time and it was a pretty simple coach player conversation.

“Whilst being the sub wasn’t a punishment, he needed to know that if he’s not going to listen to my words, he might listen to my actions.

“It is a role that we’ve spoken about over the last couple of years.

“We think it can be a real weapon for us going forward. It probably just took the courage to pull the trigger and do it, because it was a big game for us against a really strong opposition club.

“Brent was outstanding from yesterday’s meeting, right through to the end of the game today in terms of how he embraced that role.”

Boomer might have had some drama, but it was nothing compared to Hird’s past few days.

Poor old Hirdy can’t take a trick. After using his post match press conference to have another stab at the AFL over its handling of the supplements saga, the Bomber great took a serious tumble off his bicycle early in the week and ended up in hospital.

“Indications are that he should be fine to go Friday night, but we’ll make a call on that once he’s had time to sit down with Doc Reid,” Essendon chief executive officer Xavier Campbell said.

Hird was hospitalised with severe concussion after falling off his bike on Monday night.

North Melbourne won the last encounter between these two teams, eking out a 13.15 (93) to 12.10 (82) win in round seven this year.

Hard man Jack Ziebell was a monster with 29 disposals and two goals, while Ben Cunnington had 26 and Sam Gibson 25. Three other Roos booted two goals in an even spread of attacking options.

Heppell had 29 for the Bombers and Goddard 27, while Patrick Ambrose, Travis Collyer and Watson kicked two goals each.

The Roos will be without Petrie for this match, the big forward copping a one match ban for striking.

Prediction

Match result: North Melbourne wins ($1.25 with Crownbet.com.au)

Line: North Melbourne -25.5 ($1.92 with CrownBet.com.au)

Fighting win or not against the Demons last week, we don’t reckon the Bombers stand a chance here… unless the typical North Melbourne ‘losing a match it should win’ rears its typical ugly head. But we’re banking on a big win to the blue and white. While we maintain they are mentally frail, they should have too much class and experience for the Baby Bombers. They’ll need to shut down the superb Daniher, but the Bombers’ lack of attacking options should make that an easier task for the Roos defenders. Potential All Australian key defender Hurley will be doing his best to make life tough for the Roos’ forwards, but the Bomber’s defence, with all their injuries, has become a bit of a one man band and the likes of Lindsay Thomas, Jarrad Waite and company should be able to find a way to kick a winning score. The Bombers haven’t defeated North since round one last year, and they haven’t been able to handle the Roos at Etihad Stadium, with 10 wins from their last 14 games and three wins from the last four.

First goal scorer tips

North Melbourne Kangaroos

Jarrad Waite ($9 with Sportsbet.com.au)

The embattled Waite hasn’t really lived up to the billing the Roos had hoped, aside from a big seven goal haul in round two. But Scott says Saturday night’s effort against Geelong was his best of the season and we think he can build from the there. With no Petrie, Waite will be expected to shoulder a huge load for the Kangaroos and they will need him to fire if they are to ensure victory. The midfielders will be looking for the rangy key forward every chance they get and if they get it out of the guts, he should be the prime target.

Brent Harvey ($17 with Sportsbet.com.au)

Hopefully young Boomer has been a good boy this week and managed to impress Brad Scott enough not to start with the green vest against the Bombers. We reckon Harvey has learnt his lesson and, while age might be finally starting to catch up with the Kangas’ favourite son, he still has plenty of heel and still has a razor sharp eye for the goals. We’re backing him in to do what the coach tells him to and have a blinding performance against a Bombers side that doesn’t really have anyone up to the task of shutting him down. Had 14 disposals when he finally got rid of the sub’s vest and will be primed to pick up where he left off with the first goal of the match.

Essendon Bombers

Joe Daniher ($7 with Sportsbet.com.au)

It feels like Daniher’s career is destined to be a tragedy. No, not individually, but, due to the Bombers being virtually destroyed by the supplements saga, it appears he will languish at a club that’s a long way from being a contender. Make no mistake, this kid is going to be a superstar. But the herd around him is more like mutton than lamb. A lot of things have to go right for the Bombers to even get close over the the next five to 10 years. Perhaps the dreaded tank is an option? Anyway, back to the task at hand, Daniher is the only clear cut pick for first goal, every time the Bombers go forward, they’ll be kicking it to him. He’s their only real danger man, after kicking five last week.

Shaun Edwards ($15 with Sportsbet.com.au)

Didn’t see a whole lot of the footy against the Demons and did start on the bench after being a late inclusion, but his two goals were invaluable and we feel like that will be enough for the young buck to hold his spot in a side that is really bereft of goal kickers. The former GWS Giant has size and speed on the half forward flank and, while he still needs to work on being more involved, he does have skills around the goals and is as good a candidate as anyone other than Daniher to boot the first goal in a make shift Essendon forward line.