True AFL scale points to grand final Swans and Blues doubts over Essendon Bombers poised to be lifted Geelong Cats Brad Scott Chris Scott latest news

True AFL scale points to grand final Swans and Blues doubts over Essendon Bombers poised to be lifted Geelong Cats Brad Scott Chris Scott latest news

Saturday night’s monster MCG clash between Essendon and Geelong could become the real test many critics have been waiting for in the 2024 season.

Sitting pretty third on the ladder, Brad Scott’s Bombers remain half a game ahead of rivals Collingwood but, despite their ranking, have drawn constant criticism as a team that is more of a contender than competition.

And with ladder leaders Sydney and powerhouse Carlton seemingly in leagues of their own, Essendon now has the chance to establish itself as the next best taxi in the table with a win against seventh-placed Geelong tomorrow night.

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Speaking on Fox Footy’s First Crack PreviewSt Kilda great Leigh Montagna looked at each team’s record against the top eight this year, with only Sydney and Carlton holding winning records against their counterparts in the top half of the table.

Highlighting Essendon’s win-loss record this year, the 287 players suggested their biggest test in recent weeks has come sooner than they imagined.

“Sometimes there are home and away games that mean more than others – statement games – and I think that’s absolutely the case for Essendon on Saturday night against the Cats,” Montagna began to say.

“There is a lot of talk about the Bombers sitting third on the ladder and there is still a lot of doubt about where they are and who they have actually beaten.

“Sydney Swans (are) seven from seven; haven’t lost to a top eight team, Carlton is 5-3 against top eight teams – but after that, no one has a winning record against the top eight.

“There’s Essendon at 10, they’ve got a win and a half; but they have only played five games against top eight teams so this is a very big opportunity for the Bombers to make a statement against top eight teams and also hold on to the top four – there is no doubt that where they sit the scale will be a big factor.”

Essendon’s six points against teams in the top half of the ladder came with a draw against Collingwood in round seven on Anzac Day and a noble win against GWS in round 9 at Marvel Stadium.

With the luxury of not needing to travel outside of Victoria until the final home and away game of the season, the stage is set for the Bombers to make the most of their current top four spot.

And beyond the final cargo of hope, Saturday night’s game has a little more at stake between coaches Brad and Christ Scott.

Chris’ Cats have had an exemplary record against Essendon in recent memory; especially in the last five years.

“The other big factor I think this is a statement game for the Essendon football club is sometimes you have to stand up and look at your bully and get past them – because Geelong have owned Essendon lately ” Montagna continued.

“They’ve beaten them the last six times by an average of 52 points; in fact they’ve beaten them in 18 of their last 21 (matches), so they’ve bullied this Essendon football club for a long time.

Zach Merrett and Patrick Dangerfield collide when the Bombers last beat the Cats in May 2018 (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“At the moment, for this footy club to continue to develop and progress to be a finals team and win a finals – they have to retire their bully, which is on their knees, let’s be fair – Geelong are in all kinds of issues with their confidence and their legs right now.

“They won’t have a better picture to go straight past Geelong … I’m looking forward to this game, it’s going to be massive and I think Essendon should be very confident.”

Show host and six-time Australian Bulldog Brad Johnson also noted how a win over the Cats sets them up for September given their indulgent home run.

“It gets them ready to run home; It’s just that they only travel once (more) and that’s in round 24 to the Gabba, so this sets up a period of the season that can allow them to finish in the top four and have a real crack at a premiership, Johnson said.

“I’ll be very disappointed if they allow this Cats team, with the way they’re playing, to beat them and beat them again, so I think they should win,” Montagna concluded by saying.

The Bombers have been boosted with the inclusion of veteran ruck Todd Goldstein in the clash, as well as fellow ruck Jade Gresham – the duo coming in for the omitted Nate Caddy and Jye Menzie.

At the Cats, the loss of Tom Hawkins to a foot problem will hurt their attack badly, but gives young forward Shannon Neale another shot at the top level after some promising displays of late.

Joining Hawkins on the sidelines, Ollie Henry (injured) and Oisin Mullin (missed), Lawson Humphries made his debut alongside 11-man Mitch Knevitt.