Published on July 11, 2017 4:41 pm

Essendon captain Nick O’Brien has been one of the team’s leading hard-ball-winners in 2017

STATS CENTRAL: Hard-ball Bombers

Essendon’s elevation into the Peter Jackson VFL’s upper echelon of hard-ball-winning teams has it in contention for another finals berth.

Last year’s top two teams for clearances and contested possessions per game – Williamstown and Casey – are unsurprisingly again in the top three teams for those indicators in 2017.

But now they’ve been joined by a third force.

The seventh-placed Bombers have emerged as a powerful stoppage team this year to lead the VFL for clearances per game while ranking second behind the Seagulls for contested possessions per game. These ranks represent a vast improvement on 2016, when Essendon finished 10th and 11th in the two categories respectively at the end of the home-and-away season.

It can’t be denied that the return of a handful of experienced AFL-listed players from suspensions related to the club’s supplements saga has made an impact in this regard. Hard-nuts unable to break into a relatively deep Essendon midfield at the elite level are leading the way in the VFL engine room.

The grunt of David Myers (seven clearances per VFL game), Ben Howlett (seven), Craig Bird (six), Kyle Langford (six) and Heath Hocking (four) has helped the Bombers become the top team for clearing congestion, while those same players lead the way at the club in terms of winning contested possessions.

There’s another important addition to Essendon’s regular VFL team that can’t be forgotten either: Captain Nick O’Brien – returning to the club where he played 14 AFL games from 2012-15 after a year in the SANFL – has appeared in every match to average 23 disposals, 10 contested possessions and four clearances per game.

Under previous senior coach Matthew Egan last season, the VFL Bombers were a shining light in a generally dark year for the club. They defeated Geelong in an elimination final and only fell to eventual premier Footscray by 19 points in a semi final.

That was with a playing list often low on depth and high in youth and inexperience due to the senior players’ suspensions. What could Essendon’s midfield under new senior coach Paul Corrigan do this September with a range of hardened bodies playing regular VFL football together?


Round 12 keys to victory:

53: Williamstown helped knock Box Hill off top spot on the ladder with a powerful performance at the stoppages in its 45-point victory over the Hawks. The Seagulls won the contested possession count by 53, with Michael Gibbons (19 contested possessions) and captain Ben Jolley (15) doing much of the damage.

40: Footscray had its kicking boots on in a 49-point defeat of Sandringham, racking up 240 kicks – 40 more than the VFL average per game in 2017. The likes of Matt Goodyear (20 kicks), Lewis Young (18), Nick Jamieson (17), Liam Nash (17) and Bailey Williams (17) sliced through the Zebras to help set up 18 goals.

26: Michael Sodomaco returned to Werribee’s senior team for the first time since Round 6 after recovering from a glute injury and the club captain’s experience helped the Tigers overrun a young Coburg outfit by 18 points. Sodomaco had 26 disposals – second only to Matt Hanson (30) for Werribee – and six clearances.


Round 12 stats leaders:

Blaine Boekhorst Northern Blues 24
Eli Templeton Port Melbourne 24
Brett Bewley Williamstown 22
Matthew Goodyear Footscray 20
Ben Kennedy Casey Demons 19
Kobe Mutch Essendon 19
Nick O’Brien Essendon 19
Mitch Gent Casey Demons 18
Lewis Young Footscray 18
Matt Hanson Werribee 18
Joshua Iacobaccio Coburg 17
Nick Mellington Coburg 17
Jackson Ramsay Collingwood 17
Nick Jamieson Footscray 17
Liam Nash Footscray 17
Rupert Wills Collingwood 25
Tom O’Sullivan Port Melbourne 24
Luke Dunstan Sandringham 22
Luke Bunker Coburg 20
Brett Bewley Williamstown 19
James Tsitas Geelong 18
Jacob Townsend Richmond 17
Jarryd Blair Collingwood 16
Michael Gibbons Williamstown 15
Ben Jolley Williamstown 15
James Aish Collingwood 15
Alex Greenwood Footscray 15
Nick O’Brien Essendon 14
Patrick Lipinski Footscray 14
James Munro Casey Demons 14
Sean Gregory Coburg 13
Jordan Russell Footscray 12
Jackson Ramsay Collingwood 11
Lewis Young Footscray 11
Blaine Boekhorst Northern Blues 10
James Ferry Essendon 10
Brandon White Sandringham 9
Brodie Murdoch Port Melbourne 9
Josh Battle Sandringham 9
Jesse White Collingwood 9
Sam Dunell Williamstown 8
Nick Jamieson Footscray 8
Nathan Broad Richmond 8
Nick O’Kearney Sandringham 8
Cam O’Shea Northern Blues 8
Jason Holmes Sandringham 62
Nick Meese Williamstown 52
Ivan Soldo Richmond 39
Sam Draper Essendon 37
Jake Spencer Casey Demons 37
Matt Korcheck Northern Blues 36
Max Lynch Collingwood 34
Chris Carey Port Melbourne 32
Braydon Preuss Werribee 30
Tom Goodwin Coburg 26
Ryan Abbott Geelong 24
Daniel Gorringe Northern Blues 23
Marc Pittonet Box Hill Hawks 23
Jack Berry Geelong 22
Kieran Strachan Essendon 18
Luke Bunker Coburg 18
James Munro Casey Demons 17
Dominic Brew Werribee 15
Jacob Townsend Richmond 14
Dion Johnstone Casey Demons 13
Matt Hanson Werribee 12
Jason Pongracic Williamstown 12
Jack Graham Richmond 12
Ivan Soldo Richmond 10
Andrew Moore Box Hill Hawks 10
Ben Moloney Geelong 10
Nick Rippon North Ballarat 10
Ryan Clarke Werribee 10
Andrew Gallucci Northern Blues 10
Harry Morrison Box Hill Hawks 9
VFL   Last Rnd Total
Kayle Kirby Collingwood 4 27
Dylan Conway Port Melbourne _ 26
Jordan Lisle Port Melbourne 1 24
Ben Lennon Richmond INJ 23
Alex Boyse Essendon 1 22
Bayley Fritsch Casey Demons 2 21
Nick Larkey Werribee DNP 21
Ty Vickery Box Hill Hawks 1 20
Peter McEvoy Coburg 2 19
Arryn Siposs Williamstown 2 19
Development League   Last Rnd Total
Nathan Gardiner Casey Demons 2 21
Corey Rich Sandringham 2 18
Will Murphy Box Hill Hawks 4 18
Tristan Davies Williamstown _ 16
Nathan Smith Sandringham ** 16
Dale Hehir Box Hill Hawks 4 16
Samuel De Soysa Port Melbourne 1 14
Thomas Wilkinson Williamstown 1 14
Josh Corbett Werribee ** 12
Cory Machaya Casey Demons ** 12


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