Friday Night: A fixture between the two most disappointing teams
The Bombers entered 2018 with aspirations of contending deep into September. The club and the majority of the football community predicted they would be able to build on their elimination final loss to Sydney, the previous year.
Of the 17 preseason top eights posted on AFL.com.au, 15 contained Essendon, and the other two had them ninth. The Bombers currently sit two games outside of the finals, and a weak percentage will almost certainly guarantee that they will be watching September from the stands.
Their last two months have highlighted why so many anticipated so much. Since their horrific loss to Carlton in round eight, the Bombers have beaten Geelong, GWS, West Coast, Sydney, and North Melbourne in dominating fashion.
Jake Stringer is beginning to recapture form, Devon Smith has developed into one of the competitions elite small-forwards, and Adam Saad is exhilarating out of defence. However, it is too little too late.
Joe Daniher accurately analogises Essendon’s problems. The 2017 All-Australian entered this season with as much anticipation as any. The mercurial forward was expected to build on a career-defining 2017. However, injury has plagued the forwards year, and in his seven games this year, Daniher has only managed to kick eight goals. Like Essendon, a season that has flashed brilliance but has left many disappointed.
St Kilda's season has likely been more disappointing than their Friday night counterparts.
Few expected the Saints to thrust themselves into premiership contention in 2018, but even fewer expected them to capitulate as frequently as they have this year.
Their second-half haemorrhage against the Bulldogs last week was emblematic of their season. Despite holding a 28-point lead halfway through the second quarter, the Saints conceded ten straight goals and eventually capitulated to a six-goal loss.
The output of Jack Steven, Jack Billings, and Luke Dunstan has decreased from last year, despite the expectation of the opposite. Josh Bruce has been unable to get on the park, and Patrick McCartin’s career has stagnated.
Seb Ross is frequently fighting a lone battle in the middle. The Saints are last in the competition for clearances and scores from stoppages.
While the Bombers can mathematically make the top eight, a win on Friday night from either side would do little to save what has been an incredibly disappointing season.