Bombers beat Hawks, but Reid injured again in AFL clash

Roger Vaughan |

Jade Gresham (top) made a promising start with his new club Essendon as they downed Hawthorn.
Jade Gresham (top) made a promising start with his new club Essendon as they downed Hawthorn.

Top-10 draft picks Zach Reid and Archie Perkins are a big part of Essendon’s future as the Bombers struggle to emerge from a futile AFL decade.

Their vastly contrasting fortunes in Saturday’s season-opening win over Hawthorn at the MCG highlight the excitement and pain that lies ahead for the club.

With Darcy Parish injured, Perkins went into the midfield and starred in the 17.5 (107) to 11.17 (83) victory.

Archie Perkins
Young gun Archie Perkins (2nd right) excelled in the Bombers’ win over the Hawks. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

His performance had coach Brad Scott drawing parallels with Sydney star Isaac Heeney ahead of next week’s away match against the Swans.

But Reid was subbed out of the game at halftime because of another hamstring injury as the key defender struggles to build any momentum in his career.

Scott does not think this latest setback is serious, but it comes after Reid missed all of last season because of hamstring problems.

He has managed just eight senior games since his 2021 debut.

“If there is damage, it’s minor,” Scott said.

“Hopefully it’s okay, but if he’s not, he’s building a really solid bank of resilience … we still have real confidence in him.”

As the scoreline indicates, Essendon’s defence around the ground remains a work in progress.

The Bombers won on the back of 11.1 to 7.9 in set shots, plus winning centre clearances 18-9.

But if they do not sharpen their transition work, the in-form Swans will maul them.

One observer noted the glaring difference in intensity between Saturday’s game and the Swans’ outstanding win over premiers Collingwood on Friday night, noting the Essendon-Hawthorn game was “keepings-off” by comparison.

“We’d like to do better – Hawthorn really challenged us on transition,” Scott said.

“We had some system breakdown in the first half … we improved in the second half.

“We’d certainly like to defend better than we did today.”

Jake Stringer
Jake Stringer (c) kicked four goals for the Bombers. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

There was still a lot to like about the Bombers, with high-profile recruits Ben McKay, Todd Goldstein and Jade Gresham all starting well.

Andrew McGrath was excellent across half-back, Zach Merrett was a dynamo through the midfield and Matt Guelfi impressed with a defensive forward role on Hawks star James Sicily.

Jake Stringer kicked four goals and Perkins shone, racking up eight clearances and kicking two goals.

“I heard (Swans coach) John Longmire talking about Isaac Heeney – he’s an All-Australian forward, but he’s clearly dominating through the midfield,” Scott said.

“‘Perk’ has a fair way to go to replicate what Isaac is doing, but he’s a similar type.

“We really like him forward, but we really like him in the midfield too.”

It was a big day for the Bombers, with a pre-game motorcade honouring their 1984 premiership side and the drought-breaking grand final win over the Hawks.

“If the players start to think about that stuff, they’re taking their eyes off what they can control,” Scott said.

“But in terms of our club … it was one of the best-ever eras.

“What our fans want to see is massive effort and just having a massive crack.”

The same can be said of the Hawks, who lost no friends in Saturday’s loss.

Playing off half-back and a wing, Massimo D’Ambrosio shone against his old club and was best for Hawthorn.

Massimo D'Ambrosio
Massimo D’Ambrosio (r) was Hawthorn’s best against his former team. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

It took until the last quarter, when Essendon kicked five goals to two, for them to burn off the Hawks’ challenge in the warm conditions, with many players cramping after halftime.

Star Hawthorn recruit Jack Ginnivan kicked two first-half goals and looked dangerous after a lot of work in the off-season.

Jack Ginnivan
Hawthorn recruit Jack Ginnivan kicked two first-half goals. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

“I was really proud of the work ethic the boys put in, we just quite weren’t polished enough,” said Hawks coach Sam Mitchell.