By Tom Sermani @tom_sermani
North Melbourne: $1.71 -6.5.
Essendon: $2.28 +7.5
Points Total Line: 169.5
North Melbourne: Won four of last five – only loss to Geelong in round 19.
Essendon: Won two, lost two and drawn one of last five.
North Melbourne: 10 over, 12 under (1/1 at MCG)
Essendon: 8 over, 14 under (3/4 at MCG)
North Melbourne: McDonald, Firrito, Greenwood, Thomas and Goldstein return in place of Hansen, Currie, Mullett, Wood and Adams.
Essendon: Myers and Steinberg return for Ambrose and Fantasia.
The Kangaroos’ skipper, Andrew Swallow, has been in scintillating form since returning from long term injury and his ability to create goal scoring opportunities from stoppages is something the Bombers will need to curtail.
Heath Hocking will probably get the job of tagging Swallow and he will have his work cut to keep him from dominating in the middle of the park.
Drew Petrie will be marked by Essendon’s newest All Australian squad member Cale Hooker, and it should be a battle to savour. Petrie has had the reputation of a bit of a flat track bully in recent years – a forward who gets all his goals against the weaker teams – but he’s gone some way to dispel this in 2014, scoring five goals against the Hawks in round 16, four against Richmond in 12 and three versus the Cats in round 10.
Petrie comes into the finals in decent form having scored 11 times in his last four games.
Baguley has been a rock in defence this year for the Bombers averaging an impressive 17.9 disposals, 6.5 marks and 3.2 tackles.
He’ll probably be charged with marking Lindsay Thomas and how he copes with the Roos’ live-wire forward will go a long way to deciding which way this game goes.
With Jake Carlisle injured it’s very possible we’ll see Michael Hurley play parts, if not all, of the game tonight in the forward line. Hurley lost confidence last season when playing up front but he’s been in superb form as a defender and he has recaptured the ability to mark the ball which deserted him as a fast leading forward.
If he does play in the back line he will take Lindsay Thomas or Aaron Black and his contribution will be vital.
Last 10 meetings between the teams:
North Melbourne have won six of the last ten, Essendon have won four.
Average winning margin is 22 points.
The two sides last met in round one when the Bombers convincingly beat North by 39 points.
It’s hard to predict the result of this game with any certainty as both sides have the ability but are inconsistent, from week to week and also quarter to quarter.
The difference could come down to the coaches and Bomber Thompson stands head and shoulders above Brad Scott, especially when it comes to getting the job done in the finals.
This match could go either way so i’m happy to take the Bombers at odds against and we’ll look for a big priced first goal scorer in Michael Hurley too and hope that he starts in the forward line.