Bombers ruck duo behind winning AFL scores: McGrath
Acting Bombers captain Andrew McGrath says he is thrilled by how Essendon’s two ruckmen have kept the Bombers’ attack humming without spearhead Peter Wright.
Essendon’s bold call to play two ruckmen against Melbourne in the wet paid off in spades, with Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips booting five goals between them and getting the better of Demons opponent Brodie Grundy at stoppages in the Bombers’ stirring 27-point win in Adelaide.
It was likely the best game of the 31-year-old Phillips’ unique AFL career, which has spanned three clubs and 66 games over more than a decade in the competition.
McGrath said the Bombers were near certain to stick with the pair to try and “target” Collingwood’s lack of a recognised ruckman on Anzac Day, with a mix of Nathan Kreuger, Billy Frampton and Ash Johnson likely to vie against the Essendon duo at the MCG.
“I’m sure it’ll be talked about, and I’m sure they will be planning for it as well, but I can’t see the two-ruck situation changing from now until Tuesday, especially considering how well they both played,” McGrath said.
“Sam and Andrew had a great game on the weekend … they had a real challenge going up against a quality ruckman in Brodie Grundy and (coach Brad Scott) sort of put it to them a little bit about the opportunity.
“They had to work him over with two against one and just the way they’ve worked in synergy, and for each other to go forward in particular and get on the scoreboard has been massive for us.”
With Peter Wright still three months away after a shoulder reconstruction, McGrath said the ruck pair had helped the Bombers’ forwards maintain a functional system that was key to their 4-1 start to the season.
“They’ve given us another option up for up forward and have really helped with our small forwards bringing the ball to ground,” he said.
“They rarely get outmarked, but just their competitiveness and their willingness to do anything for the team has been a standout and they were two of our best on the weekend.”
Key forward Sam Weideman could return to the Bombers’ forward line on Anzac Day after being cleared of concussion symptoms, with performance boss Daniel McPherson saying the former Demon would train fully this week.
Weideman’s return could come at the expense of Harry Jones, who is on a modified training program along with key defender Brandon Zerk-Thatcher after the pair suffered ankle injuries against the Demons.
McPherson confirmed young defender Zach Reid would return through the VFL this weekend after overcoming a back injury, with Kaine Baldwin to join him in the reserves after exiting the concussion protocols.
“Zach will be available for selection this week,” McPherson said.
“He’s ticked off all the relevant markers we needed from him and we can’t wait to see him out there.”
Originally published as Bombers ruck duo behind winning scores, says captain