His absence was obvious against the Bombers as Essendon’s ruckmen double-teamed Brodie Grundy to kick five first-half goals and kickstart their centre clearances.
Goodwin said he could not wait to get the All-Australian ruckman back because they would be a better team with both Grundy and Gawn in the same side. He said having another tall inside the forward 50 would stretch defences and give their small forwards a chance to score.
“We are looking forward to getting the big fella back. We have missed him. Brodie has stepped up and done a great job on his own, but we got them there to be together, and hopefully, we will get him back next week,” Goodwin said.
“He has been progressing really well and has been doing a lot of match simulation in the last few weeks, so he’s really close in terms of where he’s at right now. He is an important player, a very proud player who takes his rehab very seriously, so he will be right to go.”
Goodwin said the signs that the Demons were off were evident early in the game, and he said they would look at whether they got their preparation for the game right. He agreed that two interstate trips might have had an impact but refused to use that as an excuse.
He said the club was also hopeful Jake Lever and Ben Brown would return against Richmond.
“That wasn’t us today. It wasn’t us,” Goodwin said.
Essendon raise expectations, pound Dees’ defence
Essendon are officially underselling and over delivering after creating the biggest upset of Gather Round to keep their spot inside the top four after five rounds.
The win was built on the back of enormous pressure and sets up a huge Anzac Day clash against Collingwood in round six in 10 days.
Meanwhile, Melbourne are left to lament their inability to cover the absence of key talls, Gawn, Lever and Ben Brown, who was a late withdrawal due to a back injury. They conceded more than 100 points for just the second time since round 19, 2019.
Essendon exploited Melbourne’s misfortune with their ruckmen Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips pushing forward to kick five goals in the first half before the rain arrived early in the third quarter.
They also sent Kyle Langford to disrupt Steven May’s intercept marking and Will Setterfield, who laid 10 tackles, to blanket Clayton Oliver with both moves paying dividends early when the game was up for grabs.
However, this was not just a game won in the coach’s box.
The players believed in the plan that was in place and worked hard to implement it as expected, creating 10 goals through turnovers.
In the first half, before the rain arrived during the third quarter, Melbourne had only taken two intercept marks and the Bombers were matching the Demons in the clearances but scoring heavily from those they won.
Their ability to break even in the centre clearances gave the Bombers the chance to set up behind the ball, with defenders appreciating the effort the other lines put in to lock the ball inside their forward 50.
In his first match for the year Will Snelling showed why he is so highly rated internally, with his tackling pressure setting the standard for his teammates, Darcy Parish, Zach Merrett, Dylan Shiel and Nic Martin working hard when they did not have the ball.
The performance was in stark contrast to the Bombers of last season when opponents ran the ball out of their back half like Essendon did not exist.
Melbourne were outplayed with several defenders panicky and the connection between their forwards and their midfield.
The sight of defender Adam Tomlinson hand-balling the ball out of bounds deliberately when under pressure in the second quarter was symbolic of a team that were disjointed. Melbourne missed Lever and were lucky they kicked accurately from set shots otherwise the margin would have been wider.
Draper and Darcy Parish were hard and tough around the ball while Jake Kelly blanketed the dangerous Kysaiah Pickett, with the out-of-contract forward having just 11 touches.
All eyes turned to Grundy when Gawn injured his knee in round two, but now they will turn back to Gawn as the Demons showed they are vulnerable to a team with two ruckmen after Phillips and Draper double-teamed the former Magpie and pushed him beyond the red zone, limiting his influence and making life harder for the Demons’ midfield.
Ducking into concussion
Just before half-time Melbourne’s Charlie Spargo was concussed when he ducked as the Bombers’ Mason Redman ran towards him to tackle. The top of his head smashed into Redman’s midriff, and he immediately fell to the ground dazed. The umpire did not show any sympathy, penalising the Demons forward for holding the ball as Redman called for a trainer. The umpire’s decision was correct and may discourage players from adopting the technique.
ESSENDON 5.4 9.10 12.13 15.14 (104)
MELBOURNE 4.2 7.5 7.7 11.11 (77)
Goals: Essendon: Draper 3, Phillips 2, Langford 2, Hind 2, Snelling, Martin, Jones, Stringer, Perkins, Martin. Melbourne: Fritsch 2, Melksham 2, Pickett 2, van Rooyen 2, Petracca, Chandler, Neal-Bullen
Best: Essendon: Draper, Parish, Langford, Merrett, McGrath, Kelly, Snelling, Setterfield. Melbourne: Oliver, Petty, Fritsch, Langdon