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Opposition watch: Bombers to target West Coast wall

Rhys Dickinson  May 18, 2017 12:00 PM

AFL 2017 Round 08 - West Coast v Western Bulldogs

Essendon will be looking to take down West Coast's tall defenders on Sunday

Essendon game intelligence and opposition strategy coach Rob Harding says the Bombers will target West Coast’s wall of tall defenders at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Harding told Bomber Radio that Essendon’s forwards couldn’t afford to give the Eagles’ back six the freedom to slip off their direct opponent and take intercept marks.

West Coast is the third stingiest team in the competition – having conceded just 666 points through the first eight games of the season – largely due to its marking prowess in the defensive 50m.

“Their team defence is outstanding. They’ve got two of the top three intercept marks in the AFL in Jeremy McGovern and Elliot Yeo,” Harding said.

“Teams that have played well against West Coast have found a way to keep their backs engaged a little bit more.

“When they’re able to set-up the ground the way they want they’re very hard to get through.

“They’re a top four defence and as they move the ball forward they’ve got some real weapons with their talls.

“Jack Darling has run into some form in the last couple of weeks and Josh Kennedy has been outstanding for the last couple of years now.”

Sunday’s match could come down to efficiency in front of the big sticks.

West Coast is ranked 13th in the competition for inside 50 entries, averaging 49.8 per game, and Essendon is ranked 16th with just 41.8 attacking thrusts per outing.

Harding felt the Bombers’ ball use and movement was on the up, and for that reason he hoped the Dons could create more entries against the Eagles at Etihad Stadium.

“At the moment we’re only generating low 40s for inside 50s each week. We need to get that number up into the mid 50s or higher,” he said.

“We’ve shown a really good ability to score from limited inside 50 opportunities.

“The way our forward line has been functioning as a collective has been outstanding – all credit to the young leaders in that group and also Hayden Skipworth, who has coached them really well and developed a continuity among that group already.

“There are times where we bite off a little more than we can chew … but I think our ball movement has been a real weapon so far.”