Just what AFL football has to do with the bloody trench warfare of World War I other than some loose connection to the idea of battle is unclear, but the recently invented sporting tradition of the ANZAC day clash is sure to attract a huge crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground today.
A duel between Collingwood and Essendon is a tantalising prospect in 2011, with the former club committing football massacres against opposition clubs on a weekly basis and the latter playing an exciting new brand of rebound footy.
All-conquering Collingwood somehow seem to have improved on their dominant form last year while Essendon, under the stewardship of champion favourite son turned coach James Hird, have been far outperforming preseason expectations.
The Pies have dropped fairytale recruit Andrew Krakouer, who has flourished since being given a second chance following a run-in with the law that landed him in prison for 16 months, illustrating the extraordinary pressure for positions at the club.
Essendon are nursing their wounds after the horrifying loss of two players for the season – Jason Winderlich and Courtenay Dempsey both ruptured their anterior cruciate ligaments within the space of fifteen minutes during their physical draw with Carlton last week.
The Bombers have hinted at a creative response to adversity, with three versatile ruckman penciled in to try and stretch the Pies defensive height – Patrick Ryder and Tom Bellchamber and incoming David Hille.
Furthermore, Collingwood are far from lacking in the height department with the inclusion of Darren Jolly to bolster their already formidable stock of tall forwards and rucks.
With this year’s restricted bench, it could prove a masterstroke or an abject disaster especially given the pace of Collingwood’s notoriously rampant running defenders such as Dale Thomas and Harry O’Brien.
Perhaps another stunning individual performance such as the one last week from the game’s most veteran player, 35-year-old Dustin Fletcher, could give Collingwood’s coaching staff some minor headaches, but it wont stop the Pies from smashing them in the middle.
And that, most of the time, is where footy games are won. So, though the Bombers might throw up some interesting challenges today, it’s hard to imagine them seriously challenging a team faced with the pleasurable dilemma of who not to play.
Score prediction: 35 points to Collingwood.
Opening bounce today is at 11:30am Cambodian time.