COMING off a loss to Collingwood and the Round 14 bye, Melbourne will be desperate to get its back-half of the season off to a strong start this Saturday night.
But it won’t be taking its opposition lightly.
The Bombers may sit in 10th position on the ladder, but they have won four of their last five games and have an abundance of young talent on their list that will need to be monitored.
Two of those names are Nik Cox and Harry Jones, who have received Rising Star nominations in their side’s last two outings, and form part of an unpredictable forward line mix.
“I was very impressed with big Harry Jones,” Dees’ defender Jake Lever told SEN Breakfast on Tuesday morning.
“Obviously a Calder Cannons boy as well, so to see him play well is fantastic.”
Jones clunked eight marks and slotted two goals in Essendon’s 13-point victory over Hawthorn on Sunday, but it was Jake Stringer who stole the show with four majors from his equal career-high 29 disposals.
“Essendon, they were very good,” Lever said.
“But the back six, back seven, we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
And it certainly will be a challenge for the team who has conceded less points than any other this year, up against the second-highest scoring side in the competition.
The Dons play an attacking brand of footy, and despite being the second-youngest team in the league last round, they should enjoy the wide wings of the MCG.
Running out games as well as any other side in recent times, the Bombers have outscored their opponents by a combined total of 71 points in the last quarters of their past four victories.
“We understand they’re in really, really good form,” Lever said.
“I think their record is … 6-7 now, and we understand they’re probably going a little bit better than that right now, and we’re going to have our hands full.”
While the numbers would suggest Melbourne should have the upper hand in the contested phase of the game, Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett are two on-ballers to watch.
Featuring among the best in the league for disposals, uncontested possessions and handball receives, the duo have formed a combination that will test the ladder-leaders.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge because … we were bitterly disappointed [last Monday],” Lever said.
“But I can feel that after a few days off and training yesterday, we came back and there was definitely a lot more energy and a lot more optimism and excitement about the next half of the year, and it starts this week with Essendon.”
To hear more from Lever, watch the video below: