If part of Essendon’s struggles this season can be attributed to the injury-affected absence of Jake Stringer, then Sunday was a reminder of what the Bombers can be with their game changer at his best.
In the first quarter alone, Stringer booted three goals from the midfield in a ballistic burst that set the tone in Essendon’s 48-point win over North Melbourne.
The 28-year-old bookended his day with two last-quarter goals to finish with five majors as the Bombers steadily built on their lead through the game to claim the 17.12 (114) to 9.12 (66) victory.
BOMBERS V KANGAROOS Full match details and stats
Stringer remains Essendon’s chief matchwinner and his performance also included 14 disposals and six tackles in a damaging display for the Bombers, who recorded their highest score of the year.
It was their fourth win from five games in a turn of form that has lifted them slightly up the ladder and also raised spirits about a season that had otherwise been an ugly backwards step.
Despite losing in-form midfielder Dylan Shiel to a hamstring injury pre-game, the Bombers got on top around the ball, with Zach Merrett excellent with 38 disposals, 10 tackles and a goal, defender Mason Redman collected 32 disposals off half-back. Dyson Heppell, too, was consistent, while James Stewart returned to the Bombers’ line-up with three goals.
Jy Simpkin tried valiantly in the midfield for the Roos with a career-best 41 disposals, while Cam Zurhaar was a threat throughout, finishing with four goals for the last-placed Kangaroos.
Stringer was sharp early. He kicked the first of the day from the goal line and had three by quarter-time, including a set shot and a clever snap.
Starting in the center and pushing forward, Stringer was back to some of his brilliant 2021 form when he kicked 41 goals from 19 games and won several matches off his own boot for his team.
The Bombers’ efficiency going forward made them dangerous in attack to hand them a 15-point lead at the first change.
North’s own raging bull Zurhaar was standing in the way of a heavy defeat. He booted a goal to start the second term, his second of the day, and caused some headaches inside 50 for the Roos.
The Roos star kicked his third in the dying moments of the half to keep his side within reach of the Bombers, who had stretched their lead to 30 points just before the main break.
But Peter Wright got involved in the third quarter with two goals as the Bombers stretched their lead to 33 points at the final change, as Essendon ran away with its eighth straight win over North Melbourne dating back to 2016.