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Where: Melbourne Cricket Ground
When: Saturday September 6 – 10.15am (BST)
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North Melbourne and Essendon meet at the MCG on Saturday in the first of the two elimination finals.
The Kangaroos should come into the clash the fresher of the two sides after resting a number of key players in its win over the Demons last week, while Essendon played out a hard-fought draw against bitter rivals Carlton.
The two teams last met all the way back in round 1, where the Bombers got its 2014 season off to a flying start with a 39-point win.
Jobe Watson along with Dyson Heppell and Brendon Goddard were superb that day, and Mark Thompson will need those three men at their best if his side want to make a mark on September.
The Kangaroos’ season has been dominated by inconsistency.
Brad Scott’s men have defeated three of the top four sides (Sydney, Hawthorn & Fremantle), but have also lost to the likes of Carlton and the Brisbane Lions.
If they come out like they did in the wins against the top four sides, then there’s no doubt the Kangaroos have an excellent chance to progress to the second week of finals.
If they don’t, the Bombers will capitalise.
North Melbourne will be missing veteran Brent Harvey, who’s experience will be dearly missed.
The Bombers on the other hand are without forward Jake Carlisle, and it’s the injury-plagued Tom Bellchambers who’ll come in for him.
This is a tough one to pick sheerly due to North Melbourne’s inconsistency.
If they show up and play near to the best of its quality, they should progress.
If not, Essendon will pounce.
1. North Melbourne and Essendon have clashed seven times previously in finals. Their last meeting was the 2000 qualifying final, when Essendon kicked 31 goals and won by 125 points en route to the premiership.
2. The Bombers remain a high disposal side, ranked second for average disposals in the competition.
3. Essendon comes into the clash with more recent MCG experience. The Bombers have played at the MCG 14 times compared to the Kangaroos’ four in the past two seasons.
4. In a strange twist, former St Kilda teammates Brendon Goddard and Nick Dal Santo will face each other on opposing teams on Saturday night.
5. Paddy Ryder’s career-best year has been reflected in the Official AFL Player Ratings, brought to you by Gatorade. Ryder is ranked No.69 in the competition – he started the year at No.120.Z
6. North will be without its best player, according to the Official AFL Player Ratings. Their suspended veteran Brent Harvey is the sixth best player in the competition according to the Official AFL Player Ratings.