Essendon and Dockers miss Gumbleton

As Essendon blazed away time and time again during the final quarter of its Anzac Day capitulation, those with red and black coursing through their veins were left to lament how the Bombers' fate might appear different in 2014 if they only had a viable tall option in the forward line.

After his initial stubbornness in the post-game press conference, by Saturday morning it had dawned even on Bomber Thompson that the Jake Carlisle experiment was not an answer for the moment, if in fact it will ever be.

Having long since realised that Michael Hurley was better suited to defence, and with Joe Daniher still grappling with the challenges of his primary school years as an AFL footballer; not to mention his shaky kicking for goal, the Essendon coach was by Saturday pinning his hopes on Tom Bellchambers as the man to anchor the forward line cause.

Bellchambers is a handy footballer; more than competent as a tap ruckman and certainly capable of grasping some of the contested marks that are currently proving elusive for Carlisle. But rising 25, and with 61 games experience to his name, he is the possessor of just 48 goals at senior level. Rarely will he be a difference maker in attack. Simon Madden reincarnate he is not.

Since 2009's simultaneous ushering into retirement of Matthew Lloyd, and decline of Scott Lucas, no Essendon player has kicked any more than 34 goals in a single season. Furthermore the Dons have lost their two most consistent (albeit limited) goalkickers in Angus Monfries and Stuart Crameri. They may have landed Brendon Goddard to fill a midfield void, but right now they are waiting for a forward Godot.

The player Essendon is desperately missing at the moment is Scott Gumbleton. Well, at least what Gumbleton should have become after Adrian Dodoro paid a pretty penny for the West Australian at pick two in the 2006 draft. Say what you want about Bryce Gibbs, but the cost of drawing the infamous match in which the loser would take poll position in the race to claim the now-maligned Blue, has been substantial when you consider how little the brittle Gumbleton was able to provide over his seven years at Windy Hill.

It is all too ironic then that only a handful of hours later, Gumbleton's absence was being felt equally heavily across the Nullarbor by a one-dimensional Fremantle sans the winged Michael Walters, and undisciplined Hayden Ballantyne. The Dockers had enough trouble kicking goals even with that pair on the final Saturday in September last year, and likely to be without undersized aerialist Walters for the remainder of 2014, they seem an ever-lengthening chance even to make it that far again.

Fremantle paid a mere pittance compared with the Bombers in order to acquire Gumbleton's services, but a tall target to complement Matthew Pavlich would not go astray, and in that sense Ross Lyon's side is too missing what Gumbleton was intended to be. But a severe right hamstring strain sustained during the NAB Challenge means that any targeting of Gumbleton by purple-clad midfielders will be done in the second half of the season.

Until then, the Dockers much like Essendon are forced to find other avenues to goal. Neither coach is likely to dwell; Lyon and Thompson are live-in-the-present type operators. Doubtless though there will be supporters of both oufits, bemoaning all that Scott was not.

The story Essendon and Dockers miss Gumbleton first appeared on WA Today.

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