Another narrow loss to Sydney is a cruel blow for Essendon and its supporters, but Nik Cox showcased his abundance of talent and athleticism on the night.
Picks four, five and eight in the 2020 AFL National Draft were all on display on Thursday night, but Essendon’s pick seven Nik Cox stole the show in his fourth game of AFL.
Despite not playing a game in his draft year due to the COVID-19 cancellations in Victoria, the two-metre wingman glided over the ground to record 18 disposals at 83 percent efficiency.
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Essendon’s first draft pick ran both ways all night. He kicked a goal and two behinds, and collected 63 percent of his possessions in the defensive half of the ground including two intercept marks deep in defence to repel a rampaging Sydney outfit in the third quarter.
Not only did he get the best of one of his opponents on the wing in Nick Blakey, but he came into the middle in the second half with makeshift ruckman Peter Wright struggling to contain Tom Hickey’s influence.
From the ruck, the 18-year-old recorded five hit-outs and a centre clearance. His work-rate across the ground was staggering, with Hickey unable to go with him on several occasions in the final term.
Essendon coach Ben Rutten was strong in his support for the young group including Cox. In his post match press conference, he voiced his pride in the fight they showed coming off a five day turnaround and travelling interstate.
“[I’m] proud of the group, is certainly the way I’m feeling,” he said.
“Players were shattered by the result, [but] the character, the grit and determination the guys showed until the last second… its character building.
“On a short break, travel, all those things. It’s fantastic experience and exposure.”
Rutten stated the players are driving this culture of hard-work and determination that Essendon is playing with.
“I think the guys have been really determined to get better. They’re driving it, the players are the ones who are turning up every day, which is a reflection of how they’re showing up every week,” he said.
“They play hard together, [and they’re] really disappointed tonight.”
Sitting at 1-3 on the season, a much needed nine day break awaits the Bombers before they once again travel interstate to take on the Lions in Brisbane.
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