Kyle Langford act towards Jake Stringer sparks AFL fan scrutiny during Essendon win

A number of AFL greats questioned the chemistry of the team after the incident.

Kyle Langford has been called out by a pair of AFL greats and fans over an incident involving teammate Jake Stringer, during Essendon's 29-point win over the Western Bulldogs on Friday night. The Bombers bounced back from their 69-point drubbing by Port Adelaide last week with a morale-boosting 15.6 (96) to 9.13 (67) victory in a feisty contest at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium.

Essendon showed a greater resolve than in previous seasons after overturning a 10-point deficit in the second term to take command of the contest, with Zach Merrett (27 disposals) typically busy in the midfield alongside Jye Caldwell (23) and Sam Durham (21). Langford (three), Harrison Jones and Xavier Duursma (two each) all kicked multiple goals, as did Stringer (two) against his former club.

Pictured left is Kyle Langford ignoring Essendon teammate Jake Stringer in the AFL.
Kyle Langford was called out after ignoring Essendon teammate Jake Stringer and kicking an easy goal against the Western Bulldogs. Pic: Fox Footy/Getty

But it could and perhaps should have been three goals for Stringer on the night after he did well to win a free kick but was overlooked by Langford for a hand pass, with his teammate slotting through a goal of his own instead. Stringer drew a free kick at full forward and was pleading to receive the ball from Langford metres out from the posts, flashing his teammate an incredulous look as he booted the goal himself.

AFL greats Garry Lyon and Nathan Buckley both analysed the moment during Fox Footy's coverage and suggested it showed a lack of chemistry between the Essendon players. They both shared similar views to many fans, pointing out that Stringer is such a confidence player and should have received the hand pass from his teammate under the circumstances.

Kyle Langford scrutinised over Jake Stringer incident

"He (Langford) was looking behind, he heard the play-on call, he wasn’t involved in the initial contest. His teammate’s calling for it – and he’s calling for it for a good reason because he’s in best position at the time," Buckley said. “I think it’s an opportunity missed. I think it’s just a chance to feed into that teammanship. I think Kyle Langford’s been one of the more selfless Bombers that I’ve seen.”

Lyon added: “He’s played well tonight... but there’s a psychology to it! The psychology is – I look at my teammate, I know that he’s a confidence player. I know when he gets up he’s good for us. He won the free kick, I’ve got the ball, it’s better off giving it to him.”

Buckley added: “You don’t even have time to think about all of that. It’s just ‘it’s our goal, not my goal. You’ve earned it, so here it is.’” Fans were also quick to call out Langford over the incident, with some labelling him "selfish" for not getting the footy to his teammate.

Despite the backlash around the incident, the Bombers teammates were able to have a laugh about it after the match. Langford told Fox Footy: “I didn’t even think. I just saw the goal and thought ‘kick it’. I’ll probably give him the next one.”

Stringer did appear miffed with his teammate at the time but was more relaxed after the final siren, even if he did suggest Langford should have given him the goal for winning the free kick. “I worked hard for it mate," Stringer joked. "I got a free kick and thought I was a chance for a little one on the goal line, they don’t come that easy!”

Seen here, Essendon's Kyle Langford makes a tackle against the Western Bulldogs in the AFL.
Essendon's Kyle Langford makes a tackle against the Western Bulldogs in the AFL. Pic: AAP

Essendon bounce back for third win of season

The win gives the Bombers a 3-2 record ahead of their interstate trip to take on the winless Adelaide Crows next week. Bombers coach Brad Scott said the most pleasing aspect of the victory over the Dogs was the way they responded after being mauled by Port the week before.

"Clearly the response to a poor performance last week was what's important," Scott said. "When things are going well for you, you get positive reinforcement of what's working, but I've always been a believer that you learn most from your losses.

"To respond like we did particularly in centre bounces was really important and I thought our rucks were really important in that part of the game as well." The only downside for Essendon was Jye Menzie's shoulder injury, which forced him out of the game at three-quarter time as a precaution.

Bulldogs forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan kicked 3.3 from 12 touches in his 50th AFL game but missed an important set shot at the start of the final quarter before the Bombers kicked away. Tom Liberatore (25 disposals, nine clearances) was busy for the Dogs but had a concerning moment when he fell to the ground with nobody near him late in the game.

Liberatore told ABC Radio he lost his balance after tweaking his ankle earlier in the final quarter, but declared he had no concussion-like symptoms and full recollection of the incident. "For some reason he lost his footing and stumbled, but he's fine," Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge added about Liberatore after the game. "He's been looked after and there's no concussion or anything like that. We were coming in (to the changeroom) just making sure he's ok and he's apparently fine."