Bombers add extra strings to midfield bow during pre-season

DYNAMIC DUO: Essendon recruits Jake Stringer and Devon Smith have been training well since arriving at the club over the off-season. Picture: AAP
DYNAMIC DUO: Essendon recruits Jake Stringer and Devon Smith have been training well since arriving at the club over the off-season. Picture: AAP

Essendon midfield coach Hayden Skipworth is hoping the Bombers’ wealth of running players will be their biggest strength this season.

With Jake Stringer and Devon Smith coming on board and No.1 draft pick Andrew McGrath set to spend more time in the midfield, Skipworth is looking forward to seeing the new-look line-up in action for the first time at Wangaratta’s Norm Minns Oval on Saturday.

“We have a lot of guys who can go through there now,” Skipworth said.

“It’s definitely something we have spoken about.

“We will be able to flick players around a bit more.

“Brendon Goddard, Orazio Fantasia and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti can pinch-hit on the ball as well as a few others.

“We will soon find out when the season starts.

“Everyone seems to be tracking well at this time of the year and once we get going against Richmond and Geelong we’ll see where we are at.”

With almost 8000 tickets sold on Wednesday night, a capacity crowd is set to turn-out for the JLT Community Series match.

Skipworth, who has spent the past two seasons as a forward-line coach at Essendon before returning to the midfield role this year, doubts the Bombers will put too much time into curbing Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin.

“Sometimes you look at playing kids on the better mids to give them exposure against quality opposition,” Skipworth said.

“But it’s more of a focus on us really.

“At this time of the year you are more trying to set up properly and execute game plans.

“We won’t spend heaps of time focusing on Richmond, but we will certainly look at opportunities like that during a game to fast track development.”

Although gastro has swept through Essendon’s leadership group this week, Skipworth expects the Bombers to be close to full strength.

He said the clash was even more important this year with only two practice matches scheduled in the revamped competition.

”It should be a good hit-out,” he said.

“Players only have two games to get themselves into form for round one so it’s important for both sides.

“The boys love getting to the country and playing.

“We went to Bendigo last year and it’s something different and exciting.”

It will be Skipworth’s first visit to Wangaratta.

The match starts at 4.35pm.