Gary Ablett will lead the Suns in the NAB Challenge against the Bombers. Picture: Getty Images/couriermail.com.au
Essendon has its first outing under coach Mark Thompson, who has taken over whilst James Hird sits out a 12-month suspension over his part in the club’s peptide injection scandal. The Bombers face a strong Gold Coast Suns outfit headlined by Brownlow Medal winner, Gary Ablett, at Metricon Stadium.
The Suns' squad includes key players Jaeger O’Meara, Charlie Dixon, David Swallow, Jarrod Harbrow, Danny Stanley and potential star Jack Martin, who played the NAB Cup 12-months ago as a 17-year-old. The hosts have also included forwards Tom Lynch and Brandon Matera, who missed much of 2013 through injury. Dion Prestia, Rory Thompson, Zac Smith and Nathan Bock are all still on the injured list.
The Bombers will be without a handful of senior players including Jobe Watson, Brendon Goddard, Paul Chapman, Dustin Fletcher and Courtenay Dempsey. While they are being rested, key playmakers Brent Stanton, David Zaharakis, Dyson Heppell, Heath Hocking, Michael Hurley and Patrick Ryder will line-up in a key pre-season hit-out. Thompson is also blooding draftees Zach Merrett, Orazio Fantasia and Fraser Thurlow for the first time, along with former Giant, Kurt Aylett.
Thompson is expected to model the 2014 Bombers on the all-conquering Cats unit he steered to premierships in 2007 and 2009. Part of the Bomber’s (Thompson’s) game plan will be quick ball movement and Essendon is expected to play with added attacking flair.
Live on Fox Footy
Click here to bet on NAB Challenge matches