Bombers Put Drug Controversy To One Side

Picture: Stephen Harman/
Dyson Heppell could spend time in the midfield in the NAB Cup. Image courtesy of Harman
The first round of the NAB Cup normally draws a fair amount of interest as footy fans whet their lips in anticipation of the season ahead, but given the drama surrounding Essendon’s possible breach of the AFL Anti-Doping Code, opening night at Etihad Stadium will be front and centre of Australian sport on Friday night.

It would have been a massive night for the Bombers, regardless, with supporters getting their first glimpse of star recruit Brendon Goddard in the red sash. Like most teams, Essendon has some big names missing in round 1, but when one of them is the reigning Brownlow Medallist, it makes a big difference. While a knee injury will keep Jobe Watson out of the club’s first two NAB Cup matches, the ‘Dons will also be missing David Zaharakis, who already missed half of last season with a quad problem, as well as Jake Melksham. Disappointingly, father-son selection Joe Daniher has been left out of the squad, despite James Hird labelling his training performances as dominant.

Collingwood will be without Dale Thomas and Tyson Goldsack due to ankle injuries, as well as Luke Ball who missed most of last season due to a knee reconstruction. Much of the attention will centre on how experienced recruits Quentin Lynch, Clinton Young, Jordan Russell and Ben Hudson fit in.

The Western Bulldogs finished last season with little more than a yelp losing eleven straight games, and in just one of those did they get within 30 points of their opposition. Coach Brendan McCartney is clearly in rebuilding mode, and there is plenty of young talent on the ‘Dogs list which needs to step up over the next couple of seasons. Former All-Australian defender Dale Morris makes his comeback from a broken leg which has kept him out of action since 2011, but the fifth pick in last year’s draft, Jake Stringer, remains on ice. Of interest will be the debut of mature-age recruit Brett Goodes, the younger brother of Swans star Adam, who was a backline standout in the VFL last season.

The Bulldogs went down to the ‘Pies by seven points in the shortened format in round 1 last season after a five-points win over GWS first up. Essendon’s NAB Cup was a nightmare, beaten by 21 points by a rampant West Coast in Perth before Fremantle made the trip even more miserable handing the Bombers a 36-point hiding. In a format in which close scores was the norm, they were two of the biggest losses in the opening week. Things didn’t get much better after that when St Kilda was awarded the four points when Essendon’s charter flight couldn’t get out to Wangaratta due to heavy rain.

Essendon beat the ‘Dogs by 84 points in their only premiership fixture last season. The Bombers lost both matches to Collingwood , including a one-point heartbreaker on ANZAC Day. It’s also a rematch of the 2011 NAB Cup final which the Magpies won by 22 points, their first pre-season premiership in 32 years. Incidentally, the ‘Pies premiership win over Essendon back in 1990 also broke a 32-year drought. 

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