The bounce. Etihad stadium. NAB Cup, Round 1. Essendon versus Western Bulldogs.

And we’re off: Will Minson and David Hille vie for the ball as the 2013 NAB Cup kicked off on Friday with Essendon taking on the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Pat Scala

The Bombers didn't appear to have implemented any major positional shifts in the past four months, but didn't try to overstretch the Bulldogs' defence, Michael Hurley working in with one of David Hille, Tom Bellchambers or Paddy Ryder. Brendon Goddard was the biggest possession winner, with 13, with Jake Carlisle and Courtenay Dempsey both busy across the back line.

GODDARD SHINES IN DEBUT

Goddard's first game in red and black (no white) would have prompted much more attention, were it not for events of the past two weeks. Goddard played through the middle, sometimes starting in the centre square. He displayed the sort of foot skills the Bombers chased him for. His best moment? After briefly holding play up at half-back, looking for options, he sent a 50-metre kick into the centre square, onto Dempsey's chest.

YOUNG GUNS CATCH EYE

Having cleared out a number of fringe players last year - think Sam Lonergan, Brent Prismall, Ricky Dyson, Kyle Reimers and others - Essendon has forced itself to take a closer look at its young onballers this year. Draftee Nick Kommer showed a willingness to get involved through the middle, but third-year player Alex Browne was the eye-catcher: gutsy, and busy all game.

HIBBERD LOOKING STRONG

Michael Hibberd was one of the many Essendon players whose season was interrupted by soft tissue problems last season. He played with dash and dare off half-back, and will be an important part of the Bombers' year.

Emma Quayle

Morris finds feet in comeback

For Dale Morris, it was a year and a half without football after an ugly broken leg and complications. It was only an NAB Cup touch-up but he was given no small task of Michael Hurley at centre half-back. His first two plays didn't involve him touching it but the dogged strength in the tackle was still there. In the second half, Morris moved on to Alwyn Davey, showcasing that despite his broken leg he has seemingly not lost his pace and thus the versatility in his game.

GOODES DOG

Adam's little brother Brett looks a canny enough late pick for the Dogs. In his first outing he showed himself to be exactly what you want of a mature-aged recruit - ready-made to step straight in. He read the ball well at half-back, was OK by foot. Not as big as his brother, he runs well and has strength around the contest. Not bending down to gather a ball late in the game was a disagreeable look.

I KNOW THAT BULLDOG

There was a familiarity about the Dogs this year to last that was evident from the first match. Brendan McCartney's high priority on contested footy was there, but so too was allowing Essendon to have too much contested ball. A few problems that bedevilled them last year also returned.

You could call it early season rust, but they were sloppy with disposal and struggled up forward.

They kicked just two goals - one a super goal - when the rest of the field stopped and Shaun Higgins took advantage - in the first half and Liam Jones threaded a difficult set shot from wide in the second.

Michael Gleeson