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Bombers rally in bid to beat Pies hoodoo

Date

Jon Pierik

David Zaharakis celebrates his first goal in AFL that gave the Bombers victory on Anzac Day 2009, the team's last win over Collingwood.

David Zaharakis celebrates his first goal in AFL that gave the Bombers victory on Anzac Day 2009, the team's last win over Collingwood. Photo: Pat Scala

ESSENDON midfielder David Zaharakis says the unbeaten Bombers have been happy to avoid the spotlight this season as they now seek to snap a string of five straight thumpings by Collingwood.

While the Bombers have somewhat slipped under the radar so far this season, that will change this week after they crunched Carlton and now turn their attention to Wednesday when they face another arch enemy, Collingwood, on Anzac Day - the biggest day on the football calendar outside of the grand final.

The Bombers have not beaten the Magpies since Zaharakis booted the match-winning goal on Anzac Day in round five, 2009. What will have been particularly disturbing for the Bombers is the magnitude of these defeats, with an average margin of 60 points. Last year's losses were by 74 points in round 19 and 30 on Anzac Day.

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''The last couple of years haven't been the greatest of memories. Hopefully we can turn it around and get another win on the board,'' Zaharakis said.

Both teams will have had three days to recover, and the exciting Zaharakis said the shortened week would test their professionalism.

''The next three days will be ice baths, pool sessions. It's going to be a real test for the guys and how professional we are over the next three days that we put in the recovery and get our bodies right for Wednesday,'' Zaharakis said.

The Bombers are expected to have a light run at Windy Hill today, with the focus still on recovery.

The club's match committee will be tested, too, with forward Michael Hurley (hamstring) the latest victim in a long list of soft-tissue injuries and coach James Hird flagging up to six changes.

The Bombers defeated North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and the Gold Coast in the opening three rounds, but it was the five-goal thumping of the Blues on Saturday that stamped the club as a top-four aspirant. Centrebet, though, still has the Pies as favourite at $1.80 with Essendon $2.

Hird said on Saturday their focus this year was on winning at the MCG and in ''big games''.

''We have gone under the radar a bit. Everyone was talking about Carlton for the last three weeks and we were happy with that,'' Zaharakis said. ''No one was really talking about us. All we care about is putting results on the board, now we are four from four.''

Hird's game plan of congesting the midfield and Blues' forward line, and hoping his men would use their speed to beat the opposition on the rebound, worked a treat. This stymied the likes of Chris Judd, Marc Murphy and Heath Scotland, who flourish in open space.

''The intensity around the ball was something we focused on. That was great,'' Zaharakis said. ''They like to get out into open space which we know they love doing. It was great to stop them doing that.''

The Bombers will hope to stop the likes of Scott Pendlebury and Dane Swan from finding space and creating opportunities for key forwards Travis Cloke and Chris Dawes. ''They [Magpies] are undermanned at the moment but it will be a great contest,'' Zaharakis said.

Zaharakis was the Bombers' best and fairest last year, at 21 the club's youngest winner since Neale Daniher in 1981. But it's still that match-winning goal from about 40 metres on a wet Anzac Day in 2009 that many supporters associate him with.

The man himself prefers to look ahead.

''It was three years ago,'' Zaharakis said.

''As I said, the last two Anzac Days haven't really been the greatest. Hopefully we can turn it around on Wednesday.''

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