ESSENDON'S elevated rookie Cory Dell'Olio has both the flair and appetite for niggle to suit the occasion of a debut against arch-foe Carlton, and has earned comparisons with Fremantle antagonist Hayden Ballantyne.
Dell'Olio, 22, (pictured) was taken by the Bombers in last year's rookie draft on the strength of a 56-goal season with South Fremantle, during which the medium-sized forward also showed he had improved the defensive side of his game.
Paul Hasleby, the former Docker who played with Dell'Olio in the WAFL last season and has since taken over as coach of South Fremantle, believes the Bombers will benefit from his goal sense and aggression.
''He has a confidence about him,'' Hasleby said yesterday.
''He can niggle when the time is right. He can take a high mark. He can kick a goal from boundary. He can do those exciting things, but he can also do a lot of the hard and tough things, and I reckon that will be the reason he succeeds.
''Some of those harder areas in a game of footy, he'll be involved in that, he gives a bit of niggle. He's not too dissimilar to Hayden Ballantyne in that way.''
Hasleby said Essendon's mature-age recruit also resembled Paul Medhurst, who added hardness to his forward repertoire later in his career.
''He [Dell'Olio] had the talent at 18 but probably didn't have the work ethic, but he's matured just through feedback from different people, that he had areas he had to work on, and it's a really good story that he did go back and put more time into his fitness and effort,'' Hasleby said.
''Over the last two years he has added some forward pressure to his game and that's when clubs actually stood up and took notice of him.
''He has that unique ability to be able to kick a goal when the team needs it most and I think he will love the occasion.''
The Bombers promoted Dell'Olio to help address an injury crisis that will stretch their resources for blockbusters four days apart against Carlton and Collingwood.
Brent Prismall, who is recovering from a knee reconstruction, has been placed on the long-term injury list.
"Cory had a terrific pre-season and we were impressed with his form early in the NAB Cup campaign and as a result of his hard work we are giving him the opportunity he deserves,'' football manager Paul Hamilton said.
Dell'Olio was last night named on the bench for tomorrow's clash with in-form Carlton at the MCG, while defender Cale Hooker returns from ankle soreness and tough midfielder Sam Lonergan from suspension. Jake Carlisle (soreness), Kyle Reimers and Ricky Dyson were left out.
The Blues recalled Brock McLean to replace Dennis Armfield, who jarred his knee against Collingwood last Friday night and is expected to miss a week.
McLean's selection represents a reprieve for the former Melbourne midfielder who managed only four games last season.
"Brock has been the number one performer with the Northern Blues for three weeks now, and has well and truly earned his place in the team this week," football manager Andrew McKay said.