Hird's men on 'home' patch
Star power ... Jobe Watson will line up at Manuka Oval against GWS. Photo: Pat Scala
Essendon coach James Hird took time from a tumultuous pre-season to revisit his childhood.
But rather than just reminisce he is set to unleash a near full-strength Bombers line-up on an undermanned Greater Western Sydney at Manuka Oval on Friday night.
The Bombers coach confirmed to The Canberra Times that Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson, former St Kilda star Brendon Goddard, key forwards Michael Hurley and Paddy Ryder and evergreen premiership defender Dustin Fletcher would all be playing.
GWS, on the other hand, will be without spearheads Jeremy Cameron and Jonathon Patton, as well as ruckman Jonathan Giles and former Hawthorn premiership defender Stephen Gilham.
While No.1 draft selection Lachie Whitfield will also miss the game, the Giants will unveil Jono O'Rourke - the midfielder they took with the very next pick in last year's draft - for his first game with the club.
The match will be the first AFL game under lights in the nation's capital.
''I notice that Sheeds has left out his two key forwards, he's probably not taking the Bombers seriously this week,'' Hird said. ''But we're in for a big game.''
Hird grew up in Canberra playing footy for Ainslie.
He was drafted by the Bombers in 1990 and spent 17 seasons playing for the club, winning two premierships and one Brownlow Medal.
He also won three Anzac medals for best on ground in Anzac Day matches against Collingwood.
His press conference at the Australian War Memorial on Thursday was staged 200 metres up the road from his old house and next door to his high school, Campbell High.
Hird took time out from his schedule to cross the road to the oval he grew up playing on - a ground where he and Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley played together for the Tricolours.
''This was my backyard,'' Hird said.
''It's a beautiful part of the world, this is one of my favourite places, I think it's absolutely sensational.''
It was the visit to the Australian War Memorial that triggered the most memories for Hird.
He said he played only ''three or four times'' on Manuka Oval so it wouldn't be too nostalgic a return on Friday night.
''I didn't play a lot at Manuka because they had the ground at Woden, which was the home ground,'' Hird said. ''I only played there three or four times.
''It's a terrific ground, a beautiful ground, the old MCG scoreboard … it's got a great feel and set in one of the most beautiful parts of Canberra.''
GWS: Phil Davis, Curtly Hampton, Stephen Coniglio, Toby Greene, Dylan Shiel, Rhys Palmer, Callan Ward, Tom Scully, Taylor Adams, Adam Treloar, Adam Tomlinson, Jono O'Rourke, Liam Sumner, Lachie Plowman, Jacob Townsend, Aidan Corr, Setanta O'hAilpin, Tim Mohr, Adam Kennedy, Mark Whiley, Kurt Aylett, Bret Thornton, Sam Frost, Dean Brogan, Sam Reid (emergency).
Essendon: Michael Hibberd, Thomas Bellchambers, Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton, Leroy Jetta, Brendon Goddard, Stewart Crameri, Courtney Dempsey, Tayte Pears, Jake Melksham, Michael Hurley, Jackson Merrett, Dyson Heppell, Jake Carlisle, David Myers, Cale Hooker, Elliott Kavanagh, Alwyn Davey, Paddy Ryder, Dustin Fletcher, Kyle Hardingham, Martin Gleeson, Nick Kommer, Heath Hocking, Ben Howlett, Nathan Lovett Murray, Mark Baguley.