Key pair a boost for Bombers
Michael Hurley. Photo: Pat Scala
For such an all-encompassing physical and mental challenge, Essendon can at least be thankful that all its troops will be on call for Friday's opening night battle against Adelaide.
Stars Michael Hurley and David Zaharakis, both recovering from injury, are in the selection frame.
Acting football manager Danny Corcoran said both Hurley and Zaharakis had been cleared to play.
Hurley was in a moonboot as late as nine days ago after suffering an ankle injury in the Bombers' last NAB Cup hitout against Greater Western Sydney. Zaharakis did not feature in the NAB Cup at all because of a quad injury he re-aggravated in January. But the 2011 best and fairest winner has trained hard since and played well during a VFL trial game last Friday.
Mature-age draftee Nick Kommer is also likely to make his debut.
Adelaide will be trying to cover for the loss of Kurt Tippett, with skipper Nathan van Berlo adamant his side has options.
Van Berlo nominated Josh Jenkins - the man who will wear Tippett's old No.4 jumper - and Tom Lynch and Shaun McKernan as possible replacements to form a partnership with boom forward Taylor Walker.
But van Berlo said the Crows had smaller options.
''[Jason] Porplyzia, [Richard] Douglas, [Ian] Callinan, [Jared] Petrenko - for defenders, I'd imagine they'd be pretty tricky to stand on because they're elusive, they're quick and clean and they're very good one-on-one,'' he said.
Van Berlo said Adelaide was also keen to shake the perception that last year's performance was based on an easy fixture. ''I hear 'favourable draw' a lot. You've still got to win your games,'' he said.
''We had a really good year last year but we're not going to look back on that too much.
''As a footy club we want to be known for providing that level of high performance year in, year out. Last year we'll tick that as a box well done but from here on in it's about repeating that effort and it starts this Friday night. It's a good challenge for this young group but it's one I think we're ready for.''