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No more booze for Bombers

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Martin Blake

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Preview: Essendon Bombers

What can we expect from the James Hird-led Essendon Bombers in 2012? Scott Spits and Emma Quayle discuss.

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JAMES Hird has been driving Essendon's players since pre-season began on October 26, but the Bombers had last weekend off as the calm before the hurricane.

Sam Lonergan headed down to Anglesea for a mental break; even enjoyed ''a couple of quiet beers''. It was the last mental break for the players.

''From now on, I'd imagine 100 per cent of the group will not have a drink,'' Lonergan said yesterday.

Pinching himself: Sam Lonergan (left) and Dustin Fletcher share a joke while training at Windy Hill yesterday.

Pinching himself: Sam Lonergan (left) and Dustin Fletcher share a joke while training at Windy Hill yesterday. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

''If you look at our group there's 39 or 40 players all ready to go, pushing for spots. It doesn't take much to find yourself not inside the team.

''Guys are becoming stricter on themselves, more professional. It's what you have to do nowadays. Guys respect the footy jumper and they're not going to waste the time they have in the jumper by going and doing stupid stuff.''

By yesterday the players were back on the track at Windy Hill and preparing for a tough encounter against North Melbourne at the Docklands this Saturday night. Lonergan, who turned 25 yesterday, is on the road back after another injury.

In round 13 last year the in-and-under midfielder was having his best stretch of football in Essendon colours when Hawthorn's Grant Birchall fell across his left knee in a tackle. Ironically Birchall and Lonergan - both Tasmanians - are friends.

''He rang me and apologised,'' said Lonergan. ''He didn't realise it was me. But there was nothing in it.''

Lonergan knew what the cracking sound in his knee was having ripped a medial ligament in the same knee four years earlier.

''I knew it was a 10-week injury. The disappointing thing was, the three games leading into that were the best footy I'd played for Essendon. That's why we play the game. It's exciting but it's disappointing and hard at times. That makes the good times better.'''

He had surgery to repair the joint and missed the rest of the season, a great pity as Hird's arrival had transformed his career.

In the previous four seasons he played just 53 senior games. The new coach had arrived seeking assistance for captain Jobe Watson in the grunt department, especially at stoppages, and Lonergan was a willing combatant.

At the time, he had been wondering where his career was going. ''After about year four or five I wasn't sure how much more I could improve. I'd played 50 games and I thought 'where's the next step?' When Hirdy came with the teaching and learning, it's turned me into a second-year player again,'' Lonergan said.

''I feel like I've got so much more to go and I'm excited to achieve that. Whereas after four years, I felt like it could be all over for me very quickly. Now I feel I can play for as long as this club needs me.''

The Bombers will have Brent Prismall (knee), Scott Gumbleton (back) and Jason Winderlich (knee) unavailable. Winderlich played in the NAB Cup and is a chance to play round two. Hird has his strongest list available since he began as coach.

''You get to that stage when you've had enough of the training,'' said Lonergan. ''You just want games. We're at that stage. We want to see how far we've come, where we're at, what the hard work has left us with. That's really exciting for us. The NAB Cup's great, but it's the real stuff that gives you the gauge.''

11 comments

  • Don't worry about all the wowsers, fellas. Enjoy a drink whenever you feel like it. We all know a glass of liquid amber really hits the spot...before, during or after a game. Goodness groceries, if you're short a quid, I'll lend you a tenner for a couple of rounds. The least I can do. Anything for the Pies...What? This isn't the Black and White website? It's the Dons? Well! The offer definitely stands!

    Commenter
    Mungo Mulligan-Stewart
    Date and time
    March 27, 2012, 8:28AM
    • Pfffffwwhat!!!!!?????

      Commenter
      Vander
      Location
      Windy Hill retirement village
      Date and time
      March 27, 2012, 9:38AM
      • ''From now on, I'd imagine 100 per cent of the group will not have a drink,'' Lonergan said yesterday.

        And THAT warrants the headline chosen?? What's happening to you people at the Age? Where does it say that the Bombers have to stay off the booze? I'm confused.

        Commenter
        betty
        Location
        vic
        Date and time
        March 27, 2012, 9:50AM
        • Good idea - pity all the rest of the Aussie yobs with the out of control Aussie drinking culture couldn't be controlled similarly. Alcohol is the bane of society.

          Commenter
          Tim
          Location
          Toyland
          Date and time
          March 27, 2012, 9:55AM
          • Just a suggestion Bomber players....stay on the drink, cos ya won't be enjoying any success on the field this year. Overrated rabble is Essendon. There best players are sitting on the coaches box

            Commenter
            Manny
            Location
            willowgrove sth
            Date and time
            March 27, 2012, 10:19AM
            • Overrated? People don't rate them or not rate them. There has been no "Essendon are top 4, or top 6" comments, some "experts" have them out of their 8. So where exactly have they been overrated? They are actually highly underrated, they made the 8 last year with a very young team, all those players now have a years extra experience and another preseason on their belt. They don't have the injury troubles the Pies and the Blues are currently facing, and there are very few teams outside of last years 8 who could take their spot.
              Anyway this article is just weird.

              Commenter
              Jessica
              Date and time
              March 27, 2012, 10:33AM
            • Good on ya Hirdy coaching from ON top of the coaches box. I knew he must have learned to think outside of the square from Sheeds.

              Commenter
              GoodoleWindyHillforever
              Location
              The Center Square
              Date and time
              March 27, 2012, 10:56AM
          • Matthew Lloyd has the Bombers in the 8, most other experts are saying Essendon will finish higher than the Tiges. They're kidding, Essendon is a rabble. Their best player is a tortoise in Watson, their second best player is looking for a retirement village to move into, that's Fletcher and ya got the wrong Hurley. Ya need Liz

            Commenter
            Manny
            Location
            willowgrove sth
            Date and time
            March 27, 2012, 10:59AM
            • @Manny - I am sure Jimmy doesn't care if the Bombers are under rated. It makes his job easier. No body expects them to be top 4 this year. In a couple of years time when the ageing Geelong list starts to move on and the best of Collingwood is playing for GWS, thats when the Bombers will be ready to fly.

              Commenter
              Gordie
              Location
              Melbourne
              Date and time
              March 27, 2012, 12:38PM
          • @ Manny. Boring! oh and, sorry, where's willowgrove south again? that's right...

            Commenter
            Gary
            Location
            bomberland
            Date and time
            March 27, 2012, 11:28AM

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