Tonight’s NAB Cup games feature Essendon travelling west to take on both West Coast and Fremantle in the triple-header which will feature the Eagles taking on the Dockers in the much anticipated derby between the two rivals. Join us for live scores and blog from 4:30pm local (7:30pm ADST)
The Bombers head to Patersons Stadium in Perth to take on the local teams, and it will be a point of interest to note their approach to the NAB Cup. The Dons made the grand final of the NAB Cup in 2011, and started the AFL season well, but peaked early and struggled in the back-half of the season.
Mark McVeigh is one of the few seasoned players making the road-trip, with captain Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton, Dustin Fletcher and Michael Hurley all missing.
“Last year we went into the NAB Cup just wanting to play all the guys we possibly could,” McVeigh said.
“This year you might see an even balance in terms of the whole list playing. Some guys will be playing a half on the weekend, some will play a half in a couple of weeks’ time. It’s going to be a real mixture this year.”
The Bombers will be looking to show they are faster and stronger than later year, with skipper Jobe Watson to lead a side that have been put through a tough pre-season under new fitness staff at Windy Hill.
Defender Courtenay Dempsey will play his first game since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in round four last season. He will be joined by a young midfield, that has impressed Watson during the pre-season.
“It has been really pleasing to see Jake Melksham, Dyson Heppell, Trav Colyer — those guys, the way they have developed they will be able to spend a lot more time in the middle,” Hird said.
No one will be looking at the scoreboard too closely for these first round clashes – more watching the skills of the younger players and their energy and enthusiasm.
Fremantle will be under-strength with a depth tester in the opening round of the NAB Cup for the side, with a host of players missing.
Midfielder Michael Barlow has soreness in the leg he broke more than 18 months ago and is not expected to play until later in the pre-season, while David Mundy (ankle) is in doubt for the club’s season opener against Geelong on March 31.
Other key players not selected for Sunday’s NAB Cup triple-header are Luke McPharlin, Alex Silvagni, Anthony Morabito, Kepler Bradley, Antoni Grover and Jon Griffin.
New recruits Lachie Neale, Tom Sheridan, Hayden Crozier, Lee Spurr, Haiden Schloithe and Sam Menagola have all been named, meanwhile, and will be given opportunities.
Forward Matt de Boer says it’s a challenge but an opportunity for the young side.
“The younger boys are jumping out of their skin to get out there,” said
“We’ve got a lot of good talent and it’s good to test our depth so early and on a big stage here at home.
“All the boys have been working hard and we can’t wait to get out there and show what we’ve got.”
Ross Lyon heads the club for the first time, and his approach from his team and his approach to the opposition will be closely watched.
De Boer said changes under the former St Kilda coach would be subtle.
“Obviously we’ve been testing it against ourselves, but testing it out here on Sunday will be a whole new level again and it will be good to test it under game speed and game pressure,” he said. “It’ll be hard to tell [changes] I think.”
West Coast Eagles
The Eagles begin their NAB Cup campaign on their home turf at Patersons Stadium, but without star forward Mark LeCras, who is gone for the season with knee troubles.
West Coast will also be without veterans Daniel Kerr (finger) and ruckman Nic Naitanui (chest) missing from the squad.
LeCras is the big story of recent days, having snapped the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during training on Thursday, ending his season before it began.
Former Western Bulldogs forward Josh Hill gets a chance to impress and kick-start his stalled AFL career, and other young Eagles will be looking to take their chances and push their selection hopes.
Koby Stevens, Brad Sheppard and Tom Swift are three fringe players with plenty to gain from strong NAB Cup performances, among others.
The Eagles have opted against an intra-club match, while the Bombers and Dockers are fresh from a hit-out – it will be interested to see how the plan goes for West Coast.
Join us this evening for all the action from the triple-header.