Hird ready for the Sheedy challenge

By Guy Hand,

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    Moments of levity have been rare for Essendon coach James Hird in a tumultuous AFL season.

    Trust his old Bombers mentor Kevin Sheedy to provide one as the two prepare to square off when Essendon play Sheedy’s GWS Giants on Saturday.

    “I spoke to Sheeds Monday or Tuesday, and had a good chat about what he’s going to do to us. Break the legs of all our big guys – not sure if that’s legal, but that’s what he said,” Hird joked on Friday.

    A premiership coach and captain combination with the Bombers, Hird admits he relishes coaching against the man who got so much out of him as a player.

    The Giants are still looking for their first win of the season, but Hird’s Bombers are defying their off-field dramas with an unbeaten start to the year.

    With four key players nursing minor injuries and missing the Etihad Stadium match, Hird dispelled any suggestion he was being conservative because Essendon were playing struggling opposition.

    Hird said Essendon’s mantra was to not take in players at less than 100 per cent fitness – which meant defenders Jake Carlisle (ankle), Dyson Heppell (groin) and Dustin Fletcher (groin) and star forward Michael Hurley (ankle) were close, but not close enough.

    “(Carlisle and Heppell) just probably hadn’t done enough work on the track and we want to take a fully fit team in every time we play.

    “We decided they weren’t quite ready.

    “Michael’s very upset with me that he’s not playing but we just wanted to make sure his ankle was 100 per cent right.”

    Forward Jason Winderlich, on the comeback trail after a nightmarish two years with injury, has been rested despite his star turn in the Anzac Day crushing of Collingwood.

    “His body, obviously it’s been two years since he’s played some consistent football, and I think that’s the right way to manage a player like Jason,” Hird said.

    “I thought Anzac Day, his ability to control the forward line and kick goals was really important to us.

    “If we can get 15 to 16 games out of Jason for the year and not get him injured, that’s great for both us and for Jason.”

    The injury-depleted Giants will give high 2012 draft pick Aidan Corr his AFL debut in defence.

    Assistant coach Leon Cameron believes there will be no greater opportunity to learn from the best than against Essendon.

    “It is a daunting task and we’re not going to hide away from that fact … they’re probably the best side in the competition at the moment,” Cameron said.

    “It’s a great opportunity for our players – and especially our younger players – to look at Essendon and say ‘I want to get there’.”

    © AAP 2018

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