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Essendon got a taste of life without their banned stars on Sunday as they were smashed to the tune of 105 points by the West Coast Eagles in the final game of the 2016 NAB Challenge.
Thirteen Eagles hit the scoreboard against the Bombers who while they saw some promising performances were way off being competitive.
West Coast Eagles 1.23.11 158
Essendon Bombers 0.7.11 53
The West Coast Eagles and Essendon Bombers are looking to finish off the NAB Challenge with a victory when they clash at Domain Stadium. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 7:10pm (AEDT).
Both Essendon and West Coast have one win and one blowout loss for the NAB Challenge.
While pre-season form is nothing to get too worked up about, the Bombers would take some encouragement from their ten-goal victory over Carlton in Week 2, whereas the Eagles may be slightly concerned about barely scraping past an undermanned Gold Coast side last week.
West Coast will be buoyed by the return of finals standout Luke Shuey, who is set to play after recovering from a knock to the knee. Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy is also likely to suit up despite copping a knock to the head that this week caused him to say, “I went a bit dazey there in the second term and couldn’t remember too much.”
Every concussion should be treated with the utmost caution, therefore it seems unwise the Eagles would risk Kennedy receiving another head-knock in a meaningless pre-season game.
Off-season acquisition Jack Redden will play his first game in West Coast colours after battling adductor problems this summer. Conversely, the Eagles’ other new recruit, Lewis Jetta, will rest his ailing calf in order to be fit for Round 1.
For the Bombers, second-year utility Jayden Laverde is out after rolling an ankle against Geelong last week, but he should be ready for Round 1. Similarly, Ryan Crowley and Darcy Parish, the number five pick in last year’s draft, will both be rested from the trip west after pulling up sore.
Free-agent pickup Matthew Leuenberger will not play despite training well in recent weeks. A healthy Leuenberger could play a large role in keeping this shell of an Essendon team competitive throughout 2016, however the big man is a constant injury-risk, having missed significant time in three of the past four seasons.
In better news, ex-Cats James Kelly and Matthew Stokes will play their first competitive games for the Bombers, while Joe Daniher and new captain Brendon Goddard also returns after being rested last week.
Players to watch
West Coast: Jack Redden (provided he is fit). Coming off another solid season, the ex-Lion needs to provide midfield depth. Expect Redden to be a valuable addition, as he will provide world-class tackling and pressure, while consistently gathering 20-plus disposals.
Essendon: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti. The Essendon list is not exactly overflowing with talent, so why not go with the rookie-listed back-man who probably wouldn’t be getting this opportunity if certain shady activities hadn’t taken place in 2012.
As well as the crunching hit he laid on Patrick Dangerfield last week, the man nicknamed ‘Walla’ used his 12 possessions at 92 per cent efficiency to be one of the only bright spots for the Bombers in a big defeat.
All signs point to another big loss for Essendon, in what shapes as a season full of them.
West Coast 114-35 Essendon